The Met Will Sell Michael Gross Pictures

By Neal Comment

It’s no secret that the Metropolitan Museum of Art hasn’t been actively cooperating with Michael Gross during his research phase for Rogues’ Gallery, his behind-the-scenes look at the museum—certainly not in any way that might give the impression that they approve of what he’s doing. But Harold Holzer, the Met’s senior veep for external affairs, wants to set the record straight on recent reports that the museum’s photo archivists are under instructions not to provide Gross with access to their inventory—a story I passed along after it appeared in Liz Smith’s column over the weekend. Those reports, he says, are simply false.

“He can have any picture he wants,” Holzer told me, adding that Gross would be treated like any other customer of the museum’s photo services. According to Holzer, the dispute arose because Gross wanted new images of the Grand Steps and the facade. Because the facade changes so often, the Met declined to shoot new photos for the transaction, so Gross was told he could have any existing pictures in their archives, an offer he rejected. (In April, Holzer emailed a photo researcher subcontracted by Broadway Books to say “we cannot provide the material about which you have inquired,” adding, “I am certain that the author can explain that we have the same reluctance to supply visual material for this project as we do to supply narrative material.” He reaffirmed to me, when asked about the email, that he was referring to a request for new photographs, and that the museum’s “reluctance” does not extend to allowing access to existing archival materials at the standard rates.)

Holzer also notes that Broadway was in the process of applying for permission to use one of the Met’s Tiepolo paintings on the cover of Rogues’ Gallery, but withdrew their request for reasons which were not explained to him. “I guess if they can have the picture, they don’t want it!” he quipped. When I called to ask about the Tiepolo situation, Gross said there was nothing more to it than an artistic decision made by his publisher, but brightened up when asked to comment on the assurances that he wasn’t being blackballed by the photo archivists. “I’m delighted to hear that!” he said. “That’s wonderful. I’ll tell Doubleday the news.”

In the meantime, my suggestion that GalleyCat readers supply Gross with the pictures he needed actually panned out; Gross was particularly taken with this picture taken by Gilbert King, which he posted to his website Tuesday