The art world is breathing a sigh of relief today as the announcement of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation's director stepping down was announced. For many, Thomas Krens has been more of a dictator than director; with a focus on franchising a "McGuggenheim" business over exhibiting modern art or focusing on the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building itself.
The Guggenheim flagship -- one of New York's top tourist attractions -- was falling apart. (Its crumbling facade is currently undergoing renovation.) Krens wasted considerable time and money trying to get the city to accept a second Gehry Guggenheim in Manhattan when he failed in his attempt to attract either steady streams of visitors or compelling exhibitions to a SoHo branch. (The space is now a Prada store.)
While in charge, Krens did oversee many important exhibits, but for the most part he brought in blockbuster crowd-pleasers (tossing the museum's identity to the wayside). Consensus is that he simply overstayed his welcome (the Village Voice asked that he leave back in 2002). Last year when museum director Lisa Dennison left her position it became clear a suitable candidate wouldn't step in until Krens stepped down. The NY Times reports that "candidates who were informally approached were not shy about communicating that they would not work under Mr. Krens, who is known as a difficult personality."
Krens will stay on as a senior adviser for international affairs and will also oversee the creation of a Frank Gehry-designed museum in the United Arab Emirates. The search is already on for a replacement, and he'll stay in charge until that successor is found.