Thursday, February 22, 2007

The MOMA Mess 

January 19, 2007
Glenn D. Lowry
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan

Dear Glenn,

I'm writing to you in response to Stephanie Strom's indiscreet, front-page article in the New York Times, in which she discloses details on personal financial arrangements between you and the New York Fine Arts Support Trust ("Donors Sweetened Director's Pay at MoMA, Prompting Questions", 2/16/2007). How dare Ms. Strom stick her nose into things that are really none of her business! What does she know about the deprivation and hardships we museum directors must constantly face, and the many compromises we must make on a daily basis just to keep going? Your courageous move from Toronto to New York City in 1995, for example: shouldn't this by itself attest to your selfless commitment to help out a cultural institution in dire need of your expertise?

God knows it is expensive to live here, and the meager salary the Museum of Modern Art is allotting you (barely $600 grand in 2005) is, by all accounts, wanting. If anything, the Trust's $5.35 million given to you between 1999 and 2003 is not much more than a token of appreciation exchanged among friends. Neither the press nor the IRS has any business meddling with these gentlemen's agreements.

But even more appalling than the New York Times story is the way you are now being besieged by other journalists eager to jump on the case. Can't they leave you alone so you can continue doing your great work for MoMA ­­- like cutting real estate deals with developer Hines and setting the stage for MoMA's next expansion? No! Lee Rosenbaum from the Wall Street Journal (a/k/a CultureGrrl) had to instantly contact you for a comment and, when you courteously pointed out to her (via BlackBerry) that you were on business in Mexico City and had not had a chance to pick up a paper, she had the nerve to urge you to look it up online, interfering with your very busy schedule. Who does she think she is?

It"s a tragedy that people who only have the best intentions and give up profitable jobs in the corporate world to bring their talents to venerable cultural institutions are publicly scolded for accepting fringe benefits such as rent-free living, having an apartment bought for them by a beneficiary trust (and reselling it to the same trust a few years later at a profit of $1.3 million), and for receiving financial supplements to their salary, along with bonuses and benefits amounting to an annual $690,000.

To show you my support in the face of all this unnecessary and petty adversity, I'm sending you a custom-made plaque engraved with these words: Museum Directors Must Wash Hands. I had it made specifically for you (I have the same plaque posted in my museum's Curatorial Department/bathroom). I hope you can use it to demonstrate to your detractors that your work ethics are beyond reproach.

Warm greetings,

Filip Noterdaeme
Director, HoMu

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