Rogues' Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum

Michael Gross, Author
Michael Gross, Author . Broadway $29.95 (560p) ISBN 978-0-7679-2488-7
Reviewed on: 03/30/2009
Release date: 05/01/2009
Open Ebook - 496 pages - 978-0-7679-3145-8
Paperback - 576 pages - 978-0-7679-2489-4
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For more than a century, the coupling of art with commerce has made New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art the world's most glamorous whore, according to this sprawling history. Gross, a veteran chronicler of the rich and beautiful (Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women ), highlights the relationship between the directors and curators who amassed the Met's collection—fakes and questionably acquired antiquities included, he notes—and its patrons. In his telling, the exchange of money for prestige (contributor John D. Rockefeller wanted good publicity after striking workers were massacred at the family's Ludlow mine) is a tawdry business, with the museum's high-toned seduction of well-heeled egotists, who in turn felt betrayed when newer collections impinged on their own galleries. Not the best-curated of exhibitions, Gross's thematically unfocused chronicle is overstuffed with the details of fund drives, building plans and bequests; some figures feel like they were profiled mainly because there were juicy anecdotes about them—a rarity in tight-lipped Met circles—not because their doings are especially illuminating. Still, browse long enough and you'll find behind-the-scenes dirt and an intriguing look at the symbiosis of culture and cash. (May 12)

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