Gary Tinterow ’76 Takes the Helm at Houston’s MFA

Gary Tinterow
Photo by F. Carter Smith
Gary Tinterow

After a distinguished career on the New York art scene, Texas native Gary Tinterow ’76 has returned to his home state as the seventh director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). One of the 10 largest art museums in the United States, the institution houses some 63,000 works of art spanning antiquity to the present. Tinterow comes onboard at a pivotal time, when the 112-year-old facility, which occupies a 10-acre campus in Houston’s arts district, is planning a major expansion intended primarily for post-1900 art.

An internationally recognized curator and scholar, the new director worked most recently as Engelhard Chairman of the Department of 19th-Century, Modern and Contemporary Art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. He originally joined the Metropolitan in 1983, serving for 20 years as curator of European paintings before becoming curator in charge of the new department of 19th-century, modern and contemporary art in 2004 and department chair in 2008. At the Met, he organized dozens of acclaimed exhibitions, many of which ranked among the best-attended in the museum’s history. Among those blockbusters were “Degas” (1988); “Origins of Impressionism” (1994); and “Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting” (2003). One recent show, “Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” (2010), drawn solely from the Met’s holdings, attracted 700,000 visitors.

While at the Met, Tinterow also directed the renovation of the 30,000-square-foot 19th-Century European Painting and Sculpture Galleries, which opened in 1993, and oversaw a 10,000-square-foot expansion to create 10 new adjacent galleries, completed in 2007. In addition, he has contributed extensively to scholarship in 19th- and 20th-century art as author or co-author of more than 60 major exhibition catalogs and other publications. He has lectured at museums throughout the world and taught at Harvard University, the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and Hunter College.

After graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis, he received a graduate degree from Harvard University’s Department of Fine Arts and a diploma from the Center for Curatorial Leadership, an affiliate of the Columbia Business School.

In a statement released by the Houston museum, Tinterow commented, “I feel deeply honored to be invited to join one of the most distinguished institutions in the country. With its nearly unparalleled resources — passionate, experienced and knowledgeable trustees; a large and well-informed audience in a dynamic community; a fine collection with great strengths in many domains; remarkable and dedicated staff and volunteers; and the ability to mount ambitious programs while maintaining fiscal stability — the MFAH is perfectly positioned to become one of the best museums in the world.”