November 21, 2019

ART FOR ART’S SAKE (WHAT A CONCEPT!): Finding Hope at the Concert Hall. Heather Mac Donald on an increasing rare experience: a beautiful performance of classical music without a note of identity politics. Meanwhile, as she writes, the left continues its long march through  institutions.

A few markers of our present moment: every arts institution in the United States is under pressure to discard meritocratic standards in collections, programming, and personnel, in favor of race and gender preferences. When the Museum of Modern Art opened its renovated headquarters in New York City this October, a Wall Street Journal art critic noted that the new MoMA had been able to “correct, and even make reparations for, its heretofore almost exclusive parade of white male superstars.” Gender and race bean-counting is now the key to evaluating a collection’s worth. “Previously, only about 1/20th of the art in the museum’s permanent collection was by women,” wrote the Journal’s Peter Plagens. “That fraction now exceeds a quarter and is moving toward a third.”

. . . Writing in the New York Times, Darren Walker urged museums to “resist reinforcing biases, hierarchies and inequalities”; instead, they should “redefine excellence and relevance.” That redefinition entails hiring curators and other staff based on race. The goal is “installations and institutions” that represent “people whom the system excludes and exploits.” The museum establishment hardly needed Walker’s prodding; it has already enthusiastically embraced “diversity” as its artistic lodestar. In 2020, the Baltimore Museum of Art, for example, will acquire works only by females and will stage only “female-centric” exhibits.

. . . Narcissistic opera directors have been inflicting their political ideology on defenseless operas for several decades now, but the revisionism is only going to get worse, especially with the rise of #MeToo. From here on, it will be almost impossible to mount Don GiovanniRusalkaTurandotMadama ButterflyCarmen, and much of the rest of the opera repertoire without similar directorial “help” to purge these works of their toxic masculinity, cultural appropriation, and incorrect attitudes toward the “Other.”

The good news for now: Attendance is not compulsory at MoMA, the Baltimore Museum of Art, or any opera that has been “helped.”




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