The director of New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art from 1974 to 1990, Thomas N. Armstrong died on Monday at age 78. Armstrong grew the museum’s collection significantly during his tenure as director, but his efforts to create more space for exhibiting the work ended up costing him his job.

In the mid 1980s, he championed plans for a Michael Graves-designed addition to the institution’s Marcel Breuer building, drawing the ire of its Upper East Side neighbors and some in the architecture community, who feared that changes would destroy Breuer’s creation. Many of museum’s trustees eventually stopped backing Armstrong in the fight, and he was dismissed from the directorship shortly after the plans finally fell through.

His death comes just as the museum has broken ground for a new building. Designed by Renzo Piano, it promises the exhibition space that the former director sought—albeit in the Meatpacking district on Manhattan’s West Side, far from the Breuer building, which will be taken over by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Read an obituary at The New York Times: Thomas N. Armstrong III, Museum Chief Who Once Led the Whitney, Dies at 78

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