INTRODUCTION  //  Tom Hoving.

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Tom Hoving, was a charismatic showman and treasure hunter whose tenure as Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1967 to 1977 fundamentally transformed the institution and helped usher in the era of the museum blockbuster show.

BIO

Thomas Pearsall Field Hoving was born in New York City on January 15, 1931, the elder child of Walter Hoving, a renowned merchandiser who was president of the department store Bonwit Teller and chairman of Tiffany & Company, and Mary Osgood Field Hoving, who was a descendant of Samuel Osgood, the first postmaster general of the United States in the 18th century.

Tom grew up in Manhattan and attended a series of private schools. He liked to spend time visiting the Met, where he gravitated to the Egyptian wing and was especially fascinated by a temple relief in which only the pharaoh’s lips remained clearly visible on his profile. “I looked deeply into the lips of King Akhenaten,” he told John McPhee in a profile called, " A Room Full of Hoving's in The New Yorker in 1967 and later was the featured story in the popular paperback "The John McPhee Reader".

He graduated from The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, and was accepted to Princeton University, where he eventually received a bachelor's degree, a master's and a doctorate in art history.

During his sophomore year at Princeton, he found his calling when he took an art history course.

Princeton is also where he met his wife, Nancy Bell, a Vassar student whom he met at a house party, where they were both trying to avoid their dates.

Tom graduated from Princeton summa cum laude, winning honors for a thesis on architectural history. After three years in the Marines, and achieving the rank of Lieutenant he announced his intention to pursue a graduate degree in art history.

In 1959 he began as a curatorial assistant at the Cloisters, where he distinguished himself early on by identifying a rare Romanesque marble relief that the Met had declined to buy; it reversed itself when he discovered that the relief was a long-missing piece of a noted 12th-century Florentine pulpit.

His most impressive accomplishment was his globe-trotting role in helping the Met acquire the 12th-century walrus ivory cross attributed to the abbey of Bury St. Edmunds in eastern England, considered one of the finest medieval ivories in existence and now on display at the Cloisters.

In 1965 he was named curator of the department of medieval arts and of the Cloisters, but within a few months his career was to take another direction.

During the early 1960s he worked as a campaign volunteer for John V. Lindsay, the congressman from Manhattan, who became a casual friend. When Mr. Lindsay was elected mayor of New York City in 1965, he asked Tom to be his parks commissioner.

Having little administrative experience and scant knowledge of the park system, he nonetheless plunged into the job. He became a familiar sight at parks around the city, zipping around on his Jawa motorcycle.

He quickly generated headlines by winning a fight to close Central Park’s East and West drives to car traffic on Sundays, which turned out to be so popular that he closed the roads on Saturday as well. It did not take long for the other boroughs to follow Central Parks lead in closing their roads. This proved to be a wonderful lasting contribution to the quality of life in New York City.

Tom also instituted a series of park gatherings, known as “Hoving’s Happenings, in which huge crowds turned out to do things like communal painting, lying in the Sheep Meadow to watch a midnight meteor shower and going to park concerts with singers like Judy Collins. Forty-two years later, pocket parks he created still function as oases in mid-town Manhattan, and the swimming pool he opened in Brooklyn still welcomes bathers.

When his mentor at the Met, James Rorimer died unexpectedly in his sleep and in December 1966, Tom was chosen from a field of 40 candidates to take over the museum’s directorship. At the news conference in which he was named, Mayor Lindsay said he felt like a father “who has just given away the bride.”

At the time of his appointment he was 35 years old, the Metropolitan's youngest director to this date, and certainly the most controversial doing many things that had never been done before.

Some of his main accomplishments as director included the implementation and overseeing of a master plan of renovation that encompassed the museum's facade, main entrance, and expansion into Central Park; high-profile acquisitions such as the Temple of Dendur from Egypt, the controversial Euphronios krater (repatriated to Italy in 2008 under a legal agreement negotiated between MMA and the Italian government), and paintings by Diego Velázquez ("Juan de Pareja") and Claude Monet ("Garden at Sainte-Adresse"); and the organizing and popularization of blockbuster exhibitions, best exemplified by "Treasures of Tutankhamun."

In 1977, Tom founded his consulting firm, Hoving Associates.

In 1978 he became a correspondent and Arts Editor for the popular ABC television newsmagazine, 20/20 until 1984.

In 1981 he became the Editor-in-Chief of Connoisseur magazine until 1991.

Tom was also a frequent contributor and correspondent for artnet.com. All of his videos are available in the video section of this web site.

WATCH VIDEOS

BOOKS BY THOMAS HOVING:

Link to Thomas Hoving Books

Art for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., 1999)

The Greatest Works of Art of Western Civilization(Artisan, 1996-1997).

False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakes (Simon & Schuster, 1996)

Making the Mummies Dance: Inside The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Simon & Schuster, 1993)

Discovery (Simon & Schuster, 1989)

Masterpiece (a novel, Simon & Schuster, 1986)

King of the Confessors (Simon & Schuster, 1981)

Tutankhamen: The Untold Story (Simon & Schuster, 1978)

Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Exhibition Catalogue, 1976)

Guide to The Cloisters (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975)

ARTICLES BY THOMAS HOVING:

Connoisseur: Contributed on a wide range of subjects

Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin:

"Italian Romanesque Sculpture"

"The Bury St. Edmunds Cross"

"The Face of St. Juliana"

"The Search for a Rhenish Master"

"A Long Lost Romanesque Annunciation"

OTHER:

White Paper on Parks and Recreation for the City of New York, 1965

NY Times Magazine:

"Think Big About Small Parks," April 1966

Museum News: "Branch Out"

HONORARY DEGREES:

Doctor of Letters, Middlebury College, 1968

Doctor of Fine Arts, New York University, 1968

Doctor of Humanities, Princeton University, 1968

Doctor of Law, Pratt Institute, 1967

Doctor of Humane Letters, Hofstra University, 1966

AWARDS:

Order of Distinguished Service, Egypt, 1979

Woodrow Wilson Award, Princeton University, 1977

Chevalier De La Legion d'Honneur, 1970

Elsie de Wolfe Award, American Institute of Interior Designers, 1967

Park Association of New York City, Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Parks of New York City, 1967

Distinguished Achievements, The Advertising Club, 1966

Bronze Medal, Citizen's Budget Commission, 1966