Rogues' Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Rogues' Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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3.12 of 5 stars 3.12  ·  rating details  ·  194 ratings  ·  34 reviews
“Behind almost every painting is a fortune and behind that a sin or a crime.”
With these words as a starting point, Michael Gross, leading chronicler of the American rich, begins the first independent, unauthorized look at the saga of the nation’s greatest museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In this endlessly entertaining follow-up to his bestselling social history 740...more
Hardcover, 545 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Broadway Books (first published April 25th 2009)
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Emily
I only read the final 1/3 of the book for work purposes. It's all right, I suppose, but I was not so entranced that I felt compelled to read the beginning 2/3. The problem is that the author has to deal with a lot of names. He also had two main themes running through: the members of the board and the curatorial staff of the Met. Either subject would be enough for one book. Here I felt confused and dissatisfied.

Oh, and PICTURES. Surprisingly for a book about a visual medium, there were no picture...more
Michael Llewellyn
This is probably way more than you need/want to know about the Met, but Gross has done another splendid and thoroughly researched job as he traces the history of this venerable Fifth Avenue institution. I admit to skimming over certain heavily detailed passages, but because I lived in Manhattan 1972-1991 I remember Thomas Hoving's crazy shenanigans and enjoyed revisiting them. Some deliciously colorful anecdotes provide relief from what could've been a dry, dusty work. Who knew that black activi...more
Elizabeth
Note to self: don't donate to the Metropolitan Museum, apparently they don't want you. This narrative history of the museum's bosses may be the last blow to my desire to work there, which was on its last legs over the whole repatriation issue.

There are, frankly, too many damn people — I had a really hard time keeping track of who was who and what they were responsible for and what their relationships were to each other. Junior Rockefeller made the biggest impression, and seemed the sanest person...more
Bill
An interesting if too gossipy book about very rich people involved in the MET. I enjoyed the book though perhaps he dwells too long on the sex life and affairs of long forgotten socialites. Through all of this he managaes to talk about the museum itself though if that is your main interest you might want to pick up another volume. I still would highly recommend it as a portal into the world of the rich if not so famous.
Amy
Wow! The history of the Met is like a microcosm of New York history. So much stuff I never knew.

After this, I totally want to read up on J.P. Morgan and the Rockefellers. The stuff we hear about them now is such a caricature, I want the whole picture. I think their lives and works ought to be required reading, both as a warning about what not to do and for the positive works we can learn from, as well. I was struck by the fact that J.P. Morgan inherited a bunch of money and instead of lying arou...more
Randy
I found this well-researched book an interesting look into the history and workings of the Metropolitan Museum, so I'm grateful I read this book and therefore learned a lot about the world of art and art museums.

And yet I'm disappointed with ROGUE'S GALLERY. Here's why: So many characters come and go I couldn't bond with any of them. I suspect this wasn't just because of the number of characters but because the characters are, for the most part, depicted unfavorably; so I got the strong feeling...more
Dkeslin
If you want to learn all about the politics and schemes put together in the formation and running of one of the world's greatest museums, this is the book for you. It discusses all of the wealthy patrons who amassed fabulous art collections which they donated to the museum as well as discussion of all of the directors through the years and their methods of running the institution. A lot of graft and corruption went in to creating this, seemingly flawless, collection. The Met is one of my favorit...more
Elizabeth Desole
Parts of this were fascinating but parts of it just plain dragged. I really think it needed a more thorough edit. For example, there was a very long section (at least it felt that way to me) about Rockefeller's dealings with the sculptor Barnard. I understand that there were personal dealings about a personal purchase of a sculpture that colored their dealing in acquiring the CLoisters for the MET, but it could've all been dispatched with a couple of sentences, not page after page. Unfortunately...more
Elizabeth K.
Oh, this was so limp. It's a look at the history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a focus on some of the individuals who were key influences on the Museum and its collection at various points from its founding to more contemporary times. It's not a bad premise, but I hated the simpering tone that ran through it and always seemed to be saying "OMG! Rich people! Behaving badly! Quelle surprise!" The writing was fairly weak as well. Reading it was like having a long conversation with the aut...more
Jim Mullen
This is a great gossipy read about the millionaires who founded the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It's full of tales of the Morgan's and the Rockefellers who built the thing to house their private collections. They and their rich friends never intended that it be open to the public. What would the ignorant hordes know about art? They wanted this to be a collection to be viewed by their set. It's a great story, told well and it really changes how you see the art once you know how it cam...more
Jerry
In some ways this is an invaluable primer to the names of the movers and shakers of modern New York. It definitely helped me understand so many of the names of families you see in the museum as well as around the city. It's a must-read for anyone interested in social climbing, the motives of the rich and wannabe famous, and the cultural patrimony of New York City. The museum is not even 150 years old yet it survives as symbol of what New York City wanted to be and what it ultimately become in th...more
Ali
Eh. Interesting factoids, but Gross's writing style drives me a bit crazy. An example:

"The fortunes of old Europe fell into steep decline just as America emerged from depression in the 1880s and began making unprecedented sums of money in the new industries, railroads, banking, and trade, the era's equivalent of this century's Internet gold rush."

I have a feeling the information in this book could be turned into something really interesting and worth reading, but it hasn't happened here.
Raquel
I REALLY wanted to like this book, but I found it boring, petty and trivial. Some of the scandals Gross exposes in his hefty history of one of the world's greatest museums are genuinely interesting and juicy. Yet much of the book is plagued by insignificant minor kerfuffles that really did not make me look at the Met and its ties to New York society and government in any new way. Gross is an engaging writer, but his obsession with the controversial and sensational overpowers his narrative gifts....more
Jillian
This book was pretty good, although I have to say, I think interviewing the author ended up being more of an interesting experience than the actual read. It's lengthy, and tedious at times, confusing at others. What he's set out to do, I respect and enjoy. And some of it was really fascinating, particularly the older history. But as the book drags on, it feels palpably like Gross was rushing to finish. Also, his final musings on the future of the Met, while pertinent, are a little thin.
Paula
A fascinating history of the people involved with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, from its earliest days to the present. From its first director, with his spurious credentials, to the current head of this American iconic institution, Michael Gross' history is full of stories of the staff and the rich and famous whose collections and in many cases, self-interest, created this well-know and world-class art collection on Fifth Avenue. Definitely an eye opener and an engrossing read.
Jill
I read 940 Park Avenue, and this book to have the same gossipy tone. Gross clearly has it out for a particular section of the elite. I am not sure why since it would help him in his research if he could keep these people in his good graces. There are a few art historical claims that are totally false (like his assertion that American Art was not popular until the early 20th c).

I am enjoying it so far, and plan to read Thomas Hoving's Making the Mummies Dance next.
Carolyn
This started out as a history book but then got too much into the back stories of the various social families that control the Met. I would have liked more information on acquisitions and curators...although I guess in the end that was the thesis of the book, that the wealthy families of New York are really the ones that control the museum, and always have.
Mona
ok, I am giving up on this book. I have made it through three moguls and could pick up the others at any time. You do not have to read this book in a straight line. It would be useful as a reference book for someone interested in one of the moguls, but really I did not learn that much from the first part of the book.
I am letting it go for now.
Rachel
This book is slow going. I'm somewhat suspicious of the author's accusations, not because the Met is such a hallowed institution, but rather because he has such an overriding agenda in attacking the Museum's credibility. There's not a single photo or sketch or blueprint in the entire book--a book about a museum with no visual representation?
Sjancourtz
A very thorough (and frequently disturbing) history of the Met, but in the end, more than I wanted or needed to know. Suffice to say--the title is very accurate. And the next time you go to the Metropolitan and see the "suggested" admission of $20, remember that you don't HAVE to give them $20 unless you're feeling generous.
Caroline
Some fascinating and juicy threads of history, but overall a plodding and textbook-like read. It could have focused exclusively on the goings-on at the Met before and during WWII (one of the most interesting parts that "Rogues' Gallery" has to offer) and would've been a much more fascinating read in my opinion.
DJ
Just started this one. Having worked in the bowels of a fine arts museum during a time of turmoil within, I'm really interested in learning more about the Met and its makers. I didn't finish this one, which is rare for me, but life got in the way. I'll get back to it one day soon.
Ginger
Many interesting inside stories of the Metropolitan Museum. I thought it was a little long, and may not be enjoyable unless you are intensely interested in the Met or in art, but I enjoyed it.
JessDesq
It was like reading a fact chronology. Very boring. Eventually I skipped to the end to read the most modern day information. This was for a book club and I would not recommend it.
Melissa
I wanted to love this book. Many parts are quite interesting and many are quite dry and dull. Still, it gives some life to all those names that line the staircase in the Met.
Bobsie67
Much better than I expected it to be. Very well-writeen, witty, and entertaining. Sure, there's lost of gossip, but it's fun. And I did learn soemthing about the Museum.
William
An incredible journey into high society and the fascinating history of the Metropolitan Museum. Normally not my cup of tea but here an most interesting true story.
John
This is a literate version of People magazine, only without the pictures. It's a gossipy look at the people who weild power at the Metropolitan Museum.
Marleen
Interesting history of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Very slow beginning, pace and writing gets better as the book progresses.
Andreavarga
First half is really wonderful and interesting, but it looses steam, and interest when it gets to the 60s. Kind of a snore at the end.
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This book list is a work in progress. Michael Gross is recognized as one of America’s most provocative writers of non-fiction–its “foremost chronicler of the upper-crust,” says curbed.com. His latest book Unreal Estate, to be published November 1, 2011, is a west coast version of his bestseller, 740 Park, this time exposing the most exclusive neighborhoods of Los Angeles–Beverly Hills, Holmby Hill...more
More about Michael Gross...
740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women Unreal Estate: Money, Ambition, and the Lust for Land in Los Angeles Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren Bob Dylan, an Illustrated History, Revised and updated

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