Hiring a new director for the Guggenheim will be tricky. It will be extremely difficult for any candidate to unequivocally say, “Krens must go,” if only because he’ll have a major hand in the hiring. Nonetheless, an independent-minded director is a necessity if the museum is to recover. The last director of the Guggenheim was a woman, and the next one should be, too. Four candidates come immediately to mind: the chief curator and associate director for programs at the Whitney, Donna De Salvo; the current director of UCLA’s Hammer Museum, Ann Philbin; the departing director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Kathy Halbreich; and the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Thelma Golden.
Whoever takes the job must not do so without a number of ironclad agreements in place. Assuming the director can’t fire Krens outright (presumably only the board can do that), she must stipulate that she has control over appointing and releasing all board members and employees. She has to sign off on all activities and exhibitions in all present and future Guggenheims, constructing a legal firewall between Krens and the Guggenheim. He should not be allowed to take one dime of Guggenheim money for any project, and she should try to get out of the Abu Dhabi project. Krens must have no role beyond an advisory one—and without payment, from either the museum or its trustees or other backers. If this new director can defang Krens, then— and only then—might there be a bright future at the Guggenheim.