Monday, 4 May 2015

The logic of our age

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The entire Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was closed yesterday, so that rich people could have a party. In the UK museums were traditionally reticent about renting themselves out for private functions, but some now market themselves aggressively. It starts with out-of-hours rental, but once the principle is established and the tills start ringing the plutocrats encroach on normal opening times. It's like the old joke where a man asks a woman if she'd sleep with him for a million pounds. On careful reflection the impecunious lady agrees. "Would you sleep with me for five pounds?" he then asks. "What kind of woman do you think I am?" she replies angrily. "We've already established that; we're just haggling over the price". It might be more expensive to hire an entire museum during opening hours, excluding the public, but it's just a matter of haggling. 

The Victoria and Albert Museum is already notorious for its vicarious closing hours so they can set up for parties. A number of other museums often have random room closures for private events. I've also heard anecdotal reports of damage to art during a wedding piss-up at the Wallace Collection. Weddings are appropriately a time for drunken revelry. Museums are not an appropriate place.

It saddens me that people can travel from all over the world to see the Met, but then be denied access because only the super-rich can go today. It would be bad enough if the Met were making a difficult compromise to raise needed funds. But they actually seem proud of themselves. Its Twitter feed is stuffed with pictures of celebrities, as if the museum's purpose is to provide a backdrop for celebrity photos, 'drooling over wealthy people' as Tyler Green put it on Twitter.

This is the apotheosis of the modern museum. The real experience is reserved for the wealthy. But the rest of us can look admiringly at how cool museums are, because celebrities hang out there. Maybe drooling over celebrity photos on the Met's Twitter feed is the museum experience today.


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  2. Don't forget the Cappella Sistina,hired by an automobile factory party