Thursday, July 16, 2009

To the Met, and back

Yesterday I spent a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my lover Teresa and we're going back tomorrow because there's much more left in the exhibitions that interest us. Some time in the next week I'll try to post some thoughts here about the art we've seen, about the Met itself, and related matters. For now I'll report that spending time there made me urgently want to read a couple of recent books, so I'll be looking to check them out of the library soon.

One is Rogues' Gallery: the Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metrpolitan Museum by Michael Gross. I hadn't paid a lot of attention to this book except to be mildly interested in the uproar it's caused among a certain milieu, and charges that there was a campaign to kill its sales. For example, the New York Times Book Review ignored it, apparently refusing to review it out of sensitivity to the sensibilities of that rag's bourgeois masters whose misdeeds it exposes. It was only after the author started his own camaign to expose the conspiracy to kill his book's sales that the NYTBR finally reviewed it on June 28. Now my interest is fully piqued.

The other book I'm now curious about is Loot: the Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World by Sharon Waxman. The title tells it all, and it's obvious why time at the Met would motivate me toward this one. The book focuses on four major museums: the massive Met, the gorgeous Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Princeton University Art Museum.

I will say this for the Met. Along with our interest in some of the current special exhibits, the other reason we're there is default because this is the only major museum in NYC that we can afford. All the others are outrageously expensive, with entry fees in the $16-$26 range. The Met has a similar ticket structure, but the prices are merely "suggested," and they don't bat an eye when you hand them a dollar or two. They'd better not. With its vast trove of stolen treasures and its foundation in the Rockefeller fortune, it would be piling crime upon crime (as in fact the Modern and others do) for the Met to make itself inaccessible to the working class.