Hail and farewell

The world of public relations is about to lose one of its brightest lights. Harold Holzer is retiring as spokesman for The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


I’ve known Harold – a Lincoln scholar/author and Rye resident who was once Bella Abzug and Mario Cuomo’s press secretaries – since his days at WNET/Thirteen. One of The Met’s curators once told me that Harold does everything with sprezzatura – the Italian for brilliant ease – and that is true enough. He is warm, witty, charming and equally at home talking about the American Civil War or a Byzantine exhibit. To say he is the perfect luncheon companion is an understatement. I will miss him as a colleague, but I’m sure he’s eager to get on with the next chapter in his life, which I know will involve more works on a certain 16th president. (How he’s managed to write, edit or co-author 46 books and more than 500 articles while remaining a full-time publicist is beyond me.)


Don’t, however, take my word for this. Here’s what his bosses – Met Director Thomas Campbell, who lives in Ossining, and Met President Emily Rafferty – had to say in their announcement:


“After a career of nearly 23 years at the museum, most recently as the institution’s senior vice president for public affairs and principal spokesman, Harold Holzer has let us know that he plans to retire from The Met this summer to enable him to engage more fully in his work as a historian and writer. During his tenure, Harold greatly expanded and strengthened what was formerly known as the Public Information department. Its focus widened considerably to include publicity, advertising, marketing, internal communications, market research and tourism promotion.


“In 2005 Harold was given additional responsibility for Visitor Services and the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative. Another major accomplishment was his creation and leadership of the museum’s Government Affairs department, which has become a significant factor in helping us obtain critical support from federal, state and city officials.


“Harold has ably represented the museum on matters ranging from major acquisitions and exhibitions to historic agreements on cultural patrimony, and from record-breaking attendance figures to the inauguration of new galleries. His cool and expert handling of even the most sensitive and challenging matters, and his extraordinary range of media and governmental contacts have been crucial assets to the museum over nearly a quarter century.


Harold’s contributions to The Met will be as enduring as they have been wide-ranging. We will miss his quick wit, wry humor, felicitous prose and savvy advice. For his dedication to the institution he cared about so deeply and served so well he has our profound thanks.”


Godspeed, Harold, as you embark on your next chapter. – Georgette Gouveia

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