Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

Service of the Art of People Thinking They Can Get Away with Things

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

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I feel wonder when I read about a long-time super scammer and all the people bamboozled and harmed. And then there are those who think that they can whitewash dirty deeds with good ones. They’ve all been at work for centuries. How is it that each thinks they’ll be the ones to get away with their dastardly deeds?

Artful Theft
The incidence that triggered half this post involved a Canadian dealer who collected art on consignment or to appraise and instead of returning pictures or giving the original owner the sales proceeds he kept the money or a thousand works to the tune of tens of $millions, according to Jo Lawson-Tancred on artnet.com.

Police haven’t identified the thief, though he has been arrested and released. Lawson-Tancred postulates his name and his gallery based on other news sources.


Image by Kai Pilger from Pixabay

What a Pill
The Sackler family, whose marketing methods to promote painkiller Oxycontin for Purdue Pharma helped addict millions while making bucket loads of money, had for decades burnished the family name by supporting cultural institutions and initiatives here and abroad. Artist Nan Goldin, who once suffered from opioid addiction, founded an advocacy organization, Sackler P.A.I.N., to pressure museums to cut ties with them. As a result a few more have just erased the Sackler name from walls and websites according to Sarah Cascone, also with artnet.com.

She reported that although it took a while, The Guggenheim in NYC has finally removed Sackler from its Center for Arts Education and in London, the National Gallery made a similar move. About its Room 34 she wrote: “The name had been in place since 1993, when Mortimer and Theresa Sackler funded the renovation of the room, rehanging works by British masters in a space once dedicated to 18th-century Italian paintings, according to the London Times.”

Cascone further reported: “The latest draft of the bankruptcy settlement will allow institutions in the U.S. to remove the family name without penalty.” Yet there are a few dragging their feet. The Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics and Sackler Educational Laboratory remain in place at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A in London, “has been outspoken in his continued support of the family,” and its name remains on the Sackler Courtyard.

Artist Goldin told Cascone: “We hope that billionaires who shower institutions with their blood money watch the Sacklers’ cultural reckoning and take note that they can be next.”

Is the art world more vulnerable to scams than other industries? Have you heard about any skillful scammers of major proportions of late? Do you agree that the Sackler name and reminders of the family’s generosity from money made off opioid addiction should be removed from the museums it has supported?

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Service of Above and Beyond

Thursday, March 10th, 2022



Image by marekr from Pixabay

Though service sometimes seems to have its dry spells, lately I’ve experienced a riches of the best, even if I had to nudge one instance along.

Old Fashioned Service

As you could tell from my last post I’m not thrilled with the lifting of pandemic mandates with so many unanswered questions and inconsistencies. For example, if the pandemic is over and face coverings useless why are they required anywhere? Which businesses and organizations plan to continue to check vaccine status?

To find out I left a message at the Metropolitan Museum of Art members department last week to learn if the organization was still asking for proof of vaccines. I never expected to hear from anyone. I’ve left messages on voicemail at other places before, such as on my councilman Keith Powers’ [followed, in his case, by an e-mail], and never heard back. Hence the surprise when a cheerful woman called Tuesday to tell me the vaccine restriction at the Met is gone. Oh well.

White Glove Service 1

I just came from Staples looking to replace the mouse for my laptop. I know, I know–I should use the touchpad like 99.9% of the world but I don’t. The young man I lucked into tested the mouse I brought–extremely polite asking if it was OK before heading to the back. He thought it was fine yet I still wanted to buy a backup and I said that it would be worth $20 to me. “Oh, you don’t have to pay that much!” he said handing me one for $13.99. He wished me good luck, hoping there wasn’t something wrong with the laptop portal [me too] and we had a brief discussion about the beauty of old gadgets that work perfectly well. He was in his 20s, hip enough with his long hair, and yet an old soul in this regard who gets five gold stars for service.

White Glove Service 2

Where I live, once a year handymen check the 510 apartments to change AC filters, confirm that smoke detectors work and so forth. All tenants know is that the inspections will take place between certain hours over a matter of weeks. That didn’t suit me. I wanted to know the day they’d come to my apartment, at the least.

I make use of every surface including the AC/heating element covers where plants sit so I planned to move them–but when? The staff slide open the covers to switch out the filters. And for countless other reasons, with advance notice, I could be sure to be home.

So I found out who was on the inspection team and tracked one of them down, asking him for a heads up the day before they’d land on my floor. I handed him a note with my phone and apartment numbers. They warned me and more, giving me a choice of times and they arrived on the dot! I was prepared, they were in and out in short order and everyone–especially me–was happy.

Have you enjoyed service that was above and beyond lately?

Service of Contrasts: In Your Face Excess & Merriment vs. Poverty & Tragedy

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021


2021 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Photo: Bob Gula

Striking contrasts seem even more vivid this Christmas season.

If you watch commercial TV you’ll notice the shattering contrasts of some commercial lineups and you might wonder who determines their order in a typical 4 minute run. One station plays gut wrenching videos of emaciated, starving young Africans to generate donations to Save the Children immediately followed by extreme jollity as a family rips open presents or welcomes a child to the grownup table that is groaning with food. These are sponsored by Walmart. Obviously the company doesn’t control placement.


Image by Kai Pilger from Pixabay

Nothing new: There have always been unfortunate pairings in print of advertising and editorial subjects placed together on a page or across from one another. My friends in advertising had to frequently deal with the fallout: Their clients’ ruffled feathers.

I wonder if some who position ads are paying attention.

The hyperallergic.com headline of Valentina Di Liscia’s article illustrates a similar point:  “While 11% of Staff Was Laid Off, Guggenheim Director Made Record $1.5 Million.” She wrote “The museum says its director, Richard Armstrong, took a 25% pay cut during the pandemic — but the reduction didn’t apply to ‘compensation earned in prior years.'”

As you walk around a city like New York you see homeless huddled in doorways or holding pleas for help spelled out on cardboard. In contrast holiday lights and decorations in office and apartment lobbies, store windows and in front of landmarks dress the city, brighten chilly short days and punctuate early nights. Nevertheless they seem jarring while so many suffer. Big money is spent on some of these seasonal pick-me-ups. Could we dim the lights just a bit and help the hungry and unfortunate at the same time? The 50-foot high tree outside of Fox took 21 hours to install and had 10,000 glass ornaments and 100,000 lights. News reports estimated the damage–a mentally ill homeless person set it on fire–at $500,000.

What strident contrasts have you noticed?


Child promoted to grownup’s table in WalMart commercial. Photo: ispot.tv

Service of Volunteers II

Thursday, October 28th, 2021

What is it about museums? The last time I wrote about volunteers was in 2012 and oddly, it also involved a museum’s shabby treatment of its volunteers. Then the Brooklyn Museum suddenly disbanded its 64 year old Community Committee formed to raise the museum’s profile, start a docent program, give presentations in low-income schools with items from the collection, and plan events. The committee was kicked to the curb.

This time it’s the Art Institute of Chicago that dismissed its 82 docents ending the program in a letter. The goal of the new program, wrote Robin Pogrebin in her New York Times article, is to “forge closer ties with the racially and economically diverse city it serves.”

She reported “The docents — longtime, dedicated volunteers who know the Institute and its collections intimately — lamented the decision.” The Chicago Tribune “denounced the move in an editorial headlined ‘Shame on the Art Institute for summarily canning its volunteer docents.’”


Image by Hermann Traub from Pixabay  

The editorial “described the dismissal of the docents as ‘a callous move in a cruel time in America’ and called on Mr. Rondeau to ‘apologize and find some kind of compromise that does not involve the spectacle of long-serving devotees of a great museum left to feel like they’ve been put out with the gift-store trash.’” James Rondeau is the museum director.

According to Pogrebin “The new plan calls for hiring paid educators — Ms. Stein invited the volunteers to apply for those positions — and then developing a new program over the next few years.” Veronica Stein is “the executive director of learning and public engagement for the museum’s Woman’s Board, which supports education activities.”

Pogrebin reported: “The docents at institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston are all volunteers. ‘For many years we have worked concertedly to attract a diverse corps of docents,’ said Gary Tinterow, the Houston museum’s director, ‘and we look forward to continued diversification of staff and volunteers.’”

I come from a long line of volunteers–Two grandmothers, mother and father, uncles and aunts rolled up many a sleeve for decades–and my sister continues to do so. I’ve done my share and can speak only for myself: It seems so easy to disrespect and discount volunteers and cut off their contributions in a trice like unwanted suckers on a tree trunk–so why not do it? Are volunteers treated with disrespect because they are not salaried? Is it because many are retired and therefore old and not in sync with what an organization wants its image to be? Are museums alone or is this behavior typical of all organizations that use volunteers?



Image by StockSnap from Pixabay  

Service of Misinformation

Monday, October 25th, 2021


Rubin Museum: Mahachakra Vajrapani, China 15th century early Ming dynasty silk and gold embroidery , coral and seed pearls

The child’s party game “Telephone” is a simple way to show kids how easily misinformation spreads. You remember: the first child whispers to the second and the last child makes everyone laugh because what she/he hears is far from the original.

Following are grownup examples.

I visited the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan. It was my first time so I asked if we should start on the sixth floor and walk down. The only employee on the ground floor [not counting a guard] said “No. Visit from the first floor up.” 

We saw “Gateway to Himalayan Art” on floor two; “The Mandala Lab” on three; “Masterworks: A Journey Through Himalayan Art” on five [four was closed] and “Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightnment” at the top.

Having finished our tour a woman overheard us asking one another “Why was it important to follow the exhibitions up the stairs?” She asked if she could help us. We posed our question and she said, “We have reconfirgured the collection; the floors used to be interrelated. Not anymore.” Clearly this news wasn’t given to all staff. Not life and death, but incorrect and an example of how easily and innocently adults pass along the wrong information.

I thought of the “ahhas!” by some Covid-19 vaccine doubters when Colin Powell died of Covid complications. He’d been fully vaccinated. A cousin texted: “To use Powell’s death as proof that the vaccines don’t work is so much garbage!” Her husband, she wrote, “died of multiple myeloma and so did Colin Powell. They have zero immune system because the purpose of the chemo is to suppress the cancer from activating. It was explained on the news but people don’t want to listen. My husband fell in the bathroom and got some nicks and bruises and a strep infection and that was the start of his decline—nothing to fight a bacterial infection.”


Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay 

Reid J Epstein covered a spectacular misinformation campaign in Montana in his New York Times article “Where Facts Were No Match for Fear–Civic boosters in central Montana hoped for some federal money to promote tourism. A disinformation campaign got in the way.”

The perpetrator, Rae Grulkowski, made up every fact: that “the [heritage area] designation [in Montana] would forbid landowners to build sheds, drill wells or use fertilizers and pesticides. It would alter water rights, give tourists access to private property, create a new taxation district and prohibit new septic systems and burials on private land.” Not a single allegation is true.

Epstein wrote: “‘Misinformation is the new playbook,’ Bob Kelly, the mayor of Great Falls, said. ‘You don’t like something? Create alternative facts and figures as a way to undermine reality.'”

It worked for Grulkowski: Montana governor Greg Gianforte “signed the bill barring any national heritage area in Montana after it passed on a near-party-line vote. A heritage area, the bill’s text asserted, would ‘interfere with state and private property rights.'”

Epstein also reported that Grulkowski “ticked through the falsehoods she had read online and accepted as truths in the past year: The Covid vaccine is more dangerous than the coronavirus. Global child-trafficking rings control the political system. Black Lives Matter was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The United Nations is plotting to control world population and seize private land. Mr. Trump was the rightful winner of last year’s election. Even in Cascade County, where Mr. Trump won 59 percent of the vote, Ms. Grulkowski argued that 3,000 illegal votes were cast.”

The harm done by deliberate distortions about serious matters isn’t like the child’s game. Repercussions can harm. Have you believed misinformation, later learning the truth, and changed your opinion?  Are we more gullible these days, more sensitive to false facts or are there more of them now?


Image by John Iglar from Pixabay 

Service of Ambiance to Enhance a Mood, a Meal–Even Health

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021



Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Two recent articles reminded me how important ambiance is.

Visit a Museum and Call Me in the Morning

Artnet.com‘s Caroline Goldstein wrote “In Brussels, Doctors Are Literally Prescribing People Trips to Museums to Help Them Cope With Pandemic-Related Stress.” She reported “The scheme is part of a three-month trial carried out by doctors at Brugmann hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Brussels, to treat in-patient residents as well as other individuals suffering from stress. Those who are deemed eligible for the program will have the opportunity to visit five public art institutions across the city free of charge. The institutions include some quirkier offerings, like the Sewer Museum and Mennekin-Pis’s Wardrobe—which holds more than 1,000 costumes—as well as the Contemporary Art Center.” Results of the study will be shared next year.

The Brussels program is modeled after one at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts conducted three years ago. Wrote Goldstein: “The Quebec-based program offered patients and caregivers or family members free admission to the MMFA as an extension of the museum’s Art and Health Committee, which it founded in 2017 to study the effects of art on patients suffering from a range of conditions including eating disorders, mental illness, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Homer at the Metropolitan Museum NYC

Anecdotally, a visit to a museum always cheered my husband when he was quite ill.

Ambiance and Food in Equal Parts

Pete Wells in his New York Times review of Vallata, “Searching for Italy at Tom Colicchio’s New Restaurant,” loved the food but he had a lot of trouble with the ambiance and design. He described the restaurant’s decor as “an awkward pastiche of bland, vaguely corporate design and odd decorative hand-me-downs that have served time in other Colicchio restaurants.”

Referring to a cliché I’ve often used, “I thought I was in Italy or France,” after eating in certain restaurants, Wells wrote: “You don’t believe for a second that you’ve left New York, but you do start to think the restaurant itself could use a vacation.”

Colicchio’s heart doesn’t seem to be in it by Wells’ observations. The Vallata sign on the door is hard to find he wrote and the cooks “look like contestants on a game show set in the breakfast-buffet area of an upscale chain hotel” because of where they are stationed in the room in sight of customers. He described the music is “as if Mr. Colicchio had brought in a mix tape he found inside an old Walkman in his basement.” The “playlist,”reported Wells, “shambles from Paul Simon to Billy Joel to Echo and the Bunnymen to David Bowie.”

Back in 2015 I wrote about a restaurant ‘s decor that “sported hints of Asian décor mixed with cheap eclectic and leftover bistro. In short, it had no personality.” There were many other reasons than decor for which we couldn’t wait to leave the place, even though the overpriced food tasted good. The post’s title was “Service of Atmosphere: What Your Instincts Tell You When Entering a Restaurant.”

Do you visit museums or other places because they cheer you when you feel down and/or ill? If the food is good do you care about a restaurant’s ambiance?



Image by Divily from Pixabay

Service of Fingers Crossed: When to Believe Thieves

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

Photo: smithsonianmag.com

When you comply to a ransom demand you’re not in the driver’s seat. You must hope that the thieves are honorable. If you watch “Law and Order” or its offshoots,  you’re familiar with the concept even if you’ve not yourself been plagued by such a horrifying theft.

The cyberthieves Sarah Cascone wrote about on artnet.com hadn’t absconded with a relative. Her article was: “Hackers Have Stolen Private Information From Donor Lists to 200 Institutions, Including the Smithsonian and the UK’s National Trust.” The subhead was: “The Parrish Art Museum and the Corning Museum of Glass were also hit by ransomware.” In addition to museums, data from hospitals, 16 US universities and 33 UK charities was lifted.

Photo: parrishart.org

According to Cascone, the attack on Blackbaud–“a third-party cloud software company”–happened in May. Blackbaud told its clients a month later. They said that “the compromised data was limited to demographic information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and donation summaries, and did not include credit card information, bank account information, or social security numbers.” We hope.

Cascone reported that the Corning Museum said it doesn’t “keep credit cards, bank accounts, or social security numbers in the system hosted by Blackbaud.” One wonders where do they keep it and is it safe?

Photo: credibly.com

Blackbaud said it paid the cybercriminals and confirmed that they had destroyed what they’d stolen, according to Cascone. They paid in Bitcoin. “’What I find unsettling about Blackbaud’s situation is that they just took the hackers at their word that the stolen data was destroyed. In my experience, hackers almost always leave behind hard-to-find malware so that they can still access the system,’ said Wood.” Tyler Cohen Wood is a cyber-security consultant and the former cyber deputy chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Cascone continued: “She advises that museums employing third-party providers familiarize themselves with the company’s procedures for handling ransomware attacks and to have secure data backups, even if that means paying extra.”

If you were notified by an organization that such a breach had occurred, would you get a new credit card or bank account number even if you were told the cybercriminals had no access to–or had destroyed–that information? Have you ever asked an organization to which you donate money how they protect your financial and personal information? Is cash the only secure way to donate?

Photo: passwordboss.com

Service of When What Calms You is Out of Reach

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

Open for contemplation.

Congregants at synagogues, mosques, temples and churches, passionate sports fans and shoppers, movie and concert goers, bar hoppers, exercisers, museum and restaurant enthusiasts and travelers are up a creek these days. There are no religious services or sports competitions, and favorite roosts  that calm, uplift, cheer and/or distract are closed: movie houses, gyms, museums, concert halls, stores, bars and restaurants.

Photo: redskinswire.com

Even hugs are out.

I was looking at a favorite cooking show on TV yesterday but can’t find the ingredients so is there any point?

What do you substitute and how do you maintain your equilibrium when your favorite distractions and sources of solace are on hiatus? What do you look forward to? What’s an anxious person to do?

 

AKC Museum of the Dog NYC

 

Service of Who’s the Boss II? Social Security, A Bank & A Museum

Monday, July 1st, 2019

Photo: db4beginners.com

The answer to “who’s the boss?” often muttered as a rhetorical question, isn’t always negative, though in two of the three following examples it is. Sometimes a decision-maker deserves praise and other times, he/she doesn’t seem to be watching the ball. In either case, you really may want to know.

I’ll start with a happy surprise.

Feeling Secure

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

I’ve recently needed to make countless calls to ask for documents and information. I lucked into Mr. Gopaul who picked up the phone at the West 48th Street NYC Social Security office. He didn’t pass me on to someone else as seems to happen increasingly these days, but quickly answered my questions, some relating to recent correspondence. I asked for his name so I could write a letter to recognize his exemplary service. His voice, at first impatient so as to get on to the next call, softened and he ended our conversation saying, “bless you.”

Who’s the boss? I took to Google.  My letter to the regional Social Security director went out that day.

One + Zero=Five

Photo: credit.com

In the private sector, I had a different experience. A bank handling my husband’s pension—Bank A–needed to take back a direct deposit payment I wasn’t entitled to.  My retail bank—Bank B–said it happens all the time and would handle the request from Bank A.

But Bank A didn’t take that one simple step. Instead, it sent me three documents, each one with different information and dollar amounts about upcoming payments. Two customer service people couldn’t figure it out any more than I could. To pay itself back Bank A has instead given itself five steps–that many more times to mess up—instead of one. I’m neither a banker nor a numbers person but this doesn’t compute. Who’s the boss?

Water, Water Everywhere….

I received a sell piece from a major museum for a five day trip to the Berkshires accompanied by the institution’s curator of American paintings and sculpture. I know this area well and have been to most if not all of its museums—there aren’t many–but was tempted by an excursion not too far from NYC with a knowledgeable curator. The fee got my attention–$5,999 per person double rate or almost $12,000 for two—but the charge is not why I ask “who’s the boss?” The “Rate Includes” section on the sell piece was the reason. You get “bottled water and coffee/tea with all meals.” For $12,000, I wouldn’t call this out any more than I would put on a dress’s price tag “$175 includes thread and zipper.” The program director should have deleted this and created some toothsome or valuable perks for the sell piece. [I also noted that not included are “meals not specified.” Let’s hope participants get all meals.]

Do you sometimes wonder who’s in charge and if the person is focusing on the work? Do you take time to find out who’s the boss to credit people who have done a superlative job as well as to gripe about those who don’t?

Photo: twitter.com

Service of Sights, Some Better than Others

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Alistair Steinberg at Museum of Illusions

I’ve always enjoyed historic house tours. How good they are depends partly on the docent but the experience is rewarding regardless for the peek at how people lived in the day, the art they collected or the décor, gardens and architecture they chose.

The other morning, on WOR 710 AM, Len Berman and co-host Michael Riedel mentioned a tour of Madison Square Garden that they thought was a waste of time and money. What’s the point, they said, of visiting an empty arena and seeing a virtual Billy Joel concert for $30+ a ticket? The Expedia description notes, in part: “This exciting 75 minute guided tour celebrates over 130 years of Garden history and gives exclusive access inside this legendary venue.”

Austen and Alistair Steinberg @ Museum of Illusions

Nancie Steinberg recently posted great photos on Facebook taken at the Museum of Illusions in NYC. They made me want to visit. Be sure to bring someone with you to take best advantage of the photo ops–her sons are in photos above and at right and her husband also enjoyed the illusions.

Laura Feasey recently covered some curious museums in “Mood Upswing,” in The Wall Street Journal. Like the Museum of Illusions, they also offer countless opportunities to take fun photos and post them on social media. In fact, that was the approach of her article–they were super Instagram-able. She reported that the cost of each is around $35.

If you’re in LA, you might want to wait in line at the Broad Museum to see Yayoi Kusama’s installation that “features LED lights reflected endlessly in a mirror-lined room.”

In NYC at the Color Factory you’ll see “a dive-in pit filled with 500,000 pastel blue balls. Other top draws: the conveyor belt of pick-your-own macarons and, less delectably, a collection of fake vomit.” Feasley chose to add The Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco for its photogenic pool of sprinkles and giant gummy bear.

Color Factory. Photo: designboom.com

You have only a month to visit The Museum of Pizza at the William Vale hotel in Brooklyn, NY. with its “ ‘cheese cave,’ made of silicone, a ‘pizza beach,’ and a space for ‘pizza meditation.’” The exhibit closes November 18. Opening in LA in December is 29Rooms, a frequent pop-up sight that in the past included “a human snow globe and walk-in womb meant to simulate the in-utero experience.” It arrives in L.A. in December.

Launching museums designed to inspire selfie opportunities where visitors promote it on social media is 2018 marketing-smart. But don’t all the signature sights around the world from the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building serve the same purpose? Except for the inspiration what’s the difference? Have you visited some memorable sights—terrific or disappointing? Can any collection of things become a legitimate museum? Have you noticed that traditional museums increasingly offer unorthodox exhibitions that resemble those in Feasey’s aticle?

Museum of Ice Cream

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