- Micheal Gross writes that the infamous city planner Robert Moses may have helped to make New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art more democratic:
The museum’s president, investment banker George Blumenthal, was dictatorial. He occupied a commanding oak armchair at the head of the board table, with the senior trustees (average age 75) closest to him, and younger members like Nelson Rockefeller at the far end. Blumenthal would inform the trustees what he wanted done, expected them to approve, and was rarely disappointed. Discussion was kept to a minimum. It was among those younger board members that Moses found allies, notably Marshall Field, Vanderbilt Webb, and Rockefeller.
Moses began “studying the relationship” and concluded that “the city’s supervision [of museums]… should be tightened rather than loosened.”Realizing that the various local museum boards simply rubber- stamped decisions made by their executive committees, he demanded and won the right to send a representative to the executive meetings at the American Museum of Natural History and, after “a hell of a row,” elbowed his way into the inner council of the Met, too.
Moses soon discovered that he had a real edge over the trustees: due to the Depression, attendance and membership were down; the Met was desperately short of funds (its 1939 deﬁcit would be $75,000) as the city had cut its subsidies and put off repairs and maintenance. Moses seized the opportunity to trade his power to ﬁx things for inﬂuence over the museum’s affairs.
One thing that made the trustees squirm was Moses’ insistence that the museum needed to be more democratic, more entertaining, more popular, more representative of the community, and more responsive to its needs. And he made it clear that the trustees would need to court the general public—not just their own society—if they expected continued ﬁnancial support from the city’s purse. And this wisdom could have been the deciding factor behind the stellar, if belated, choice the trustees ﬁnally made for the museum’s next director.
- Charles Hope takes a stab at the question of whether Leonardo da Vinci painted the now infamous “Salvator Mundi”:
The Louvre is the only possible venue for an exhibition that was always going to be the major event of the fifth centenary of Leonardo’s death. The museum holds five of his paintings: no other institution can claim more than one. With loans of three other finished paintings, plus one unfinished picture and the National Gallery cartoon, as well as works closely related to him or possibly in small part by him, the exhibition provides an unmatched opportunity to appreciate his achievement as a painter. But inevitably the bulk of the show consists of his drawings, including many of the most famous, lent by collections all over the world. And for those paintings that have not been sent, and for some of those that are included, full-size infrared reflectograms have been used, which provide much information about the way he worked. There is also an outstanding selection of the surviving notebooks, or in some cases pages from them. But his scientific and mechanical investigations, which do not lend themselves well to an exhibition, are not unduly emphasised. The focus is on Leonardo the artist, and in particular on his mastery of drawing where his ideas seem to have been given visual form with effortless fluency beyond the reach of any of his predecessors.
The most striking absence is the Salvator Mundi, bought in 2005 for $1175, when it was described as a copy, and sold in 2017 for $450 million as a Leonardo. Its present location is not known for certain, but it is said to belong to Mohammed bin Salman. The process, probably without parallel in the history of art, by which a painting first recorded for certain around 1900 in the collection of Sir Francis Cook, when it was not regarded as of any particular merit, acquired its astonishing price tag in only 12 years is told in absorbing detail by Ben Lewis.
- Nick Martin points out that considering the history of Native Americans, the United States doesn’t really care about historical or sacred sites:
Chaco Canyon. The Black Hills. Bears Ears. Gaylor Ranch. Standing Rock. Mauna Kea. Oak Flat. America, through its founding to its present, has stretched its borders and lined its pockets by desecrating Native American sacred and cultural sites and the land they sat on. A failure to reckon with this history would be a failure to properly contextualize the president’s current threats and America’s founding ethos of capitalist imperialism.
- Crystal Wilkinson was kind enough to share a list of Black artists and writers in Appalachia on Twitter, so here is the thread for your convenience:
Blacks in Appalachia: A quick thread. Several ppl have asked me for lists and syllabi but here’s a thread of Black writers and artists in Appalachia. Feel free to add anyone I’ve missed.
— Crystal Wilkinson? (@CrystalWilki) January 7, 2020
- The Morning Consult asked people in the US to identify Iran on a map and only 23% could:
- Maura Judkis knows a story when she sees it, so while Cats was being critically panned, she realized that some moviegoers didn’t care. Why? They were high. Here are some of their reviews:
“Cried both times. Planning on going two more times.”
“Vomited four times but ultimately understood the film on a deep level.”
- Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis (Pueblo of Isleta, Laguna) is the first Native American justice on the Washington State Supreme Court and believed to be only the second Native American as a justice in any US state Supreme Court. This is how she was welcomed into the position. Btw, it’s worth noting she is also of Jewish ancestry:
- Oh, about that Iran strike and the evangelicals praying for war? Sarah Posner, writing for the New Republic has this curious detail:
“Pompeo and Pence reportedly were the top officials pushing Trump to kill Soleimani. They’re also devout evangelicals and major allies of Christians United for Israel, a group founded and led by Rev Hagee.
In his 2006 book, Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee imagined an elaborate scenario in which a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran would trigger an “inferno [that] will explode across the Middle East, plunging the world toward Armageddon.”
- One New York real estate figure was considered a star of her field but after she died, the truth about her background came out:
As Ms. Tursi unspooled her story, I learned the following: Ms. Consolo had obscured the identities of both of her parents. For example, Ms. Consolo’s father was named Frank, not John. And he did not die when she was a toddler but lived to the age of 94. Her mother was not a renowned child psychiatrist.
Ms. Consolo had said that she was born in the wealthy enclave of Shaker Heights, Ohio, but she was really born in downtown Cleveland. She also claimed that she moved to the tony suburb of Westport, Conn., as a young girl, but she really grew up on a dead-end street in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
Ms. Consolo’s longtime friends and colleagues never knew the truth, including Joseph Aquino, Ms. Consolo’s business partner for 26 years. “I remember once we were together in Westport, and I was all excited for her to show me the house where she grew up,” Mr. Aquino said. “But she got really vague and seemed sad, so I just dropped it, figuring she didn’t want to talk about it.”
- This from the fires in Australia. The number of dead animals is shocking:
— ABCcameramatt (@ABCcameramatt) January 5, 2020
Federal prosecutors: video of Jeffrey Epstein’s jail cell ‘no longer exists’ pic.twitter.com/4h7UFSKq1a
— Xeni Jardin (@xeni) January 9, 2020
- Isn’t this adorable?
Maybe the greatest airport reunion ever pic.twitter.com/0PIfiwNrzm
— Giles Paley-Phillips (@eliistender10) January 8, 2020
Required Reading is published every Saturday, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.