There was an unprecedented (and likely unwanted) collision at The Metropolitan Museum of Art at this morning’s press preview of The Philippe de Montebello Years, a new temporary exhibition honoring the outgoing director and featuring 300 acquisitions from his tenure, which opens with a private reception tonight. Three living directors of the museum were in the same room, though with all the lurching grace of magnetic Scottie dogs they managed to avoid each other. Thomas Hoving, who ran the museum from 1966 to 1977 was in the crowd, and his successor Montebello (above, right) was the featured attraction, but after the remarks, most eyes focused on new director Thomas Campbell (above, left). Since there was no question-answer session, Hoving never got to ask his: “Where are the other 83,700 objects acquired in the 31 years of Montebello’s reign?” The show is sprawling and full of wonders, but I couldn’t help thinking that if the brief clash of the titans at the preview proved anything, it was that museum directors are temporary exhibits, too. (UPDATE: Museum spokesman Harold Holzer — who is next to Montebello in my dreadful photo above — considers this item inaccurate insofar as it implies that Campbell and Montebello were avoiding each other. Though they didn’t interact in my presence, Holzer points out that “PdM and Campbell are sharing an office suite; why would he make a p.d.a. for appearance’s sake?” I dunno. For appearance’s sake, perhaps? Regardless, mea culpa and let the word go forth that all is lovey-dovey between at least one Met director and his successor.) UPDATE 2: An email from Tom Hoving just arrived: “I asked PdM my question and he said, ‘Oh, that 84K is not an accurate figure for that counts every piece of a group. The more accurate number is, say, 5K to 7K.’ I believe him and that takes care of my worries.” Will the Met add an asterisk to the introductory wall-text that cites that figure?