NEW YORK, NY (AP).- Former Metropolitan Art Museum director Thomas Hoving has died at his home in New York City.
Nancy Hoving says her husband died Thursday of cancer. He was 78.
He was director of the museum from 1967 to 1977 and was known for championing blockbuster exhibits.
Artifacts from King Tut's tomb were the most popular exhibit in the museum's history. They drew 8 million visitors.
His tenure at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was characterized by his distinctive approach to expanding the Met's collections. Rather than build more comprehensive holdings of relatively modest works, he pursued a smaller number of what he termed "world-class" pieces, including the Euphronios krater depicting the death of Sarpedon (returned to Italy in 2008), Velázquez's "Juan de Pareja", and the "Temple of Dendur".
The expansion of the Met during Hoving's directorship was not confined to its collections. Hoving also spearheaded a number of building projects and renovations of the Met itself, from a controversial expansion of its galleries into Central Park to the construction of its underground parking garage. Two of the building's most characteristic features the huge exterior banners announcing current shows, and the broad plaza and steps leading from Fifth Avenue to the Met's entryway are products of Hoving's tenure. At one point, he even floated a plan to remove the Met's "great staircase" leading from the central lobby to the second-floor galleries. That particular project remains unrealized.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.