The Met Welcomes New Curator of The American Wing

Posted in museums by Editor on June 18, 2014

Dr. Sylvia Yount, Chief Curator

Sylvia L. Yount,
Photo by David Stover for VMFA.

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Press release (11 June 2014) from The Met:

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, announced today that preeminent American art scholar Morrison H. Heckscher will retire on June 30, following 13 years as Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of The American Wing and a distinguished curatorial career at the Museum that spanned nearly five decades. He will become Curator Emeritus of The American Wing on July 1.

Mr. Campbell announced further that Sylvia L. Yount—currently Chief Curator as well as the Louise B. and J. Harwood Cochrane Curator of American Art and Department Head at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA)—will become the Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of The American Wing this fall. She was elected to her new position at the June 10 meeting of the Executive Committee of the Museum’s Board of Trustees.

In making the announcement, Mr. Campbell said: “Morrie Heckscher has had a long and distinguished career at the Met with many landmark scholarly accomplishments. Perhaps the most significant has been his supervision of the decade-long renovation and reinstallation of the entire American Wing, which involved every aspect of our American art collection and every member of his superb staff. The new galleries, which opened in phases culminating with the inauguration of the American Paintings and Sculpture Galleries in 2012, have been a resounding success with millions of visitors to date. Through his exhibitions, acquisitions, lectures, and writings, Morrie has championed such important and diverse topics as architecture, landscape, and American furniture and interiors. I’m pleased that he will continue to share his expertise with the Museum as Curator Emeritus, working on various projects, including a book on the architectural and cultural history of the Met.”

Mr. Campbell continued: “I am also delighted that Sylvia Yount will join the Met to assume leadership of The American Wing this fall. She is a talented curator and energetic administrator who, for the past two decades, has applied scholarship and vision to organizing exhibitions, writing catalogues, and overseeing several important, extensive collections of American art that—like the Met’s—cover the colonial period through the early 20th century. With her wide-ranging background and special interest in 19th- and early-20th-century art, I am certain that Sylvia will lead the distinguished staff of the Wing to further accomplishments in the years to come.”

Morrison H. Heckscher

Morrison H. HeckscherMorrison H. Heckscher joined the Metropolitan Museum in 1966 as a Chester Dale Fellow in the Prints Department. From 1968 to 1978, he was an Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, and Curator in The American Wing; from 1978 to 1998, he was Curator of American Decorative Arts. In 1998, he was appointed the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts, and assumed chairmanship of The American Wing in 2001. As chairman, he conceived and initiated the redesign and reinstallation of the entire Wing.

During his first decade in The American Wing, Mr. Heckscher was involved in preparations for an extension to the Wing that opened in 1980. He planned and oversaw the rearrangement and reinstallation of the period rooms in the original 1924 American Wing. He also acquired late-19th- and early-20th-century architectural elements—notably the cast-iron staircases from Louis Sullivan’s 1893 Chicago Stock Exchange—and entire rooms (Shaker, Classic Revival, Gothic Revival, and Frank Lloyd Wright) that provide Museum visitors with an unparalleled means of experiencing and appreciating American domestic architecture and interior design.

The first two exhibitions he organized at the Metropolitan—In Quest of Comfort: The Easy Chair in America (1971) and An Architect and His Client: Frank Lloyd Wright and Francis W. Little (1973)—expressed Mr. Heckscher’s interest in both furniture and architecture. The latter exhibition was organized in conjunction with the landmark acquisition of a 1912–14 living room, including many original furnishings and accessories—designed by Wright for the Little family—that remains a cornerstone of the Museum’s collection of American period rooms. Mr. Heckscher researched and wrote the catalogue of the Museum’s late Colonial furniture, 1730–1790 (1985). He also acquired noteworthy examples of American furniture, such as a mahogany chest-on-chest made in 1778 by Thomas Townsend of Newport, Rhode Island, for the Gardiner family of Long Island, and a carved mahogany armchair made around 1765 by Thomas Affleck of Philadelphia for John Penn, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.


Now available digitally for free from The Met; click on the image for more information.

Mr. Heckscher has been the curator of a number of important exhibitions at the Metropolitan, including: The Architecture of Richard Morris Hunt (1986), American Rococo: Elegance in Ornament, 1750–1775 (with Leslie Greene Bowman, 1992), The Architecture of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1995), Central Park–A Sesquicentennial Celebration (2003), and John Townsend, Newport Cabinetmaker (2005).

His recent awards include: Antique Dealers Association of America Award of Merit (2011); the Frederic E. Church Award (awarded jointly to Mr. Heckscher and Martha Stewart by The Olana Partnership, 2012); Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly Excellence in the Field of American Art History (The Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art, 2012); and Iris Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship (Bard Graduate Center, 2013).

He was educated at Wesleyan University (B.A.); The Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, University of Delaware (M.A.);
and Columbia University (Ph.D.).

Sylvia L. Yount

Prior to her seven-year tenure at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Sylvia L. Yount was the Margaret and Terry Stent Curator of American Art and Department Head at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta from 2001 to 2007. She also served on the staff of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia as Curator of Collections (1993–99) and Chief Curator (1999–2001).

In addition to organizing landmark exhibitions on American modernism, Maxfield Parrish, and Cecilia Beaux at the Academy and the High, Ms. Yount has strengthened and diversified VMFA’s American holdings through purchases and gifts. She has also presented exhibitions of work by the Anglo-American printmaker Clare Leighton and the celebrated African American modernist Jacob Lawrence. Currently, she is organizing a reappraisal of the Colonial Revival phenomenon, Making America: Myth, Memory, Identity.

She has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, primarily for research, exhibitions, and catalogues. In 2008, she was awarded the Victorian Society of America’s William E. Fischelis Award for the exhibition catalogue Cecilia Beaux, American Figure Painter.

Ms. Yount was educated at New York University (B.A.) and the University of Pennsylvania (M.A. and Ph.D.). Her dissertation was on the late-19th-century American Aesthetic Movement, New York art worlds, and consumer culture.

One Response

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  1. Elizabeth Morgan Spiegel said, on July 13, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Sylvia—so happy for you. One of your Atlanta fans.

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