Archive for July, 2009

The fine art of back-scratching

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It’s been almost eleven months since the Metropolitan Museum named Thomas Campbell, a British tapestries expert, its new director. Since then, he’s given only a few interviews, none of them particularly revealing of either his personality (shy but graceful) or his plans for the museum (spend less, update the web site). But his — or more likely, the Met’s press office — choice of outlets for those interviews says quite a bit more. The museum is only interested in publicity it can control. Campbell’s first tentative conversations were with the New York Times, which has functioned as the Met’s in-house … Continue reading

“Tantalizing… irresistable… one of the year’s most entertaining books,” says The Daily Beast

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Nancy Bass Wyden, third-generation owner of one of New York’s finest book stores, The Strand, has posted her summer reading list on The Daily Beast, and Rogues’ Gallery tops the list. “Who doesn’t love the Met, and who wouldn’t want to read tantalizing gossip about the upper echelon of social climbers, philanthropists, and curators who have warred for prestige and control over the storied museum since its beginning?” she writes. “Completely unauthorized, this irresistible read exposes the dirty money and politics behind the Met’s rise. Plundered relics, millionaires’ meddling, and ambition disguised as social philanthropy are revealed thanks to Gross’ … Continue reading

“Endlessly entertaining,” says Newport Seen

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“Will New York ever be the same?” asks Linda Phillips on her Newport Seen web site, covering my talk about Rogues’ Gallery last week at the Redwood Athanaeum, the oldest continuously operating private library in America. “On hand were Jae French… Kimberly Skeen Jones, Nannette and George Herrick, Douglas Riggs, President of the Board, and his wife, Mary Riggs, co-chairman of the Redwood’s Events committee, Donald Tofias, and Janet Pell.”

“Don’t miss Rogues’ Gallery,” says The Atlantan

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This one’s a peach. “If you thought former J. Paul Getty Museum curator Marion True’s illegally procured antiquities trial was a cause célèbre, don’t miss Rogue’s Gallery,” says The Atlantan‘s Felicia Feaster. “Michael Gross’s 483-page behemoth (on the heels of his equally dishy 740 Park) recounts the prestigious museum’s often-unsavory elitism… early acquisition practices others would call looting and takes on modern-day big wigs like Met vice-chairman, socialite — and Oscar’s honey — Annette de la Renta, whom Gross paints as an avid social climber in this sustained takedown of the rich and famous.”

“This book is a museum piece,” says Page Six

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Page Six in the New York Post covers my two-day visit to Newport, Rhode Island, today. My next signing and talk will be Labor Day weekend at Bookhampton in East Hampton.

Staycation Time

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Sometimes, you don’t need to leave home to travel. My two latest articles for Travel + Leisure prove the point. One looks at Manhattan’s new restaurant row, 58th Street from river to river, featuring food from the ends of the earth. The other, at the long, lush-life history an old favorite that’s been refreshed, the Hotel Pierre, soon to be home to the first foreign branch of London’s delightful Le Caprice.

Arty Party People

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The Metropolitan Museum’s tight-as-a-tick relationship with Vogue Magazine will be on display next Tuesday when the magazine’s editor, Anna Wintour, and the museum president, Emily Rafferty, host what’s described as an “intimate” luncheon for Vogue’s outgoing party planner Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Today’s Fashion Week Daily has a guest list that includes (no surprise) Oscar de la Renta, spouse of museum vice-chairman Annette de la Renta (That’s Wintour and the de la Rentas above). It’s a family affair! And unlike the Costume Institute’s Party of the Year, it’s taking place when the museum is open, so less privileged museum patrons should … Continue reading

The Song Remains The Same

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Those who forget the past, they say, are condemned to repeat it. So in all the wailing and rending of garments over what the current financial crisis has done to cultural institutions, it is often forgotten that their literal fortunes have waxed and waned before, and typically, the strong, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have survived, and sometimes even learned lessons that helped them prosper anew. In “The Culture Crash” on forbes.com today, The New Criterion’s James Panero discusses how endowment managers helped exacerbate the situation — a subject that might have been usefully raised by the mainstream media … Continue reading

Jewels of the Giulia

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Last week, I nearly crossed paths with Michael Kimmelman, chief art critic of The New York Times, who went to Rome to visit the Euphronios krater, the Greek vase famously smuggled out of Italy, sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1972, and finally returned to Italy thirty-some-odd years later following a lengthy investigation into the illegal looting of antiquities and several high-profile criminal trials. (It’s above, with me.) Even though Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger was on the museum’s board when the krater was purchased, the newspaper’s culture pages played a heroic role in the affair (a story … Continue reading

“No-holds-barred,” says the Financial Post

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Canada’s Financial Post says Rogues’ Gallery is “stuffed with entertaining – and often embarrassing – detail about the Met’s administrators and donors.”

“A fine topography… Astonishing.” — The Providence Journal

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In Sunday’s Providence Journal, Rick Ring, author of “Notes for Bibliophiles,” the official blog of the Providence Library special collections, calls Rogues’ Gallery “a fine topography of the major players” in the story of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Excavating the Met’s history in six chapters from 1870 to 2009, Gross reveals the personalities and relationships between donors and directors, curators and dealers, and the city of New York and its cultural crown jewel,” Ring writes. “It is astonishing what people will do for money, power, and social prominence, and we see a great deal of what they will do … Continue reading

They listen… they really listen

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Fashion Week Daily reports that the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute ball, aka the Party of the Year, aka Ahhh-nna’s Party (so-named after its longtime chairman, Vogue editor Anna Wintour), will attempt to become less commercial next year and the guest list will focus on traditional museum supporters rather than US-magazine style celebs. Which means, I suppose, that the implicit criticism in Rogues’ Gallery of what the event has become isn’t actually as “cynical” as a Vogue Magazine flack has claimed. As George Bernard Shaw once wisely observed, the power of accurate observation is often described as cynicism by those who … Continue reading