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On-Sale: May 5, 2009
“Behind almost every painting is a fortune and behind that a sin or a crime.”
By MICHAEL GROSS
Long before the current wave of skepticism about the very rich, Michael Gross’ fearless bestselling books have pulled back the curtain on their real lives and their real (and often questionable) behavior. Gross’ latest entry into the fray does just that and more. ROGUES’ GALLERY (Broadway Books; May 5, 2009; $29.95; 978-0-7679-2488-7) is the first independent look at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by a journalist who doesn’t hesitate to speak truth to power. Just as 740 Park peeled the facade off the extravagant home lives of America’s wealthiest, ROGUES’ GALLERY pulls back the shades of secrecy that have long shrouded their cultural and philanthropic ambitions and maneuvers.
Covering the entire 138-year history of the Met, ROGUES’ GALLERY focuses on the most colorful characters in the museum’s history, opening in the office of the just-retired director Guy-Philippe Lannes de Montebello, the longest-serving leader in the museum’s history, before flashing back to tell the larger story through commanding figures like Luigi Palma di Cesnola, a Civil War hero and epic phony, the museum’s first director; J. Pierpont Morgan, the greatest capitalist and art collector of his day, who turned the museum from a plaything of a handful of rich amateurs into a professional operation; John D. Rockefeller Jr., who never served the Met in any official capacity, but became its greatest benefactor and behind-the-scenes puppeteer; the controversial Thomas P.F. (Publicity Forever) Hoving, whose ten year term as the museum’s director revolutionized museums around the world but left the Met reeling; and Jane Engelhard and Annette de la Renta, a mother-daughter trustee tag-team whose stories will simply astonish you.
Supporting roles are played by such grandees as George Blumenthal, the former head of Lazard Freres, and the museum’s first Jewish trustee; Roland Livingston Redmond, the anti-Semitic descendent of a colonial land-grant family; Arthur Houghton, the head of Corning Glass, who once ripped apart a priceless illustrated Islamic book in order to auction off its pages piecemeal; C. Douglas Dillon, JFK’s Secretary of the Treasury, who defended Hoving’s worst excesses; Robert Lehman, the retiring head of Lehman Brothers, who insisted the museum build a monument to his ego, and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, whose New York Times went from being the museum’s biggest detractor to its most faithful supporter. The curators are just as fascinating, including James Rorimer, the shy medievalist who created the Cloisters; Greek and Roman curator Dietrich Von Bothmer, a refugee from Nazi Germany with a Bronze Star for heroism in WWII, whose most important acquisitions turned out to be looted, and John Pope-Hennessey, the brilliant paintings expert known as The Pope, who surrounded himself with a court of gay assistants. And of course there is a supporting cast of collectors, donors, string-pullers and fundraisers: Charles Engelhard, the model for the James Bond villain Auric Goldfinger; Irwin Untermyer, whose obsession with collecting drove his wife and children to suicide; Brooke Astor, Henry Kravis, Henry Kissinger, and even Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
A fascinating behind-the-scenes study of America’s rich and what is perhaps their greatest creation, ROGUES’ GALLEY gives its readers an unprecedented tour of the inner sanctum of one of the most famous museums in the world. With over 5 million visitors per year, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a repository for more than two million art objects created over the course of five thousand years. Covering over two million square feet, occupying thirteen acres of New York’s Central Park, and encompassing power and fire stations, an infirmary, and an armory with a forge, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere, and its glitzy history — its art, its acquisition process, its glittering, if agenda-driven, array of supporters — is sexy, fascinating, and very, very enticing.
Provocative cultural journalist and New York Times best-selling author Michael Gross is currently a Contributing Editor at Travel & Leisure. He has previously held positions at the New York Times, New York Magazine, Radar, George, and Esquire. His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, Interview, Details, Elle, Architectural Digest, American Photo, Town & Country, Cosmopolitan, and he has also written for the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, the Village Voice, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chicago Tribune. He has profiled subjects from John F. Kennedy, Jr. to Greta Garbo, Richard Gere to Ivana Trump, and he has written on subjects such as divorce, plastic surgery, Greenwich Village, and sex in the 90′s. He is the author of the New York Times best-selling MODEL: THE UGLY BUSINESS OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN (1995), which was published in 8 countries; MY GENERATION (2000), a biography of the Baby Boom generation, GENUINE AUTHENTIC: THE REAL LIFE OF RALPH LAUREN (2003), and 740 PARK (2005). He currently lives in New York City. Visit: www.mgross.com.
“The title alone tantalizes but once you pick up this book and start reading about the good and the great and the hijinks of high society, it becomes un-put-downable!” — Kitty Kelley, author of TheFamily
“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, author of A Writer’s Life
“Gross’s portrait of Met politics is sharp and well-constructed, and readers will marvel at how the institution transcended the bickering and backhanded power plays to become one of the largest and most prestigious museums in the world. A deft rendering of the down -and-dirty politics of the art world.” — KirkusReviews