The New York Museum Director Witch Hunt Begins

by Art Fag City on November 12, 2009 · 16 comments Newswire

POST BY PADDY JOHNSON

Image credit: Dean Kaufman

Good luck reading about anything other than the New Museum on most blogs today. Since William Powhida’s Brooklyn Rail cover was unleashed last week, the New York Times has published three articles on the subject (two on their blog and one front page feature) and NYMagazine’s Jerry Saltz has chimed at Vulture.

Saltz is a little more cautious in damning the New Museum, rationing that he likes an unregulated art world and the New Museum is ultimately a force for good. I tend to agree with him on the latter point and have the sinking feeling this story is turning into a New York Museum Director witch hunt. From Modern Art Notes:

One other Campbell quote caught my eye: “Our trustees are not involved in any way in determining the exhibition program. All of our shows ­ or the vast majority of our shows ­ are proposed by the curatorial departments.” Really? Who other than the Met’s curators are proposing the Met’s exhibitions? Jean Bonna is not a Met trustee, did he propose his own show?

Bullying speculation such as this is uncalled for and has the potential to be very damaging. I can’t help but feel that the ultimate goal of constructive criticism is getting lost when there are bloggers seeking out scandal we’re not even sure exists.

  • Tyler Green

    I’m not sure how that’s “bullying speculation.”

    Thomas Campbell said that not all Met shows were chosen by the museum’s curators. In the previous sentence — that is, in the exact same context — Campbell also said that trustees didn’t propose shows. As a result, wondering who else proposes/proposed them is hardly bullying and it’s not “seeking out scandal.” It’s walking through the door that Campbell built.

  • Tyler Green

    I’m not sure how that’s “bullying speculation.”

    Thomas Campbell said that not all Met shows were chosen by the museum’s curators. In the previous sentence — that is, in the exact same context — Campbell also said that trustees didn’t propose shows. As a result, wondering who else proposes/proposed them is hardly bullying and it’s not “seeking out scandal.” It’s walking through the door that Campbell built.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    So are you saying it’s of no consequence if Jean Bonna proposes a show? If so, why mention it?

  • Tyler Green

    And how does asking about the specifics of Campbell’s answer “have the potential to be very damaging?” That’s a little hyperbolic, no?

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    So are you saying it’s of no consequence if Jean Bonna proposes a show? If so, why mention it?

  • Tyler Green

    And how does asking about the specifics of Campbell’s answer “have the potential to be very damaging?” That’s a little hyperbolic, no?

  • Jenée Misraje

    The larger issue is moot. The periodic trustee/private collection show is (and has been) common practice at art museums. In truth, the whole notion of a museum being a public institution is lop-sided, if not downright false.

  • Jenée Misraje

    The larger issue is moot. The periodic trustee/private collection show is (and has been) common practice at art museums. In truth, the whole notion of a museum being a public institution is lop-sided, if not downright false.

  • http://peterandjoan.blogs.wm.edu/ Peter Zimmerman

    I tend to agree more with Saltz on this issue (though the lack of explanation about his problem with Koons curating is frustrating) and I do think the sensationalism of the story is a bit out of hand.

    Museums are public institutions, determined to bring art to a diverse community; however, the fact that museums have permanent collections raises so many points of vexation that there are bound to be conflicts of interest. How do you fund an acquistion protocol? How do you negotiate the troubled waters of donor relations? Where does the vision for the collection come?

    Museums are inextricably part of the art market and there’s no way to pretend they’re not. Some do a better job of hiding it than others, but the fine art market is a smaller world that represents few in a sea of many.

    I don’t see the weight of the ethical charge that Tyler Green is championing. I understand that there are complications with the insider-ness– and yes, that really should have been and should be addressed. Even so, it’s as if Green is acting like a warrior on a vendetta against the NY institution, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from. I just hope that the sensationalism of some of the writing about this subject tones down.

    And yeah, I’m excited for the show. I’ve wanted to see this collection for years, so in terms of serving a public, NuMu got that one right!

  • http://peterandjoan.blogs.wm.edu/ Peter Zimmerman

    I tend to agree more with Saltz on this issue (though the lack of explanation about his problem with Koons curating is frustrating) and I do think the sensationalism of the story is a bit out of hand.

    Museums are public institutions, determined to bring art to a diverse community; however, the fact that museums have permanent collections raises so many points of vexation that there are bound to be conflicts of interest. How do you fund an acquistion protocol? How do you negotiate the troubled waters of donor relations? Where does the vision for the collection come?

    Museums are inextricably part of the art market and there’s no way to pretend they’re not. Some do a better job of hiding it than others, but the fine art market is a smaller world that represents few in a sea of many.

    I don’t see the weight of the ethical charge that Tyler Green is championing. I understand that there are complications with the insider-ness– and yes, that really should have been and should be addressed. Even so, it’s as if Green is acting like a warrior on a vendetta against the NY institution, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from. I just hope that the sensationalism of some of the writing about this subject tones down.

    And yeah, I’m excited for the show. I’ve wanted to see this collection for years, so in terms of serving a public, NuMu got that one right!

  • Rachel

    Re: Tyler Green’s comment, I don’t think that “the vast majority of our shows are proposed by the curatorial departments” necessarily implies in any way that trustees or collectors are proposing shows. I interpreted it as meaning people who don’t work as curators at the Met — that leaves room for independent curators and those at other institutions, people working in other Met departments outside of curatorial, scholars, and so on.

  • Rachel

    Re: Tyler Green’s comment, I don’t think that “the vast majority of our shows are proposed by the curatorial departments” necessarily implies in any way that trustees or collectors are proposing shows. I interpreted it as meaning people who don’t work as curators at the Met — that leaves room for independent curators and those at other institutions, people working in other Met departments outside of curatorial, scholars, and so on.

  • http://newsgrist.typepad.com joy garnett

    Paddy: I agree with you. We’ve seen blogger witch hunts before and they aren’t a pretty sight. Dis/misplaced outrage?

  • http://newsgrist.typepad.com joy garnett

    Paddy: I agree with you. We’ve seen blogger witch hunts before and they aren’t a pretty sight. Dis/misplaced outrage?

  • Jesse Seegers

    To further engage with the complex nature of giving, take a look at the 256-page book that was just launched this past Thursday (at the New Museum) called “The World of Giving,” edited by Jeffrey Inaba and the Columbia Laboratory for Architectural Broadcasting (C-Lab), published by Lars Mueller publishers, initiated and developed in conversation with the New Museum over the past two years. Here’s some more info about it:

    http://www.lars-mueller-publishers.com/e/katalog/ausgaben/set.php

    The book investigates complex issues like this one and many more, and I would recommend, if anyone is really passionate about the topic, to check it out.

    Full disclosure: I worked at C-Lab with many others on this book, and I won’t get any money from it’s sale. But I know the content intimately and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with an interest in these issues, it’s a very interesting book.

  • Jesse Seegers

    To further engage with the complex nature of giving, take a look at the 256-page book that was just launched this past Thursday (at the New Museum) called “The World of Giving,” edited by Jeffrey Inaba and the Columbia Laboratory for Architectural Broadcasting (C-Lab), published by Lars Mueller publishers, initiated and developed in conversation with the New Museum over the past two years. Here’s some more info about it:

    http://www.lars-mueller-publishers.com/e/katalog/ausgaben/set.php

    The book investigates complex issues like this one and many more, and I would recommend, if anyone is really passionate about the topic, to check it out.

    Full disclosure: I worked at C-Lab with many others on this book, and I won’t get any money from it’s sale. But I know the content intimately and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with an interest in these issues, it’s a very interesting book.

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