ON A HIGH NOTE: Like everything he does behind the scenes as well as in the public eye, Harold Koda, curator in charge of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is meticulously preparing for his retirement in the early part of next year.
A Costume Institute spokeswoman declined to comment Monday, but Koda confirmed his plans. Having returned in 2000 at the request of former director Philippe de Montebello to oversee the Costume Institute’s de-concessioning, Koda’s first four-year run there was under the guardianship of his predecessor, the late Richard Martin.
Up to his elbows working on the upcoming Jacqueline de Ribes exhibition, Koda was far from wistful. Energized by the Met’s surging attendance for “China: Through the Looking Glass,” Koda said he, Andrew Bolton, their 30-person team and the institution are working closely to ensure that there is no disruption in the various programs that are planned. He also said — repeatedly — that the transition is set to be as seamless as possible.
“Incredibly fun” as the exhibitions and other publicized aspects of his job are, Koda said he actually prefers the behind-the-scenes elements or as he put it “sort of the unglamorous part.” Singling out the 2008 deal with the Brooklyn Museum to share its American and European collection with The Met as an “absolute boon,” Koda also emphasized the importance of The Costume Institute’s collection. “De-concessioning is very anxiety-producing due to the level of subjectivity and respect for history that are required,” Koda said, adding that the objective has always been true to de Montebello’s creed to emphasize the museum’s great master works.
In the midst of what has been a record-breaking summer for attendance for the Costume Institute, Koda sounded genuinely excited about its future — as well as his own. “If there’s anything, my greatest acquisition has been getting Andrew Bolton from the [Victoria and Albert Museum] and putting together all of these incredible things that people don’t see. But they are as important than the more visible aspects of our department,” Koda said. “I can’t imagine anything going wrong with this. All of the pieces are in place.”