Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Thomas Hoving

Thomas Hoving held many jobs — New York City parks commissioner, magazine editor, author and television correspondent. But it was his 10 years as director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, from 1967 to '77, that left the world a changed place. Hoving didn't just transform the Met. He changed the very idea of museums. The gift shop full of souvenir scarves, the big banners touting temporary shows, the rentable party spaces — Hoving enlarged them to the proportions we now take for granted. Above all, it was Hoving, a tireless showman, who did the most to develop the blockbuster loan show that's now a staple of almost every museum's calendar. Did he democratize, glamorize or coarsen the experience of art? If you've been to a museum lately, you already know the answer. He did all three.

—Richard Lacayo

Lacayo is TIME's art critic