W102 | Artistic Visionaries: Frank Gehry and Christo 



1:30 - 3:00 pm

In- person at the Clark Art Institute auditorium

225 South Street

Williamstown, MA 01267

9/22, 10/6, 10/13, 10/20 & 10/27 (no class 9/29)

Five Sessions 

This course is offered in-person at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown MA. Please note that all in-person course attendees must affirm that they have been fully vaccinated when registering and must wear masks in class at this time. Thank you for your understanding.


Two of today’s art and architecture innovators have challenged us to understand and appreciate their special, and very personal, visions. Both Gehry and Christo have transformed the very definitions of their art forms, architecture for Gehry and sculpture for Christo. We will review their lives, works, and perhaps recount a few personal stories.

WORKING WITH FRANK: September 22 and October 6, with Thomas Krens 

Thomas Krens will deliver two lectures focusing on his 30+ years relationship with Frank Gehry. As a museum director and museum planner who began working with Gehry in 1987, Mr. Krens once commented that he wasn’t sure that he could cover the territory with an even dozen. 

The talks will focus on the Guggenheim in Bilbao; the unrealized “Manhattan Project,” a new museum for New York City that was derailed by 9/11; and the Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi, for which Gehry was selected as architect in 2006.

The point of departure of the first lecture is to trace the narrative arcs of two important elements that combined to produce the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, an extraordinary new museum which Mr. Krens has called “the Apotheosis.” The first arc describes the genesis and evolution of the “Global Guggenheim” concept, and its aspirations to design and frame an ambitious and unprecedented vision for the role, use, and consumption of contemporary culture by weaving together in one unifying vision the major threads or functions of the art museum as cultural agora, center of exchange and discourse, and mediator of the gulf between local and global cultural and political perspectives.

The second narrative is about working with Gehry in two very different evolving political contexts:  the Basque Country, which was still defined by sharp political diversions, and in which acts of political violence were not uncommon;  the evolution of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, and its transition from a pre-medieval culture as late as the 1950s, into the wealthiest country in the world on a per-capita basis at the beginning of the 21st century.

Thomas Krens holds degrees from Williams College in Political Science, a Masters in Studio Art from SUNY Albany, and an MBA from Yale University.  He is is the former Director and Senior Advisor for International Affairs of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York City.  In 1986, while Director of the Williams College Museum of Art, Krens first conceived of converting the recently closed Sprague Electric plant into the world’s largest contemporary art museum which, became the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA).  During his time at the Guggenheim, Krens's tenacity and salesmanship resulted in international expansion such as the Guggenheim Bilbao. 

CHRISTO: October 13, 20 & 27 with Jock Brooks 

Christo’s life and well-known art--mostly outdoor monumental projects--will be explored as we are challenged even what to call his many unique, expansive creations: sculptures, art installations, environmental art, or something else. His recent death will mean we will have all the facts to wrestle with--and appreciate--using his drawings, models, renderings, and eventual photographs of the “events.” A lecture and two films (exploring and illustrating in detail the Running Fence and Valley Curtain projects) are planned.

Jock Brooks, M.A., Columbia University; retired Associate Director, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute; Educator, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Senior Examiner, American Association of Museums; frequent OLLI instructor.



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