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Thomas Hoving

Thomas Hoving

If you've visited an art museum in the last twenty years or so, it's largely due to the efforts of the gentleman shown here, Thomas Pearsall Field Hoving. Tom was the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1967 to 1977 and it was he who transformed the Met - and in a domino effect, all the other art museums in the world - from the stogy, cavernous mausoleum like structures where people padded softly through the dark hallways and whispered in hushed and muted tones into today's crowded noisy brightly lit centers of popular entertainment where you can buy totebags and calendars with pictures of everything from Tutankhamun's gold mask to Andy Warhol's prints. Even the gigantic banners that inevitably adorn the entrances of the museums when they blare out the title of a new exhibit were a Hoving innovation. De rigeur today, in 1967 the idea was so contrary to the notion of the dignity required by a great art institution that the head of Tom's programs department immediately resigned.

Despite Tom's flamboyant exterior, if you read the books, memoirs, and articles (those by and about Tom) it's easy to come away with a picture of a man who was never really confident in himself. Instead Tom chose to disguise what was really low self-esteem with a constantly showing off and pretending to be supremely on top of everything. The result was an extreme addiction to publicity and intolerable "Me! Me! Me!" attitudes and actions.

But don't let Tom's friends get irritated by what appears to be amateur psychoanalyzing. After all, this is just what Tom said himself!

So for a lot more about Tom and his life you can read his memoirs online at Artful Tom: A Memoir and Making the Mummies Dance about his time at the Met. For a little more about this wildest and craziest of museum directors, well, just click here.