Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fisher waves bye bye and Baker tut tut tuts Tut

The Fisher Museum is a no-go for the Presidio. I wrote at the time:

Even if the Fisher Museum is built, will it be able to generate enough revenue to support itself or will it be a money sink? Very few museums are profitable; they live off their endowments, grants and any other revenue producing properties that they may own. Furthermore, what impact will the construction of all these buildings have? How many building projects have been built on time and within the budget? What about cost overruns? Construction boondoggles? I do not trust the powers that be and perhaps that’s the bottom line. If the door is opened a crack, how much wider will it be forced open? Can we be really looking at a dozen more super-towers of luxury apartments lining up along the bay? We can’t see it now but it’s a real mistake to assume that everybody is honest, ethical and eco-friendly where there’s money to be made.

CM Nevis thinks is a classic case of "not in my backyard" but dismisses the very real issues involved. While the collection may be first class, the choice of site was inappropriate. This wasn’t simply a NIMBBY issue; it was a serious problem involving an inaccessible site without public transportation and a building that would have negatively impacted the existing environment. The footprint would have been huge and while the Fisher’s claim that they would donate the money to build it, what about staffing and future upkeep – and who will ultimately own the complex? Reading through the 521 comments at SF Gate was a depressing exercise. Obviously the park and environmental activists have not done a good job in educating the public because most of the comments were hostile and uninformed. This wasn’t a free gift but a 21st century land grab. The complex would have included a 119-room hotel, meeting space, a restaurant and a bar; two new theaters and a heritage center. Who would ultimately have owned all these buildings and who would have ultimately been responsible for their upkeep? Who would get the revenue, if any? The editorial is severely one-sided since Nevius overlooks the fact that building the museum there would have violate the terms of the Presidio Trust. The ultimate decision was made by the federal government, not San Francisco.

The good thing about this is the possibility that the collection (or part of it) might go to enrich SFMOMA, a far more accessible space. If Mr. Fisher wants more public acclaim, maybe they can rename the museum the Don Fisher/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and put his name in big letters over the entrance?

Kenneth Baker reviews the Tutankhamen exhibit and is haughty dismissive of blockbusters and those who host them. But he raises a number of questions regarding the proper use and funding of museums, which I will attempt to discuss in a future post.


sfmike said...

Thank god enough powerful people protested this "land grab" by the modern robber baron Don Fisher, who specializes in the slave labor of children in third-world countries and the clearcutting of redwood forests nearby. The "Chronicle" and "Examiner" were doing everything they could to promote the damned thing, calling everyone a NIMBY who didn't agree with their position. In truth, I didn't care if a new museum housing his crappy collection was built in my own backyard in the Civic Center, but not in a national park. What a creep.

And check out Tyler Green at the "Art Notes" blog for his take on the Tut Tour in public art museums nationwide. He does a good job of covering the (un)ethical issues of private profit and public resources.

namastenancy said...

I did read the Tyler Green article but the problem is that the de Young is heavily funded from private sources. Plus, if you want to have an Egyptian show, you have to deal with Zahi Hawass - which makes things very problematic.