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Making the Mummies Dance : Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art Paperback – February 15, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (February 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671880756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671880750
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As director of Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1967 to 1977, brash, energetic Hoving transformed a stodgy, elitist institution into a bottom-line-oriented business enterprise, a modernized, expansive museum that actively engages the public. In this ebullient memoir, Hoving, who is preening and amusingly self-deprecating at once, provides a rare behind-the-scenes peek at turf wars, intrigues, fabulous acquisitions and stormy managerial battles. A highly cultivated man with wide-ranging tastes, this self-described publicity hound copes with eccentric, unpredictable donors, ostrich-like curators and angry protestors; he clashes with Robert Lehman, Edward Koch, J. Paul Getty and Jacqueline Kennedy. Hopping from Paris to Moscow to Cairo, he describes the internal controversies that have erupted over major exhibitions, giving former colleagues and critics their comeuppance. A hectic, entertaining tour of a rarefied world. Photos. Author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Possessing scholarly credentials, influence, friends, and connections, "wonder boy of the art world" Hoving was the seventh director of the diverse and dazzling Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1967 to 1977. In this, his fifth book, he colorfully chronicles the behind-the-scenes activities, associations, and dealings in his indefatigable lust to make the Met the "encyclopedia of mankind's visual genius." During his tenure, the Met underwent the most comprehensive growth in its 97-year history. Besides landing collections, "gallivanting around . . . thinking up exhibitions, raising funds, and recruiting," this salesman extraordinaire spent "heady days dreaming up architectural solutions and dueling political dragons." As in King of the Confessors ( LJ 10/1/81), Hoving's style is often self-congratulatory, though he admits what he views as his flaws. With the flair of a spy novelist, Hoving--now a consultant--weaves the tale of his contributions to making the Met "a household word." Recommended for public and academic libraries.
- Vicki Gadberry, Harris Media Ctr., Mars Hill Coll., N.C.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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A great read for those interested in museums, art, etc.
Martin J. Molof
This book is extremely entertaining and and an eye opener about what went on in the Metropolitan Museum during Thomas Hoving's time as head in the late 60's and 70's.
art lover
The story is fascinating and Hoving writes so well the book reads itself.
Traugott Fischer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Luciano Lupini on November 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a refreshing book, about the author's personal quest to transform the Metropolitan Museum of Art of N.Y., during his tenure as director of the museum (1967-1977).
When Hoving arrived as Director, he assessed the Met as a disorganized institution, a collection of collections, located in a mixture of buildings and architectures that gave "the impression of something worse than incomplete; it seemed forgotten and forlorn...." At the time Hoving was offered the post, he was commissioner of Parks, under the tenure of Mayor John Lindsay, whose mayoral campaign the author had joined with a leave of absence from... the Met, where, after receiving his Ph.D. in Art from Princeton University, he went from assistant curator to curator of the Medieval Department and the Cloisters. And indeed, it was Lindsay, when told the news about the directorship, who said: "...have you considered the boredom? Seems to me the place is dead. But, Hoving, you'll make the mummies dance." Hence the title of the book.
The story is a fascinating, at times egotistical and gossipy account of what it took to revolutionize an institution like the Met. From the seduction of the patrons and trustees, such as Nelson Rockefeller, Walter Annenberg, Brooke Astor, Robert Lehman, to the development of a network of experts, smugglers and famous collectors, Hoving takes us on a journey that reveals a lot about the inner workings of power, expertise and glamour, in the art world.
At the end, we are led to believe Hoving's final insight about his tenure:
"With the creative energy of the Trustees who had been on my side and the stuff who supported me, the most sweeping revolution in the history of art museums had taken place. The Met, once an elitist, stiff, gray, and slightly moribund entity, came alive. THE MUMMIES DID DANCE......"
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
After spending many happy hours in the Metropolitan, I really enjoyed this book. Hoving pulls no punches and getting the "inside dirt" was fasinating and fun! I know I wouldn't care for him as a person, given the size of his ego, but he must be given credit where credit is due for putting the Metropolitan in the position it is today, no matter what the cost. After doing significant amounts of fundraising myself, I know it is often a thankless and tiring duty, and one that takes considerable talent. Hoving makes what probably was a painful process interesting and intriguing in the re-telling. And there is a generous amount of information sprinkled through the book about the challenges of curating a major museum that I haven't read anywhere else.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Peter T. Wolf on March 20, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book appeals to a select audience. Those who enjoy reading about the great chase for the treasures of the world. Treasures that wars have been fought over. Those who enjoy reading about the super-rich and their foibles. Those who enjoy reading about the intrigues and back stabbings in elite organizations (this book makes The Apprentice look like a pillow fight). And finally those who enjoy reading about a man's all consuming ambition to succeed and yet through it all remain passionate about great art. If any of the above is your cub of tea then you are going to love this. I absolutely recommend his later book 'False Impressions'. And yes, the author spares no punches in his analysis of alot of famous people.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Steven Goldstein on February 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
This treasure was passed to me by a gallery owner who said I would love it and she was right. Hoving gives you just the right amount of background to ensnare you in Art politics and society without overdoing it and boring the reader who isn't that into art. The book is peppered with anecdotes about the glitterati of the New York and international art/high society scene that ends up having the tone of Gore Vidal but on a subject he probably would never touch.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By R. Tiedemann on July 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
This lively look at the life and work of a director of a world-class art museum not only educates and entertains, it shocks. The mummies do, indeed, dance as Thomas Hoving takes on the Park Service to expand the museum, wiggles around UNESCO and fights a host of governments for his favorite works of art, plays one collection against another, trades, deals and bluffs his way toward making the Metropolitan Museum of Art what it is today.
Hoving has a steam-roller personality, the energy of nuclear fission and no small amount of self-confidence. His educational background -- Princeton and an archeological expedition or two in Europe -- isn't as impressive as you'd expect, but he makes up any shortcomings with old-fashioned chutzpah.
After some experience in minor jobs and a city job with the Parks Department, he's told he may be selected as director of the Metropolitan so he looks the place over and makes some notes: "The museum needs reform. Sprucing up. Dynamics. Electricity. The place is moribund. Gray. It's dying. The morale of staff is low. The energy seems to have vanished. You've been missing all the fine exhibits...."
This book shows how MOMA gets from where it was then to what it is now -- the politics, infighting, backbiting, sneaking, smuggling and downright stealing it takes to make a museum one of the finest in the world. It's also a fairly realistic look at the glittering personalities and the haute monde of the New York City of a few decades ago.
This is a rousing tale that should hold the interest of any reader, art lover or no. Never mind that Hoving doesn't hesitate to toot his own horn. This is, after all, his book. Even taking the stories with a massive grain of salt, they're always riveting and vastly amusing.
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