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December 1, 2004

Quigley Returns

Though Crooked Timber's blogroll has long had him marked as possibly "moribund," via new-to-me Forward Retreat I see that Timothy Quigley has emerged from whatever academic burrow he's been hiding out in over at the New School just long enough to weigh in on MoMA's new admissions fee—and on Thanksgiving of all days.

I've been told that if he sees his shadow, we should expect another 3 months of dead silence from his corner of the art/culture blog world. But maybe if we're very, very quiet, with some luck Prof. Quigley will stick around long enough to give us all the swift, learned kicks in the pants we need. Here's a start, contra Robert Rosenblum and audience 'disenfranchisement':

Rosenblum may not be a card-carrying socialist, but as a knee-jerk Marxist with an aversion to joining groups, I'm about as close as you can get to being one. In spite of my commitment to the redistribution of resources so that everyone's basic needs are met, I'm not opposed to MoMA's admission policy.
Actually, my reasons for not objecting to the admissions policy go well beyond the ticket price. Here comes the politically incorrect side of my argument. If the $20 admission fee results in only modest attendance, that's fine with me. I've argued repeatedly (and much to the surprise of my colleagues) against what I take to be an uncritical and simplistic application of "democracy" with respect to art. The jingoism of public broadcasting and fund raisers who claim "the arts are for everyone" misses an important (and unpopular) point.
A real encounter and meaningful engagement with art is not a trivial matter. It takes preparation, care, thoughtfulness, and experience. To get anything out of it, you have to "take it seriously", and that takes time and space.
So I claim the arts are for everyone willing to invest what it takes to have their everyday assumptions and expectations challenged and changed. Those who are simply looking for a comfortable and carefree way to spend an afternoon are better off spending their time and money at the mall.

"Elitist!," they'll cry.

*Update, noted for balance: Quigley colleague Joe, who is spinning some of quality stuff of his own in the Asymptote comments, offers this Yeats anecdote in his response to Tim:

There's an anecdote about Yeats, who never stopped caring about the poor of his Ireland. The story, blurred somewhat in my memory (I'm sure someone out in Blogland knows the actual facts), runs thus: Yeats heard that there was to be built a municipal building, a building whose funds had been reallocated from their original intention---a public library, a FREE public library. The politicians moaned that it was too expensive to have a free library, and besides, they sniveled (cribbing unknowingly from Eliot), the poor of Ireland don't want books; they want beer not Shakespeare. When Yeats caught wind of this, he made a public appeal of legendary proportion, pitching what I believe to be the first FEILD OF DREAMS argument in literary history, proclaiming that the folks of Ireland will never know Shakespeare if you don't allow them to FIND Shakespeare. He exhorted them to, for the sake of Ireland, forget the money, build the library, open it to the public . . . and they will come.

"Quigley Returns"
Posted by Dan at 02:59 AM


Referenced in this post:

Asymptote: Why I'm Not Opposed to the MoMA Admission Policy
Asymptote: Why I'm Not Opposed to the MoMA Admission Policy—Comments
Crooked Timber
Forward Retreat: Asymptomatic
Greg.org: Free MoMA?? Try F(*#%-ing Expensive MoMA
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