Krens is off Guggenheim Abu Dhabi project
“Leadership role” appears to have passed to foundation’s director
By Javier Pes and Cristina Ruiz. Web only
Published online: 23 November 2010
ABU DHABI. Thomas Krens, the former director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation who oversaw the development of the Guggenheim Bilbao, is no longer working on the project to build the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, The Art Newspaper has learned.
Krens was the foundation’s senior advisor for international affairs, a position created when he stepped down as director in February 2008 after 20 years in charge. At the time he was described as assuming a “leadership role” in developing the new Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, a key part in the Tourism Development and Investment Company’s plan to create a cultural complex on Saadiyat Island including the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Rumours of his departure have been circulating since the Abu Dhabi Art fair last month after Krens, whose profile had been high in the region, was not present. By contrast, Richard Armstrong, the director of the Guggenheim, was highly visible, as was Nancy Spector, the museum’s chief curator, and Suzanne Cotter, the Guggenheim’s curator of exhibitions for the Abu Dhabi project.
Krens created a consultancy, Global Cultural Asset Management in 2008 and it is this company that has been advising the Guggenheim. The foundation’s latest tax returns show the Guggenheim paid $816,000 in fees to this consultancy last year. The returns also record that last year Krens was paid the second instalment in his $2m severance package (as director of the foundation).
Krens’ vision for the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim, which is set to be 30% larger than its Bilbao counterpart, also designed by the architect Frank Gehry, included a centre for contemporary Middle Eastern art. To develop the idea he invited independent curators from countries including Turkey, Iran, and the Lebanon, to form an expert panel. The Art Newspaper understands that this has been disbanded.
A spokeswoman for the Guggenheim foundation confirmed by email that Krens is no longer working on the Abu Dhabi project. On the subject of the curatorial panel, she added that: “No formal group was ever officially formed. The Guggenheim is in conversations with experts from around the world who are knowledgeable about Middle Eastern art and culture and who will be called upon for their expertise.”
Krens did not respond to requests for a comment and neither did his consultancy.
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