Thomas Krens ’69 featured prominently in a New York Times article on The

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has lost its biggest benefactor.

Citing “differences in direction,” Peter B. Lewis, the Cleveland philanthropist who has been a trustee of the museum since 1993 and most recently its chairman, resigned yesterday. He has given the institution about $77 million, nearly four times as much as any other board member in its history.

He resigned during a three-hour board meeting. Last night Mr. Lewis said that he wished the museum would “concentrate more on New York and less on being scattered all over the world.”

For several years, Mr. Lewis has not been shy about the growing tension between him and Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim’s maverick director of 17 years, concerning Mr. Krens’s vision and the way he spends money. Most of the board members, however, back Mr. Krens and applaud his ideas for building an international network of museums.

Mr. Krens, declined to comment on Mr. Lewis’s departure. Through the years he has made no secret of his limitless ambitions, his vision for building Guggenheim Museums around the world, his passion for motorcycles that led to a blockbuster exhibition, and his genius for mounting popular shows, from the works of contemporary artists like Matthew Barney to Armani suits.

Not everyone is a Krens fan.

But that interior speaks louder than the Guggenheim intends, for the atmosphere that you are now plunged into when you walk through the museum is emblematic of the havoc that Thomas Krens, the museum’s director, has wreaked at the Guggenheim. This once great institution has become a dark pit of cynicism–a black hole at the center of the museum world–where shows are selected on no basis other than the availability of corporate sponsors and the expectation of a box-office gold mine.

At first this might not sound like ticker-tape news, given that the Guggenheim’s ambitious director, Thomas Krens, has made a name for himself by mounting blockbuster shows on motorcycles and Italian fashion designers that blur —- no, bulldoze —- the line between high art and salesmanship. Even by the standards that guide Krens and his staff, though, the Gehry show strikes me as shameless.

More views on Krens here and here.

Say what you will about Krens, but we would make for a great Commencement speaker. Why must the College continue to import speakers for whom Williams might as well be Williams and Mary when it has so many accomplished and interesting alumni to choose from?

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