Tuesday, November 01, 2005

ny vs. la: art scandals

LA doesn't need to keep suffering from its second-city syndrome anymore, at least not in terms of the art scandal. NY is giving us a run for the money, but in mind there's no comparison. let's look at the two major art scandals in ny and LA right now.

the museums and endowments
new york: guggenheim, endowment was approximately $45.4 million as of Dec. 31, 2004
los angeles: getty, about $5.5 billion
winner: not even close. getty wins by a cool $5 billion or so.

the allegations
new york: thomas krens, the director of the guggenheim, dipped into the museum's endowment to pay for operating expenses. he pissed off art critics with exhibitions about motorcycles. and de riguer for any museum scandal, some questionable accounting practices.
los angeles: this is where we really pull ahead of new york. sure, we have questionable financial practices, allegations of improper loans for a vacation home in greece, extravagant spending by board president barry munitz, and even a california attorney general investigation. and art.blogging.la is right - the latimes is doing a bang up job of covering the mess, as is MAN. but all that stuff is about as exciting as deciphering this chart. no, where the getty wins is in international intrigue. much sexier than financial malfeasance, since it involves italians, are allegations the getty was knowingly trafficking in stolen antiquities. the goods were illegally dug up, smuggled out of the country and sold by shady dealers. marion true, the director of antiquities, faces trial in italy next month. if krens intends to beat that, he may want to read up on this profile of marion true, in order to provide a more perplexing public image.
winner: greek vacation homes, italian court case, stolen Etruscan bronze candelabras. hello, this case was practically made for the movies! if only there was an art world version of "behind the music." getty wins again.

fallout: resignations
new york: krens resigned as director of the museum, but continues to serve as director of the guggenheim foundation.
los angeles: let's count. 1. director deborah gribbon last year. 2. deborah gribbon's interim replacement, william griswold. 3. getty's public relations officer. 4. barry munitz's chief of staff. 5. and finally, antiquities curator marion true.
winner: the guggenheim's resignation doesn't even count. he's only half-resigned. the getty's utter chaos and multiple resignations gives it the edge here.

fallout: legal ramifications
new york: huh?
los angeles: attorney general investigation and italian trial. for the art world's relatively insular community, this is their enron. its still an unfolding drama.
winner: getty takes it again.

so there you have it. new york has a long way to go before it matches LA for excessive art world greed, profligate spending, and suspicious financial transactions. a couple of donated motorcycles don't measure up to rare european antiquities, island vacation homes and a director jetting around cuba to arrange chess matches. even our scandals have a made-for-hollywood quality to them.


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