If You Can’t Test, Don’t Invest
In Dec. 2014, I wrote a column titled "Confessions of a Museum Nut" describing my experiences having New York's Whitney Museum of American Art as a client.
The relationship ended badly.
The client came up with the idea this bastion of Pop/Op Art—and 21,000 other assorted works—would be a ducky place for young parents to bring their kids.
I wrote and designed a gushy, upbeat piece about how children will develop a love of great American art that will enrich their lives forever. Come visit the Whitney with your children free. If you all love it, here's a spectacular membership offer with all kinds of goodies that will delight every member of the family.
The day the mailing went out, the Whitney opened an outrageous in-your-face exhibition with huge fanfare—the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe. As Andy Grundberg wrote in The New York Times a decade later:
"Like scores of photographers before him—Lewis Hine, Brassai, Weegee—Mr. Mapplethorpe chose to depict a subculture seldom photographed before, or at least seldom seen in the contexts of fine-art photography. In his case, the subculture is a sado-masochistic, male homosexual one. While his compulsive, unabashed and carefully staged chronicle of this particularly strident variety of homoeroticism may not be everyone's cup of tea, it has proven irresistibly fascinating to much of the art world."
All I could think of was families wandering into this exhibit. Suddenly parents and grandparents would be hit with a barrage of embarrassing questions by wide-eyed moppets, forcing everybody to suddenly deal with sexuality beyond everybody's comprehension.
I felt totally betrayed by my client.
I told her to take her museum and shove it.
The Whitney's New Building and New Location
For 40-plus years, the Whitney collection has been ensconced on Manhattan's Gold Coast of museums—East 75th Street on Madison Avenue.
Its home was a "Brutalist concrete building" with all the charm of a maximum security correctional facility designed by Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer.
Related story: Creating “Comfort Copy”