Monday, March 02, 2009

Quote for a Snowy March Monday

Speaking on the Brandeis University decision to close the Rose Museum so that it could sell off its "permanent" collection without any pesty ethical questions getting in their way:
The art historian Martha Buskirk noted, with a touch of cynicism, that "this generation of financial speculators, whether officially criminal or not, could almost make one nostalgic for the 19th-century robber barons. They may have been rapacious and violent, but at least they left the American public with some rather nice museums." [emphasis rather redundant, but mine]
[via Paradise Lost (Again) by Robert Moeller]


Word.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

Ed, I get your point, but the statement reflects a rather cavalier attitude and creates an unfortunate class division between those of us who appreciate museums, and working class people whose great grandfathers were, say, steel plant workers when Carnegie & Frick broke their strike (and their bones). I know it's rhetorical, but I'm not comfortable indulging in this particular "nostalgia". I know you're not anti-working class, but if I didn't know that, if I didn't know you at all, this could sound like a sort of "let them eat cake".

3/02/2009 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm not sure how one gets from "They may have been rapacious and violent" to "this could sound like a sort of 'let them eat cake''" Oriane.

The statement is truthful and wonderfully snarky because of the irony...that thugs of the nature of Carnegie and Frick at least left something to atone for their abuses and Brandeis trustess (while not obviously as thug-like) are....come on, it's obvious, no?

Coming from Steelworker stock, I have no love lost for the robber barons...but their museums do indeed help me forgive, which is a healthy goal in any such case, no?

3/02/2009 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

"come on, it's obvious, no?"

It's obvious only because I know you wouldn't mean it any other way.

"I'm not sure how one gets from "They may have been rapacious and violent" to "this could sound like a sort of 'let them eat cake''" Oriane."

The 'let them eat cake' part comes from the second half of that sentence, "at least they left the world with some rather nice museums".

I didn't get anything about atonement from the statement. I got that they did some bad things, and they did some good things and the good things outweigh the bad things in the big picture.

I was just saying that without context (i.e. it's your blog and I know you are assuming the snark and irony in the statement), the statement makes me uncomfortable. It's a minor point.

3/02/2009 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

You wouldn't seriously call a CDO broker a Nazi, in the same way you can't possibly call a shortsighted University a tribe of Visigoths.

But you can call it a house of cards.

I come from mining and oil stock - tent cities and farming. SO when I see a Carnegie library replaced by a newer less foofy, more angular model I don't think what a waste, I see progress, sweet sweet progress.

Let it burn, we have ipods now.

3/02/2009 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

The trustees have no excuse to close the museum because of "low foot traffic," when all they have to do is hang a locomotive from a crane outside the entrance.

3/02/2009 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Brandeis being forced to sell its collection is a tragety. But the other options facing it, perhaps shutting its doors, or suffering a setback in its primary mission - education - is far worse.

But ... I will agree that the form of philanthropy undertaken these days (such as the Gates Foundation) is much less flashy and showy - and perhaps more directed at simpler social outcomes than a museum or other big project.

I do say that as a culture we have become much more commercially oriented, and indeed selfish. I noticed a change from the 1970's to today that is unmistakably more self centered. Perhaps one falling out of the current mess is a reset back towards community?

3/02/2009 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Agreed. At least the Robber Barons actually built American productive capacity. We haven't invested in public works in ages. Not only was MOMA founded in 1929, weeks after the Crash, but the Empire State Building was built during the depression. It was understood that we actually need to make things to improve our material circumstances in the long term.

The more recent model has been 'private opulence, public squalor', to quote Ken Galbraith. We've been running huge trade deficits since the 80's, and thought our highly liquid Reaganite economy, which has done so much to commodify art, could expand ad nauseaum with developing countries footing the bill. We were wrong, if it wasn't obvious at the time. But wasn't the complacency oh so comforting?

3/06/2009 12:03:00 PM  

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