THE big news in the culture world right now is the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and its new, uh arrangement. There are several ways to look at this, but I’m persuaded by a strong piece that calls this the effective end of an institution that was the city’s first art museum (founded 1869.)
This from Philip Kennicott’s WashPost piece:
Everything that was darkly whispered about the Corcoran’s board over the past few years has come to pass: After decades of erratic and often incompetent leadership, they have seen the institution through to its demise. They will hand over the art to the National Gallery, which will take the pick of the lot and then distribute the rest through some program yet to be announced. A small “legacy” gallery featuring beloved works closely associated with the soon-to-be-defunct Corcoran brand will be maintained somewhere in the old building, which will be given to George Washington University. GW will absorb the college and teaching functions. As a legal entity the Corcoran will continue, although this will consist primarily of an advisory board and a name on the wall of the museum building on 17th Street NW.
Crucially important, especially to someone like me concerned with the fate of the creative class, is the hazy status of the Corcoran’s employees. It’s not clear how many will hold onto their jobs under the new ownership, and these folks have put up with a lot in recent years. Kennicott hits something often overlooked here:
One hopes that the National Gallery, which will benefit greatly from the art it will soon own, will be able to offer harbor to the curators and conservators and support staff that depend for their livelihood on the Corcoran’s employment. We are so bitterly benumbed by our economy of wealth and wreckage that it’s all too easy to think of unemployment as a trifling consequence of progress. But this doesn’t feel like progress, and the impact on the lives of many dedicated and intelligent people won’t be trifling. It isn’t easy to find work in the nonprofit world of art and museums, and it will be Washington’s loss if the professional staff of the Corcoran is forced to look elsewhere for survival, or leave the museum world altogether.
ALSO: Finally, some good news for the book world. The author James Patterson is giving small grants totally $1 million to independent bookstores across the country.
“I just want to get people more aware and involved in what’s going on here, which is that, with the advent of e-books, we either have a great opportunity or a great problem,” he told the New York Times. “Our bookstores in America are at risk. Publishing and publishers as we’ve known them are at stake. To some extent the future of American literature is at stake.”
Despite some modest upticks, the economy, chain bookstores and the Internet have not been kind of indie bookstores: This is important news.
FINALLY: I just had something large dropped on me, hoping to get back to add to today’s post a bit later.