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Guggenheim Candidate Richard Armstrong and the “V” Word

The Krensmobile, parked outside the Guggenheim’s staff entrance

What’s the single laudatory word most often used to describe Tom Krens, whose successor as director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is expected to be Richard Armstrong, the director of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art?


Wait a minute! That’s the same word used to describe Armstrong in the first paragraph of this editorial, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last June, when he announced he would be leaving his Carnegie post at the end of the year. (Did he already envision himself then at the Gugg?)

The Post-Gazette opined:

It goes without saying that, even before the arrival of Richard
Armstrong, the Carnegie Museum of Art was a first-rate institution.
What it needed was a visionary like him to prod it to the next level.

When Mr. Armstrong leaves his position at the end of the year, he will leave behind exceptionally big shoes to fill….

In addition to an unerring eye, Mr. Armstrong has a talent for
managing, organizing and raising money — an enviable quality in museum
directors. Today, the Carnegie Museum of Art is in excellent fiscal
health because of it.

And the newspaper’s art critic, Mary Thomas, had nothing praise for his myriad accomplishments in her detailed appraisal of his 12-year tenure. I not sure he’s ready for the hypercritical New York press.

Wait. What was I thinking? Have I forgotten that he was previously a curator at the Whitney Museum, under the directorship of another controversial Tom (who bore the same last name as young Richard)? Here’s an excerpt from a Michael Brenson review in the NY Times of a 1988 David Park exhibition:

The catalogue is not worthy of a major museum. Richard Armstrong, the
curator of the show, who has been responsible for two other Whitney
exhibitions this year, on Richard Artschwager and Elizabeth Murray,
provides plenty of useful information, but his essay is neither
probing, nor passionate, nor exhaustive….

When the Whitney has to deal with an artist who falls outside the
mainstream critical framework of the last 25 years, the museum’s will
seems to sag and its intellectual resources dry up.

But what I really want to know is: Will Krazy Krens still get to ride with the Guggenheim Motorcycle Club?

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