Holland Cotter is partly right when it comes to the Metropolitan’s “Alexander McQueen” self-inflicted embarrassment. In last Wednesday’s Times, Cotter called out the Metropolitan for presenting McQueen absent historical contextualization or scholarship. Good.
However, it is not until the 22nd paragraph that Cotter makes it to the equally obviously problematic: That Alexander McQueen bought an Alexander McQueen exhibition at the Metropolitan. Cotter: “Two years later the Guggenheim — though it denies this — effectively rented its Manhattan premises to Giorgio Armani for his retrospective. (Such deals are now the norm, and the Met is forthright about stating that most of the money for the McQueen retrospective comes from the fashion house called Alexander McQueen),” wrote Cotter. [Image: The McQueen exhibition via the Met.]
Um, if such deals are now the norm, it’s in part because Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times critics who object to them don’t get around to mentioning the problem until Paragraph No. 22. (Still waiting for the NYT to treat the Met on this the way it treated the Guggenheim on Armani. Ahem.)
But wait, is Cotter correct? Is a fashion house paying for its own museo-glorification really “the norm?” Let’s take a look. Start with the Metropolitan: It hasn’t permitted a fashion house to effectively buy a show since 2005, when Chanel sponsored Chanel.
There is a Roberto Capucci exhibition on view now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Its lead sponsor co-organizer is the Roberto Capucci Foundation, which is chaired by Roberto Capucci. However, that’s the only time since at least 2000 the Philadelphia Museum of Art has gotten, er, into a dress with a designer.
The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco is currently showing a Balenciaga exhibition. The house is not a sponsor. Like Philadelphia and the Metropolitan, FAMSF has regularly shown fashion exhibitions. Since the de Young re-opened in 2005, no fashion exhibition at the museum has been sponsored by a designer or house.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art regularly presents fashion exhibitions. They are not sponsored by the house(s) prominently featured in the IMA’s shows. Ditto the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and its fashion exhibitions.
So Cotter is incorrect: To give the Met a pass or shrug on the basis of having normalized an unethical practice is in error.
- Roberta Smith rolls her eyes at MoMA’s Francis Alys exhibition.
- No American museum handles admission fees more clumsily than the Art Institute of Chicago, which has spent years trying to find new ways of making it more difficult for the middle class to visit its collections. Here’s the latest.
- Randy Kennedy writes a lovely mini-profile of John Chamberlain, who has a show opening at Gagosian soon. This prompted critic Phyllis Tuchman to tweet that profiles of artists, deserving and not, magically appear in the NYT after an artist moves to Gagosian: “Join Gago Gallery, finally get deserved PR.”