What a difference a week makes!
On Sunday, The New York Times finally reviewed Rogues’ Gallery, Michael Gross’s two-month-old, unauthorized exposé about the famous people behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The review came just days after the book began appearing in the New York Public Library system, erasing Mr. Gross’s concerns that the two Manhattan institutions might ignore the book completely.
“I was thrilled,” Mr. Gross told The Observer.
Before he received news of the review, Mr. Gross had been left to lament the book’s curious lack of coverage in the New York press. Rumors had circulated as to the reasons for Rogues’ radio silence, with plenty of suspicion cast in the direction of Annette de la Renta, who serves on the Met’s board, and whose attorneys had previously sent “strongly-worded” letters to the book’s publisher.
Adding to the suspicion was the conspicuous absence of Rogues’ Gallery from the New York Public Library, which also lists Ms. de la Renta as a board member. (A spokesman for the NYPL declined to comment for an earlier story.)
Mr. Gross only learned that Rogues’ Gallery would be appearing on library shelves after two different branch librarians contacted him to speak about the book. “Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?” Mr. Gross said he wondered. But one of the librarians notified him that a copy Rogues’ Gallery was appearing in the library’s database after all, and the online catalog now lists 51 copies set to arrive at branch libraries soon.
“I’m just grateful it seems to be over and that the book is finally getting some coverage for what’s in it rather than who it pissed off,” Mr. Gross said.
Yet the book is still courting a bit of controversy outside the one institution where it remains unlikely to surface. Street artist and activist Jack Nesbitt has taken to selling copies on the steps of the Met Museum, which has declined to put Rogues’ Gallery on the gift shop’s shelves. Mr. Nesbitt’s table is adorned with a large placard that reads: “Banned by the Metropolitan Museum.”
“I want to be of help to [Mr. Gross] and the artist group as a whole wants to be of help, because we know what it means to be affected by city and parks policy. They’re very powerful in their attempt to stop our speech,” said Mr. Nesbitt, who was part of a lawsuit in the late 1990s that successfully sued for open access to the Met’s steps, without the need for city permits. (Mr. Nesbitt has a video camera with him in case the Met tries to directly suppress his free speech, but says that’s not the museum’s style.)
Mr. Nesbitt said he plans to maintain his post for at least two weeks, and hopes to sell all of his 10 copies. He’s sold one so far.
“I think that in some really profound way, the Times review vindicates the book,” Mr. Gross said. “The only thing I wanted was for the substance and scope of the book to be acknowledged, and to be described fairly and honestly.”