The recession is taking a toll on the Met: to cut costs, the Fifth Avenue museum is going to start playing host to some smaller art shows — and fewer parties. “The economy has totally changed, and we’re not immune,” says new director Thomas Campbell. It’s not that the institution’s skimping on the smoked salmon, but this fall, it’s going to combine the opening patron-and-member receptions for different exhibitions into a handful of events.
“We’ll be having all the openings all close together,” he says. “It’s a response to the financial crises,” and to the costs of keeping the museum open in the evenings for the lush events. Five shows will open, for example, on September 22, mingling fans of the social-history photographs of Robert Frank with European-porcelain collectors and illuminated-manuscript buffs. In the past, under Philippe de Montebello’s reign as director, openings were more spread out.
And going forward, Campbell warns that “we may not be able to do quite as many of the very big loan shows.” A handful of the exhibitions at the museum this summer and fall focus on one masterpiece (a Vermeer, Milkmaid, will be on loan from the Netherlands), and two shows salute a single painting or sculpture attributed to Michelangelo (“We’re raining Michelangelos,” says Campbell, who just announced the museum’s schedule of about twenty shows through year-end).
Nonetheless, there are still some blockbusters in the works (“we plan three years ahead”), lined up before the recession kicked in. The summer’s “big show,” opening June 23, is Afghanistan gold and ancient treasures from the Kabul Museum, he says.
Cutbacks have been everywhere at the museum, Campbell adds. On top of the previously announced job cuts and closures of some Met-museum gift shops around the country, there have been catering cutbacks: “We no longer serve biscuits to the trustees.”