Thomas Krens – A Curator and Art Historian
Few museum directors possess Thomas Krens’ global ambitions as do those credited with revitalizing the Guggenheim. However, his international odysseys can often prove frustrating for Berkshire residents.
His strategy of global expansion — including opening satellite museums in Guadalajara and Singapore — has drawn significant criticism from donors. Furthermore, some accuse him of selling masterpieces from his collection.
Early Life and Education
Thomas Krens is both an art historian and curator, having graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Williams College. Born in Amsterdam, New York –
He has worked for various organizations and museums, such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and MASS MoCA. At the Guggenheim, he played an essential role in shaping its collections and expansion plans; moreover, contemporary art is one of his passions and has had an enormous influence in developing exhibitions at both institutions.
Recently, he has made headlines for creating immersive spaces inspired by theme parks. These projects have made him a household name within the industry. Furthermore, this former Guggenheim Director and Senior Advisor for International Affairs is involved with the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi designed by Frank Gehry.
Krens was instrumental in founding Mass MoCA museum in an idyllic Berkshires town, as well as helping conceptualize Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (though he wasn’t responsible for its design). He still leads the Guggenheim Foundation; however, Lisa Dennison now oversees day-to-day management of its New York building.
At the Guggenheim, Krens more than doubled the collection size; deaccessioned works from core collections so as to acquire newer works by Jeff Koons, Rachel Whiteread and Louise Bourgeois; pushed for international expansion; and was ultimately confronted by one of its largest donors who demanded Krens step down as director in a showdown similar to one from an old Western movie.
Achievement and Honors
Krens’ vision, supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, would expand the museum beyond its New York City ziggurat to locations worldwide. While his strategy may appear radical to traditionalists, it has already brought positive results.
As examples of successful commercialization, consider the Guggenheim’s Art of the Motorcycle exhibition (which will be replicated at Bilbao museum), and Armani clothing exhibit attracting over one million visitors in 2012. Critics accuse Krens of commercial debasement; he maintains that his goal is simply making museums more accessible to wider audiences.
Not only has he formed relationships with leading architects, curators and artists from around the globe; he’s also developed his own network of investors and sponsors – now actively searching for strategic alliances or “migratable cultural resources”, that could aid him as he pursues plans for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
Krens has become one of the leading figures in art museums, corporate philanthropy and marketing art to the general public. He has staged successful exhibits such as Guggenheim’s “Art of the Motorcycle” show and Armani Fashion show – as well as solicited corporate sponsors to finance his expansion plans.
He doubled the Guggenheim Collections in New York and Venice, increased their endowments, and designed new museums in Bilbao and Berlin – yet his John Wayne-like persona and arrogant ways have caused some criticism.
He currently serves as senior advisor to the Guggenheim and oversees its international affairs, such as EMRCA in Abu Dhabi. At 77 years old and 27769 days old (or, for those truly passionate about numbers) that adds up to an incredible 666456 hours in life time!
Thomas Krens is an renowned Curator who is estimated to have amassed an estimated net worth of approximately $5 Million, most likely through his primary career as Director.
As director of the Guggenheim Museum in its early 21st-century incarnation, he propelled it forward and expanded it both within and beyond United States borders. Additionally, he established two new buildings: Bilbao’s Guggenheim Bilbao and Abu Dhabi’s current Guggenheim building while curating more than 292 exhibitions simultaneously.
Krens has made significant contributions to both arts and society as a whole, including supporting various causes like Central Park Conservancy and Carnegie Hall. He also actively campaigns against climate change. Furthermore, he has donated to political campaigns both domestically and abroad such as Ukraine.