Thomas Hoving, the charismatic showman and treasure hunter whose decade-long tenure as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art fundamentally transformed the institution and helped usher in the era of the museum blockbuster show, died Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 78….
He became its seventh director and, at 35, its youngest. And during his tumultuous reign, the museum did many things it had never done before, often for the better, sometimes for the worse: it formed a contemporary art department and displayed Pop painting alongside Poussin and David; regularly draped the now-familiar banners on its facade to advertise shows; created the enlarged front steps that have become Fifth Avenue’s bleachers; paid $5.5 million for a single painting (the Velázquez masterpiece “Juan de Pareja”) while quietly selling works by Van Gogh, Rousseau and others to help pay for it….
In his establishment-rattling mission to make the art museum a more populist institution, Mr. Hoving was “probably the most influential and innovative museum official of the postwar period,” Michael Kimmelman wrote in The New York Times.
–full obituary at NYTimes.com