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BAD NEWS AT THE MET

by Charlie Finch
 
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Metropolitan Museum director Tom "Wet Dream" Campbell (so-called because he just announced in the New York Times that the Met's new show of guitars is "a teenager's wet dream") told the Times' Randy Kennedy that not only is the venerable museum about to become Wi-Fied, but that he is going to trap, fold and mutilate every poor soul who arrives with something called "Visitor Engagement."

May I suggest, for starters, that every visitor to the Met who does not wish to be so "engaged" plunk down a penny as "the suggested donation" until "Wet Dream" goes dry again. This idiotic crusade ignores the basic fact that people do not, or should not, go to a museum for information, primarily, but to look at and experience art. "Visitor Engagement" promises to resemble those "free vacations" to Barbados and Costa Rica, where they try to sell you a condo, but without the complimentary breakfast.

Just as one cannot dodge sales pitches and brochures to get to the beach in peace, now one must experience the whole history of Rembrandt, Aristotle and Homer to the point of exhaustion and thus be deprived of actually seeing Rembrandt's Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer (or whatever they are calling that painting these days).

I grew up two blocks from the Met, and it always terrified me. Why? Because, no matter which direction I trudged through its collections, I have always ended up exhausted, and would have to skip down the ramps of the Guggenheim or hopscotch through the Whitney for relief. Now, "Wet Dream" Campbell wishes to dunk me into a soup of information before, during and after I can see anything.

Perhaps the Met could instead provide soothing Gregorian chants and Tibetan chimes on its acoustic guides and Campbell could change his name to Lipton and provide free hot tea? But that would be too considerate, innovative and sensible, something that the information whores that busybody museum directors have become these days just don't get.


CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).


 



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