Archive for June, 2009

Roar, Lion

Posted by in |

Was the two-month absence of Rogues’ Gallery from the New York Public Library an accident — or a plot? I don’t know, but something’s changed since the New York Observer’s Reid Pillifant first asked the question two weeks ago. Today, he’s back with a happy update. Whether or not, as the Observer wondered (and still does), the book’s initial absence was the result of some misguided attempt to cozy up to powerful trustees or donors, as far as I’m concerned, the curiouser-and-curioser episode has come to a satisfactory conclusion. But just as its beginning sent me to Alice’s Adventures in … Continue reading

“A blockbuster exhibition of human achievements and flaws.” — NY Times Book Review

Posted by in |

Rogues’ Gallery is “a blockbuster exhibition of human achievements and flaws,” Amy Finnerty says in the New York Times Book Review. Finnerty writes at length about the book’s substance and scope as well as its “… pages of Vanity Fair-worthy name-dropping and social-climbing.” Here’s the full review. UPDATE: Finnerty did complain that the book was full of “lurid details” that overwhelmed the museum’s magnificent art. To which a friend in academia responds: “I’d hardly call the plain truth ‘lurid.’” I’d add that the history of art and art collecting is full of lurid human behavior that has always threatened, but … Continue reading

“The seamy side of philanthropy,” says NY1′s George Whipple

Posted by in |

NY1′s Whipple’s World, featuring George Whipple, dropped in on last week’s book signing at Kieselstein-Cord on Madison Avenue and today, brought back this televised report on the party and the book that inspired it.

The More Things Change

Posted by in |

The Metropolitan Museum of Art cut its staff by 357 bodies yesterday, buying out some employees and laying off others in response to the worldwide financial markets. As chronicled in Rogues’ Gallery, this sort of retrenchment is nothing new to the Metropolitan. In the past, though, cutbacks involving human beings have alternated with shutdowns of galleries and trimming of programming. Metropolitan chairman Jamie Houghton is the second Houghton to hold that job. The first, his uncle Arthur Amory Houghton, once ripped apart and sold off pages of a rare Shanameh, the Persian equivalent of the Gutenberg Bible, in order to … Continue reading

MGTV: “A vivid view into the murky world of the super-rich”

Posted by in |

Obsessed with Samantha Ettus has just posted an interview with me about Rogues’ Gallery and much more. “The more impenetrable the subject, the more Michael Gross, magazine journalist and author of 10 books including the bestsellers Model and 740 Park, lives, breathes and relentlessly pursues it,” Ettus says. “His most recent “Tom Wolfe-esque” work of non-fiction, Rogues Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum, has once again given his audience a vivid view into the murky world of the super rich and has been accompanied by clouds of controversy including banishment from … Continue reading

Vox Populi, Pt. 2: “A helluva read!”

Posted by in |

“Marched into local bookstore and plunked $30 down for Rogues Gallery, writes a reader of David Patrick Columbia‘s New York Social Diary. “COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN ALL WEEKEND !!!!! What a helluva read! Even if you didn’t care one whit about museums, he tells such an exciting, compelling, downright astonishing story that the first thing I want to do is run down to NYC and join the museum! Weird but true. Why is that? Guess it’s that he put some blood and humanity behind the big stone monolith… I want to see every damned picture and bibelot and hunk … Continue reading

Deep Six

Posted by in |

The renegade art critic Charlie Finch and I had a brief (UPDATE: apparently I need to say private) exchange of e-mails late last week that ended up on Page Six in the Post today (Sarcastic Update: somehow [thanks, Charlie]). As Rogues’ Gallery’s parent, I’m glad it’s gotten some Fathers’ Day attention. But one of these days, I hope, someone will write about what’s in the book rather than the continuing brouhaha distraction surrounding its publication.

Vacation, gotta get away…

Posted by in |

Sometimes you need to get away from the day to day. Like today. Let’s go to the Cote Fleurie instead, inspired by my latest in Travel + Leisure, a story about a place “defined by what it lacks.”

Lion Ize

Posted by in |

Two months after he first discovered its absence and two days after the New York Observer found that Rogues’ Gallery still couldn’t be checked out of from the New York Public Library, the literary agent Richard Curtis (who is not my agent), reminds visitors to his ereads blog that it still can’t be checked out or reserved online — and asks them to buy it, but also to “let your local library know you expect it to carry Rogue’s Gallery.” I am, of course, grateful for his support and suggestions, though it would be nice if those who can’t afford … Continue reading

“Fascinating… insightful… marvelously readable,” says Met Museum’s chief exhibition designer

Posted by in |

Though fearful current employees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art can only express themselves sotto voce about Rogues’ Gallery, ex-executives are not so willing to be gagged. “The book is completely fascinating; lucidly and engagingly written,” says Stuart Silver, for many years the museum’s chief exhibition designer. “Your notion that the history of the Met has been a kind of alchemical process, an alembic converting private dross to public gold is apt and insightful. One might say the same for what you accomplished, turning almost 140 years of information into a marvelously readable volume.”

Down the rabbit-hole

Posted by in |

Dennis Loy Johnson, author of MOBYLIVES, is scratching his head over the reception of Rogues’ Gallery at the tea party that is cultural society — and its curious absence from the shelves of the New York Public Library. It’s “getting a lot of buzz behind the scenes in New York literary circles,” he writes, “because, well, it’s not getting a lot of in-front-of-the-scenes discussion, and the suspicion is that Gross has a powerful enemy.” (Johnson tagged this post ‘censorship’.)

The Plot Sickens

Posted by in |

Today’s New York Observer confirms a story I didn’t want to believe — and didn’t repeat — when it was first reported a month ago: Rogues’ Gallery appears to have been silently banned by the New York Public Library, which received copies of the book from the distributor Baker & Taylor more than six weeks ago but has yet to catalogue the book or allow library cardholders to check it out and read it. (The Queens and Brooklyn libraries are doing good business with it, as are Manhattan bookstores). Annette de la Renta, the Metropolitan Museum trustee who threatened legal … Continue reading

“A great historical document,” says David Patrick Columbia

Posted by in |

“The strange brouhaha over [Rogues' Gallery] has kidnapped the baby, so to speak,” writes David Patrick Columbia in this morning’s New York Social Diary. “The established ones who preside as cultural assessors of the first order have declared the history ‘rubbish.’ They, of course, would know, having concealed any number of secrets themselves… I liked Michael Gross’ Rogues Gallery. The story of the making of the Met is massive, complex yet simple and dynamic. His research is especially excellent considering that the Met set up roadblocks all along the way.” So what’s the problem with the book, he wonders? “The … Continue reading

Is the Rogues Gallery a racist gallery, too?

Posted by in |

Even “big” books can’t always cover every aspect of a big story. This anonymous email arrived last night, describing another aspect of the Metropolitan Museum’s story, one I was aware of and hint at in the story of the controversial Harlem on My Mind exhibition of 1969, but didn’t research in greater depth because I was focused on the museum’s leaders and benefactors: “New York journalists and writers tend to concentrate on the glamour and the glitter of the MET and other lesser museums in New York City,” it said. “However, very little or no journalistic attention is paid to … Continue reading

Why I love Facebook

Posted by in |

A fascinating exchange is taking place on and around my Facebook profile — which has already helped balance the big-media blackout on coverage of Rogues’ Gallery. Earlier today, a longtime employee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art posted a comment in response to the blog post directly below (which was cross-posted on Facebook). It said: “Everybody loves gossip but it doesn’t change the fact that the Met is one of the greatest cultural institutions in the world with an outstanding collection, brilliant curators and administrators, and generous funders who make it all possible. Everybody has skeletons in their closets, petty … Continue reading

“This can’t be right.” But it can happen here.

Posted by in |

London media blogger Jon Slattery condemns “the whole ghastly business” of the wealthy and litigious trying to chill sales and coverage of Rogues Gallery because it “paints the Metropolitan, its founders and its funders in a less than flattering light.”

“Page-turning,” says the Guardian

Posted by in |

England’s Guardian proclaims Rogues Gallery a page-turner. And you can’t even buy the book there!

“Not for sale in the Met gift shop,” says Newsday

Posted by in |

Newsday joined the growing ranks of New York newspapers willing to irritate the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its powerful supporters by giving full-page coverage to the “dishy… highly entertaining” Rogues’ Gallery this weekend — and confirming what Met Store employees have said privately, that though its customers often ask for it, it isn’t being sold there. The book ban isn’t surprising, though. The Met Store has done this sort of thing before. Thanks, Newsday.

Quote of the Day: “A fight for New York”

Posted by in |

“If The Observer is anything it’s a battle for New York,” Peter W. Kaplan, the just-departed and much-admired editor of the New York Observer, said last week. “It’s the fight for wit, for integrity, for real reporting, for real writing, and for not killing stories even when they irritate the publisher. A fight for the New York idea.”

“Book unveils secrets of the Met.”

Posted by in |

“A gripping, glib and gossipy deconstruction of the curators, directors, donors and trustees who dominated the Met since its founding in 1870. Gross’ Met does the right thing infrequently, and then only under duress,” says the Tulsa World of Rogues’ Gallery. “Suppressing its antipathy to the masses… the museum did open its doors on Sundays. But the Met still shames visitors into paying a $20 admission fee, even though the official policy allows anyone to enter with a contribution of as little as a penny… Gross indicts the museum for its ‘public be damned’ attitude and… the extravagance, envy, egotism … Continue reading

Mistakes? I’ve made a few…

Posted by in |

A few days ago, the trustees and administrators of the Metropolitan Museum tried to swat away Rogues’ Gallery as a “so-called history” and a “highly misleading” book, but refused (or were unable?) to point out a single error in it. A lawyer for one of its trustees went further, claiming that it contains “false statements” that show an “absolute disregard for the truth.” Strong stuff! In the month since the book was published, however, a mere four errors (in 486 pages) have been pointed out by readers, all of which will be corrected in future printings. For the record, they … Continue reading

“Intriguing and well-researched,” says Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld

Posted by in |

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, the criminologist and author whose exposure of terrorist funding networks inspired a libel suit in England, the subsequent passage of “Rachel’s Law,” designed to protect New York writers from venue-shopping libel tourists, and the Free Speech Protection Act 2009, now before the U.S. Congress, takes sides in the battle over Rogues’ Gallery today in an interview on the web site frontpage.com. “The most recent casualty [of libel tourism],” she writes “is Michael Gross and his intriguing and well researched book Rogue Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum… The … Continue reading