Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Frankfurt II - Who should run the Städel?

Can one blame politicians for being populist? The answer is yes. In 2001, Frankfurt’s then mayor Petra Roth, met a fundraising assistant at the Guggenheim in NY and brought him to Frankfurt. She first gave him the Schirn exhibition hall to manage, then made him Director General of Frankfurt’s most important art museums, the Städel and the Liebieghaus.

Hollein is a marketing man and ran his museums accordingly. Big, crowd-pleasing exhibitions and constant publicity. Not least, self-publicity. Now that he is leaving, Frankfurt should seriously consider going back to the academic model of art museums. Museums should, after all, be more than exhibition halls with fanfare.  

This will not be an easy decision, as publicity is a drug and Frankfurt got used to it. The mayor who will decide to opt for an academic, an art historian, rather than a marketing man, will have to bear the accusation that “nobody mentions the Städel anymore”.

Frankfurt I - Petra Roth

Petra Roth was the mayor of Frankfurt until 2012. A couple of weeks ago, on April Fools’ Day, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) ran an almost half page story reporting that Frankfurt airport would be renamed after Roth (as in Charles de Gaulle or nearer home Franz Josef Strauss).  

Here’s the email I did not find:

From: Roth
To: FAZ editor

For 17 years, I was constantly in the papers. I even managed to get someone to put up my name as candidate for German President (but then again, they also suggested Bubis). Nowadays, all I get is a pathetic story when I turn 70.

Here’s the plan: You will run an April Fools story suggesting that the Frankfurt airport be named after me. This, sadly, will not happen, but it could start a public discussion about the urgent need to honour me by naming something after me. A university would be nice but a bridge would also do.

Over the years - as I hope you still remember - I fed you many stories and gave you many scoops. How about some payback?

This response was also not to be found:

From: FAZ editor
To: Roth

OK. We will do it.

PS: Colleagues suggested naming the flea market after you. They are particularly aggrieved by the dirt and the many traders and visitors who pee in their gardens on market days.