The following letter was mailed to Daniel Brodsky, Chairman of the Met Museum’s board of trustees, on September 3rd. (I insert relevant links here.) In lieu of a response from him, I received a platitudinous letter from Jessica Hirschey, the museum’s Deputy Chief Membership Officer, dated September 17. That letter is appended below, along with my response to it. Readers who share my views should write to both Brodsky and Hirschey. September 29 update: Also appended is the vacuously anodyne letter I subsequently received from Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and CEO.
I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees. In that role, you have the future of one of the world’s great cultural institutions in your hands.
Merriam-Webster defines a museum as “an institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value” (emphasis added). But in recent years, the Met has devoted increasing attention to presumably avant-garde work, which has not yet stood the test of time. And it has done so at great financial cost, necessitating a more restrictive admission policy. Moreover, the selection of Max Hollein as the museum’s new director is likely to accelerate that regrettable trend.
Still worse, for many serious art lovers, what now passes for art in the eyes of the cultural establishment (not least Mr. Hollein’s) is at best a pitiable failure and at worst a travesty. A case in point is the Met’s current rooftop installation, Huma Bhabha’s We Come in Peace—which I have just returned from seeing.1
In Who Says That’s Art? (a copy of which is enclosed), I argue that the postmodernist genres favored by contemporary curators and critics—though not by much of the art-loving public—is in essence anti-art. In that connection, Mr. Hollein’s plan to exhibit such work alongside the Met’s treasures from the past is especially troubling.
Met trustees are free to select whatever contemporary work they like for their own personal collections. But their responsibility as trustees requires them to take a longer view. They should not be complicit in urging the public to believe that today’s “cutting-edge” work truly merits comparison with the genuine masterpieces of other times—unless it were to demonstrate its utter poverty.
If the argument and evidence offered for this position in Who Says That’s Art? warrants further consideration in your view, I’d be happy to provide copies for each of the Met’s trustees.
Michelle Marder Kamhi