Our next book is one of the most entertaining books about arts administration ever written, Making the Mummies Dance by Thomas Hoving. It is an older book (1994) and therefore may take some planning if you wish to borrow it from the library but it is still easily available online.
No museum in the world is like the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and no one 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.
The Book Club is free and open to everyone in the arts. There is no obligation to join us for every book in the series. Once you register for this meeting online, you will be sent the coordinates to join what promises to be an entertaining and hopefully, inspirational discussion.