Director of the Brooklyn Museum, Arnold Lehman, Responds…

08/30/2010 11:51 AM |

fred tomaselli
  • Fred Tomaselli, this fall at the Brooklyn Museum.

First, I want to thank The L Magazine for allowing me to comment on a recent article.

The L Magazine recently posted online a brief article about newly extended hours at the Brooklyn Museum. The article alluded to “recently released worrisome attendance figures,” that linked to a story about the Museum by Robin Pogrebin that appeared in The New York Times on June 14, 2010.

“Worrisome” to whom might be an appropriate question to ask.

The Times article mentioned a 23% drop in attendance in fiscal year 2009, a number which we had anticipated as the previous fiscal year included the enormous attendance for our incredibly successful Murakami exhibition. The less than ideal reality for most museums—especially for those without a significant tourist base—is that attendance is driven in large measure by special temporary exhibitions, which are often heavily promoted, rather than by the the great treasures often found in permanent collections, such as our own.

This is not to say that the Brooklyn Museum, like many cultural institutions, does not have challenges related to attendance. However, we do not believe attendance alone to be a true measure of success. Our commitment to best engage our Brooklyn community, and our commitment to actively use our collection in doing so, have worked together to create the most diverse and youngest audience of any general fine arts museum in the country. Our interest is in who is coming to the Brooklyn Museum—and embracing them—not in their numbers.

Indeed, Brooklyn is home to the greatest and most vibrant concentration of artists in the world, and we are profoundly aware of the Museum’s position and commitment to this community. I believe that our record of exhibitions, acquisitions, and new installations of contemporary art speak to this commitment. For this year, and next, we are already planning exhibitions and projects that continue this commitment—notably a mid-career survey of the work of Williamsburg-based artist Fred Tomaselli, whose meticulously detailed collages and paintings will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from October 8, 2010 through January 2, 2011. I hope that all of L Magazine readers will visit Fred’s extraordinary exhibition. In doing so, not only will we be engaging a primary audience for the Museum, but you might also even give our attendance figures a bump up!!!

Arnold Lehman
Director, Brooklyn Museum

2 Comment

  • I’m pretty into the fact that Arnold Lehman rocked triple exclamation points at the end there.

  • Well noted, Mike, as such triplicate forms of enthusiasm can very easily morph the simply exclamatory into the spiritedly ecstatic. Trinities do often bring to mind ecstasies, after all, which in turn might lead to Saint Theresa, Santa Maria della Vittoria, transverberazione, Bernini.

    At the same time, and perhaps not unrelatedly, does not the penultimate term preceding said exclamatory trinity appear to propagate certain assumptions about the demographic in question? Unintentionally, to be sure. Yet I suppose that very same referent could itself lead to exclamations, swooning, hyperbole.

    Nonetheless, Tomaselli next month? Anyone, everyone? We’ve got about four weeks to brush up on our lepidopterology.

    Also, useless verbiage aside, it’s important to learn of the extraordinary and perhaps easily spinnable attendance figures a show like Murakami’s can create. Note taken.

    Taken? Taken!!!