Who’s Paying The Met’s Rent?

via Galavanting Green Cheese
via Galavanting Green Cheese

The sign says ADMISSION in large letters and lists a charge of $25 for adult visitors. So you must pay $25. No, wait: the small print says, “Recommended” so it’s free but you are asked to volunteer something along the lines of $25. But, that can’t be because it also touts “No extra charge for special exhibitions” — so that means there is a charge for admissions, so…what do you pay?

Well, If you are duped by the large print, you pay $25; if you feel guilty or cheap in the face of the sign and the cashier, you pay $25; and if you are buying tickets online you’ll find that the Met sells them for $25 with no caveat. Only those in the know will pay like a New Yorker, a voluntary fee of anywhere between 1 and ten dollars.

The signage is confusing (and the sales policies more so) and no one doubts that the obfuscation of your right to enter for free is deliberate: the museum would like to make some money.

That is why two recent law-suits brought against the hallowed New York institution in response to it’s deceptive admissions policies reveal that it’s time to interrogate, not just the disingenuous signage, but the entire body of assumptions regarding who the museum and its art belong to, and who should pay for its maintenance.

Two Suits, One Firm, and Harold Holzer

To begin, let’s get some very important facts straight: the Metropolitan Museum resides on Central Park land which it uses free of charge in exchange for its service to the public. The building is leased rent-free from the city under the same stipulation.
“The Met,”  says architect Theodore Grunewald, who, along with fellow long-time member Patricia Nicholson, filed a suit in November of last year, “is as much the property of citizens as the trustees who manage the art inside.”

Grunewald and Nicholson argue that the Met’s  “recommended” admission charges violate the terms of its 1983 lease with the city which allows the Museum to use the property in exchange for public free admission two evenings and five days a week.  But the museum is claiming that city policy changes in the 1970s allowed them to begin charging a voluntary admission fee.

Filed by the law firm, Weiss & Hiller, this suit which is still pending, cites a survey which found that 85 % of nonmembers polled (out of a pool of 360 visitors) thought entry fees were required, and requests that the state court in Manhattan block the Museum from charging any fees at all. Meantime the same law firm has filed a new suit!

Did You Buy Tickets with a Credit Card?

On Tuesday the Met was hit with a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of three visitors, Filip Saska and Tomas Nadrchal of the Czech Republic, and museum member, Stephen Michelman of Manhattan. They are claiming that the Met “engages in an intentional campaign of misdirection that includes misleading signage and fraudulent marketing.” This newest complaint also asks for an injunction, as did the one in November, but adds a request for  “unspecified damages” to be payed to all  visitors who, in the last three years, paid for admittance with a credit card.

(In other words, if this case goes forward, Met Admission Policies + Ticket Purchase w/ Credit Card w/in last three years = Cluster Fuck)

But while  Hiller says, that they have uncovered “evidence which makes clear to us that the museum is actively misleading the public and that members of the museum’s leadership are fully aware of that fact,” the Met’s Senior Vice President of External Affairs, Harold Holzer, has scoffed that this is the “second attempt for publicity around the same baseless lawsuit that was filed a few months ago.”

“I don’t know what this brouhaha is all about,” he said.

The Met is not the Smithsonian

Later, he expounded further on this thought in a letter to the Huffington Post:

“Free admission was conceived of 150 years ago for an entirely government-subsidized institution, like the Smithsonian. There is no model for this kind of operation any more. The city contributes $10 million of a $240 million-dollar-budget. We rely on many crucial revenue streams to maintain our building, preserve, protect, exhibit, and publish our collections, and mount up to 25 shows a year. This lawsuit flies in the face of reality and the huge amount of responsibility and work we have in the service of our collections and our visitors.”

See Slideshow of Admittance Charges at other Museuems on The Huffington Post

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THURSDAY SPOTLIGHTS

Hidden Treasure at the Met

“Sources” told the New York Post that the Metropolitan museum of art is housing, somewhere in it’s dark nether chambers, some not-so-great works that they’d rather the world didn’t see. Awkward.

So how’d it get there?

Well, Carrie Rebora Barratt, the Met’s associate director for collections and administration told the Post that the museum will sometimes take lesser works from donors, in order to secure a work they want. But she intimated that the donors would be made to understand that the “unsolicited” works “may have to go into storage.”

I believe this is common practice, actually, and hope to unearth some more info on these and other hidden treasures real soon.

Read More: ‘OK, fine’ art hidden at Met: Donated shlock stashed in cellar
By GARY BUISO Last Updated: 5:24 AM, February 12, 2012

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HANKSY

Wince-worthy

There are those, who, like the ever gracious Matthew Collings,  think that street art is for punks:

“Do you like adolescent entertainment? Do you have the mentality of a teenager? Do you find Cézanne a bit overrated? If the answer is yes, yes and yes, then I don’t know what to do with you. You are a childish philistine literalist. Get down to Bonhams (one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques) next Tuesday for their first-ever dedicated sale of “street art” – this is the experience for you.”
~ Matthew Collings

And then there are those who agree.

Also there are those who don’t give a shit.

Hanksy, who’s debut show at the Krause Gallery was, according to the gallery, a great success says,

“The internet and the general public know me as Hanksy. Some call me a street artist, others call me a bad pun. I take iconic images from the UK street artist Banksy and mash it up with a reference from Academy Award winning actor, Tom Hanks.”

Read More: An Interview with Hanksy By EA Hanks | February 8, 2012

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Kickstarter “Project” is very simply a store

Joshua Harker seems like a sweet guy, so I’m glad his Kickstarter project,  Crania Anatomica Filigre: Me to You, got 77,000 dollars worth of  “backing” —but, honestly, he beat the system.

Kickstarter is supposed to fund “projects” and is therefore not to be used for “for profit” business endeavors. Yet one of it’s most successful “projects” to date is, in all honesty, just a store.

This “3rd most funded Arts project ever”  was touted as a way “to help get [the arist’s]work seen & collected by more people.”

“The idea is to offer my work for a limited amount of time directly without the extraneous exhibition costs & markups…a sort of pre-release.”

“Backers” received sculptures in return for, money.

You know: like in a store.

Will Round Two of Cariou v Prince Change Art Law Forever?


You're going to see a lot of this guy -from Patrick Cariou's Yes Rasta

Go ahead, expect more of these sweaty headlines with question marks in them. Because, with the now rather infamous Cariou v Prince case up for appeal sometime this year, we are facing another deluge of half-informed, and angrily contentious, punditry which will wash over the raw, dry, factual sands of more professional reports like a tsunami of histrionics.

Drowning in the madness will be all those bleeding hearts who root for the little guy, and the sundry art world know-it-alls who root for controversy, along with the fastidious fence straddlers like myself who can’t do right by anyone — and, let us not forget, the stalwart naifs who insist on seeing appropriation as flat out theft.

In the background, lawyers toil away, building sand castles of the driest, rawest, facts they can muster.

It is no wonder that the case has captured the attention of so many. It involves a lot of money, after all, and it pits an underdog, Patrick Cariou, against an art star, Richard Prince, and his giant posse of star-makers and lawyers. It also comes after artists had become cocky, with most copyright infringement cases settling without trial, and often to the mutual benefit of defendants and plaintiffs.

At base the issue is this: Richard Prince’s team must prove that district court judge Deborah A. Batts ruled in error when she decided against Prince’s fair use claim. Patrick Cariou’s lawyer, Dan Brooks, must argue that the ruling did, in fact, use the correct legal standard.

Brooks will file his opening brief by January 25th. Faced with the formidable 135 page appeal filed on Oct. 26, 2011 by big guns Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and a nearly 50 page amicus brief filed on behalf of Richard Prince by the Andy Warhol foundation, plus similar briefs from Google and a consortium of museums (including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago), Brooks will have to answer five newly refined points of contention.

  1. That contrary to the first circuit court’s decision, the Canal Zone works that use Cariou’s photos are indeed transformative in every sense established by art history and accepted artistic practice and constitute a fair use of those images.
  2. That Prince’s “intentions” do not factor into the meaning that his work may or may not have since it is the viewer and the context of a work that give it its meaning.
  3. That contrary to testimony, Cariou did not lose any marketing opportunities due to Prince’s use of his images; indeed, his lawyers argue, his book prices soared after the initial bout of litigation.
  4. That the first circuit decision, if upheld, will create a “chilling effect” on future creative work, and thereby will override the very purpose of the fair use exception which is intended to protect free speech and works of social value.
  5. That, in the Batts decision to protect the copyright holder, Patrick Cariou, the rights of the appropriation artist, Richard Prince were unduly impeded, as her ruling overreached in lumping all of the thirty paintings under one ruling.

In Part One of this Three Part series, I set up a virtual dialogue between Dan Brooks (Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP.), Patrick Cariou’s lawyer and Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project and a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School.

In Part Two, I will discuss the five points above in greater detail. In Part 3, I will part the waters.

Read the rest and look forward to Parts TWO and THREE on Hyperallergic

More, More, and Still More Trouble for Beleaguered Smithsonian

The Grinch Who Stole A Fire in My Belly

Last Wednesday the Catholic League’s William Donohue told The Washington Post that, “You have to know when to step on the gas and when to step on the brake.” Ironically, he was speaking about his own turn to step on the brake, having given the gas already to his thrust to remove David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly from the National Portrait Gallery’s current Hide/Seek exhibit. But even as he spoke, activists, fellow artists, local galleries, The Andy Warhol Foundation, and Smithsonian curators were stepping on the gas.

Mr. Donohue was telling reporters that his work was done and he would not be attending a dialog at the New York Public Library that night, where Hide/Seek curators Johathan Katz and David C. Ward were scheduled to speak.

Katz and Ward, who have organized what the Post called “perhaps the highest-profile and most canonically scholarly exhibition of gay and lesbian art ever mounted in a major museum” were in danger of having months of careful work upstaged by the controversy surrounding the Wojnarowicz yoink. They gave a scholarly lecture, holding their grievances at bay until the question and answer period. Reluctant as they were to vilify the Smithsonian during a time when cultural institutions should be presenting a united front against what Katz calls “an American Taliban,” they did express disapproval of the hasty decision to edit Hide/Seek without even, as Ward puts it, “a fighting retreat.”

AA Bronson

Meantime, artist AA Bronson had asked that very day, that his portrait, Felix, be removed from the NPG as a protest: “To edit queer history in this way is hurtful and disrespectful,” he wrote in his letter to the National Gallery of Canada (current owners of the work). Though they respect Mr. Bronson’s decision, whether or not the gallery has the legal right to remove the work remains to be seen.

While the Smithsonian’s thumping continues apace, New York activists are preparing to mirror the last week’s protest marches in Washington, as they spread word of a march this Sunday that will proceed from The Metropolitan Museum of Art to The Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian at 91st Street.

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DATE:  Sunday, 12/19

TIME: At: 1:00 pm

Protest against the Smithsonian

A march to protest the Smithsonian’s Censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly from the National Portrait Gallery’s current Hide/Seek exhibit

Organized by Art Positive: artpositive.org

March begins at:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
From there it will proceed to The Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian at 91st Street.

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Addendum: 12/17/2010

Via NewsGrist blog, This latest correspondance from artist, AA Bronson, to Martin Sullivan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery. Apparently Sullivan phoned Bronson to tell him that The National Gallery of Canada could not cancel the loan of Bronson’s work, Felix, due to the nature of their loan agreement. Mr Bronson responds below.

Date: December 17, 2010

To: Martin Sullivan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery

From: AA Bronson

Dear Martin Sullivan,

Thanks for telephoning me and I am writing to confirm our conversation.

You began by offering to bring me to Washington to see the exhibition, at the Museum’s expense.

You reported that the National Gallery of Canada was unable to cancel the loan because of the loan agreement, but that Marc Meyer, the Director, urged you to cooperate with me. (My understanding from Marc is that they CAN terminate the loan, but they would rather not do so on political grounds. Marc, maybe you can clarify).

You described my work “Felix, June 5, 1994” as one of three works given a major amount of space in the exhibition. It was because of that space that the museum was unable to give as much space to the videos in the exhibition as they really needed. You withdrew the David Wojnarowicz video because you felt it wasn’t being given “proper respect” because of the lack of space. I am not positive that I got this right, but I think you said that this was done BEFORE the Catholic League published a statement about the work, and you claim that a journalist goaded the politicians into making their statements. Please don’t take offense if I say that this all sounds exceedingly convenient. Not to say that it isn’t true but it is not convincing.

My proposal is that you reinstate the video, but in its complete form, as the artist intended (you were showing only a clip before, I understand, which already constitutes a prior censorship of the work).

If that means removing my work in order to make an appropriate space for the video, in its full form, I give my permission to do just that.

best regards
AA

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