A museum as brand? An art show devoted to motorcycles? These are just a few of the groundbreaking ideas of Thomas Krens, the man who Forbes says is "rewriting the rules of how museums are run." With his dynamic leadership and vision, Krens has taken the Guggenheim global, creating the first truly multinational arts institution. As Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, he oversees five Guggenheim museums in New York City, Venice, Berlin, Las Vegas and Bilbao.
The Guggenheim Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, is regarded as one of the great architectural accomplishments of the 20th century. Further extending the global reach of the Guggenheim, Krens forged a three-way partnership with the venerable State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, allowing for the exchange of exhibitions and staff. Krens has devised unique ways to fund and support his projects, from joint ventures with corporations and foreign governments to accessible shows that prove widely popular and merchandise associated with major exhibits. He has dramatically elevated the visibility of the Guggenheim and increased attendance from 450,000 in 1990 to almost three million currently. As Newsweek wrote, his "aggressive, global approach may be what high culture needs to survive in our world." The acclaimed "Art of the Motorcycle" exhibit (a Krens brainchild) at New York City's Guggenheim was the most popular exhibition in the museum's 61-year history and was equally sensational at the Bilbao Guggenheim, where motorcycle-riding icon Dennis Hopper took part in the opening. Krens' "China: 5,000 Years" may have been the greatest exhibition of Chinese art ever assembled; the extraordinary alliance Krens formed with the government of China was essential to bringing national treasures of such rarity to the US. From his celebrated exhibitions of classic 20th Century artists such as Rauschenberg and Beckmann to his precedent-shattering exhibit, "The Aztec Empire," Krens has generated controversy and praise as a daring innovator in cultural management. Mr. Krens is a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Réunion des Musées, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Societé Kandinsky of Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. He has received Honorary Doctorates from Williams College, the State University of New York at Albany, and Yale University. In 2000 he was awarded the Special Prize for Architectural Patronage at the Venice Architecture Biennale.