Rogers was educated at Oakham School, Magdalen College and Christ Church, Oxford, earning a B.A. with first class honors and a D.Phil. in English. Prior to his position at the MFA, Boston, he worked his way up from librarian to Deputy Director at the National Portrait Gallery in London. An expert on portraiture, he has published extensively on the subject.
Rogers' decision to open the museum for longer hours and express friendliness toward the surrounding community have gained him acclaim. Under his tenure, museum attendance has risen from record low to record high numbers, now around 1 million a year, and the museum's previously shaky finances have been stabilised.
He has also sought to significantly expand the museum's collections; his purchase of a piece by Degas is the most expensive undertaken by the museum. His acquisitions of English silver have made the MFA, Boston the most significant holder of such artifacts in the Americas. Rogers has also made significant acquisitions of contemporary pieces by Joseph Beuys, Bridget Riley, Robert Mangold and Jim Dine.
In 1999, Rogers helped launch the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts in Nagoya, Japan, in order to "internationalize" the museum's brand. Rogers' tenure has also seen the successful groundbreaking of a major new addition to the Boston museum by Foster and Partners, to be completed in 2009.
Rogers launched a major fund-raising campaign in 2001 to finance this expansion, as well as to strengthen its endowment and fund other programs. The $500 million goal was achieved in 2008, the largest sum for a campaign by an arts institution in Boston history. In all, the MFA received 25,000 contributions for the campaign, including 6,700 from first-time donors, indicating the degree to which Rogers' leadership has generated widely-based support for the MFA.
He was appointed CBE by Her Majesty the Queen for services to the arts in Britain and the USA in 2004, and appointed Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 2007.
Rogers has also been severely criticized for his curatorial direction and management style. He has been accused of firing curators with brusqueness, forcing them to clear out their desks within hours. His sweeping revision of the museum's organization, which replaced traditional artistic departments with geographic categories such as "Art of Europe", has stoked fear that curatorial independence is being threatened and that other institutions will follow suit.
He has been even more heavily lambasted for the museum's recent exhibition regimen, especially his decision to grant the "lowbrow" photographer Herb Ritts his first museum show, and that to lend 21 Monet paintings to the Bellagio hotel/casino complex in Las Vegas. Other exhibitions have proven equally controversial, including one showcasing the guitars of various rock stars and another concerned with the luxury car collection of Ralph Lauren. Many of these shows, nonetheless, have been popular with the public and have contributed to the museum's recent financial uptick.