Don’t expect a MAN Super Bowl Bet this year.
The Harvard Art Museums bowed out last week, citing the complications of its ongoing construction project. The Met and the MFA Boston never replied to my emails. And after initially signaling interest, MoMA has been quiet for a week as well.
So what happened? Keeping in mind that the MAN Super Bowl Bet is 85 percent fun and 15 percent something else (encouraging art museums to engage with their communities and to bask in what has been an astonishing amount of dream-level PR), there’s a serious reason that the Met and the MFA and the others didn’t get together this year: They value community engagement, er, differently than other art museums.
In Indianapolis, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, the first four cities with art museums to participate in the bet, museums want to share art with their communities, to show them how great art can be, to make a case that art has a place in the lives of the people who live there. There’s a little bit of the evangelizing fervor to the art museums in those places: We have something wonderful we want to share with you, our own kind. Those are places where sharing this wonderful thing matters to the people who work there. That’s a big part of why they work there.
The Met, MoMA and the MFA are not civic-focused art museums in the way the Carnegie or the IMA are. They don’t rely on their communities to sustain them and to visit them in the same way. Instead, they rely on tourists. To wit: It is free to visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art. MoMA and the MFA effectively price out all but the travel-able upper-middle-class by charging $25 and $22 respectively. The Met asks visitors to pay $25 too. Via their admissions fees, those institutions are letting you what audience matters most to them.
Or, to put it another way: The Met, the MFA and MoMA aren’t as interested in people from New York, Boston, Yonkers or Marblehead as the people at the IMA are in people from Fishers or Speedway — because they don’t have to be.
That’s too bad.