Rogues' Gallery

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

3.42 (439 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

"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 Park," Gross pulls back the shades of secrecy that have long shrouded the upper class's cultural and philanthropic ambitions and maneuvers. And he paints a revealing portrait of a previously hidden face of American wealth and power.
The Metropolitan, Gross writes, "is a huge alchemical experiment, turning the worst of man's attributes--extravagance, lust, gluttony, acquisitiveness, envy, avarice, greed, egotism, and pride--into the very best, transmuting deadly sins into priceless treasure." The book covers the entire 138-year history of the Met, focusing on the museum's most colorful characters. Opening with the lame-duck director Philippe de Montebello, the museum's longest-serving leader who finally stepped down in 2008, "Rogues' Gallery" then goes back to the very beginning, highlighting, among many others: the first director, Luigi Palma di Cesnola, an Italian-born epic phony, whose legacy is a trove of plundered ancient relics, some of which remain on display today; John Pierpont Morgan, the greatest capitalist and art collector of his day, who turned the museum from the plaything of a handful of rich amateurs into a professional operation dedicated, sort of, to the public good; John D. Rockefeller Jr., who never served the Met in any official capacity but who, during the Great Depression, proved the only man willing and rich enough to be its benefactor, which made him its behind-the-scenes puppeteer; the controversial Thomas Hoving, whose tenure as director during the sixties and seventies revolutionized museums around the world but left the Met in chaos; and Jane Engelhard and Annette de la Renta, a mother-daughter trustee tag team whose stories will astonish you (think "Casablanca" rewritten by Edith Wharton).
With a supporting cast that includes artists, forgers, and looters, financial geniuses and scoundrels, museum officers (like its chairman Arthur Amory Houghton, head of Corning Glass, who once ripped apart a priceless and ancient Islamic book in order to sell it off piecemeal), trustees (like Jayne Wrightsman, the Hollywood party girl turned society grand dame), curators (like the aging Dietrich von Bothmer, a refugee from Nazi Germany with a Bronze Star for heroism whose greatest acquisitions turned out to be looted), and donors (like Irwin Untermyer, whose collecting obsession drove his wife and children to suicide), and with cameo appearances by everyone from "Vogue "editors Anna Wintour and Diana Vreeland to Sex Pistols front man Johnny Rotten, "Rogues' Gallery" is a rich, satisfying, alternately hilarious and horrifying look at America's upper class, and what is perhaps its greatest creation.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 545 pages
  • 160.02 x 236.22 x 35.56mm | 861.82g
  • Random House USA Inc
  • Random House Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0767924886
  • 9780767924887
  • 1,412,457

Review quote

Praise for" 740 Park"
"Tantalizing, intimate, engrossing, intriguing. A deeply researched book that deserves a prominent place among the social histories of 20th-century Manhattan." --"Washington Post
"
"One building as [a] microcosm of life on a silver platter. The voyeurism is so giddy that "740 Park" sometimes feels like an extended feat of free-association. . . . Outside the work of Edith Wharton or Jane Austen, it's rare to find such brazen speculation about exactly what people are worth. Changing demographic and economic realities have made 740 Park a mirror of its times." --Janet Maslin, "New York Times"
"[A] great read . . . gossipy . . . revealing." --"People"
"This is social history at its finest." --Dominick Dunne
"740 Park is the home of some of the world's wealthiest people. Gross takes readers inside its doorman-protected walls, exposing the shocking and sometimes tragic secrets the building has been guarding for nearly a century." --"Star"
"It took a reporter and storyteller like Michael Gross to lay out the epic tale--truly, the story of American capitalism and 20th-century New York society--that is 740 Park Ave. . . . This is the kind of heady terrain Gross knows well." --"Hartford Courant"
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About Michael Gross

Provocative cultural journalist and New York Times bestselling author Michael Gross is currently a contributing editor at Travel & Leisure. He has previously held positions at the New York Times, New York, Radar, George, and Esquire. His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, Interview, Details, Elle, Architectural Digest, American Photo,
Town & Country, and Cosmopolitan, and he has also written for the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, the Village Voice, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chicago Tribune. He has profiled subjects from John F. Kennedy Jr. to Greta Garbo, from Richard Gere to Ivana Trump, and he has written on subjects such as divorce, plastic surgery, Greenwich Village, and sex in the nineties. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women (1995), which was published in eight countries; My Generation (2000), a biography of the Baby Boom generation; Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren (2003); and 740 Park (2005). He currently lives in New York City.
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Rating details

439 ratings
3.42 out of 5 stars
5 19% (83)
4 30% (131)
3 32% (140)
2 14% (60)
1 6% (25)
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