Benches. Theater houses. Galleries. Toilet seats. It seems like the arts world has been tagged with the name of Mr. and Mrs. Rich Person from top to bottom. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times wonders: Where are the anonymous donors? “Attending a performance can be like leafing through somebody else’s high school yearbook,” her wrote in Sunday’s Times. “Who are all these people? Should I know? Should I care? How much would I have to give to get my name on, say, a drinking fountain? And would a urinal be cheaper?”
Arts institutions in the United States, unlike those in most European countries, receive sparse support from the government, so they cannot be blamed for selling the naming rights to expensive new buildings brick by brick. And it is of course only human to desire acknowledgment of one’s good deeds.
But once upon a time a discreet collective plaque or a name in the program seemed to suffice. We live now in a different age. Celebrity has become a luxury product like any other, and the wealthy can purchase a tasteful morsel of the respectable kind through charitable largess.