From the Director
In Memoriam: The Museum Visitor
The Museum Visitor, who defined the importance of experiencing art first-hand for many generations, is no more. The tragic news of his death last November (see obituary below) left many members of the art world speechless with grief.
With an average of three hundred museum visits per year, the Museum Visitor broke every record. Over his long life (he lived to be 254 years old), he managed to visit every museum ever built, be it the Louvre in Paris or Leila's Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri. And yet, he never really professed to have an expert's approach to art. He frequently poked fun at the very notion of connoisseurship, quipping that it took the same amount of effort to acquire good - or bad taste. For him, the act of visiting a museum was always a personal endeavor, free of such mundane criteria as popularity, notoriety, or trendiness. He insisted that museums were foremost a home for the muses, not a destination for the masses, and considered it an honor to be allowed to spend time in them.
The Museum Visitor left us at a time when the proliferation of museums worldwide has shifted the cultural realm towards commercialism. Museums of every sort are being built for new generations, but it remains to be seen if the masses that are bound to descend upon these new edifices will be greeted by the muses.
Brooklyn, New York, January 6, 2008
The Museum Visitor Dies of Dehydration In Abu Dhabi Desert
Cultural Institutions Worldwide in Mourning
Abu Dhabi, UAE, Nov.18 (Reuters) -The Museum Visitor, a celebrated and respected art lover, died tragically from dehydration yesterday afternoon while touring the $27 billion tourism and cultural development district on Saadiyat Island, an island 500 meters off the coast of Abu Dhabi. He was part of a VIP group visiting the construction sites for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and other planned cultural attractions for the area.
Members of the VIP group included Saqr Ghobash, the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States; Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim Foundation; Henri Lovrette, director of the Louvre; architects Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry; artists Damien Hirst and Mathew Barney, and his wife, singer Björk; and actress Angelina Jolie.
The tour took reportedly place in the blazing midday sun. According to one witness, The Museum Visitor's repeated requests for water were misinterpreted as compliments regarding the multiple fountains that line the newly constructed boulevards on Saadiyat Island. At 3:40 p.m. local time, The Museum Visitor suddenly collapsed. Despite resuscitation attempts administered by Miss Jolie and a local construction worker, a troupe of paramedics, arriving late on the scene, pronounced him dead at 4:08 p.m.
The Museum Visitor was born in London in 1753, the same year the British Museum was established. In 1793, he moved to Paris to witness the opening of the Louvre Museum. From 1794 onwards, he traveled incessantly to attend inaugurations of countless art museums worldwide. He was a guest of honor at the opening reception of the Prado Museum in Madrid in 1819 and presided at the inauguration of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1872. In 1927, he forged a friendship between industrialist Solomon R. Guggenheim and artist Hilla Rebay that eventually resulted in the creation of the Guggenheim Foundation in 1937. In 1961, he encouraged architect Mies van der Rohe to build a museum in West Berlin, which led to the creation of the Neue Nationalgalerie in 1965. He attended the inauguration of Marcel Broodthaers's Museum of Modern Art in Brussels in 1968 and was the first visitor to ride the escalators of the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1977. In 2004, he became an honorary member of the newly opened Museum of Modern Art, New York. In the last years of his life, from 2003 to 2007, he was a regular guest at Filip Noterdaeme's Homeless Museum of Art in Brooklyn, New York.
Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, who was unable to attend the Abu Dhabi VIP tour due to important meetings with real estate developers in New York City, issued the following statement via email: "We are deeply distressed, for we have suffered a great loss. The passing of The Museum Visitor marks the end of a glorious era. His priceless contributions to the museum world have strengthened our foundations and enabled us to move into the new millennium with confidence and know-how." President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, whom close aides described as "profoundly distressed" by the news, at once directed the Louvre to cancel all its operations in Abu Dhabi and urged the Guggenheim Foundation to do the same. In Abu Dhabi, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan offered to erect a mausoleum to The Museum Visitor. In an email, Mr. Gehry expressed his desire to work with the Sheikh to "turn the mausoleum into a new cultural destination for the region."
The Museum Visitor is survived by his three children and seven grandchildren. His oldest daughter, Maria Gimmemore, a Senior Vice President at Sotheby's, issued the following statement from the family estate in East Hampton, Long Island: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of our father and grateful to all the people who have already expressed their sympathies. Although the recent museum boom weighed in on his ailing health, our father tirelessly pursued his mission of visiting every museum on this planet. The world will not be the same without him."
A private funeral will be held by the family members and friends at an undisclosed location. A public memorial service is planned for early 2008 in New York.