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by Thomas Hoving
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If I could do it over what would I do differently?

I would not have gotten my Ph.D. in art history and archaeology nor would I have become a museum curator. I would have taken a great dollop of art history, sure, but I would then have gone to a series of schools and apprenticeships for art conservation. That would have satisfied my hunger for the objects themselves, my desire to become an active artist and would have allowed me to help preserve for other generations wondrous works of art. I would have not restricted myself to great paintings, but would have learned the techniques of fixing up and preserving paper, sculpture, leather and anything blessed artists had used over time to create divine things. Conservation would have enabled me to study and reveal fakes in a more professional way. Plus, since conservators are in such demand, I’d always be employed.

What I should have done is something else. I should have forced myself to be less aggressive, less selfish, less solipsistic, less feisty. I would have loved to have been my idol, John Allen, my Quaker Hill landlord and friend and my to-him-unknown teacher for many years. John Allen was the sweetest man I ever knew. He was intelligent, forgiving, wise, funny and genuinely confident.

A combination, frankly, opposite to me. I suppose I was never confident a day in my life. I faked being supremely on top of it all so much of the time. My heavily-cleverly disguised low self-regard manifested itself in my constant showing off, my addiction for publicity and my intolerable "me-me-me" attitudes and actions.

But it’s done, isn’t it? And no one can really change, can they? And, hey, it has been a lot of fun being the life-long irresponsible, snarky, nasty art scamp.

The "Artful Tommy" will never change -- and perhaps shouldn’t.

This is chapter 35 -- the final chapter -- of Artful Tom, A Memoir, which is being posted in full in Artnet Magazine. For the complete book to date, click here.

THOMAS HOVING is author of Master Pieces: The Curatorís Game (2005). He is former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He can be reached at Send Email