margulies versus the expand-o-mam
Post #323 • July 15, 2004, 6:40 AM • 13 Comments
...we are giving away $50 million in land value on a bayfront public park and funding hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction for MAM an art museum without an art collection, that has failed both in its mission and financial responsibilities. Where is the public or cultural mandate for such folly?
Lobbyists and public relations efforts have equated a MAM building in Bicentennial Park with the Metropolitan Museum in Central Park. Such a comparison is absurd. The Met is surrounded by 830 acres in the heart of Manhattan; it has a world-renowned collection, an endowment, a philanthropic base, and is an international cultural resource. MAM has none of these things. Although four of the 200 top art collectors in the world live in Miami, none of them are on the MAM board. Shouldn't that tell us something about this misguided museum?
MAM's mission, according to its mission statement, is "to exhibit, collect preserve and interpret international art with a focus on the art of the Western Hemisphere from the 1940s to the present." They have done this. I often don't agree with their choices in the process of their doing so, but to say that they have failed their own mission requires evidence that I don't see in Margulies's article. Neither do I see evidence of MAM's failing its fiscal responsibilities.
There are not 830 acres of anything in Miami and pointing out the disparity in area between Bayfront Park and Central Park does not convince me that the city shouldn't go forward with the new facility. If building a new museum requires possession of a Met-level collection, no one will build one ever again. That the museum has no endowment or philanthropic base I am not in a position to evaluate. I question whether MAM could ever become an "international resource" in its present facility.
The rhetorical question at the end of the second paragraph merits extra analysis. Margulies, the Scholls, the Rubells, and the de la Cruzes all indulge in the local vogue of showing - or showing off - their private collections to the public. My own theory is that this is an anamolous manifestation of the one-upmanship endemic to collecting. Whether I'm right or not, it's clear that MAM has nothing to offer these people in terms of exposing their art. They're already doing it themselves. Personally, my pride would get a little more of a zing if I could show my collection in my own facility than if it were sitting in a museum. I think these collectors are working towards creating Frick-like entities for themselves.
There are legitimate reasons that Museum Park should not be built with public money, and Margulies hits the biggest one: the Miami Performing Arts Center is a catastrophe of mismanagement and the same politicians will be in charge of building the Expand-o-MAM. I feel that similar disaster will be averted only if private monies are used to build it.
His other points, namely:
- Our schools are falling apart.
- Thousands of children do not have health insurance.
- Our neighborhood parks are considered the worst in the country.
- Community centers and health clinics are non-existent or severely lacking funds.
- Many public housing units are unlivable.
...presuppose that these problems would be addressed if only all that cash wasn't headed towards the Expand-o-MAM instead. To which I reply, yeah, right. No significant political or private will exists to solve them. To put it another way, these issues have neither an endowment nor a philanthropic base. Furthermore, this line of thinking is the old life-trumps-art fallacy: that art isn't important compared to the "real" problems in the world and we should only deal with the former once the latter are addressed. The fallacy is that the "real" problems never go away, and funding cultural initiatives (or even just continuing to make art) in spite of this is a decent idea.
In light of the MPAC debacle as a potential precedent, I'm not going to get behind the Expand-o-MAM as a public work until it comes with a realistic price tag and a robust set of protections against the waste of money. But besides this, the only things less convincing than the arguments in support of Museum Park are the arguments against it. I can only wonder, in the face of the assertions, how much of the conflict between the two sides on this issue is based on personal ambitions and personal animosities.