Met In Decline

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lennygoran
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Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
Location: new york city

Met In Decline

Post by lennygoran » Sun Feb 05, 2017 4:29 am

One might ask why isn't this message in the Classical Music Chatterbox-well it's not the West Side Met this article talks about but the East Side Metropolitan Museum of Art-there is one sentence in the article concerning classical music--""The New York Philharmonic has delayed the tentative date for opening its $600 million rebuilt hall to get a better sense of its cost." But this news is about a museum we go to frequently when in NYC-we probably spend more time there than at the Met Opera house so this makes for sad reading for us. Regards, Len :(


Is the Met Museum ‘a Great Institution in Decline’?

Aiming ever higher, the museum faces financial challenges
that include a deficit nearing $40 million and expansion
plans that have been postponed for lack of funding.

By ROBIN POGREBIN FEB. 4, 2017

The bad news had been building for months at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Even as crowds poured into shows on Hellenistic kingdoms and high-tech fashion, the Met’s deficit was approaching $40 million and had forced the buyout or layoff of some 90 employees. An expansion into a satellite building cost millions of dollars more than expected. A new Met logo and marketing plan were rolled out at great expense — and greeted with ridicule. Then, last month, a new $600 million wing was postponed by several years, frustrating the Met’s efforts to become a serious player in the competitive field of Modern and contemporary art.

Tension inside the Met, the country’s largest art museum, is running so high that when curators and conservators recently wrote a letter protesting compensation cuts, the museum’s leaders chose not to show it to trustees for fear of leaks and bad publicity. Those who wanted to see the document had to go to the office of the Met’s general counsel and read it under observation.


After enjoying boom years, one of the most pre-eminent cultural institutions in the world is now struggling with missteps and the perils of overreaching at a time of uncertain resources. While many museums face financial and competitive pressures, the Met’s troubles are magnified, given its stature on the world stage.

How can a behemoth like the Met, the thinking goes, possibly stumble? Some curators and trustees have zeroed in on Thomas P. Campbell, the Met’s director and chief executive since 2008, as well as the board that has backed him. The anguish can be intense, given the love that all involved have for the Met.


“It’s a tragedy to see a great institution in decline,” said George R. Goldner, who in 2014 retired after 21 years as the chairman of the Met’s drawings and prints department and has since served as a consultant to the museum. “To have inherited a museum as strong as the Met was 10 years ago — with a great curatorial staff — and to have it be what it is today is unimaginable.”

Several people inside the museum, most of whom spoke anonymously for fear of losing their positions, said the Met under Mr. Campbell had tried to do too much too fast: overhiring in the digital department; overspending on an additional building, the Met Breuer, and on rebranding; overdrawing from unrestricted endowment funds to cover costs; emphasizing Modern and contemporary art at the expense of core departments; and pursuing the new wing before the financing was in place.

Instead, the Met should have been contracting, given falling revenue from its retail stores and admission fees and rising expenses.

At the same time, some hope that by reckoning with its troubles, the Met is poised to turn a corner.

“We’re getting to the same page,” said Keith Christiansen, the chairman of the Met’s European paintings department. “One benefit from all this: It’s brought the departments together with the administration to sit down at a common table, and that’s something. Now what do we do to move forward and make sure the mission of the museum is not compromised?”

Efforts to right the ship have been difficult and painful. In addition to staff cuts, curators were asked to curtail spending for shows and acquisitions. The Met stages nearly 60 exhibitions a year, far more than most museums, but now expects to reduce its exhibitions to about 40 a year.

Instead of moving forward with the architect David Chipperfield on a wing intended to help attract art and money from contemporary collectors, the Met has been forced to prioritize the replacement of its aging skylights and roof above the European paintings galleries.

In an interview, Mr. Campbell acknowledged that the museum had “been through a trying year.”

“My colleagues have every right to feel upset,” he said. “At the same time, one has to step back and look at the success of the institution.”

To be sure, most agree that the museum’s expansive collections and ambitious exhibitions remain strong. The recent Kerry James Marshall survey at the Met Breuer was widely judged a success, though some critics say the museum’s first retrospective of a living black artist would have been even more momentous in the hallowed main building.

In addition, the museum’s attendance has increased to about seven million visitors a year, including the Cloisters. The Breuer, which opened in March, has drawn 557,000 visitors, exceeding projections.

“We’ve got a whole Modern art collection in the Breuer we didn’t have before,” said Hamilton E. James, a Met trustee. “Attendance is at all-time records; critical acclaim has never been as good. An awful lot of wonderful things have gone on.”

Moreover, Met officials say, many cultural institutions have been grappling with a structural deficit — when costs exceed revenues, despite a strong economy. The Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum, for example, also recently offered buyouts — though they did not then move to layoffs. The New York Philharmonic has delayed the tentative date for opening its $600 million rebuilt hall to get a better sense of its cost. And the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is struggling to raise nearly half the $600 million needed for its expansion.


While the Met charged Mr. Campbell with strengthening the museum’s Modern and contemporary art activities, his focus on the Met Breuer and new wing has been controversial. Why try to compete with the new Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, some ask, instead of sticking to what the Met already does best?
Make the Most of the Met

Don’t be overwhelmed by over 6,000 years of history at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We’re here to help.

Mr. Campbell said he had aimed “to sustain an environment in which scholarship could flourish and be the engine of our program, as well as to expand our audiences, to digitize the institution and to revisit what it is to be an encyclopedic museum.”

“We’ve made remarkable progress, but these things are flexible, and they need modulation,” he added. “In the same period, we have had to balance our expenditures and our income. In light of that, we’re certainly doing some recalibration on the goals we’ve set ourselves.”

Some critics say Mr. Campbell has been out of his depth — a tapestry curator thrust into the large shoes of the legendary Philippe de Montebello, with no experience running a major institution. (Mr. de Montebello did not have chief executive in his title until 22 years into his 31-year tenure as director.)


Moreover, Mr. Campbell, by many accounts, has handled the economic crisis by hunkering down in a defensive crouch rather than reaching out to unite the staff — and the full board — behind his efforts. Internal critics say he failed to appreciate the upheaval caused by the turnover of three-quarters of the curatorial leadership through departures and retirements. They describe the pervasive sense that institutional memory is going out the door and the fear that the Met’s mission to educate through scholarship has been overshadowed by its desire to attract millennials through social media.

Mr. Campbell said internal relations was often a challenge at the Met, with its more than 2,200-member work force, and acknowledged that he could do better. “I’ve tried very hard to open up communications — bringing people into briefings, in town hall meetings,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got it right yet, but we’re heading in the right direction.”

“I myself need to evolve my thinking and my interactions,” he added. “We’ve identified those issues and taken steps to move forward in a very collective manner.”

The Boston Consulting Group, hired a year ago pro bono to help with the Met’s restructuring, was asked this month to interview staff members and trustees about their concerns because the museum recognized “that morale was challenged,” said Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and chief operating officer. “It’s really important that people feel empowered to say what they think.”

When Mr. Weiss, formerly the president of Haverford College, came to the Met last year, he set out to cut $31 million from a $332 million annual budget. He said Mr. Campbell had been open to making the changes required.

“We have gone through a significant and difficult time,” Mr. Weiss said. “Tom has been very supportive.”

Daniel Brodsky, the museum’s chairman, said that Mr. Campbell and Mr. Weiss had taken appropriate steps toward financial stability and that he and his fellow trustees had not lost confidence in Mr. Campbell’s capacity to lead.

“Tom is a very bright person, and the board supports him,” he said.

Mr. James, the trustee, said many of the Met’s struggles “were beyond the control” of a chief executive. “You get bumps in the road, and you have to deal with them.

“The leadership team of Tom and Dan — I view it very much as a partnership,” he added. “Dan brings a discipline and a businesslike approach.”

Still, the Met’s current retrenchment inevitably looks like a repudiation of much of Mr. Campbell’s original agenda. He has been forced to let go many of his key hires, and his timetable for the new wing has been disrupted.

The Breuer — the Whitney’s former Madison Avenue home, where the Met has an eight-year lease — was to be a temporary hub for the museum’s Modern and contemporary activities during construction, so the new wing could be unveiled in 2020, on the Met’s 150th birthday. The wing is also a linchpin of Leonard A. Lauder’s transformative gift of Cubist artworks, valued at more than $1 billion, which needs a worthy exhibition space.

But Mr. Campbell said he had not given up on his main goals to bolster contemporary art at the Met and broaden the audience in a technological age.

“I love the Met, I love the work I’m doing here,” he said, “And I’m very committed to seeing all of these many projects through.”



https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/04/arts ... front&_r=0

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