arts 01.22.07

Lost in the Shuffle - The Brooklyn Museum Behaves Badly

The Brooklyn Museum owes a lot of New Yorkers and visitors to the city an apology.

We're glad the museum had a big hit with the Annie Leibovitz exhibit, which closed yesterday. But they can't have been surprised that the last weekend would see a surge in attendance (or should the word be 'augmentation'?), so there's really no excuse for what they made their guests endure.

You waited a few minutes outside to get into the museum's new entrance area. Once in, there was a line of 500 or so people waiting to buy tickets. It didn't matter whether you wanted to see the Leibovitz or, say, the Asian galleries. The wait was half- to three-quarters of an hour. After you got your tickets, you were in the entry hall, in a long, meandering line to get to the elevator. You were not allowed to use the stairs to go up to any floor. Another 30 minutes, minimum. When you'd finally made it to the fifth floor where the exhibition was (with guards shouting the whole time like it was a cattle call), there was yet another line to get into the show itself. It was two hours or more before you saw a single photograph.

But here's the thing: at no point did the museum have the courtesy to let people know estimated wait times. Not before you bought your tickets, and not after. At the very least, the museum should have had the decency to do that. As it was, this cascade of unpleasant surprises was exactly the kind of experience designed to cause lingering bad will, and no art should have to compete against that.

The Brooklyn's director, Arnold Lehman, isn't a stranger to controversy, with critics charging he is dumbing-down the museum in a bid to increase attendance. (And, it should be noted, in an effort to keep the cash registers ringing for the one show, the rest of the museum was virtually empty). One thing is apparent: they have no idea how to handle a big success when they get one.

If we were a trustee of the museum, we'd be on the phone this morning to Lehman raising holy hell.


liberty plaza

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