Rogues Gallery

Rogues’ Gallery

The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals that Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art

"A blockbuster exhibition of human achievement and flaws."New York Times Book Review

"Explosive."Vanity Fair

"Gross demonstrates he knows his stuff. It's a terrific tale... gossipy, color-rich, fact-packed... What Gross reveals is stuff that more people should know."USA Today

"Tantalizing... irresistable... one of the year's most entertaining books."The Daily Beast

"Yummy."New York Daily News

"Riveting and accurate. My God! The back-stabbing and Machiavellian conspiracies! I had no idea. I learned a lot."Tom Hoving

"Michael Gross has proven once again that he is a premier chronicler of the rich. Rogues' Gallery is an insightful, entertaining look at a great institution-with all its flaws and all its greatness."Gay Talese

"The author clearly relishes dishing the dirt, but he also offers a supremely detailed history of the museum...Gross's portrait of Met politics is sharp and well-constructed. A deft rendering of the down-and-dirty politics of the art world."Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2009

"Sprawling histor... Behind-the-scenes dirt and an intriguing look at the symbiosis of culture and cash."Publishers Weekly, March 30, 2009

Now in a new, updated paperback edition, Rogues’ Gallery is the first independent, unauthorized look at the epic saga of the nation’s greatest museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and an endlessly entertaining follow-up to Michael Gross’ bestselling social history 740 Park. Gross pulls back the shades of secrecy that have long shrouded the upper class’s cultural and philanthropic ambitions and maneuvers — and paints a revealing portrait of a previously hidden face of American wealth and power, a rich, satisfying, alternately hilarious and horrifying look at America’s upper class, and what is perhaps its greatest creation. Includes a new afterword by the author, updating the story and telling the startling story of the book itself.

$16.99 * ISBN: 978-07679-2489-4 * Media Contact: Dyana Messina at Random House (212) 572-2098 or dmessina (at) randomhouse (dot) com * If you’d like Michael Gross to speak to your group contact: Authors Unlimited (212) 481-8484

April 24th, 2019

Self-invention to the Max: Jayne Wrightsman, 99

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Tomorrow’s New York Post features an obit/excerpt from Rogues’ Gallery on the extraordinary Jayne Wrightsman, who died this week. It’s really about more than one museum.

April 20th, 2019

Jayne Wrightsman, RIP

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One of my best and most knowing sources from Rogues’ Gallery, my book on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, tells me that Jayne Wrightsman, arguably the last living society lioness, has died after a long decline at age 99. She was born Jane Larkin in Flint, Michigan, in 1920. The daughter of an architect who mysteriously disappeared from her life, but went on to build American embassies and consulates for the U.S. State Department during and after the Great Depression, and, as described in that book, “a whisky-voiced southern-accented nightclub habitue nicknamed Chuggy,” she became an icon of American reinvention. With the husband she met in Los Angeles in the 1940s, Charles Wrightsman, the son of an Oklahoma wildcatter and one of the wealthiest men in America, she climbed to the top of American Society when there still was such a thing, and helped ensure the Met Museum board’s status as the most sought after seat of social power in the city from the mid-1950s until the millennium–and beyond. The photo shows her in a Los Angeles nightclub in her days as an eligible girl-about-Beverly-Hills.

March 26th, 2019

Sacking the Sacklers: Too Little Too Late?

dendurToday’s New York Times details a backlash against the philanthropy of the drug-dealing Sackler clan, best known here in New York as the donors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur (above), Sackler Wing and Sackler Galleries. The back story of the current controversy is told in Rogues’ Gallery, my book on how the super-rich have used that museum–and other causes–to launder their reputations and in the words of the book’s epigraph from Bernard Mandeville, turn “Private Vices…into Publick Benefits.”  The story begins in 1963, and includes the family’s invention of modern drug marketing (Sackler made Valium the first $100 million drug); secret deals personally benefiting Dr. Arthur M. Sackler; and his and his brothers’ bare-knuckle bargaining, extraordinary demands, and threats against the museum’s board and administrators, including accusations of anti-Semitism against the museum, and homophobia against the Sackler family.  “So what?” Sackler’s attorney snapped at me when I called him for comment.  “Do you think most people who give money are easy to get along with? That’s life.”  So is comeuppance, even when served cold.

June 20th, 2017

Plutocrat Podcast

Last week, William D. Cohan interviewed me on covering the world of wealth in New York at a 92Y Talk. Here’s the podcast. Capture

April 2nd, 2017

21st Century Rockefellers

02e-rockefellertreeThe Rockefeller family’s enduring legacy, the subject of a feature story by Michael Kaplan in today’s New York Post, is also a prominent theme in 740 Park and Rogues’ Gallery, two of my books. News-hooked on the recent death of David, the last surviving son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the only one to live in 740 Park, the story addresses how great fortunes are dispersed and thus dissipated in large families, and asks if this wealthy family’s name still matters. I say it does, and others agree. In large part, that’s because, as Kaplan writes, “the family never flaunted its wealth.,” and “a chunk of it has gone to philanthropy,” including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, subject of the latter book. Rockefeller influence also lurks behind the April Philanthropy issue of AVENUE, out next week, which spotlights this century’s Rock-a-fellas.

February 12th, 2017

Secrets of the City, Revealed

default_lrg_516x311“One of our most provocative journalists, Michael Gross has cornered the market for insiders’ stories of the most bewitching and private worlds of the privileged, very rich, talented and beautiful,” says the 92nd Street Y, announcing my forthcoming appearance there on the night of June 12th, when I’ll engage in conversation with William D. Cohan, the former M&A investment banker for Lazard Frères and bestselling author of books about Wall Street. Speaking of insider stories, on Friday, Bloomberg “revealed” details of financier and Trump administration advisor Stephen Schwarzman‘s 70th birthday party in Palm Beach this weekend. But readers of AVENUE magazine, where I’m editor-in-chief, had that news first, more than three weeks ago. And here’s Cohan on Trump and Wall Street–a must read from today’s New York Times.

April 25th, 2016

Fashion Notes: #focusyourselfie

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Fashion is dead. Long live fashion. That’s not the news you’ll hear in this week’s relentless run-up to Vogue‘s annual promotional party at the Metropolitan Museum, but it’s the message of “Has Luxury Fashion Priced Itself Into Extinction?” my return-to-fashion-writing essay on The Daily Beast this morning. “The digital culture that’s killing fashion-as-we-know-it could, perversely, prove fashion’s salvation,” it argues. “Alongside the paid bloggers and pampered celebrities flogging $3,000 branded goods on Instagram are just plain folks taking selfies of themselves in outfits that reflect individual creativity, not the needs of vampire corporations sucking quarterly profits from purses and perfume bottles. Luxury fashion may be walking dead but self-expression through dress won’t die with it.”

October 20th, 2015

Another one bites the dust: RIP Bookhampton

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Truly sad news in the inbox last night: Bookhampton, the multi-door east end independent bookseller, will close shop after this holiday season–unless a white knight comes along to save it. There are no words. And after December, there will literally be none left out there. Anyone want to step up and save the day?

December 8th, 2014

All I want for Christmas/Chanuka is an $88 million penthouse

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Rogues Gallery
But seriously, with the start of Chanuka just nine days away, why not buy your beloved a book? For art lovers just back from Art Basel, there’s Rogues’ Gallery, which the New York Times Book Review called “A blockbuster exhibition of human achievement and flaws.” Prefer real estate? But is your recipient a condo or a cooperative person? For the former, there’s House of Outrageous Fortune, the story of Manhattan’s sui generis record-setting condo, Fifteen Central Park West. “The intersecting strands of money, politics, greed, taste, ambition shine brightly,” Manuela Holterhoff of Bloomberg News wrote of the book. And cooperators can similarly reach for the heights of Manhattan real estate with 740 Park. It’s “compulsively readable,”
according to Liesl Schillinger of The New York Times.

May 20th, 2014

Another record for Rybolovlev: the world’s costliest divorce. Also, a Met Museum book update, and RIP Arthur Gelb

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The buyer of New York’s most expensive apartment, an $88 million penthouse at Fifteen Central Park West, the former Russian fertilizer oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, is now the world’s unluckiest divorcee, after a Swiss court ordered him to pay his ex-wife Elena Rybolovleva precisely half his fortune, down to the penny…a sum just over $4.5 billion. Rybolovlev’s whole story, and all the details of his costly divorce, can be found in House of Outrageous Fortune. An earlier subject, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is also in the news today, with the announcement of plans to make over its much-maligned wing containing its until-now less than stellar collection of modern and contemporary art. Triggered by a generous donation from philanthropist and cosmetics heir Leonard Lauder, the renovations may also finally bring about the opening of a long-promised entrance to the museum from Central Park. That nugget (minus any mention of the long-simmering controversy over the park-side door) is buried deep in the announcement made by the museum through the New York Times, whose former chairman, the late Arthur Ochs “Punch” Sulzberger, was also the museum’s chairman from 1987 to 1998. The uncensored history of the museum–including its tortured courtship and shotgun marriage with modern art, the saga of the soon-to-be-renamed Lila Acheson Wallace wing, the empty promises that allowed that wing to be built in the first place, and how the Met and the Sulzberger family joined forces and cleansed its troubled reputation–is all told in Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals that Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art. UPDATE: Arthur Gelb, the brilliant and incredibly courageous New York Times Arts section editor who exposed the Met’s foibles even as Punch sat on its board, and inspired generations or reporters, including this one, died today at 90. Sam Roberts has written a remarkable obituary of a remarkable man. Back in the day, his kind of balls were the norm, not the exception.