Rogues Gallery
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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

May 13th, 2020

Need a Good Book?

With containment, isolation and quarantine ongoing in much of Ameeica, I’m shacking up with a diverse batch of good books in May. I abandoned Hilary Mantel‘s The Mirror & the Light despite having devoured the first two books in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, but loved Julian BarnesThe Man in the Red Coat. Now I’m onto Jesse Kornbluth‘s JFK and Mary Meyer: A Love Story, and I have Sam Wasson‘s The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood on deck. It’s not easy to read as I’m writing most days, at work on my own next book, about some very old and very prominent American families. But may I suggest one of the diversions illustrated here for you as I rush to get that done? You can order on each book’s page on 740 Park, in particular, seems to be pandemic-popular, its sales doubling in recent weeks. Could that be because Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin owns an apartment there? As it happens, it’s been in the market since 2018, despite its price dropping $5 million from the original $32.5 million ask. And now, it appears, the listing has expired. That’s understandable, perhaps, under the circumstances, though it’s tempting to think there’s some kind of stink attached to the place. #Staysafe #Stayinside and #read a book.

April 23rd, 2020

Layoffs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The latest casualties of the Covid-19 Pandemic are 80 staffers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which announced layoffs and pay cuts yesterday. The museum also warned that its budget shortfall for 2020 might reach $150 million. “While we are not immune from the impact of this pandemic, the Met is a strong and enduring institution and will remain one,” Daniel Weiss, president and chief executive of the museum, said in a statement. It won’t make those staffers feel better to know that the museum has survived worse situations since it was created 150 years ago. But this is surely not the birthday it had in mind. The story of all that the great institution has endured is told in Rogues’ Gallery, for those who’d like to take a voyage into its dramatic past, while waiting for its reopening later this year.

April 19th, 2020

Inside “a realm rarely known or understood.”

Two weeks shy of its 11th birthday, a reader’s review of Rogues’ Gallery, just posted on amazon, is one of the best it ever received. The reviewer, a longtime museum official, writes, “Having been in the museum field in various director and curatorial positions for fifty years, I can attest to the honesty and quality of this inside look at how these cultural institutions are governed and lead. The author has done impressive research into a realm rarely known or understood by the general public much less many in the museum profession. Museums have an aura and reputation that is commendable. How that is achieved and what is required to sustain much less advance it, is a complex mix of scholarly devotion, intellectual prestidigitation, public appreciation, hucksterism, social status, and, a lot of money. Few books present this reality in a more open and comprehensive way. As one of the most important museums in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a prominent example of how most reputable long-lasting museums operate when it comes to the nuances and realities of governing and running them. Having taught museum studies for more than sixteen years, I am very familiar with books about the subject. Few (none?) address it in the way Michael Gross does, or as well. While the Met is large and wealthy, the details of its operations are hardly unique to it. Just about every museum of any size deals with similar issues. Only the scope, number and character of its participants varies. The book is especially important given how museums are perceived today. The history of the Met is an enticing tale all by itself, but, the lessons the author provides are very contemporary. Most writing about museums alone can be pedantic and boring. That is not the case with Rogue’s Gallery. It is written in a lively style that moves along at a nice pace. Even some humor is thrown in, which, when well done, is always welcome.” Thank you, Steven Miller

April 9th, 2020

Please Support Independent Booksellers

I support the newest online bookseller, bookshop. Won’t you please click the link and support your local bookstore, too?

December 27th, 2019

Imperial Populist: Rogues’ Gallery Redux

With museum boards much in the news in 2019, why not a look back to 1939, when the improbable populist Robert Moses, destroyer of neighborhoods, took on New York’s plutocracy and demanded they let fresh air into what was then their private playground, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Closing the Tenth Anniversary of its publication, The Daily Beast excerpts Rogues’ Gallery, my book on the museum’s board and benefactors.

October 3rd, 2019

Rogues’ Gallery Redux

Rogues Gallery

Today’s New York Times reflects the current fashion for questioning the composition of the boards of cultural institutions. Ten years ago, Rogues’ Gallery did the same, using the sometimes sordid stories of the founders and boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a window on the ways cultural philanthropy is used by the wealthy and powerful to launder their reputations, and how those institutions encourage and protect them. The Times’ Book Review called the book “a blockbuster exhibition of human achievement and flaws.” So is the paper’s must-read story today.

August 7th, 2019

Toxic Trustees: Named and Shamed

Rogues Gallery

New York Magazine’s Whitney Mallett and Katy Schneider have created a guide to the latest gallery of rogues to join the boards of the city’s leading cultural philanthropies. Rogues’ Gallery gets a shout-out–alongside Metropolitan Museum board members like Henry Kissinger and David Koch.

May 5th, 2019

Rogues’ Gallery: A Decade of Delinquency

Rogues Gallery final cover
Rogues’ Gallery was published ten years ago today and remains both banned in the bookstore of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, its focus, and pointedly relevant, as last month’s death of longtime museum trustee Jayne Wrightsman, and this week’s frenzy over the Costume Institute’s annual gala, aka the Party of the Year, demonstrate. I think of the book as my favorite child, the one that caused the most trouble, was deemed a delinquent, and thus, merits extra love–my little James Dean, you might say, only this rebel had a cause: Highlighting how the wealthy use culture and philanthropy to launder their money, their deeds, and their reputations. And yes, members of the Sackler family of opioid fame are also characters in the book The New York Times Book Review called “a blockbuster exhibition of human achievements and flaws.” Happy birthday, baby. Truth is beauty.

April 24th, 2019

Self-invention to the Max: Jayne Wrightsman, 99

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


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.