a blog with cultural bulimia.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Art and Sponsorship.

 Today's New York Times brings up a great discussion on the role of museums on keeping its shows intellectually free from pressure by sponsors: Art, Money and Power.

"Museums deal in two kinds of currency, after all: the quality of their collections and public trust. Squander one, and the other suffers. People visit MoMA or the Met to see great art; they will even consider art that they don't know or don't like as great because the museum says so. But this delicate cultural ecosystem depends on the public's perception that museums make independent judgments - that they're not just shilling for trustees or politicians or sponsors.

Naturally, the public wonders whose pockets are greased by what a museum shows, because there's so much money involved in art. But this question can be subordinated if the museum proves that it's acting in the public's interest, and not someone else's. (...)

Of course, this is the real world. Museums need trustees to cover the bills. They depend on galleries and collectors and sponsors and artists for help. (...) But there are degrees of compromise.

The Chanel show avoids mentioning her activities during the war, when she maintained a life in Paris as the lover of an SS officer and, according to her biographer, Janet Wallach, tried to exploit Nazi laws to wrest control of her perfume business from her Jewish partners. (...) I suspect Chanel would not have been very happy about sponsoring this show if the Met had been more forthcoming about its founder's wartime history.

Is such information irrelevant to what's on view? It depends.

The public should decide."