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Money and the Arts

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I just read a rather upsetting article on the front page of the New York Times titled:

Donor's Sweeten Director's Pay as MoMA, Prompting Questions.

What the article revealed was that Glenn D Lowry who was the museum's director for 12 years was paid enormous compensation for his work.

He is the highest paid museum director in the USA (and that means the world of course as no other country would pay such compensation to an administrator). He was paid a cool $1.28 million... but that was in 2005. They haven't released his most recent compensation. Oh I forgot.. Barry Bonds signed a 15.8 million dollar deal this year.

The article goes on to describe how these folks live... free luxury apartments, mortgages paid etc.

So what has happened to the arts? Why is this slacker being paid so much money? Why isn't a $200,000 enough for this fella to run the museum on? I heard once that Laura Walker who runs WNYC is paid $450,000. Can some explain why the MoMA director is paid $1.28MM?

Capitalism is really ugly... ain't it? Personally I will never set foot inside the MoMA again and intend to send them a letter explaining why. I don't even want to know what the director of the MetOpera or ABT is paid. I do know that they are selling ballet pointes at intermission to fund a medical insurance program for dancers. How much money can they make from selling pointes? Why don't some of these greedy people pay the medical insurance for these dancers?

Capitalism and it's worship of wealth and money has polluted the arts. It's a rich man's game.

I watched the PBS broadcast of I Puritani last night. I saw it last month at the Met. But what impressed me was the whole marketing angle of using Anna Netrebko for promotion. Granted she is quite a good soprano... but even her label Deutche Grammaphone is marketing her like an MTV rock star. It may suit Ms Netrebko's personality... but the whole thing is really off putting to me.

Am I the only one is going sour on what capitalism has done to the arts?

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Hi SandorO

Wow, the MOMA Director certainly seems to do well. But none of this info is top secret....all non profits are required to file form 990 with the IRS and that is a public record. It lists the salaries of trustees and of the highest paid employees if the employees earn over a certain amount. The price they pay for their charitable status is that their form 990 is a public document.

The form 990 from the ABT 2003 return has Kevin McKenzie listed as receiving about $296,000. For someone who has to live in New York City, and who can't work for other companies during off time, it probably isn't that much.

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I think Mr McKenzie's compensation is both fine for NYC and appropriate for that position. I live here and make a whole lot less.

I don't think I want to read the financial reports of non profits.

But I did want to make the point that capitalism and the greed which drives it is extremely off putting. Sure people need money to live and to travel and so forth. I don't begrudge anyone of a rich,interesting and varied life. But I am disturbed that the pay scale for some of these people in the arts "industry" is through the roof.

What happens is John Q artist then demands $100K for his painting from some collector and once he convinces someone to pay that price.. he has set a bench mark for all his work and the skies the limit. And then you have all these artists around who are looking to cash out with wealthy collectors. Then they create lots of hoopla about John Q and he has shows and then the museum buys his work or is left a "gift" from one of the donors... for a tax write off... meaning that the taxes never make it to the give coffers and the OTHER tax payers share the burden of running this country. Of course these donors are on the boards of the museums, influence policy and so forth.

It's nothing short of corruption, cronyism, insider trading and everything else that goes on in wall street and the financial sector.

When is someone going to start trading ballet futures or buy shares in painters?

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It's rarely the painters or the dancers though. It's the dealers, the galleries and the administrators. And it's the city itself. Compared to a CEO in a for-profit institution in NYC of a similar budget and size, Lowry could easily argue that he's woefully underpaid.

Of course as you implied, it then becomes a discussion about the merits of capitalism.

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Can some explain why the MoMA director is paid $1.28MM?
The form 990 from the ABT 2003 return has Kevin McKenzie listed as receiving about $296,000.
Of course as you implied, it then becomes a discussion about the merits of capitalism.

And the different expectations of an MBA in arts administration vs. a dancer who chose his path when dancers were even lower paid than they are today.

I don't know whether McKenzie gets other salary for his roles with the JKO School or ABT Studio Co., but if not, his salary is quite a bargain for ABT, IMO.

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McKenzie's compensation package may be quite a bargain in the context of corporate CEOs and top management in the business world. But that is precisely the problem here. Everything is now driven by the obscene greed of capitalism.

Remember Grasso from NYSE who had his friends on the compensation committee award him hundreds of millions in compensation as a golden parachute. Capitlaism is about one thing only... the creation and preservation of personal wealth. As such it makes no sense in the arts. Art is not about money it is about beauty!

The arts are not market driven (should not be), but competance and artistic merit driven (if driven is the right concept even). But capitalism has infused itself into every aspect of life, into every institution asserting that the market produces th best results and winners must be rewarded and inspired by receiving lots of money. See... money is the goal not art! But they are trying (and successfully) corrupting the arts.

There is something terribly wrong with this. No?

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I share SanderO's sense of "ugh" on a regular basis, yet the notion that our ideas of artistic "value" are intrinsically tied to notions of monetary "value" (notice how we use the same word) in a capitalist society is an old one--see John Berger from the 60s or 70s for a cogent articulating of this. What's different today I think is the erosion of the sense on the part of cultural leaders of a nonprofit serving as a public trust. We can see this everywhere from nonprofit presenters being rewarded by foundation grants to present for-profit brodway touring shows, to nonprofit museum curators crafting secret deals to sell paintings. And almost none strive to subsidize ticket prices anymore--they just don't think that's important or, to put it in capitalist terms, they're content to let market forces determine their "value."

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In the interest of "full disclosure" I work for a nonprofit; I also have an MBA in non-profit (arts) administration. And despite that, experience, and awards/recognition from peers for my work, have several times found myself making 10-20K less than the stated range for my position and community. (ie. I don't expect to get paid what a major company/larger city pays). A lot depends on how knowledgeable you and management are about those ranges, and what you're willing to negotiate and/or settle for to secure the position. Benefits (insurance) and cost of living (housing/food/transportation) can also be packaged with a salary so that the actual monetary amount is less. McKenzie's salary (yes, I too have looked at a lot of 990's--and filled them out) is not surprising to me or overly compensated compared to others I've seen.

There is also a federal law governing NPO's that prevents more than 1/3 of revenue being used for overhead--the other 2/3 must be put back into the organization. But of course there are loopholes, and many are willing to jump through them. Like most of society, there are good people who do the majority of the work (and are underpaid) and bad, who take all the credit (and are grossly overpaid.)

I also work in a desired industry with a new batch of "youngsters" dying for a break and willing to take NO pay, or ludicrously minimal pay to do it, and so depressing the salaries for the rest of us. The same thing definitely occurs in the dance world. As stated above, the opposite happens as well when a "star" is created and expects to get a comparable "star" salary, leaving less in the pot for the "crew".

BUT I must say, I will always admire those "stars" who took their money and created foundations, and scholarships, and studios/schools and companies for dancers--often in lesser metropolises, or smaller states, or even countries that had no such organization(s) before. ALWAYS always, how grateful I and all dancers must be to them.

Appropos this, however, I do have one question: Why do I rarely see such creations by the WOMEN of the ballet world? They coach, teach, stage, and only a very very few have created companies or schools in their names--WHY? Is it because, like most women, they were paid less than their male counterparts over the course of their careers and so saved up less to create these foundations/schools/companies? Or they're so grateful to finally get paid decently, they just take the money and run when it's over?

JUST a thought.

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