Adam Lindemann offers a masterly analysis of how Thomas Krens changed the world of museums. He also suggests why it might have been better if the Whitney had followed Krens’s playbook for the Guggenheim by selling some works to shore up the endowment and playing up their architectural masterpiece as a tourist attraction appealing to European visitors:
Compare this to the poor job done by the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is the owner of a fantastic brutalist Marcel Breuer masterpiece, a building that sadly has less than half the attendance of the Guggenheim, and 80 percent of its visitors are mere New Yorkers. To add insult to injury, the museum is abandoning its flagship on Park Avenue and renting it out to the Metropolitan Museum, because the Whitney is pouring all its resources into a newer, bigger, downtown Whitney designed by Renzo Piano, the volume of which will allow the Whitney to show more of its vast collection.
If bigger doesn’t result in better, the Whitney will have done New York a terrible disservice, one that could have been easily avoided if only it had raised funds by selling a few artworks out of its vast holdings. Isn’t the Breuer building a work of art, one that is more meaningful to the museum’s identity than any painting could ever be? Imagine if it had the vision to leave the “uptown Whitney” as a true museum of American Art, the only one in New York, where the museum’s amazing collection of Ash Can artists like Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler and George Bellows would be on permanent display. Would I care if the downtown museum were cut in half? Absolutely not. There is plenty of museum quality free art to see downtown in all the Chelsea galleries; who needs to pay good money to see any more of it?
Whatever Happened to Thomas Krens? (NY Observer)