What the… Hirshhorn’s 40th-anniversary gala to be held in New York!?!

Photo by PoPville flickr user James Jackson

A bit late on this one but it is odd – thanks to a reader for sending this August story from the Washington Post:

“The decision to hold the Hirshhorn’s 40th-anniversary gala in New York is deeply troubling and raises concern about where the museum’s new director, Melissa Chiu, is taking the organization. According to the New York Times, the Nov. 9 gala will include 400 invited guests and honor 40 living artists whom the museum considers essential to its identity. But despite Chiu’s statement in the Times story announcing the event — that she intends no snub to the Washington arts crowd — it is a snub, and a distressing indication that she doesn’t understand the purpose, the history or the identity of the museum she now leads.”

24 Comment

  • Sometimes people get so wrapped up in their own weird, little worlds they don’t realize how foolish they’re acting, or how out of touch they are behaving. Chiu clearly resides in that space right now.

    • Agreed.
      Though, I wonder if she’s bowing to pressure from a few big donors who said “I can’t make it down to DC; why can’t you have it in NYC?”

  • I think folks are getting a little wrapped around the axel on this. If you read the article, it was clear that other DC museums do the exact same thing, and that it is being done for a reason as they are able to raise more than 4 times the money for the museum holding this in NY than here in DC

  • DC museum galas are sooo much better in New York.

  • Galas are for making money. If this accomplishes that goal, then there’s no good reason to host the gala in DC, especially since the HIrshhorn is a national museum, not civic. It’s not like this is LACMA having a gala in San Francisco.

    • This touches on another criticism of event – that it’s a gala and not a large event that’s open (and affordable) to the public. The museum was formed to provide access to art for ordinary people. Its 40th anniversary celebration should be open to ordinary people, and not just a select group of invited guests.

      • They’re not throwing a party just to have a party.

        • There are reasons to have a celebration other than money. From the Post article: “Another museum leader, one with deeper ties to Washington, might have conceived it altogether differently, as an opportunity to include and celebrate Hirshhorn volunteers, docents, donors (small and large), local artists and the larger contemporary art audience that has remained faithful to the museum over the past four decades. It could have been an event like the open-air festivities that surrounded Doug Aitken’s video display “Song I,” which became a community-wide event, drawing in tourists and locals, animating the Mall and the Hirshhorn grounds, and opening the museum to new audiences. Instead, it is an exclusive event at the World Trade Center, far from Washington, trumpeting the exclusionary and elitist values that Johnson so detested.”

    • One reason to host the gala in DC would be because that’s where the museum is. You wouldn’t have gala for the Cooper-Hewitt in DC.

      • Mostly because it wouldn’t be as successful in DC unless the area’s defense contractors and ace attorneys suddenly decide they want to open their wallets in the name of aesthetic design.

        • I always thought the Hirshorn was eschewing aesthetics.

        • You mean to say the people who are most likely to care-for and donate-to an institution are the ones who reside near it? Gee, imagine that. Unless you’re thinking that the bankers and ace attorneys of NY care deeply about aesthetic design.

    • there’s no indication that having it in nyc would bring in more money. what is clear is that many of the people that chiu wants as her friends – koons, abramovic, kapoor, etc – are not likely to come to dc. which is their loss. this is really an insult of andy harris-size proportions.

      • This weeks’s City Paper article about Chiu says a DC event for the museum brings in about $300,000. The gala in NYC has already raised over $1 million and could get up to $1.5 million.

  • CityPaper had something about this in their profile of Chiu. Apparently other Smithsonian Museums have galas in NYC and LA and given the national scope of the museums and the larger philanthropic bases in those cities it makes a lot of sense. DC’s heritage as a second string border town seems to come out in moments like this,—you’d think we were in Indianapolis or some other defensive, third string burg. Instead we’re in a place that is still figuring out how to be a real city.

    • I totally see your point, assuming it had to be a gala. But this event didn’t have to be a gala. There are other ways for a museum to have a celebration.

    • It’s a dumb way to do fundraising. Hiring someone who is a creature of the NY art world, and only cultivates donors within the NY art world isn’t the way to build a sustainable contributor base for a museum in DC. How many of those people will ever step foot in the Hirshhorn? How many of those people will donate a dollar to the Hirshhorn once Ms. Chiu moves on to her next post? They aren’t Hirshhorn supporters, they’re Chiu supporters.
      They should be focusing their fundraising cultivation efforts on people who are interested in the institution itself. People who might actually visit it once in a while. But that would require hiring a director who actually spends some time in DC.

    • I found the City Paper article on Chiu really informative. She could be doing better with outreach & communications, but the article notes that this NYC gala/fundraiser has already raised something like double the maximum expected if they were to hold the event in DC. Th Hirshorn is on shaky ground, and money talks. I’m withholding judgment for the moment in the hopes that she’s able to put that money to good use for us once it’s extracted from the good people of NYC.

      • Correction: they’ve raised approx. triple. “Whereas the ceiling for a gala at the Hirshhorn tops out at around $300,000—including the one that Chiu hosted for the opening of “Shirin Neshat: Facing History”—the museum has raised more than $1 million toward its New York event. (Chiu says that event can raise $1.5 million by the time it’s over.)”

  • Thanks for the photo feature, Popville!

  • They did it in New York because people actually TIP and DONATE there. Those things do not happen in DC.

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