“I Got Plenty of Nuttin”: The Met’s Financial Woes and the Age of Digital Reproduction

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Evans Charles playing “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin” (really) in front of the Met

As a result of too-rapid expansion, unforeseen (?) interest payments due, and “ambitious” rebranding (among other things) the Met, like so many corporations, overstretched. The administration is therefore pursuing the standard corporate “solutions” we know so well. Employee buyouts and layoffs, less frequent shows, and sadly the same reassurances that make us doubt institutions, e.g., “no letting up on the quality—nothing we’re doing will be discernible or visible to the public…” promises Daniel H. Weiss, president and chief operating officer of the Met (*)

I’ve brought myself in as a cost-cutting expert (seriously, I am an expert) and given myself carte blanche to rethink expenditures and revenues in ways that will be visible to the public and improve the quality of the museum.

To start, does the Met need to advertise? Isn’t the main purpose of advertising to promote products that are either unknown or indistinguishable from other products?

Close on Mondays. This used to make sense and still does to give other museums a chance, and it seems to cost more to open than they earn in visitor dollars.

Decrease suggested admission. If it were 5 dollars, maybe the guy in front of me would have paid it instead of the $1 that he paid for two. I paid one dollar, too. That price of five dollars did not come out of a hat. The same NYT article said that the operating budget for the year was 300 million dollars–there were 6 million visitors. In addition, go back to using manual cash registers. Faster, no electricity, less paper waste—it’s a myth to think that computers always increase productivity.

Desist with the photographic blow-ups that surround every show. They are an insult to the artwork and to the viewer.

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Divine Pleasures: Painting from India’s Rajput Courts—The Kronos Collections

Ditto to the digital projection that, for example, surrounds the dresses in Manus x Machina. Fuzzy–and distracting even if they weren’t fuzzy.

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Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology

Another idea of Mr. Weiss’ is to close the budget gap with the gift shop, particularly with “the distinctive merchandise”.

Like this Cezanne?

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How about closing down the digital reproduction studio and stop making “studio prints…of the highest quality…carefully vetted by our curators to ensure near-perfect fidelity to the original works of art.”
Have you ever heard such crap? The Met, which exists to fine-tune our sensibilities in every way including to the exquisite presence of a handmade unique object, says that a digital reproduction is near-perfect?

The sculptural repros to scale in “bonded bronze?”

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Bonded bronze is the process of mixing resin with bronze powder to give the statue a look of metal. They are cheap but not worth anything. For the price of one or two of them–$375–a consumer can become a collector and buy an unknown artist’s work that might be worth something some day and have all the pleasure of finding it, too.

I will allow postcards, Christmas cards, posters and art books.

Just another word about that Cezanne and Degas. Prints are available elsewhere.

And why shouldn’t the Met, which owns the works, profit from people’s desire to own a fake one?
Respect.

Respect for their collection, for the people who travel to see it in person, for the artists who made the works, for the artists like myself who use it as a continuous source of ideas and, yes, I’ll admit it, love the Met–and for the future artists who are watching.  – CNQ

(*) “Met Job Cut Could Exceed 100 in a Move to Steady Finances”, Robin Pogrebin, The New York Times, 7/15/16