Ever been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City? If you have, you probably remember the Temple of Dendur. You can thank Thomas Hoving, the Met's visionary director between 1967-1977 for it. You can also thank him for the first fashion exhibition ever held at the museum, the entire Lehman wing, and a host of other transformations to an institution which had become somewhat dusty.
Well, he's not a complete hero. He's to blame for most of the Met's returned Italian (Etruscan) pottery a couple years ago, after it emerged that he bought most of the artefacts in violation of the UNESCO treaty and from a notorious dealer of pillaged art. You might remember the Euphronios Krater? Yep- that's the star piece of the Met's collection that went back to Italy in 2006.
Hoving, who died December 10th from lung cancer, will be remembered for all these things, and more. From reading his memoirs of his illustrious career, Making the Mummies Dance, you get a sense of what kind of (unapologetic) man it took to shake things up at the Met. Admired and reviled, Hoving was the enfant terrible of the New York art scene, and his influence on the museum world is immeasurable.