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The Manly Art of Museum Curating

November 30, 2009

The Manly Art of Museum Curating


The other week I took my son Dean to see the “Arts of the Samurai” show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As we walked around admiring the many gleaming sword blades, fantastic helmets and braided suits of iron armor, I detected something unfamiliar in the air, at least in this museum. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was until we were standing at the cash register in the gift shop.

Erik T. Johnson

The saleswoman was speaking to the middle-age couple ahead of us. They were all laughing about something or other when she said: “You know, we’ve never seen so many men here at the museum. This show has filled our galleries with men.”

It was true: the Samurai show had a far higher ratio of male viewers than the nearby rooms containing European paintings, higher than I’d ever seen in any museum. So that got me thinking: What other shows could the Met put on to bring the male demographic in?


Eating, drinking and celebrating has been a staple of artistic expression since cave paintings. Scores of examples could be brought together here, all centered on the consumption of beef. Two exhibits would serve as focal points. One would be a life-size diorama (à la African mammals in the American Museum of Natural History) of a Beefsteak, the gluttonous, utensil-free meat-eating orgies depicted by Joseph Mitchell for The New Yorker in “All You Can Hold for Five Bucks.”

Read more at: The Manly Art of Museum Curating

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