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Thomas Krens To Step Down As Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Photo: David M. Heald, © SRGF, New York.

NEW YORK.- William Mack, Chairman of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation said today that Thomas Krens will step down as its director, a position he has held since 1988, later this year, 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.

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February 29, 2008

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