Thomas Krens to Step Down as Director of Guggenheim Foundation

Thomas Krens To Step Down As Director Of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation To Assume Leadership Role In Developing The New Guggenheim Abu Dhabi


(NEW YORK, February 28, 2008) -- William Mack, Chairman of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced today that later this year, Thomas Krens will step down as its director, a position he has held since 1988 once his successor has been found. Mr. Krens will continue with the Foundation as the Senior Advisor for International Affairs, developing and overseeing all aspects of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, its largest and most complex project to date, and other designated special projects.  

“During Thomas Krens’ tenure, the Guggenheim Foundation has become one of the most important, influential and prestigious cultural institutions in the world,” said William Mack, Chairman of the Board. “We owe Tom our gratitude for his leadership, dedication and vision. His contribution to re-imagining museums is a gift that has benefited – and will continue to enhance
the entire cultural community." 


With Mr. Krens assuming this new role focusing on the Abu Dhabi project, the Foundation Board Search Committee, which includes Mr. Krens, has redefined the parameters of the search to find a new director for the New York museum, which began some months ago. The search will now focus on recruiting a director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The Foundation Director oversees and operates the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, Germany, and the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum in Las Vegas.


“With this succession plan, we feel that we can recruit the very best candidate to build on what Thomas Krens has created, even as we utilize Tom’s special talents to insure that the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi becomes one of the greatest new institutions in the world,” said Mr. Mack. “The Guggenheim Foundation directorship is one of the premier positions in the museum and institutional world, calling for the broadest range of talent and skill,” said Mr. Mack. “We expect interest will be high and that the candidates will be top tier.” The Foundation’s Board of Directors says it plans an intensive, comprehensive global search to recruit Mr. Krens’ successor.

In his new role, Mr. Krens will focus on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi -- the largest and most complex initiative ever undertaken by the Foundation, which is scheduled for a 2012 opening. The Frank O. Gehry-designed museum at 452,000 square feet will be 35 percent larger than the Guggenheim Bilbao.  In terms of acquisitions and exhibitions, the project is also extremely ambitious, with a stated objective to focus broadly on modern and contemporary art from a truly global perspective, including the Middle East, Asia, and Africa as well as art of Europe and the Americas.


In his 20 years heading the Foundation, Mr. Krens, 61, oversaw an active, transformative period for the Foundation. His role spanned every facet of the institution, as he served as chief executive, curator, visionary, fundraiser, and entrepreneur. As he leaves the post, the institution is prepared for the future. In the last 15 years, the Foundation endowment has increased six-fold, to $118 million, and its permanent collection has grown more than 60 percent. Beginning in 1989, Mr. Krens negotiated a second major gift of Impressionist paintings from the widow of Justin Thannhauser; acquired the famed Panza di Biumo collection of American minimalist art; and initiated and implemented the program for commissioning major international artists such as Jeff Koons, James Rosenquist, Rachel Whiteread, and Gerhard Richter at the Deutsche Guggenheim among many others. The commissioned works have entered the Guggenheim collection. Mr. Krens also designed and led the acquisitions program of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, which has acquired major installations of Richard Serra, Jeff Koons, Jenny Holzer, and Louise Bourgeois.


Under Mr. Krens’ direction, attendance at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York has more than doubled to over 900,000 visitors per year, and attendance at the Guggenheim museums worldwide is approximately 2.7 million, with traveling exhibitions in other internationally acclaimed venues drawing an additional million visitors.

With Mr. Krens serving as Chief Artistic Officer of the Foundation as well as its Director, the Guggenheim has presented many award-winning programs and exhibits, maintaining and fortifying its place among the ranks of the world’s top museums.  Since 1992, the Guggenheim Foundation has produced more than 275 different exhibitions. These projects have ranged from definitive retrospectives of major American and international artists-- such as Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Ellsworth Kelly, Jenny Holzer, Nam Jun Paik, and Matthew Barney – to historical surveys of 20th art such as The Great Utopia: the Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde 1915-1932, (1992) Abstraction in the 20th Century, Picasso and the Age of Iron (1993); and Russia! (2005).


In keeping with the move toward internationalism, Mr. Krens initiated a program of exhibitions that explore the historical and indigenous cultures of various parts of the world, including Africa: The Art of a Continent (1996); China: 5000 Years (1998); Brazil: Body and Soul (2001); and The Aztec Empire (2004).  Mr. Krens has also expanded the Guggenheim programming into architecture and design with such landmark exhibitions as The Art of the Motorcycle (1998), The Architecture of Frank Gehry (2001); Giorgio Armani: A Retrospective (2002); and Zaha Hadid: Architect (2006).

At present, Mr. Krens is co-curator for a retrospective exhibition of Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe, the first Chinese artist to be presented in a major retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, which opened on February 22nd and will open at the National Art Museum of China on August 2008, during the Beijing Olympics.


On the international front, Mr. Krens also spearheaded alliances and developed facilities designed by world renowned architects outside New York, establishing the Guggenheim brand and extending its influence and reputation around the globe.  During his tenure, the Guggenheim Foundation doubled the size of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the home of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and established three new museums, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Deutsche Guggenheim and the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum Las Vegas.  The Foundation also partnered with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria, to create a major cooperative programming entity.


In New York, Mr. Krens twice directed restoration and expansion projects at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Foundation’s flagship museum on Fifth Avenue.  The first, completed in 1992, was an $80 million restoration of the interior of the landmark Frank Lloyd Wright building, the construction of a ten story tower gallery and office building designed by Gwathmey Siegel Associates, and the addition of a new storage and technical services facility on New York’s West Side.   Recently, he has overseen a $29 million project to restore all aspects of the Wright building including significant portions of the infrastructure. The current restoration will be completed in the summer of 2008.


“It has been an honor to serve as director of this magnificent institution and to add to its strength and reputation,” said Mr. Krens.  “I have enjoyed the support of a wise and progressive board of directors who were a great help in providing counsel and direction as we faced many challenges and sought to redefine the boundaries of what a museum could achieve.  I have enjoyed working with the most professional and dedicated group of colleagues imaginable. From interns to art handlers, from curators to conservators, working with such a remarkable team was the greatest benefit of my years at the Guggenheim.”


As Mr. Krens now prepares to devote the majority of his time to the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, he said, “The scope and scale of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is truly spectacular and I am delighted to be taking up the challenge of this project for the Foundation.  We will be programming and collecting for what we hope is a new model for a universal contemporary museum.  And I am looking forward to working again with Frank Gehry, to create the next chapter in the evolution of the public art museum. We are expecting that he will produce a breathtaking design that will address the needs of a rapidly changing and expanding international art world.  What has been learned from the Tate, Bilbao and other new museums throughout the world will be the point of departure for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.  Our objective is to make something completely new, the best museum of modern and contemporary art in the world.”


“We are delighted that Tom will be able to devote his full attention and considerable talents to the development and management of this project to maximize its huge potential,” said Mr. Mack. “He is uniquely qualified, through experience and vision, to provide the leadership that will be needed to move this critical project to completion.”



February 28, 2008

Eleanor R. Goldhar
Deputy Director for External Affairs
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
212 423 3528 phone

Nora Semel
External Affairs Associate
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
212 423 3881 phone


Thomas Krens
Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Thomas Krens was named Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1988. He graduated from Williams College with a B.A. in political economy in 1969. He holds a M.A. in art from the State University of New York, and a M.B.A. from Yale University. From 1971 to 1988, he was an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at Williams College; in 1981 he also became Director of the Williams College Museum of Art. Through his position at Williams in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Krens was the originator and founding chairman of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), one of the largest museums of contemporary art in the world.

Under Mr. Krens’ leadership, the Guggenheim Foundation has built an unprecedented international network of cultural facilities and alliances with major museums. Beginning in 1990, the Guggenheim Foundation has developed a series of buildings contiguous to the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, home of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, more than doubling the size of the Venice museum. In 1991, Mr. Krens negotiated the unique partnership between the Basque Regional Government and the Guggenheim Foundation that produced the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by Frank O. Gehry. The Guggenheim in Bilbao opened to wide public acclaim in October 1997. In November 1997, the Deutsche Guggenheim — a museum space and exhibition facility designed by American architect Richard Gluckman and located in the former East Berlin — was opened as the result of joint venture between the Guggenheim Foundation and Deutsche Bank A.G. and has since then presented more than 30 highly acclaimed exhibitions and single artist commissions to the Berlin public. In October 2001, the Guggenheim opened another small, but architecturally important museum, the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum in Las Vegas, designed by Rem Koolhaas.

Under Mr. Krens’ direction, the Guggenheim Foundation has been a leader in establishing international collaborations among major museums. In June 2000, the Guggenheim entered into a partnership with the State Hermitage Museum (SHM) in St. Petersburg, Russia, and seven months later with the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) in Vienna, Austria. The purpose of the Guggenheim-SHM-KHM alliance is to share collections, jointly develop exhibitions and educational programs that will benefit a wide international audience, and cooperate on the construction of new museums, primarily in Asia and Latin America. Combined, the collections of the Guggenheim, Hermitage, and Kunsthistorisches Museums are the largest in the world organized under one cooperative programming entity.

As the chief artistic officer of the Guggenheim Foundation, Mr. Krens is responsible for exhibitions and programming for all Guggenheim museums worldwide. Since 1992, the Guggenheim has produced more than 275 major exhibitions. These projects have encompassed definitive retrospectives of major American and international artists including Matthew Barney, Georg Baselitz, Francesco Clemente, Dan Flavin, Cai Guo-Qiang, Jenny Holzer, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Mario Merz, Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Nam June Paik, Richard Prince, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist; historical surveys of 20th-century art such as The Great Utopia: The Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde, 1915–1932 (1992), Picasso and the Age of Iron  (1993), The Italian Metamorphosis, 1943–1968  (1994), Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline  (1996), and Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism  (2003); and exhibitions that have presented the artistic heritage of many countries and regions: Africa: The Art of a Continent  (1996), China: 5,000 Years  (1998), Brazil: Body & Soul  (2001), The Aztec Empire  (2004), RUSSIA! (2005), and Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History  (2006).

Likewise, the collection has greatly expanded under Mr. Krens’ leadership. Approximately 60-percent larger than it was in 1988, the Foundation’s permanent collection has also increased greatly in depth and breadth. Under Mr. Krens, the Foundation has made such major acquisitions as the Panza Collection of Minimalist and Conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s, the finest collection of vintage photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, and the Bohen Collection of multimedia art. The Guggenheim’s holdings are now among the world’s most esteemed in the area of contemporary photography and multimedia art.

Among Mr. Krens’ major accomplishments at the Guggenheim in New York has been the multi-phased restoration and expansion of the Frank Lloyd Wright building. The first phase, completed in 1992, encompassed the restoration of the interior of the landmark Frank Lloyd Wright building, the construction of a 10-story tower gallery and office building designed by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates, and the addition of a new storage and technical services facility on New York City’s West Side. In 2004, the Guggenheim successfully completed a campaign to raise $29 million for the second phase of the capital project, to restore the exterior facade and selected interior infrastructure systems of the Wright building; work is currently underway, with completion scheduled for the summer of 2008, in time for the 50th anniversary of the building in 2009.

In 2007, Mr. Krens and the Board of Trustees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation signed an operating framework for a Guggenheim Abu Dhabi with officials representing the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the 452,000 square foot museum of modern and contemporary art will be built on Saadiyat Island, adjacent to the main island of Abu Dhabi city, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Krens is a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Réunion des Musées, the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, and the Societé Kandinsky, Paris. He has received Honorary Doctorates from Williams College, Yale University, and the State University of New York at Albany and in 2000 was awarded the Special Prize for Architectural Patronage at the Venice Architecture Biennale. In 2006 he was decorated with the Order of the Aztec Eagle by the Government of Mexico, that country’s highest award to a foreign national and in 2007, the American Federation of Arts (AFA) honored Mr. Krens as a recipient of its Cultural Leadership Award for his role in museum development and programming nationally and internationally.

February 2008


International Exhibitions

October 3, 2015–January 10, 2016

Comprising some 40 paintings and works on paper drawn from over 30 leading public institutions and private collections across Asia, Europe, and the United States, this is the first retrospective exhibition dedicated to the work of the Indian painter Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde.


More news

Marxz Rosado, The Process for Attaining the Signature of Pedro Albizu Campos in Neon Lights (Proceso para conseguir la firma de Pedro Albizu Campos en luces de neón), 1977–2002

Guggenheim Blogs

Explore art and ideas from around the world on our Webby Award–nominated blogs.

Pablo Picasso, Woman with Yellow Hair (Femme aux cheveux jaunes), Paris, December 1931

The permanent collection of the Guggenheim Museum constitutes the very core of the institution.