A friend writes:
No feelings were hurt in this week’s kid-gloves New Yorker story by Calvin Tomkins on the Museum of Modern Art, which opens its education center next month, two years after its was supposed to be finished as part of the museum’s half-billion dollar corporate-style expansion on 53rd Street.
There was no dissection of MoMA’s much-disputed recent claim (shot down by two economists in The Wall Street Journal) that it accounts for $2 billion of economic activity annually in New York City. In gentlemanly deference, the New Yorker also made no mention of MoMA’s nine-year battle with the U.S. government and a Jewish family over a painting once owned by that family that was looted by the Nazis in 1939 and loaned to MoMA by an Austrian collector. When the family spotted the painting on the wall of MoMA (on loan) in late 1997, MoMA sought to return it to Austria, rather than keep the stolen work in the US for investigation and eventual return. The case is now in federal court.
OK, we have not identified our friend. Guilty as charged. But moving right along:
David D’Arcy, who was ousted by NPR for reporting that Holocaust art-looting story after MoMA complained to NPR execs in early 2005, gives a candid assessment of MoMA’s treatment of the press in a sworn affidavit in his current lawsuit against MoMA for slander.
D’Arcy states that MoMA expunged him from its press list after receiving unfavorable coverage back in 1998, and that it refused to cooperate with the Tate Magazine in Britain once it heard that D’Arcy would be writing the story. (A former Tate editor confirms D’Arcy’s statement.)
In an accompanying affidavit, Morley Safer testifies that he and a crew were shut out of MoMA in 1998, when they tried to cover the Jackson Pollock retrospective for CBS Sunday Morning. At the time, museum’s ambitious, notoriously vindictive director, Glenn Lowry, said he preferred to have another journalist do the story instead of Safer.
In the meantime, MoMA’s ties with NPR are stronger than ever. A paid “underwriting” spot on NPR cites “the new Museum of Modern Art,” and Lowry seems to have no scars from fighting either with aggrieved Jewish families or with the press.
If Tomkins’s tale were online, we’d link it. And if The New Yorker put Seymour Hersh on the MoMA story, the museum’s former board chairman Ronald Lauder really would need cosmetics.