Sunday, July 5, 2009

Met Critic Takes Recession Driven Retirement

Culture Grrl reports that long time Met critic Oscar White Muscarella has taken a recession driven voluntary retirement along with 95 other staffers. See:

Muscarella's pointed critiques of his own institution's collecting practices have won him fans in the archaeological community and disdain in the museum community and amongst collectors. If Muscarella had been in private industry, he would have been sacked long ago. However, in the not-for-profit world of the Met, he managed to hang on for 44 years until budget woes forced him and many of his less outspoken colleagues into retirement.

One can only speculate whether Muscarella's brand of "in your face" activism helped harm the Met's bottom line and hence its ability to retain staff. Though the Met is well funded by not-for-profit standards, donations are never easy to come by and one wonders if collectors who no longer can freely donate artifacts to the museum due to its adoption of a 1970 provenance date will still want to donate cash for the upkeep of its collections.

In the meantime, as the Met and many other museums suffer, source countries like Egypt have turned to for-profit venues for "blockbuster" shows that have been criticised as being high on rank commercialism and short on scholarship. See:

Is this another case of the law of unintended consequences at work? See also:

1 comment:

Ed Snible said...

Actually, the Met did sack him (three times!) According to Suzan Mazur's interview he sued the museum to get his job back.

In his book, The Lie Became Great, which is apparently about antiquities forgery, he says "Collecting antiquities is to archaeology as rape is to love."

Although I'm interested in forgery I haven't read the book because of the $200+ price tag. Can anyone tell me if the book's discussion of forgeries is worth reading? (I am willing to look past Muscarella's hatred of my culture if he truly has technical and insider information on antiquities forgery -- coins or metal objects -- to discuss.)