Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art

by Thomas Hoving
     
 

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No museum in the world is like the Metropolitan Museum of Art - and no man has ever run it, or revolutionized it, quite like Thomas Hoving. In a decade, Hoving changed almost everything people had grown accustomed to from the Met, shaking the institution out of royal repose and transforming it into the most vital cultural presence in the country. Now, the… See more details below

Overview

No museum in the world is like the Metropolitan Museum of Art - and no man has ever run it, or revolutionized it, quite like Thomas Hoving. In a decade, Hoving changed almost everything people had grown accustomed to from the Met, shaking the institution out of royal repose and transforming it into the most vital cultural presence in the country. Now, the irrepressible former director delivers a fearless account of his life at the pinnacle of the art world - a modern Vanity Fair, a true story of masterpieces and money, society and scandal, intrigue and international theft. The Met is more than a dazzling art showplace. The museum is a vibrant if quietly influential community, inhabited and run by singular sorts of people: trustees and curators, connoisseurs and conservators. It is steeped in history and tradition and seems to move in a serene and elegant world of impeccable manners and the finest taste. Behind the proper social veneers and pristine marble galleries, Hoving reveals the cutthroat precincts where the real business of the Met is carried out. From seducing important patrons like Robert Lehman, Nelson Rockefeller, Walter Annenberg, and Brooke Astor to spiriting ancient treasures across international borders; from striking secret agreements with the world's most powerful dealers to sidestepping rivals; from securing blockbuster exhibitions, like "Tut" and "The Glory of Russian Costume," to seizing the most phenomenal Velazquez portrait, Hoving shares not only the nimbleness and brashness that made him so effective, but also the zeal and passion that made the Met so exciting. Making the Mummies Dance is told in the head-on, even naughty, way that is trademark Hoving. This is an important, shocking museum story and more - an unforgettable tale of power struggles and one-upmanship, fame, big money, and, of course, great art.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Kimmelman
Mr. Hoving, as he would clearly be the first to say, is a clever and complex man and there is a great and substantive book to be written about his years at the Metropolitan. "Making the Mummies Dance" is not it. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As director of Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1967 to 1977, brash, energetic Hoving transformed a stodgy, elitist institution into a bottom-line-oriented business enterprise, a modernized, expansive museum that actively engages the public. In this ebullient memoir, Hoving, who is preening and amusingly self-deprecating at once, provides a rare behind-the-scenes peek at turf wars, intrigues, fabulous acquisitions and stormy managerial battles. A highly cultivated man with wide-ranging tastes, this self-described publicity hound copes with eccentric, unpredictable donors, ostrich-like curators and angry protestors; he clashes with Robert Lehman, Edward Koch, J. Paul Getty and Jacqueline Kennedy. Hopping from Paris to Moscow to Cairo, he describes the internal controversies that have erupted over major exhibitions, giving former colleagues and critics their comeuppance. A hectic, entertaining tour of a rarefied world. Photos. Author tour. (Jan.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Possessing scholarly credentials, influence, friends, and connections, ``wonder boy of the art world'' Hoving was the seventh director of the diverse and dazzling Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1967 to 1977. In this, his fifth book, he colorfully chronicles the behind-the-scenes activities, associations, and dealings in his indefatigable lust to make the Met the ``encyclopedia of mankind's visual genius.'' During his tenure, the Met underwent the most comprehensive growth in its 97-year history. Besides landing collections, ``gallivanting around . . . thinking up exhibitions, raising funds, and recruiting,'' this salesman extraordinaire spent ``heady days dreaming up architectural solutions and dueling political dragons.'' As in King of the Confessors ( LJ 10/1/81), Hoving's style is often self-congratulatory, though he admits what he views as his flaws. With the flair of a spy novelist, Hoving--now a consultant--weaves the tale of his contributions to making the Met ``a household word.'' Recommended for public and academic libraries.-- Vicki Gadberry, Harris Media Ctr., Mars Hill Coll., N.C.
Donna Seaman
Hoving's account of his ten innovative years at the helm of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is every bit as irresistible, dynamic, and crafty as its flamboyant and brilliant author. In 1967, Hoving, then 36, accepted the directorship of the Met, determined to "blow the dust" out of the gray, hulking, and uninviting building and turn it into a "moral, social, and educational force," a veritable "people's cultural paradise." He succeeded. Ambitious, rash, and daring, Hoving oversaw the modernization of the Met, battling city hall and conservative trustees every inch of the way. His fresh, exciting shows were designed to dazzle and awe the public, from Diana Vreeland's magnificent costume exhibitions and the controversial "Harlem on My Mind," to a host of unique exhibits from around the world. His showmanship and clever merchandising techniques earned him the moniker "king of the blockbusters." Hoving gleefully reveals the wooing, wheeling, and dealing that went on behind the scenes of the museum's major purchases and gifts of outstanding private collections such as the treasures amassed by Robert Lehman and Nelson Rockefeller, candidly admitting his errors as well as his triumphs. As Hoving profiles his extraordinary staff, gracious supporters (Brooke Astor and Lila Acheson Wallace in particular), and determined enemies, he regales us with juicy anecdotes of smuggling and forgery, haggling and grandstanding, subterfuge and brainstorms. His riveting memoir captures the drive and verve of a decade that liberated art from the elite and delivered it to a hungry and deeply appreciative public.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780671738549
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
01/22/1993
Pages:
448

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