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One year ago: Thomas Hoving

December 10, 2010 |  6:00 am


Thomas Hoving was a controversial figure in the art world who pioneered the transformation of stuffy art institutions into popular destinations for the masses. He died one year ago at age 78.

Hoving's most influential role was as director of New York's Metropolitan Museum, which he led during a tumultuous period from 1967 to 1977. He oversaw the opening of new galleries for Islamic art, the remodeling of its Egyptian wing and expanding showcases for American, African and oceanic art.

Hoving prided himself on trampling on museum conventions and blowing cobwebs out of the Fifth Avenue institution. For that, he was admired as a visionary but sometimes reviled as a huckster, willing to sell out to big donors or cheapen the experience of art with flashy tactics.

In the 1980s, he began editing Connoisseur magazine and emerged as a muckraking critic of the J. Paul Getty Museum's collecting of antiquities. His accusations that some items in the museum had been smuggled out of their homelands turned out to be true, and in the last few years the Getty has returned dozens of objects to their countries of origin.

Hoving, an author of several books, wrote an irreverent account of his years at the Met in "Making the Mummies Dance."

For more on the man who popularized art museums, read Thomas Hoving's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Thomas Hoving in 1967. Credit: Associated Press