Oscar White Muscarella: The Met/ Rogues' Gallery
A Review And Addenda: Michael Gross's Rogues' Galleryby Oscar White Muscarella
Over three years ago Michael Gross informed me by telephone that he was writing a history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) and desired to meet with me. He wanted information regarding dealings and policies of the museum’s Directors, Trustees and selected staff. I tentatively agreed but decided to read his book 740 Park Avenue before further contact. It was lengthy, but good, well written, an enriching account of important social issues involving rich people. Yes, much was clearly gossip, but there was also Gossip, pertinent facts regarding individuals’ public and private lives. We then met, exchanged phone calls and email messages. I provided him with information on the Rogues within or associated with the MMA, as well as their powerless victims. The Rogues’ victims deserved public attention, hitherto denied them; they would also serve as sources about the corruption and absolute power embedded in the MMA’s Trustees and Directors.
Rogues’ Gallery (the cover heading alliteratively states it is “The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum”) is well written, and reflects much research in publications, private documents, and personal interviews. Several “authorized” MMA statements present objective evidence that the book is good. The Report on the Meeting of the Board of Trustees of September 9, 2008, reports a warning by the MMA’s Senior VP for External Affairs (aka The Ministry of Propaganda), Harold Holzer, to Gross’s publisher about his (unread!) “forthcoming book”: “The Museum has declined to respond to his disobliging [sic] queries” and “The publisher has been served by Counsel’s Office that the museum will not tolerate libel.” Translated from museum-speak: “the museum will not tolerate truth.” This confirms Gross’s claim that he received neither cooperation nor answers to questions presented to the MMA Administration. The Director of the MMA, Thomas Campbell, months later condemned it as “an unauthorized [the horror, the horror!] study of the MMA…a sardonic mixture of gossip and sloppily recounted fact that takes cheap pot shots at the Museum’s dearest and closest supporters [and Campbell] derides the publication….” (Minutes of the May 12th, 2009 Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the MMA). Note that only the rich donors are singled out, and he says nothing about MMA staff behavior reported in the book. However, Campbell’s official condemnation unintentionally discloses that Gross does reveal facts about the MMA. Nevertheless, many important facts have not been revealed, nor have many of the Rogue’s victims been cited. Perhaps Gross thought it was more exciting to write a 1000 Fifth Avenue book. His choice was a serious mistake in a work that claims to be about MMA Rogues; in fact, he has not revealed many of the Museum’s most telling Secrets, as the cover asserts.
Holzer is quoted (p. 1) decreeing ex cathedra that the only books “we find palatable are those we control,” only if it is “a controlled entity.” Contrast this with de Montebello’s proclamation, “The museum has no secrets” (p. 4), even though he refused to cooperate with Gross. For MMA-authorized books see p. 2. Proof of an official guide for what are palatable MMA books, its Director, unchallenged by any Trustee (including Michael Bloomberg) ordered the museum’s bookshop not to sell Gross’s book. For another book banned from sale in the MMA shop see p. 3 (yet another example appears in the earlier printing of the book but not in the published version, p. 3). Thomas Hoving’s book Making the Mummies Dance, which omitted many facts and lied about others, was not banned from sale in the MMA (p. 443). If these MMA proclamations and actions by “we” were reported in advertisements of Gross’s book, they would boost sales considerably. Recently the New York Times, owned by A. O. Sulzberger, an MMA Trustee, now Emeritus, published a short dismissive review of Rogues’ Gallery on June 28th (p. 16) by one Amy Finnerty. It consists of one-half page that essentially ignores the contents except to note its “tirelessly detailed and gossipy history,” and instructs us that Hoving is “charismatic” (to her a synonym for arrogance and ruthlessness), and it ignores the MMA’s “magnificent art”—which, as she well knows, was not the purpose of his investigation. Nothing is said about what facts are given or ignored.
Gross presents an historical, social, and political history of the MMA, beginning with its founding in 1879 to the present day. He records the biographies and on-going activities of all the MMA’s Directors, some prominent Presidents and Trustees, and a few curators, set within a chronological and historical narrative. One soon becomes aware that all the protagonists share the same characteristics: a lot of money and upper-class backgrounds, and that many possess little honesty, integrity, or even common decency. The MMA functions as a vehicle for their social and political ambitions (for instances see Hoving’s personal revelations about the MMA on pp. 298 and 348). Gross labels these characters Rogues—clever, but this may slyly connote that some are decent, good guys and gals, mere rascals after all. Nevertheless, what he does reveal of MMA activities makes clear that in comparison the New York Mafiosi are errant pussycats (for they are denied the political and social protection available to the Rogues: viz. they haven’t got a Kissinger, Dilllon, Rockefeller, or a NYC Mayor on their Board of Trustees). Insiders also know that a good number of Museum Rogues receive little or passing notice in Gross’s book. More important, many of their victims are not cited or are merely briefly discussed. Rogue’s Gallery informs us ad infinitum about the private, social, financial, and sexual activities of the many characters brought forth. Indeed, important cultural knowledge and Gossip about these matters is presented, albeit sometimes abbreviated or censored, but much less important and unnecessary family social history dilutes what is significant about the Rogues and their influence. Most readers could survive reading this lengthy book if there were less 1000 Fifth Avenue minutiae on Brooke Astor or de la Renta (about 75 pages), Engelhard, Havemeyer, Rockefeller, and other families. Surely not many of the book’s targeted audience (which certainly includes cultural and political historians), want to know all the details of a Trustee’s life and family, their travels, partying, and all the names or unnamed references to the men and women with whom the MMA Trustees and staff slept, etc. For the very first time the public now knows that one Rogue and his wife were bisexual (p. 460), and the politically exciting fact that Hoving and C. Douglas Dillon sat together “all evening” next to a donut machine in the MMA. In many cases detailed information is relevant, revealing social and political contacts and relationships within the MMA; in others it is (at least to me) irrelevant gossip. The excess weakens and detracts from an otherwise fairly valuable book. Concentrating on more important issues would have shortened the long text, or justified its length. Thus the only MMA department Gross spends much time on is the Costume Institute (pp. 375-79, 453-65) solely because it is intimately related to the extravagant lifestyle of Rogue families and other prominent socialites: it is “international café society.” Much in this book should have been eliminated and recycled into a long Vanity Fair article.
Too much gossip as well as allegedly important information from informants, often without attribution, is offered as fact; this detracts from valuable truths reported. On issues involving Directors Hoving and de Montebello, Gross too often conveys his personal positive evaluations, usually either utterly wrong or half-truths. All the information and quotes provided by Hoving are presented as factual, source-reviewed history, which allows Gross to evade discussion of this Director’s concrete actions. He thanks “Tom [sic] Hoving and Nancy Hoving for their memories and for the unlimited access they gave me to their papers” (p. 487). And these “memories” are reported as historical facts, viz. the biography and history of Hoving’s closest colleague and collaborator, Theodore Rousseau. Gross ignores (or is totally unaware?) that Hoving’s reports are scripts that he continuously revises. If the Hovings truly had given Gross unlimited access (uncensored) to all their papers, then much more of Hoving’s activities, dissimulations, and lies should have been revealed. Hoving’s Mummies book is a major source of his activities. Gross calls it a “romp,” p. 2, a warm description of its contents, yet he accords it two mere references (pp. 1-2, 442-43). In the Minutes of the Board of Trustees, September 18, 2008, Holzer claimed, “Hoving is the official vetter of the [Rogue] book.” Everyone knows that normally if Holzer says A, in reality it is Z (it’s his job description). A classic example is “Our curators do not buy on the illicit market” (p. 442). And yet, Holzer does seem to be truthfully speaking here. If Hoving did vet—censor—¬¬¬¬¬the book (and I believe he did) then Gross should confront Holzer’s assertion.
No one should be surprised to learn that Hoving was born into great wealth, with long-standing relationships to many socially important and rich friends. He got his first job at the MMA in 1959, when his father, who “had become a political and financial force in New York” (p. 240), introduced him to his friend, the MMA Trustee Roland Redmond (p. 242): an ordinary Old Boy’s Club event; and this introduction says all. (Redmond was at ease with the affluent, but when I contacted him he refused to speak with me, an ordinary curator). The Hoving family knew Brooke Astor since Tom’s childhood (p. 295), and further details of his social life are presented as objective reporting (pp. 240- 42). However, Gross never specifically elucidates that Hoving was awarded all his MMA and other positions solely because of his and his friends’ wealth and political power. Absent this advantage, he would never have come to the MMA in the first place. Hoving describes himself (p. 240, in an interview with Gross?) as “solipsistic…slightly sinful.” Roland Redmond’s summary of the man (p. 306) is a precise portrayal. Add to Hoving’s self-evaluation the disclosure of his disdain for the MMA, blithely revealed (pp. 298 and 348; and Mummies p. 35). Gross interviewed many individuals within and outside the MMA about Hoving’s reign, and received much information--most of which, especially his endless machinations and autocratic tactics and behavior in all museum matters, he has omitted (censored), or given as snippets.
De Montebello’s background and MMA Administration history are tucked within the 110 pages of a chapter labeled “Jane and Annette Engelhard” (pp. 404-480). This mini-biography begins accurately: “In many respects, Montebello seemed born to direct a great museum,” because he is a descendant from the family of the Marquis de Sade and a descendant of the duc de Montebello, a Napoleonic general. His father held the title Baron, which title passed, alas, not to Philippe, but to his brother, George. Gross informs us gratuitously that although some scorn this “postrevolutionary nobility….Montebello takes his heritage more seriously”—indeed, haughtily is the more accurate adverb: to wit, “I am the Met, the Met is me” (J. E. Kaufman, The Art Newspaper, no. 184, October 2007, p. 53). A fellow student of de Montebello’s at the NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts (IFA) referred to him as a “pompous ass,” (p. 407); this is incorrect, he is a caricature of one.
He was born Guy-Philippe Henri Lannes, and over the years he abandoned the Guy, Henri and Lannes names. Endlessly he acts and poses like a Count: see the many photos of him posing seriously on a pedestal, or staring straight-backed at the camera with his arms—one or both--akimbo, or gazing down his nose, which is why he is known as Le Comte Guy-Philippe (see the footnote on p. 404; many biographers incorrectly refer to his father as Count Roger). Sulzberger’s New York Times in 2007 paid homage, awarding him the royal title “The Sun King” (p. 471). De Montebello claimed he was “on the verge of earning a doctorate,” although he reportedly received an MA from the IFA in 1976, contradicting his Who’s Who entry, which gives the date as 1963 (pp. 405-6); the 1963 date appears in most biographies on the internet. If the 1976 date is correct, he was awarded an MA from the very Institute where he was on the Board of Trustees. Concerning these issues, I was twice refused information from an IFA faculty member about the date of his MA degree and the title of his thesis. And there is no mention of this degree on the IFA online record of awarded degrees. Although unmentioned by Gross, de Montebello left his verge and got a “doctorate” in 2000, when he was “awarded” an honorary doctorate by James R. Houghton, one of the Overseer owners of Harvard University, and de Montebello’s Trustee boss at the MMA. These Rogue conflicts of interest burst out of the record like thunder, but receive no comment from Gross.
In 1963 Rousseau hired de Montebello at the MMA; one need not wonder why (an IFA faculty member told me that when Rousseau heard the de in his name, he immediately called him in for an interview and hired him). Gross doesn’t point out that de Montebello was not well off by MMA standards, but he possessed something superior: a French de, not the Italian di, in his name. In an off moment, de Montebello made an honest but attenuated statement on the value of class, or the trappings of class, at the MMA: “It ….helps;” it is equal to wealth (p. 453). And it was not (p. 405) “An apocryphal story” (! I told it to Gross myself) that early in his MMA career de Montebello, in strong words (not informatively) told me his name was the French Mr. de, not Mr. di. A footnote: after de Montebello retired from the MMA, the Trustees of the IFA, its joint-owned sister institution appointed him Professor on May 20, 2008, because, they proclaimed, he is “one of the most prominent, admired, and respected figures in the world of art and museums….” Neither that institution nor Gross indicated that de Montebello was a Trustee of the IFA—but it was noted that he was “thrilled.” It is clear that Gross openly admires de Montebello (pp. 437, 442, 470-71, 474).
I add another apt footnote to the above paragraphs, a comparison of those born to have MMA ranking positions and those not. Without investigating, Gross neither correctly nor justly clarifies why the head of the Costume Institute, Adolph Cavallo, lost his job. He did not voluntarily resign from the Costume Institute; he was forced out--because he was not rich, and thus without class, and he was burdened with a lower class Italian name-without even a di! In a gross throwaway, Gross, to him cleverly, announces, “he lacked the social razzle-dazzle factor” (p 378). Cavallo suffered personally from his dismissal, but he was not alone, as many others suffered the same ignominious fate. In the recent encouraged retirements and arbitrary firings at the MMA, a curator was “encouraged” to retire by his superiors; he knew what that signified, retire or be fired, and was forced to accept. He is not of retirement age, only in his 50s: but he has a non razzle-dazzle, working class background (not a Havemeyer background). Nothing has changed with the new Administration.
Little information about how one gets or loses a curatorial or staff position at the Rogues’ Gallery is imparted, except obliquely, or in passing. Gross informs us about Hoving’s dalliances with women (p. 315), already blithely revealed in his Mummies book (p.187, and below), and also Theodore Rousseau’s many lovers (some are Gross’s sources), mostly nameless except for two, one his office assistant, Rosie Levai (pp. 354, 365). But little is vouchsafed about the MMA’s Secretary and Chief Counsel (“whose bloodlines ran back to Colonial times,” p. 450) Ashton Hawkins’ sexual contacts with Museum staff (for those outside, see p. 449). One is named (p. 450) merely as a long-time house companion and a Cloister Curator (who, with no advanced degrees was appointed head officer there). The only other curator’s sex life discussed is that of John Pope-Hennessy, who was simultaneously appointed Curator of the MMA’s Paintings Department and Professor at the IFA: two academic positions, salaries, and twofold power (pp. 294, 366-67, 440). This double appointment was easily accomplished because the MMA has virtual control of IFA: they share Trustees (one the MMA Director), faculty and curators, as well as students.
From the information reported, one recognizes that the wealthy and socialite Rogues de facto own the MMA, and thereby possess absolute control in all financial, social, and political matters, although Gross rarely engages this phenomenon directly. In but two sentences he confronts the situation accurately and succinctly, “The Met’s board [which includes the MMA Director] has considered itself beholden to no one. It has functioned as a private society” (p. 9): in fact, as owners of private property. This attitude existed from the MMA’s incipience, as documented by the prophetic scream of the first Director, Luigi Palma di Cesnola, “The public be damned” (p. 57, which should have been the title/subtitle of Gross’s book). Also avoided in ownership contexts is that Trustee appointments are inherited, passed down from one owner to a family heir (viz. Rockefeller, Engelhard, Houghton, Havemeyer, Sulzberger, Lazard-Frères).
Curatorial positions are also awarded to or inherited by socially prominent individuals, relatives of Trustees, individuals from a prominent family, or to those whom the Administration owes a political debt (for an example of a debt owed by Hoving to one of his NYC bosses, see pp. 314, 335, 341, and Hoving’s Mummies book, p. 343). Gross mentions in passing that Thomas B. Hess was appointed as head of the Modern Art Department in 1978, but not that he surely earned this position because of his sophisticated pro-MMA negative review of John Hess’ The Grand Acquisitors, 1974 (in New York Magazine, August, 1974, pp. 64-65). It was crammed with anti-John Hess lies, misstatements, and undocumented claims. His MMA loyalty was subsequently rewarded.
Socially awarded curatorial positions are assumed a birthright. I give but two examples. One involves a Havemeyer (but not cited by Gross in his discussions of that family), who is also a niece by marriage of an MMA Trustee, now Emeritus, and is also a Trustee of Princeton University. And (here I report the obvious) she was among those considered to replace de Montebello as Director of the MMA (but the Trustees decided to appoint someone they could fully control). Another involves a descendant from an “old” American family. With routine ease she broke all Department rules, came to the office at various hours of the day, often did not appear in the office at all, made her own rules, ignored the head curator and all the other lower-class staff, treated all the Department secretaries (working-class women who needed jobs to eat and pay their rent) de haute en bas as her own servants (all left their jobs in despair). All curators were required to sign in daily to indicate when they had come to work, and the head of the Department verified the record weekly. This particular curator signed in daily, although in fact she had spent little or no time in her office. These actions were reported to Theodore Rousseau, Hoving’s right-hand man, who ignored them. However, the head of the Department eventually fired her: which action was vetoed by Hoving (who had mutual friends with her in Mayor Lindsay’s office). Eventually this curator became head of the Department, and continuously treated the staff as aristocratically as she always had, even dismissing three well-qualified curators.
Recounting the above sign-in scenario is appropriate on its own terms, but equally regarding another similar occurrence, this one with a different finale. It involves a precise parallel, orchestrated by Hoving himself, who committed the same malfeasance, which he haughtily made public, but (need I add?) remains unpunished. In Mummies (p. 187) he playfully presents his script on why he fired a curator along with his lover, a member of his Department. Notwithstanding Hoving’s claims, everyone in the MMA knew the curator was fired because he verified by signature that his lover was present in her office on a number of days when she was not (the two were abroad together). A member of the curator’s Department reported this to vice-Director Joseph Noble, who informed Hoving. They investigated (by checking the pair’s hotel in London), and fired them. Years later in Mummies, Hoving records his frisson following the firings, on the very same page where he discusses a number of his own sexual encounters (see also p. 118). He recounts lying about the personal nature of his “unnecessary” trips abroad, all on MMA time and expense, and casually claiming that they involved MMA official business. This was the same crime for which he had fired X and his companion: “It was, considering what I had done to poor [X], naked hypocrisy but it was glorious fun” (ibid.). It is glorious fun when a Director, beholden to no one, lies and destroys people he commands, knowing there will be no retribution for his “naked hypocrisy.” Gross reports none of Tom’s behavior.
In one paragraph and one sentence (pp. 9, 433) Gross informs us that the MMA exists on state-owned land, and lists the grants for maintenance, security, and capital expenditures “paid for by New York City…taxpayer dollars.” But he completely avoids discussing the classic conflict-of-interest power ensuing from this situation, albeit it has been before the public for years: and hidden from them. For decades the Mayor of NYC, the Speaker of the City Council of NYC, the Comptroller of NYC (who monitors all NYC money), the Parks Commissioner (the landlord of the MMA), have held ex-officio Trustee Board membership since the early 20th century. Consistently, wearing one hat they steal money from the NYC treasury and, switching hats, give it to their MMA Trustee colleagues, who then spend it on whatever they desire (viz. pp. 91, 425-26, 432-33; Mummies p. 53). Gross chose to ignore this noteworthy issue. For but one of many published examples see the Metropolitan Museum of Art Annual Report 1998-199, p. 5, where it is stated “We are happy to note the participation of government in our [fund raising] campaign,” and records NYC government gifts of $30,600,000. Are the taxpayers also happy?
Gross nonchalantly informs his readers that these NYC officials are non-voting, ex-officio Trustees, a throwaway that betrays the reality that the non-vote situation is utterly irrelevant. Ex-officio Trustees are in fact superior to the Director. They or their appointed representatives attend every Trustee meeting and share in all decisions including the on-going purchase of plundered and stolen artifacts and the suppression of their origin, as well as opposing their return to their legal owners. All MMA Trustees also participated in firing a curator who opposed such purchases (noted in two sentences in a footnote on p. 360). Mayor Michael Bloomberg had previously served as an MMA Trustee, and his current ex-officio rank has no bearing on the power of this multi- billionaire to speak his opinions, de facto to vote, and to steal money from the citizens of NYC. Furthermore, Mayor Bloomberg has, to date, also donated $25,000,000 of his own money (with tax deductions) to his MMA voting colleagues, this in addition to major donations from his Bloomberg News business. When Hoving left the MMA to become Parks Commissioner in 1965, he merely switched hats by becoming both a Trustee of the MMA and the Director “Rorimer’s boss” (p. 289). When Hoving was a member of the MMA Board of Trustees (in his “non-voting” role) his fellow Trustees selected him to become Director. Yet again, this issue is completely ignored by Gross, thereby considerably compromising his book as a comprehensive report on the MMA.
Gross also shuns another cultural and sociological matter of concern to all MMA staff and all citizens. It is a noteworthy omission, for it involves the totalitarian ideology and methods employed by Hoving and de Montebello to control MMA employees within their feudal fascist estate (le museé c’est moi!). One would think this issue would be of some importance to citizens who pay much of the money for MMA activities—including Directors’ salaries (many times that of the President of the United States) and the lavish bonuses awarded them (see p. 11 for Administration salaries: which do list not the millions of dollars awarded to de Montebello over the years). Perhaps Gross thought that only an Orwell could do justice to a publicly supported institution tyrannically governed, a Rogue’s Farm. I mention here some examples, each a model of issues in effect unabated for decades. Since they occur under orders of silence and threats of penalties, many remain unknown to most MMA employees and fellows, outside scholars, and surely not the public.
The staff learns quickly that absolutely no academic or professional freedom exists in the MMA: a control ideology established with ruthless force by Hoving and continued, aristocratically enforced, by de Montebello: the staff be damned! To wit: they are forbidden to speak to reporters or give interviews without prior permission by “we”(for examples see pp. 18-20). See de Montebello’s de haute en bas letter to the London Times (December 26, 2003) publicly condemning me, an employee of his museum for making “unofficial [italics mine] comments” to a reporter, i.e. without his approval and censorship; see also Hess’ Introduction in The Grand Acquisitors. Staff cannot even meet privately with government officials: a meeting I was having with a Homeland Security agent was interrupted by both Sharon Cott, the Museum’s Counsel, and the head of Security, who informed the agent that he could not meet with me, only with a MMA officer (a curator from my Department had secretly informed Cott of the meeting). All articles and books written by curators and other staff employees dealing with MMA works of art, or even general academic publications, must be submitted to the authors’ superiors for vetting and approval. Intramural mail may be intercepted and read by Department heads, who also can order their staff not to meet nor communicate with another MMA employee. Internal and outside lectures by staff may be monitored, and audience members at MMA staff lectures may be questioned about content, or whether X mentioned such-and-such an object or event.
Under Hoving, external and internal political views of staff members were recorded and kept in their personal files (my alleged political views—based on the fact that I refused to sign a petition sent around the MMA by Hoving--were shouted at me by the MMA Counsel Hawkins in a confrontation). Rousseau kept a secret file in his office containing information on dissident curators (his secretary informed me). Secret museum kangaroo court trials are held to condemn someone for crimes never committed or even thought of, and the accused convicted even though not present; and individuals (I know of two) have been forced to resign in fear after being presented with charges of misdemeanors never committed. Staff members disappear, and when missed, one hears in a whisper that they have been fired. Hoving and the Trustees (including the Mayor of NYC, and Sulzberger) abolished tenure shortly after a tenured curator (me) won in court his dismissal case against the MMA (p. 360). Staff cannot disagree with any Administration decision: two examples are mentioned and reported (incompletely) by Gross (pp. 338 and 360). During Hoving’s reign, curators were summoned to his office where he demanded to know why they had publicly expressed an opinion that was contrary to his. I was present at a meeting where Hoving stated that if anyone on his staff disagreed with the MMA having a modern art department, they had to leave the MMA immediately. Reporters of Sulzberger’s New York Times have never revealed even a hint of these activities, which some of them knew about. I have spoken to three who told me they were not interested.
A few examples of Sulzberger’s conflict of interest as both MMA Trustee and owner of The New York Times are noted (pp.161, 350, 351), but though of major political importance Gross provides no analysis or comment. In one egregious example he tells us unblinkingly that de Montebello had regained “the approval of the press,” his evidence being a mendacious article in the New York Times instructing the public as to how wonderful the MMA Director was. Another is his plain account that the Curator of the Greek and Roman Department, Dietrich von Bothmer, bragged to the New York Times reporter Nicholas Gage that Gage’s planned Times article on the plundered Euphronios vase “will never run” (p. 361). That von Bothmer knew whereof he spoke is demonstrated on p. 362, where, without any analysis, Gross says that the newspaper “killed the story.” He neglects to mention that Sulzberger was one of vase’s (actually a krater) purchasers. Gross is awed by von Bothmer, even his undying trait, that “he accepted the authority of no one” (p. 323), never mentioning that this trait ineluctably derived from his immense wealth and aristocratic German von-background (and concomitant behavior). And von Bothmer is not an archaeologist, as stated on p. 250, and as he himself has stated (S. Mazur in SCOOP Internet, July 7, 2006, p. 5). For a succinct one-paragraph summary of the power of this man in the MMA and his role in the destruction of the cultures of this planet’s history, see Vernon Silver, The Lost Chalice, 2009, p. 214. Gross merely informs us that von Bothmer has a “love of ancient Greek vases” (p. 255). And he does not inform us that Sulzberger was one of the Trustees who fired me for opposing von Bothmer’s purchase of the Euphronios krater (p. 160, and footnote).
Out of context, Gross mentions one other occasion where a publication, here a book, was killed by the MMA (p. 2). However, he refrains from mentioning articles other than Gage’s that were killed by the New York Times MMA Trustee Sulzberger. Carter B. Horseley (“Chinagate,” The City Review, 1997) reports that his article on a fraud committed by Sulzberger, Hoving, Dillon and the Department of Asian Art regarding the purchase of forgeries of Chinese paintings was suppressed; another article he did not write, but which used his byline, was substituted. Karl Meyer (“Behind the Damask Curtain,” MORE, July 1974, p. 11) succinctly discussed several examples of Sulzberger’s conflict-of-interest role in stopping anti-MMA articles. Meyer also reported another MMA suppression (p. 13), concerning the writer Robert Hughes whose critical article regarding Hoving written for Time magazine was sabotaged by a phone call from Dillon to the magazine’s editor. Just as with the later Horseley scenario, the editor rewrote Hughes’s article; he demanded that his name as the author be removed.
Objective proof that Sulzberger is recognized within the New York Times itself to have been in conflict of interest at the MMA is manifested by his son Arthur, the present Publisher, who refused to serve as Trustee of the MMA (a position that was his right by inheritance!) and of several academic institutions, as Ken Auletta reported, “in order to avoid any appearance of conflict with his duties as publisher” (“Opening Up The Times,” The New Yorker, June 28, 1993, p. 4 on the Internet). This “appearance” never bothered his father.
There are more examples of Gross’s omissions or incomplete reporting regarding MMA deeds. One involves Jessie McNab Dennis, a curator in Western European Arts, and one of the few curators who stood up to Hoving—a cardinal sin that condemned her. At a public meeting in 1970 she applauded a speaker who disagreed with Hoving’s views on an issue; she was spotted by him in the audience: “I’ve been watching you,” he said (p. 338). Gross does not inform us what happened next, that Hoving notified Jessie she was fired, and that a New York Assistant Attorney General (not a “lawyer” as on p. 338), Dominic Tuminaro, got this decision reversed. On the next page, Gross refers to John Walsh as a “sympathetic” curator, because he walked in the rain on a protest picket line to protest staff firings. So did I and a few other unmentioned, unimportant staff members. A colleague told me we were watched and sneered at by Hoving, looking out his office window. However, Walsh was by no means sympathetic to curators’ problems. He was not anti-Hoving--he supported him (which helped Walsh’s later career). Just after I learned about Jessie I met Walsh and said “Jessie has been fired.” He quickly responded “Oh no, you are wrong, she wasn’t fired, her contract wasn’t renewed” (she had been employed at the Museum for 15 years). Walsh later became a Professor at Columbia University and went on to become Director of the Getty Museum in 1983—a trajectory anchored to his pro-Hoving background.
By bestowing a few incomplete and incorrect sentences about a quite important, but abortive, occurrence in the MMA’s history (p. 338-39), Gross does an injustice to a unique event, one affecting the museum’s staff for decades. This was an attempt for the first—and only—time by curators to organize themselves into either a Faculty Senate or a professional organized Union. He has either not researched the event, or thought it unimportant. I had written to C. Douglas Dillon on April 13, 1970 about the tyranny of Hoving, administration problems, the lack of academic freedom, and the mistreatment of women curators, who were paid less then men. He responded by mail that he would not discuss the issues with me, but only with the head of my Department—who subsequently told me that Dillon was not pleased with the letter. (Two years later a lawyer for the MMA, Ray Klahn, told me bluntly that it was wrong of me to have written the letter). In December 1970, I began then with a few other curators to form a plenary session of curators to be called the Staff Association, later the Curatorial Forum, following the pattern of Faculty Senates in Universities. Grace Glueck, a reporter for the New York Times, came several times to our meetings and took notes. We thought she was functioning as a reporter writing about our efforts, but she deceived us, for she never published anything of what we were attempting to accomplish (Sulzberger wouldn’t like it). Jessie McNab Dennis thought a Staff Union was a better solution to the problems, and worked at organizing another group, which I amicably opposed. But the Union idea soon succumbed—to Ashton Hawkins’ threatening anti-union harangues to the staff: if you join, beware. We thought our group’s work was kept secret, but soon learned from a frightened co-organizer that Hoving knew all about our activities from an informer. At the first meeting of the incipient Curatorial Forum in early 1971, von Bothmer, without informing us, led in all the heads of Department who sat together as self-proclaimed members. This was not the intent of the organizers, inasmuch as Department heads were, in labor terminology, our bosses. In the vote for Chairman, the anti-Forum noble leader, von Bothmer, was elected, the Department heads voting unanimously. From that day to the present, the Forum has functioned solely as the Director’s Forum, where he attends many meetings, to communicate his “suggestions.” Curators soon learned that they must attend all meetings, even though they have no refuge there (all curators are listed as Members, even if they never attend: viz. me). Further, there has never been any concern by the Forum about academic freedom or reinstating tenure; there are standing committees for everything but these major issues. The Forum is a company union, as de Montebello himself neatly, arrogantly and accurately said. In an interview in the New Criterion (September 2000, p. 13) he quoted Hoving that “Curators get in my way, ” thus “The curatorial forum here was created [my italics] as a reaction to this occasional disdain…”
I give but two examples of the Forum’s compliance with the Director in sabotaging academic freedom. On May 30, 1995 I received a hostile call from the curator Keith Christiansen, a member of the Forum’s so-called Professional Committee. He summoned me to a hearing that very afternoon to explain why I had spoken to a reporter of Newsday about the MMA. I “did not follow guidelines”—of the Administration and concomitantly of its Forum. I declined; he hung up. In 2003 a curator, Carrie Rebora Barratt, Chair of the Professional Committee, made a motion to the Forum to create a committee to investigate me for informing the Village Voice that the MMA bought stolen, plundered artifacts—the Euphronios krater and the Lydian Hoard: both, nota bene, eventually rightfully returned to their owners, Italy and Turkey. Her reason was that it constituted “disloyalty to the Museum”—and therefore of concern to the Forum. The motion was passed, but at the next meeting the committee was dissolved: because they stated, “the Administration has done nothing about it.” (I suspect that soon Barratt will be offered an Administration position). The June 30th, 2006 issue of Met matters, the in-house official MMA newsletter (that follows all guidelines), officially proclaimed that the “Met Professional Group [Forum] is a Model for Other Museums….[and] the Met is the only museum in North America that has had such an organization….” Regarding the latter remark, let us hope so.
Other dealings, mostly covert, are known to a handful of people. Gross mentions but one, fairly accurately. This involves Hoving’s secret meetings and correspondence in 1976 regarding the creation of a major art/communications institution, presiding over the MMA (not quite “within the museum”), to be financed by Walter H. Annenberg, and to be directed by Hoving (pp. 368-372; both were Board members of IBM). Gross notes that some Trustees determined that the plan “presented a conflict of interest,” which indeed it did (p. 370). Private sources revealed to some staff members at the time that C. Douglas Dilllon had uncovered another serious issue (I was told it involved the discovery of an alteration of the date on a crucial letter Hoving wrote to Annenberg, which he could not suppress). For Hoving’s alleged memory of these events see his Mummies (pp. 420-28).
Another MMA clandestine act not mentioned by Gross (although the evidence exists in a public document) involves money laundering. In July of 1975, Commissioner A. A. Berle was investigating a Nursing Home scandal, where money given by NYC to these institutions was mis-spent or stolen. This was initially exposed in detailed investigative reporting by Times reporter John Hess--who is inaccurately and foolishly labeled by Gross as “a hotheaded reporter.” Hess’s careful investigation and reporting is described as “railing” (pp. 350, 356, a term Gross never applies to Hoving or de Montebello). Anyone familiar with Hess’s work would not employ these adjectives: their antonyms reflect reality. Gross did not know Hess, I did. He was an honest man and a first rate honest reporter, who wrote the first-ever Rogues’ book, The Grand Acquisitors (listed in Gross’s bibliography but never referred to). For an accurate review of Hess’s book see Bevis Hillier in the New York Times, April 7, 1974, p. 5 (a unique example of that newspaper’s reporting on MMA corruption). Hess gave the plunder and theft of the Euphronios krater good coverage—more than Gross does, who merely mentions without comment that after Dillon attacked Hess in 1973, “The reporter was transferred” (355-56) to the Food Section. He chose not to inform us that it was Rogue Sulzberger, Rogue Dillon’s comrade and fellow Trustee, who transferred Hess to the Food Section.
A witness at Berle’s investigation hearing reported that in 1973 a private conference was organized by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller on the MMA premises. This was a Republican Governors’ Conference, which included rich citizens. It was determined by Governor Rockefeller that contribution checks from those invited to this private conference should be addressed to the MMA, and thereby claimed as a tax deduction. However Rockefeller’s Counsel eventually decided that this procedure was illegal, and it was cancelled. There is no evidence available that suggests that Hoving knew of this plan to use the MMA as a money-laundering locus, but, indeed, some individuals within the Administration had to have known of the laundering scheme in order to cash the checks and divert the money to Rockefeller’s campaign coffers. Governor Rockefeller was long associated with the MMA, as were members of his family, and he had served there as a Trustee. And ipso facto he assumed it was his right to operate a fund-raising scheme at his MMA. Further, Dillon and Hoving’s personal friend John Lindsay was Mayor of NYC, and thus a member (yes, ex officio) of the MMA Board of Trustees (and thereby Hoving’s boss). And it was well known that Hoving wanted to be appointed to a Federal cabinet position (p. 367). Rockefeller had been trying for years to become President of the United States (1960, 1964, and 1968). A legitimate question arises: was this Conference but another attempt to get cooperation from Hoving to help Rockefeller become President, or Vice-President of the United States (for a snippet on this see Mummies p. 82)? One year later he became Vice-President.
Gross recirculates issues involving individuals and events from previous publications without checking them, because he is enthralled by wealth, which leads to errors and misinformation. One example has been of long-time interest to me as an archaeologist concerned with forgeries of ancient artifacts. It involves Gross’s repeated falsehoods about the academic and archaeological career of one Iris Love (pp. 256-58), identified as “the archaeologist” (p. 444), a label her socialite friends and companions, now joined by a dazzled Gross, bestow upon her. He inflates her reputation and transmogrifies her into an academic hero--because she is a Guggenheim, to whom attention must be paid. The reporting is limited and erroneous, for Gross obviously interviewed only Love, and never contacted other archaeologists for confirmation. He refrains from mentioning that for decades this “archaeologist” has been a collector of antiquities purchased from dealers and auction houses, and she apparently sold some to the MMA. Such activities are the very antithesis of an archaeologist’s behavior. Indeed, her collection activities were gushingly revealed in an article by Love herself, “How to Find a Treasure,” her euphemism for artifacts plundered from now-destroyed sites (Parade Magazine February 8, 1987, pp. 10-13). Herein she gives advice on how and where to buy antiquities, joyfully proclaiming, “I [the archaeologist] excavated [how clever] in the antique shops of Cairo and Luxor.” Her “Buy whatever strikes you when you see it” indicates her unlimited cash and limitless ignorance.
Love did excavate at the site of Knidos in Turkey: but not mentioned by Gross is that the Turkish government cancelled her permit because she turned the site into a private guest resort for her rich socialite friends. Furthermore, this Guggenheim paid for all travel, living and excavation expenses from her personal funds. She has no degree in archaeology beyond a B.A, with a thesis on the MMA’s three “Etruscan” Warriors (1955). Gross legitimately discusses these statues, but reiterates Love’s self-generated boasts, without checking their accuracy: Love, in “her childhood,” suspected that the Warriors “were modern fakes” (p. 256). He also repeats her assertion that it was she who, for the first time ever revealed that all were modern forgeries (in her 1961 article in the IFA journal Marsyas). In reality, a number of scholars had over some years identified them as forgeries--some are even cited by Love herself in her article’s footnotes. But not mentioned in the article is that in her 1955 thesis she condemned but two of the three Warriors, accepting one as genuine—although by 1961 she knew of the MMA’s published report on the chemical analyses that revealed that all were forgeries. What Love did indeed accomplish was, not to be the first one to condemn the Warriors, but to have presented a detailed stylistic analysis of the three figures, articulating the problems. Gross also has her involved in helping the Turks recover the so-called Lydian Hoard (p. 444)—for which there is no evidence (aside from statements by “the archaeologist” herself): but note that the one person at the MMA who did help the Turkish Government recover the Hoard is not mentioned by Gross.
Gross chose to discuss an incident regarding an MMA curator in the Department of European Paintings, Keith Christiansen (pp. 441-42), but gives a censored account. He was aware of the full events, but was denied information from the IFA Director at the time, James McCredie, and from IFA staff who answered his enquiries obliquely (all evidence that they were covering up something). In 1978 Christiansen was accused by an IFA Ph.D. student, Monica Strauss, of plagiary, publishing as his own discovery her original attribution of two paintings to the artist Fra Carnevale, discussed in her dissertation. Her mentor, the MMA Curator and IFA Professor John Pope-Hennessy, invited her to discuss her attributions, inviting Christiansen, his “protégé,” who was a curator on his staff as well as an Adjunct Professor at the IFA. Gross says that both Pope-Hennessey and Christiansen “seemed to reject her theories.” However, soon thereafter Christiansen published Strauss’s attributions (those he “seemed” to reject) as his very own; no mention of Strauss was cited (Apollo, March 1979, pp.198-201). Gross does not cite this publication, but mentions that in a MMA catalogue on Fra Carnavale in 2005, Christiansen’s essay on Carnevale (again) did not cite her. Nota bene, these actions violate the Forum’s own code of ethics on Intellectual Property: “…staff members should footnote or otherwise acknowledge in an appropriate manner any written work that was consulted or adapted for a new publication, regardless of the source, published or unpublished.” Considering what Gross has communicated and the amplification s presented, will the curatorial forum summon Christiansen for an investigation of his breach of their code?
The “devastated” student “complained” to the IFA, “but to no avail.” This statement camouflages significant academic dishonesty and cowardice. Here is what I was told by an IFA professor. The IFA (apparently its Director) in fact created a faculty committee to investigate the charge. They convicted Christiansen of plagiarism, but swore to keep the verdict secret (on orders from James McCredie?). The committee merely, and quietly, penalized him by temporarily suspending him from their faculty; he was reinstated in 1991. A telling omission is that in Christiansen’s academic vita he does not list his 1977-1978 IFA employment; he begins with his reinstatement in 1991. These unparalleled decisions were made to protect from scandal the IFA, its powerful professor Pope-Hennessy and his MMA students, and also the MMA, its partner. In most academic institutions a professor convicted of plagiarism would be fired. The IFA staff became partners with the MMA Rouges. (If my source and I are wrong, the IFA can make public its 1978 committee records). There is more to this story. A reporter having learned of the conviction and cover-up contacted the student. He wrote about her experiences in an article. But the student panicked, telling him that if the matter became public she would be ruined professionally by the MMA, and asked the reporter not to publish. He, an honest and decent person, reluctantly followed her request.
Other transactions, that Gross chose to discuss incompletely, or to cover-up, concern Hoving’s secret manipulations involving the purchase and sale of MMA art. In one case he merely states “the Met had breached bequest conditions” concerning the sale of 34 paintings “left to the museum by the eccentric collector Adelaide Milton de Groot….” (p. 353; how does Gross know she was eccentric?). De Groot’s will, with its clearly stated conditions not to sell the paintings, was completely ignored. Hoving pronounced the will to be precatory, a lie not challenged by the MMA’s legal staff or Trustees—a modern reenactment of Jonathan Swift’s Tale of a Tub. The deception was accepted by the Attorney General of New York, as gleefully reported by Hoving (Mummies, p. 306), where he also cunningly brags that there was an “impression” that he had lied. Furthermore, Gross considers anyone who fails to give his art to the MMA to have committed a “betrayal of the Met.” (p. 346); compare Hoving’s “He knifed us….” (p. 418).
Another “precatory” will broken by Hoving and the Trustees occurred with the elimination of the strict rules governing the Lehman Wing, established and fully funded by the Trustee Robert Lehman. Relating the issue of NYC approval for taking over Central Park land, Gross informs us sans comment that four of the nine Commissioners who had to approve Lehman’s plan were MMA Trustees: and yes, the plan was eventually approved (pp. 335, 342). Subsequently, Hoving succeeded in perverting Lehman’s bequest. He recreated the Wing into another MMA gallery, exhibited loaned paintings and sent out loans: all forbidden by the provisions of Lehman’s bequest. And he fired the original Lehman Collection Director, George Szabo, placed there by Lehman, because Szabo opposed Hoving’s betrayal of the teems of the bequest.
In passing, Gross mentions the secret sale in 1972 of many paintings by Hoving and Rousseau to the Marlborough Gallery in NYC (pp. 349, 353-54)—at half their value. He mentions that one of the Gallery owners was Pierre Levai, whose wife Rosie was Rousseau’s assistant, and with whom he was having “an interoffice affair” (p. 354). Rosie told Gross (who does not dispute it), that neither she nor her husband knew of the sale until later. Gross tells us that an “insider” mentioned that Hoving and Rousseau were “on the take.” Gross does not pursue the implications of the sexual connection, the manifest internal conflict of interest, the question of why Hoving and Rousseau sold paintings at half their value, or why the MMA Trustees did nothing to interfere: namely that some devious internal financial plan was in effect. A major art dealer told me that he was puzzled by the Marlborough sale and sensed that something was wrong because he had offered Rousseau much more money than had Pierre Levai. He was turned down. Gross asks: “Was Ted taking kickbacks, as some thought?” (p.354; and Hoving? For political reasons?).
The Marlborough issue evokes another similar plot, but here reversed, for it involves an MMA purchase. Years ago I was invited as an observer to a private gathering consisting of two curators, two dealers, and two collectors of Asian art, brought together by an investigator to discuss a recent major purchase of Asian art by the MMA from the dealer Harry Packard. The investigator had information about the purchase and the price paid by the MMA. Scores of photographs of the art were shown to the group, one at a time. All were asked to give opinions on the works’ current value, not knowing in advance the actual prices paid. In every case all agreed that the prices paid were three to four times their actual value. We were also told that Hoving sent a check of $1,000,000 to a bank in the South Pacific, a check that was untraceable. John Hess (My Times: A Memoir of Dissent, Seven Stories Press, 2003, p.142) reported this transaction, and also Carter B. Horseley (“Chinagate,” The City Review, 1997, p. 2). But not Gross.
Gross’s discussion of the MMA’s purchase of the so-called Lydian Hoard is perfunctory: he describes it as “one great purchase”: for Turkey? He avoids confronting both a classic example of Hoving’s deception, and how Trustee Sulzberger’s New York Times cooperated for decades in the deceit, surely something worthy of notice in his book (pp. 348, 356, 360, 443-45; I believe that Hoving is Gross’s main source, although others also gave him information). He mentions Melik Kaylan (pp. 444-45), but not his important article on the plunder in Connoisseur (“Who Stole the Lydian Hoard?”, July 1987, pp. 66-73; see also Suzan Mazur’s “Collectors or Looters?” in The Economist, October 17, 1987). The “Hoard” is a corpus of artifacts plundered from now-destroyed tombs from Lydia, in western Turkey. They were purchased in three installments in 1966, 1967, and 1968 with tax-deductible funds provided by von Bothmer and several MMA Trustees. It was internally baptized the “East Greek Treasure,” as “a joke between Hoving and Rousseau” to cover up what they knew was the source, Turkey from Uşak—transliterated Ushak, not Usak (p. 356). Gross briefly mentions the intrigues, outright lies, and the subsequent return of the material to Turkey in 1993, but conveys an unfortunate error, and omits crucial data that reveal much more dishonesty. He flatters “A triumphant [John] Canaday,” a reporter for the New York Times, announcing that it was he who had “revealed the Met’s purchase of the Lydian Treasures” (p. 360). This is utterly wrong, for Canaday, in fact, did just the opposite; he had a different agenda.
On February 24, 1973, I received a hostile phone call from Canaday. He demanded to know why I had tipped off Fern Maria Eckman, a reporter of the New York Post, that a new exhibition at the MMA entitled “Masterpieces of 50 Centuries” included plundered artifacts, some Greek and some that derived from Lydia. He told me her article would appear the following Monday (how did he know; and how did he get my name and the information?). I was stunned and told him I did not speak to or even know Eckman. Then I informed Canaday in detail about the exhibited material, that most certainly they were not all Greek or East Greek, as Hoving, Sulzberger, and von Bothmer deceitfully claimed in order to cover up their plunder-sponsored crime. As a Near Eastern archaeologist I explained the cultural differences among the objects on exhibit, distinguishing the Greek, East Greek, Lydian, and Achaemenian artifacts on view. He abruptly ended the conversation, and the following Monday, February 26, 1973 (p. 24) Canaday, an employee of Sulzberger’s New York Times, published his alleged review of the exhibition. His article ignored everything I had told him about the attributions, referring to the material as “219 pieces of Greek gold and silver of about the same date as the Euphronios [krater] or earlier.” Lydia was not mentioned, nor that all the objects he mentioned had been plundered from now-destroyed sites. Canaday had lied, and therefore avoided transfer to the Food Section by Sulzberger. But inadvertently Canaday had brought into juxtaposition two plunderings sponsored by the MMA and coupled them together: both involving objects eventually returned to the countries whence they derived. The MMA Trustee Shelby White also was forced to return some of her plundered goodies (p. 446-47). Note that the deceit of Canaday and the New York Times was repeated precisely in a 1984 Times review by John Russell (August 17, 1984, C1, C22) of the MMA exhibition of the same Greek, Lydian and Achaemenian artifacts, entitled A Greek and Roman Treasury.
On February 26, Eckman published her report on the exhibition, accurately reporting that some scholars believed they had been “plundered from a Lydian burial and smuggled out of Turkey ” (New York Post, pp. 2, 19). On May 10, in the same newspaper she also reported that the Turkish Government identified the locus whence the hoard derived, Uşak. No, it was not Canaday of the New York Times who “revealed the Met’s purchase of the Lydian Treasures.” It was Fern Eckman: who was thereby done a professional disservice by Gross. He mentions (p. 445) that it was Sulzberger who signed the treaty with Turkey, more than 25 years after the objects were purchased, returning to Turkey its property (p. 445). But he chooses not to inform us that it was Sulzberger’s father who had purchased the Hoard, and that his newspaper suppressed (“killed”) everything about the plunder and the MMA’s role, thereby doing his job “to keep the Times in line”(p. 320). Even after the return of the objects, the Times published merely the formal MMA news release, which failed to mention the enormous legal fees ($40 million) that the MMA (read United States citizens) had paid (p. 445). All the above are examples both of Sulzberger’s New York Times motto, “All the News We See Fit to Print,” and, equally, of Gross’s continuous omission of crucial Rogue MMA Trustee actions.
Sulzberger’s New York Times reporters Canaday and Russell are not alone in their suppression of MMA purchases of plundered artifacts. Not a single review of the many special exhibitions of these artifacts—Greek and Roman, Near East, Asian—written over many years by that newspapers reporters has ever has mentioned how the objects got to the museum: viz. Glueck, Reif, Cotter, Kimmelman, Dobrzynski, et al. On this matter see the important, and rare, article by Roger Atwood “A critical look at U.S. media coverage of antiquities issues,” (Internet, Saving Antiquities for Everyone, October 22, 2007).
Rogues’ Gallery is good on its own self-censored, social and class-oriented terms. A good number of readers along with me expected much more, indeed more than pot shots at the governing and social activities of the MMA Rogues and their dearest and closest supporters. Instead, we have been given the proverbial tip of the iceberg. What has been omitted and covered up demonstrates that much of the book functions as a Hoving--de Montebello--Sulzberger quasi Potemkin Villlage report, “we” protests notwithstanding.
Personal disclosure: I have worked in the MMA for 45 years and experienced many events and accumulated much data, some of which is discussed above. I also have to disclose that this review is unauthorized by the “we” at the MMA. I therefore expect that H. Holzer will order via the Forum that staff should not read it, and should react, as he did when Peter Watson called him from London (in 2000) asking questions about my book The Lie Became Great: Muscarella “acted irresponsibly….there is a fine line between academic freedom and irresponsible behavior,” a line only “we” are permitted to draw—or to erase.
The Lion Tamer on the Eastern Shore of Lake Van, Turkey