LIBERTY PRIZE – 2002
Director of the Guggenheim (Museum) Foundation, 1988-2008. Krens entered Williams College, Williamstown, MA, initially studying economics and then political science. After receiving his B.A. from Williams in 1969, he played basketball in Europe. He returned to the U.S. and received a master's degree in studio art from the State University of New York (SUNY), Albany in 1971, joining his alma mater, Williams in 1972 as an adjunct faculty in the printmaking department, later becoming assistant professor. Krens directed the artist in residence program at Williams between 1976 and 1980. He was named the director of the Museum of Art, Williams College, in 1981. Instead of pursing a Ph.D., Krens worked on an M.B.A. from Yale University, which was awarded in 1984. He embarked upon a career in major museum management, first consulting for the redesign of the Brooklyn [Art] Museum in 1984. Krens developed the idea of using an abandoned factory in Massachusetts for a Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MOCA), funded by the state with private donations of cash and art to maintain it. The success of this project led to his appointment as consultant for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1986. Krens' assignment was to revitalize the famous museum whose attendance and finances were dwindling in the face of the highly competitive New York art museum scene. Two year later, Krens was appointed director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which oversaw The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, SoHo, succeeding Thomas Messer. Williams College renewed his adjunct professor status the same year, 1988, which he held until 1991. 1989 was an eventful year for Krens. Austrian art agencies asked him to participate on the creation of a collaborative museum project with the Guggenheim. Though the project never materialized, Krens used the idea of a satellite museum to develop what would be the hallmark of his tenure with the Museum: a branch Guggenheim system sponsored by corporations, as a way to increase the museum profile and revenues.
James Hadley Billington is an American academic. He is the thirteenth Librarian of the United States Congress.