LAT columnist Steve Lopez on that Times of London quote I ran on Tuesday. If you don’t think Lopez’ column is fall-off-your-chair hilarious, then your initials must be BM. I mean, even the Getty board has to find that pretty funny. (And embarrassing.)
Tyler Green Modern Art Notes
Archive for August, 2005
Malcolm Rogers tells the Boston Globe that his mission is to bring new visitors to the MFA Boston. That’s a fancy way of saying he wants to increase attendance. (Related: More today from the Globe’s Geoff Edgers on the Koch show. It’s a doozy.)
There’s an essay I’d like to write about the misguided evangelism that museum-types have about increasing attendance (when I was a kid, my parents had a similar evangelism about making me eat spinach). That will have to wait. For now, let’s look at how important attendance isn’t to the MFA’s bottom line.
In the most recent tax filing I have, MFA took in $4 million in admissions charges in FY 2002 (which ended in June, 2003). MFA’s total budget for the year was $99 million. So admissions charges made up only four percent of MFA’s budget. Increasing them 25 percent — which would be a huge spike — would only bump that to five percent of the MFA’s budget. (True: It’s likely that some of MFA’s grants are tied to attendance numbers. I’ll probably look into this in the not-too-distant future. But I doubt that would be more than another one percent or so.)
So Malcolm Rogers’ attendance-lust is not about revenue and making ends meet. And it is not about bringing great art to Bostonians who don’t get to see it — as I’ve noted before, if he cared about that he wouldn’t be doing this. Maybe he just likes being the center of attention and hanging out with wealthy yacht owners. And maybe, like Barry Munitz, he’s using his museum to do it.
No new posts until Tuesday. Enjoy Labor Day weekend.
In today’s Boston Globe, Geoff Edgers writes about MFA Boston director Malcolm Rogers latest absurdity: Rogers has given a vanity show to a local collector and he’s put the collector’s yachts on the MFA’s front lawn (I’m serious — click on the link and see). The show also features paintings and the gun that killed Jesse James in their galleries. The exhibition is about nothing than pumping an ego, milking a donor. It is a giant slurp job.
Part of the fun of reading Edgers’ story was reading Rogers’ latest explanations for his behavior. I’m among the people Edgers talked with for the story and we talked for a good long time. I can’t help but notice he found no one who was willing to defend Rogers’ show.
In an effort to provide a public service, here’s a MANalysis of Rogers’ quotes:
Rogers: ”Is the whole of museum culture going to come crashing down as a result of this? Give me a break. ‘One of the things I want to do is humanize the arts” to show what drives a passionate collector, he added. ”It’s about individuals who really care.”
MANalysis: Rogers is saying that he can do no wrong unless something he does results in the termination of museums. So as long as he’s not personally dynamiting the MFA or another museum, he’s on firm ground.
Rogers: Rogers says that he came up with the idea for a Koch exhibition, the size of which grew as Koch grew more enthusiastic. The boats were Koch’s idea, says Rogers. ”He said, ‘Would you like to have boats?’ I said, ‘You know I would. They’re a fabulous promotion for the exhibit.’ “
MANalysis: The boats are fabulous promotion for Koch.
Rogers: ”You have to show me why a museum that displays teapots cannot display boats, particularly if they’re beautiful,” he said.
MANalysis: Ugly boats are not OK, maybe. And I love how Rogers has subtly conflated Koch’s self-promotional objects and the MFA’s enabling thereof, with objects in the MFA’s permanent collection.
RELATED: From the Floor.
I may never catch up on the things I want to post about from the weekend past. I mean, the NYT’s flagrant borrowing/catch-up of Ed Sozanski’s Barnes Old Masters story is screaming “Me too! Me too!” but I’m going to let that go.
The must-read piece from the weekend is Christopher Knight’s geopolitical contextualization of the latest King Tut show. Knight wrote about how Tut I was a Cold War, fight-Communisim-driven extravaganza, while Tut II is a GWOT, bring-the-tourists-back-to-Egypt-and-thanks-for-the-help-AEG extravaganza, a pop culture phenomenon more than a museum exhibit. Don’t miss it.
Here’s the Miami list for the Scope fair. (And it includes two DCers, but somehow not a single LA gallery is in Scope? Wow.)
I posted three new sites to the blogroll today. Check ‘em out:
After months of bad press over his personal expenses, his extravagant travel and his $650/hour hired-gun PR firm, Getty Trust boss Barry Munitz has waved the white flag. MAN has learned that Munitz will end the controversy over his largesse with this plan: No longer will Munitz be the only Getty-ite flying first class. All Getty employees — and maybe you too, Michael Sitrick! — will be flying up front.
OK, it’s true that Munitz and the Getty haven’t announced this plan yet. But ya gotta figure that it’s coming when Munitz says this to the Times of London:
Munitz himself telephones and brushes aside questions about his pay and perks. “This was all approved by an elaborate process. We have policies and procedures.” Had he indulged in a few too many first-class flights? “You have to understand life in LA — people find it embarrassing to travel commercial class.”
You wouldn’t expect Munitz to embarrass his staff, would you? No, no, no. So ya gotta believe it’s gonna be first-class flights for the employees. It stands to reason that Mr. $650/Hour, Michael Sitrick, the man Munitz pays to spin damage control for the Trust, is going first-class too, because Munitz wouldn’t want to embarrass him either. (Oh, wait…)
This must be tough news for Jill Murphy, Munitz’ chief of staff who will be leaving the Getty at the end of the year. She’ll be missing out on lots of first-class seats. (The Murphy story has gotten lots of play, many of them (including the LAT story linked above) referring to Murphy’s treatment of her fellow Getty employees. Even LA Observed has picked up on the Murphy meme.)
(Aside: The LAT Murphy story includes one of Munitz’ priceless ‘everything must be groovy because no one told me it wasn’t’ quotes: “No one ever said to me, ‘I’m leaving, and I’m leaving because of her,’ ” Munitz said. “But people did say to me, ‘You need to know I’m having trouble with her.’ “)
So in light of this rush of Getty news, here are the new Things I Want to Know:
- Murphy quit about nine months ago and her departure takes effect by the end of the year. That could be 13 months. Why the lag? Does the lag have anything to do with the IRS’ audit of the Getty?
- When will the LAT editorial board next weigh in on Munitz? If it’s Munitz’ “pattern of behavior that’s disturbing,” that Times of London quote has to be part of that pattern. It indicates that Munitz just doesn’t get it. The Getty Trust is a cultural trust, not an expense account trust.
- Does his board? They gotta be getting a clue by now, eh?
- Regardless of what you think of Murphy, her departure continues a massive senior leadership drain out of the Trust. In the last year the Getty has lost its museum director, the museum’s associate (and later interim) director, its publications manager, its top communications officer and others. Why can’t the Getty, America’s third-largest foundation, keep staff? And why hasn’t the board noticed?
- Does this vaunted Getty board actually exist? They’ve been awfully quiet…
- What will Sen Charles Grassley think of that ‘commercial class’ quote? Will that be the let-them-eat-cake moment that pushes the Senate Finance Committee into the Getty’s affairs?