Gary Tinterow has an East Coast look about him — with a natty suit and horn-rimmed glasses you can easily picture him curating the works of the 19th Century, Modern and Contemporary Art department at the Metropolitan.
But Tinterow grew up in Houston, spending many a weekend at his grandparents home on Galveston Island, and says he’s happy to be back home after 40 years away.
“I’m elated to come to Houston, which is my hometown, a city that I think I know, but of course has just transformed itself in the last 40 years since I’ve been away living in the East. But it has only improved, gotten more beautiful, bigger, more people, more sophisticated, more cosmopolitan even than it was when I was studying here as a young man. But at the same time it has remained true to its roots.”
The 58-year-old art scholar says the MFA’s collections are on par with the best in the nation.
“As you know, the endowment is quite handsome, it’s one of the richest museums in terms of endowment and resources in the country and therefore the world. And the expectation of the audience here in terms of quality is quite high. And my feeling is that the caliber of acquisitions that the MFAH has made recently as well as the exhibitions that they produce are at the same level at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan is simply bigger.”
Tinterow will steer the museum through its next phase of expansion, which includes a new building to house post-19th Century art. He says he also wants to continue the effort begun by Peter Marzio to increase the MFA’s Asian art collection. And he wants to begin a collection devoted to one of his own personal interests.
“I have a particular interest in Islamic art, and I know there’s an initiative as well here to grow that collection, and that will give me great pleasure. It’s beautiful, I respond to the intricacy, the technical superiority of Islamic art and the textiles, the jewelry, the rugs, the ceramics — they’re just simply exquisite.”
Tinterow will move to Houston and begin his tenure toward the end of January. He is the seventh director of the museum.