Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Farewell to the Fine Arts Museums



High winds cleared San Francisco's foggy coastal skies today, and I decided to check out an exhibit of rich French people's jewelry at the Legion of Honor Museum in the Richmond District.



At the Membership Desk at the front of the museum, I admitted my ambivalence about renewing the membership to a trio of middle-aged white ladies who were hovering around the computer screens.



"Why is that?" asked one of them. "Because of this institution's and Dede Wilsey's opposition to Healthy Saturdays," I told them, "which struck me as just crummy. You could have stayed out of it."



"Well, I live in that neighborhood near the deYoung," one of the women replied, "so I don't have any sympathy for your position. In fact, I waited for four hours at City Hall to testify against the closure." This was no doubt while parking and driving in my neighborhood, an irony lost on her. I grabbed my membership card back from her colleague and announced that I had changed my mind about renewal.



It's bad enough that San Francisco's so-called art museums seem to be devoting themselves to stupid rich womens' obsessions lately, from French jewelry to Nan Kempner's dresses, but the sheer arrogance involved in that Membership Volunteer's reply, with her refusal to have her suburban lifestyle within San Francisco inconvenienced for one second, seriously pissed me off.



So after a walk along nearby Lands' End, I returned home and cut up the membership card. Then I checked the internet to find out how much all of us are subsidizing these elitist institutions as taxpayers. However, the budget is nowhere on the Fine Arts Museums website and though the amounts may be hidden somewhere on the sfgov.org site, good luck trying to unearth it. As for finding an actual human being to answer the phone at the Fine Arts Museums, the only person I could find was Brian in Accounting, who didn't know where the budget might be on the web, but at least he was helpful and actually working. Give the guy a raise.

18 comments:

joelynn114 said...

Check out the link, “Mayor's Proposed 2007-2008 Budget (PDF)” at http://www.sfgov.org/site/mayor_index.asp?id=27047. Download the pdf file and see pdf p. 76 here.

sfmike said...

Dear Joe: Thank you, Answer Man. Is that $109.41 (million, I presume) in the proposed budget for the Fine Arts Museums a conglomeration of both General Fund money and Hotel Tax money? Is that the entire budget for the museum or just the city and county contribution? And where the fuck can one find a pie chart breaking down where the Fine Arts Museums revenue comes from? No wonder they can't create a city budget, nobody has any information.

I'm also noticing that the Fine Arts Museums are proposing a 4% increase in the budget this year. What in god's name for? I think Mister Daly needs to be alerted as he continues to go for the Newsom jugular.

Heidi said...

Oooh, nice walk in the park. Bummer about that museum, I was all poised to check out some fancy jewelry.

pjwv said...

I'm mystified by that volunteer's response to you. Usually the old white ladies in the museums are genial and polite, or at least have enough sense not to alienate someone who wants to renew. Cars like cigarettes elicit strong and not always rational responses.
But check out the Yoshitoshi woodblock exhibit at the Asian -- that's a good show. I haven't seen the Manga show yet.

sfmike said...

Dear pjwv: I was mystified too. What has really been irritating me about the Fine Arts Museums' stand on the road closing initiatives in Golden Gate Park is that not only were they being controversial jerks using my membership money, but they are also receiving over $10 million annually in San Francisco City and County tax money that everyone pays. And what do the citizens get out of that? Free entrance on the first Tuesday of every month when most working people are, well, working.

Dear Heidi: They wouldn't have let me take pictures of the French Jewelry anyway. That's another one of the museums' charming habits. Nobody can take a picture of their "special" exhibitions but themselves, and then they put up crappy little images on the internet, or use fancier, high-resolution photos to sell in their gift shops.

denisdekat said...

I fidn taht SF lost it's heart and soul once the freaking 99ers and their empty greed infested the city...

I almost hate the internet for this...

sfwillie said...

Re: your photos of the G'Gate.

You get to live in this beautiful environment but it's still complain complain complain.

I know, I complain a lot, too.

janinsanfran said...

Gossip I've heard from museum staff is that they are sick of precious shows for old rich ladies too. Sad!

What a beautiful day yesterday was! I often run the short Lands End Coastal trail.

Jackson West said...

Call me an elitist (or an anti-intellectual -- I get both), but since when do fashion and jewelery count as "fine art?"

Spots said...

Jackson West, the next time I see you, we're having a lesson on the history and artistic importance of costumes and couture...

Anonymous said...

Ignatius Reilly has nothing on you. what a whiner.

Mathias said...

Amen SF Mike. Our membership is set to expire soon, we don't plan to renew it. What these people need to realize is they don't represent the interests of the people of San Francisco when they behave in this manner, using membership money to fight such a proposal as Healthy Saturdays (in our own public park!).

Also, ditto the remarks about the costume and jewelry, one or two exhibits a year is fine, but back to back and at both museums?

JoannaOC said...

I don't live in town and can't cut up my membership card, but I am pissed at them because the museums decided to go with an out of town restaurant group after reopening the DeYoung instead of the local group, so my mom lost her job. On the other hand, she's now loving life and making money as an artist, so maybe it was for the best.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like sour grapes. If the museums came out to support Healthy Saturdays you wouldn't be complaining about the money they spent.

I think you had the wrong idea about your relationship to the Fine Arts Museums and you're just upset to discover that. Being a member doesn't mean the museums represent you or your opinions. It's just a discount card. You get one if you're a frequent visitor so you can save money in the long run. It has nothing to do with how the museums are run.

If you're really upset about tax money being spent on them, don't complain to the museum. You have no say in how they spend it. Complain to your supervisor and to the mayor's office. Tell them not to give away your tax money in the first place.

Although I do hope when you complain you won't be a hypocrite and single out the Fine Arts Museums. Rather I hope you oppose all tax money going to the arts, not just institutions that believe their visitors are better served by driving.

sfmike said...

Dear anonymous: I have complained to my supervisor, who happens to be the chair of the Budget Committee, asking him why the deYoung and the Legion of Honour were getting over $5 million in General Fund money while giving essentially nothing back to the larger community besides "Free First Tuesdays of the Month" which won't even get you into the special exhibits. Never mind that it's a complete insult to working San Franciscans.

As for hypocrisy, I believe in dispensing public money towards artists, and always have. However, those two museums have been getting both more elitist and provincial in the worst ways, and now that Dede Wilsey treats them as her private fiefdom, it has only become more grotesquely obvious.

As a public institution receiving public funds, the Fine Arts Museums could and should have remained neutral on the "Healthy Saturdays" debate. As pjwv puts it earlier in this thread, cars and cigarettes tend to bring out strong, irrational responses. But no, they acted like the big bully on the block, and it was their way or no way, and it's time there were some consequences to their behavior.

By the way, the "Fine Arts Museums" are only those two museums and have nothing to do with any other museums or arts funding. Yet they get a huge share of the budget pie, from both the Hotel Tax Fund and the General Fund, which is essentially the poor and the middle-class subsidizing the rich yet again.

sfwillie said...

Re: Jewelery, Fashion, and Art

I'd take a Faberge egg over any painting currently hanging in the brown pile. Didn't Michaelangelo and Leonardo design clothing for the Pope? (I know, but not for Nan.)

Re: Fine Arts Budget

Turn the De Young into an indoor skateboard park. Use "fine arts budget" to subsidize trips to real museums in other cities. (A pilot program could subsidize trips to the UC Berkeley Art Museum.)

It's disinformation to take SF schoolkids to the DeYoung and tell them they're seeing a museum, when it's really just a rich people's party venue.

Arrive by bike, arrive by car, the DeYoung is still the second biggest ripoff in GGP,(#1 is "surrey" rentals.)

greg said...

I think it's important we tax everyone to give as much to the rich people of SF as possible. After all, those big tax cuts they got from GW Bush, and that free war they got, they need a little cushion. Let's give more money to the socialites and set the city on fire, while we're at it.

dobie said...

I hate that they spend our membership $$ on a Marin Co. Marketing person to defeat Healthy Saturdays. And Dede is such a lying phony. At least Warren Hellman stood by his word.
Did you see the article about Paris Hilton last week, where Dede called Paris a "spoiled rich brat?". I almost choked on my pate! Pot-Kettle, etc.