Members of the Frick Museum’s board are in the process of identifying a new director to replace Anne L. Poulet, who will retire from the museum’s top job in the fall. As outlined in The Observer last week, the short list of candidates for Ms. Poulet’s job is truly impressive.
That’s good news for the museum, but it’s also good news for the city’s arts community. It’s no secret that government support for the arts is hard to generate during hard times–politicians, it seems, always think of the arts as a luxury when they’re confronted with red ink. Advocacy groups for cultural institutions know that with both the city and state facing long-term financial problems, museums and other institutions figure to face budget woes of their own.
So the emergence of five strong candidates to lead the Frick shows that despite hard times, the city’s arts organizations continue to attract the ambitious and the talented. The director’s job at the Frick has evolved under Ms. Poulet to include a greater emphasis on fund-raising–that role will become even more important in the coming years.
The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs estimates that New York’s 1,400 cultural organizations generate an estimated $6 billion for the city’s economy and employ some 40,000 people in various positions. Of course, great art is priceless, and it almost seems crass to have to make an economic argument on behalf of art and culture. But when politicians take an ax to local budgets, every institution has to show its value in a very practical sense.
The Frick’s new leader no doubt will bring vision and energy to the museum. With any luck, he or she will also bring financial acumen to the post. It’s nice to have art for art’s sake, but that argument doesn’t always work in City Hall.