Artnet’s online magazine just published a story about my recent blog post. Well, not exactly… But they did write about the same subject. It seems to be a hot subject these days, and I’ve read and heard many reactions to my blog post.
Should museums reject donor money from “undesirable” individuals or corporations?
Some people were happy to take “tainted” money. Others expressed serious reservations about accepting money from certain people or certain industries. Others drew “red lines” at opioids, or guns, or even certain political parties. If I were to generalize, museum directors were more likely to frown upon certain donations. Board members were more likely to accept all donations.
The Artnet story quotes all sorts of people giving all sorts of excuses as to why gun manufacturer CEO Franco Beretta is an acceptable donor, even though his industry as a whole would be unacceptable. Mr. Beretta comes from a very old family (I guess old money is better then new?). His gifts come from him personally as opposed to him in his capacity as a CEO? Ok…go figure? I guess he didn’t sign any of the S2 million in checks written to the NRA? The butler did it.
I have two new important questions that I would love answered. The first is, why are we only picking on the museums? What about the artists? Can’t they get some of the blame? Kara Walker’s critically acclaimed Sphinx-like mammoth sculpture was made of pure sugar. Anyone who lives in Florida can tell you what sugar is doing to the Everglades (our water supply.) Big sugar is paid to grow sugar via subsidies. We, the tax payer, then pay to clean up the mess that drips off Big Sugar’s fields. The dirty run-off is literally killing what Marjorie Stoneman Douglas referred to as the “River of Grass.” Where was the outcry over supporting the destruction of the Everglades when Kara Walker unnecessarily used so much sugar? Silence… Not a peep out of anyone but me. I am fairly confident that Ms. Walker is not aware of sugar’s relationship with South Florida. But where I live it’s a huge issue.
What about Christo trying to cover the Colorado river with cloth? Where was the outcry from the art community over all the flora and fauna that would invariably be damaged by this artist? Not a peep.
Except from me…
My second question is about people who judge the ethical quality of other’s money. I will give these people the benefit of the doubt by assuming that they do not use plastic. I am confident that they only use public transportation. I am sure that they drink tap water, turn their lights off, don’t flush the toilet when they pee, and are all vegetarians who only eat farm-to-table products. You get where I am going… But what about people who do use plastic and travel in private vehicles? Should museums take their money?
Judging the ethics of others’ money is a slippery slope. For sure though, if one is going to throw a stone, one better not live in a glass house. Oh and while we are at it, if you are going to throw stones, throw the stones at artists AND museums.
George Lindemann is the General Manager of BC Property, a Partner in the Lake Point Restoration Project, and President of The Bass Board of Directors. He writes frequently about issues related to the environment, culture, and community enrichment. To follow his blog click here.