"I am very honored. It is a major search in the American art world," MacKay said.
The Barnes won court permission in December to move its collection after it pleaded it could not survive financially if its gallery remained in Merion under the restrictive rules set by founder Albert Barnes.
Camp left in June after helping to see the Barnes through the court case. She had led the institution since 1998.
The Barnes board, which had previously said it would hire an interim director, will not. Emily Croll, the Barnes' senior administrative officer, has filled the director's role since Camp's departure.
MacKay is known in the art world for his museum head-hunting skills. He has recruited directors for the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Frick Collection, among others, the Barnes said in a release.
The Barnes' search comes as at least 17 museums in the United States and Canada are seeking directors, according to the Association of Art Museum Directors.
Maxwell L. Anderson, former director of the Whitney Museum of American Art and now a consultant, said the Barnes' job was especially attractive, despite the plethora of openings.
The job holds "enormous opportunity and a lot of expectations to deliver on the dream that Dr. Barnes had," Anderson said. Albert Barnes' view of art could prove a refreshing view in the 21st century, he said, a view in contrast to the focus in the last century on trophy art and single masterpieces.
That is why, Anderson said, he hoped the board would choose a scholar-director who could translate Albert Barnes' founding vision into the new setting.
Contact staff writer Patricia Horn at 215-854-2560 or email@example.com.