October 2008: Ian Wardropper '69


Ian Wardropper ’69 is the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Chairman of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He heads this department of eleven curators who supervise sixty galleries and 60,000 objects from the Renaissance to the beginning of modernism.

Mr. Wardropper received a B.A. in art history from Brown University in 1973 and an M.A. (1976) and a Ph.D. (1985) from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. After completing his Ph.D. he served as curator and later head of the Department of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture and Ancient Art at The Art Institute of Chicago. While department head, his responsibilities grew to include ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art and the Harding Collection of Arms and Armor in addition to the Institute’s core of European decorative arts and sculpture from the Middle Ages to the present. He participated in several major reinstallations and initiated a number of traveling exhibitions on subjects ranging from Italian Baroque Terracottas from the Hermitage to Soviet Propaganda Porcelain. He installed many exhibitions in Chicago, notably “The Vatican Collections,” in scope and attendance the largest exhibition at that point in the Institute’s history.

Returning to New York in 2001, Mr. Wardropper became the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Curator in charge of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Met and, in 2005, chairman of that Department. He has directed a major reinstallation of the Wrightsman Galleries for French Decorative Arts, a partial re-design of the Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court, and a new presentation of the Italian Renaissance Bronzes Gallery. With notable successes, he has encouraged curators to produce major exhibitions in the fields of tapestry, sculpture, and decorative arts as well as innovative collaborations with the Met’s Costume Institute. Most recently, he co-organized “Art of the Royal Court: Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe” and “Cast in Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution,” coming to the Met February through May, 2009.

Mr. Wardropper has taught art history at six major universities. He is the recipient of many awards, including Honoree at the American Academy in Rome, Guest Scholar at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year in Arts, and several fellowships. He has published numerous articles and books and has lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad. He has served on the National Endowment for the Arts Advisory Panel on Indemnity, and is currently a trustee of the Association of American Museum Curators and a member of the executive planning committee of The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture.

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