Tom Hoving died yesterday (NYT, 12/11: “Thomas Hoving, Who Shook Up The Met as Its Director, Dies at 78”). Unless you’re way into art museums, you probably don’t recognize the name. But Hoving had an enormous impact no only on the Met, but on all art museums, both here and abroad.
Though a true American aristocrat himself, Tom Hoving broke the then thoroughly retro American museum world wide open in the most un-aristocratic sorts of ways. As director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1967 to 1977 (he was appointed at age 35!), Hoving literally “made the mummies dance,” along with virtually everything and everybody else, as he opened up the stodgy old Met to Harlem, and with the first incarnation of King Tut, invented the blockbuster.
Art museums have not been the same since.
Tom Hoving was bash, sometimes abrasive, and always self-promoting. He had a wicked gift for the baroque embellshment of his own past.
He was afraid of nothing.
So it’s not surprising that Tom Hoving’s picture is on the cover of Art for Dummies. He had the guts to write this thoroughly-commercial self-help guide for art novices.
In it, he spouts opinions about every artist and architectural monument, and every art museum you could possibly imagine.
Including the Walters.
On page 274, in his cross-country tour of US art museums, Tom Hoving stops in Baltimore. And as for the Walters, Hoving’s opinion is categorical: in his view, the Walters is the finest art museum, “piece for piece,” in America.
I think we should all take some pride in that.