Thomas Krens Is Planning Another Contemporary Art Museum for North Adams, Massachusetts


Thomas Krens.


Yesterday, Thomas Krens, who previously directed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and planned MASS MoCA, proposed a 160,000-square-foot contemporary-art museum in North Adams, Massachusetts, the Berkshire Eagle reports.

If Krens’s plan becomes a reality, the museum, which would be called the Global Contemporary Collection and Museum, will join a crowded area along Route 2, near the Harriman & West Airport, that already includes the Clark Art Institute, Williams College Museum of Art, and MASS MoCA. The museum was initially planned for China, but, Krens said, “the idea of spending a little more time in the Berkshires was attractive to me.”

Krens’s museum has a proposed building budget of $10 million to $15 million. The Global Contemporary Collection and Museum would potentially house 400 works of art, and will be 160,000 square feet, 40,000 of which will be storage for the collection. Unlike MASS MoCA, which Krens conceived with the idea that it would show work too large to normally be exhibited in a museum, the Global Contemporary Collection and Museum would only show its contemporary-art collection—there would be no exhibition programming. Because of this, Krens believes that the new museum would not be in competition with MASS MoCA.

Five years in the making, Krens’s plan for this museum was met with a positive response from the Airport Commission. Having passed a vote by the Airport Commission to enter into negotiations with Krens, the museum will now need to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, due to its proximity to the airport, and be in accordance with Massachusetts law. If the plan continues to pass through, Krens said that construction could begin next year.

The plans for the Global Contemporary Collection and Museum are the latest in a series of redevelopments in North Adams intended to enliven the area’s cultural landscape. MASS MoCA was another one of these redevelopments. In 1986, after a mill shut down, Krens, who was then director of the Williams College Museum of Art, began looking for a space to show larger works of art. He suggested remaking the mill into a contemporary art center. Thirteen years and $11.3 million later, the mill became MASS MoCA and Joseph C. Thompson became its director.

Krens became director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1988 and stayed there for another 20 years. In that time, he expanded to Bilbao, though not without controversy. Prior to the opening of the Guggenheim’s Spanish outpost, Krens deaccessioned works in the museum’s collection to fund the project.

In the past decade, Krens has turned his eyes to the Middle East and Asia, expressing interest in building various museums there. Krens has hinted at plans for institutions in Azerbaijan and China. (He also tried and failed to bring the Guggenheim into Austria, Brazil, downtown Manhattan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.) With so many potential museums and institutions across the globe, the fate of the Global Contemporary Collection and Museum is uncertain, although this newly proposed museum has already come farther than other plans by Krens.

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