Glenn Lowry FTW

The top guy at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, than which there is no whicher in the museum world, has come out for managing museums’  multi-billion-dollar art collections as productive assets.  He wants more engagement, in more places, than their current practice of having almost all the art (i) in storage (ii) in the museum the works were first given to.

…one should de-accession rigorously in order to either acquire more important works of art or build endowments to support programming [emphasis added]….It doesn’t benefit anyone when there are millions of works of art that are languishing in storage….we would be far better off, in my opinion, allowing others to have those works of art that might enjoy them, but even more importantly, converting that [wealth] to…support public programs, exhibitions, publications.

I argued a couple of years ago that art museum managers had nailed their feet to the floor by a code of “ethics” that forbade selling for anything except buying more art, and an inexplicable practice of not telling us what their collections are worth while they beg for donations. Lowry is moving in the right direction and will make real waves among his peers.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

6 thoughts on “Glenn Lowry FTW”

  1. Heh heh, I thought it was probably this blog, but couldn't remember which author, whom I cited in a Facebook discussion last week when the Met decided to start charging out-of-towners $25 admission. Sell some stuff, you weasels, and let kids visit and see our cultural patrimony!

    1. I’ve always paid the suggested amount but I guess too many didn’t. In any case I don’t think they should sell assets to subsidize admission prices. But if they’re going to charge out of towners $25, they should get a 2-day admission pass. Also, I agree that children should not be charged.

  2. I was initially puzzled that this guy would have anything to say about art that was of great moment to anyone on this blog (economics, policy, politics, race… yes: art … huh?) Then I realized that the you were referring to someone who spells his name with a double-yew, not a single-yew. Oops.

  3. Ummmm….sounds good….but who is going to purchase the art that is put up for sale, sorry de-aquisitioned? I bet half the art, bare minimum, will become 1% trophy art, never to be seen by the public

    1. An excellent point. But on the one hand, that $25 or $50 million or more that a Monet in the basement will command can fund admissions or educational programs or maintenance for a year, rather than charging kids to see the main collection. Secondly, the rich buyer may very well bequeath it to his local museum, so that he gets his name on the wall there….especially if his kids are spoiled brats who don't appreciate it. Bill Koch may be a royal d-bag, for example, but he'll probably leave a ton of art to Boston and Palm Beach and Wichita and Pittsburgh.

  4. Ridiculous- Should libraries sell their books to fund operating expenses, forest preserves cut down trees to sell timber to pay the rangers' salaries? And what happens when nothing is left? Museums are repositories the material in them is saved for posterity and for scholarship. This reflects a basic lack of understanding of what museums are for0 they are not just places for entertainment. Selling the art is a quick way out for lazy and unimaginative managers to make a quick buck without doing their proper jobs. Museums might do better cutting the number and pay of their bloated middle management….

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