[Dixielandjazz] Tough Times For Music

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 4 07:10:06 PST 2009

Not OKOM, but certainly an indicator of how tough things are in the  
music business these days. OKOM content, "Brother Cn You Spare a Dime."
Steve Barbone

March 4, 2009 - NY TIMES - By Daniel J. Wakin
The Met Offers Chagalls as Collateral

In its continuing effort to battle financial demons, the Metropolitan  
Opera said it had decided to put up its celebrated Chagall murals as  
part of the collateral for an existing loan and to ask for an across- 
the-board 10 percent pay cut from its singers next season.

Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said the Chagall murals would  
free up cash used as collateral for a loan from JPMorgan Chase. Mr.  
Gelb declined to release information about the value or purpose of the  
loan or the murals’ appraised value, but the company’s 2007 tax return  
— the most recent available — said the loan amounted to $35 million.

Mr. Gelb said that the loan existed before he became general manager  
three seasons ago. The Met’s budget this season is $291 million.

The murals, visible from the Lincoln Center plaza, are beloved New  
York treasures. They measure 30 feet by 36 feet and are called “The  
Triumph of Music” and “The Sources of Music.”

Using them to raise cash was reminiscent of a proposal by Lincoln  
Center in 1999 to sell a Jasper Johns painting, “Numbers, 1964,” which  
hangs in the lobby of the David H. Koch Theater (formerly the New York  
State Theater). Lincoln Center proposed the sale of the work, which  
attracted offers of more than $15 million, to raise money, until a  
public uproar forced it to back down.

Separately, the Met said that several years ago it sold backdrops to a  
retired production of “The Magic Flute” designed by Chagall. Art  
experts said they sold for $1 million.

Mr. Gelb played down the recent Chagall deal, which was first reported  
in New York magazine. “We have no intention of giving up the  
Chagalls,” he said. “We don’t think it’s a major event.”

Art experts said it was difficult to put a dollar value on the murals.  
Certainly their celebrity counts for something, as does the fact that  
they were painted by a master. But their large size makes them  
difficult to show. Possible buyers would most likely be a museum or a  
corporation interested in displaying them in a lobby, for example.

With its endowment, once $300 million, down by a third, and donations  
way off, the Met is facing potentially disastrous deficits next  
season. It is a situation common to most performing-arts institutions  
these days. Mr. Gelb has instituted 10 percent pay cuts for the staff  
and said he would seek to negotiate with the company’s unions for cost  
reductions. He has also cut several expensive productions from the  
roster next season.

The unions have requested a look at the Met’s books, and serious talks  
are not expected to take place until after such audits.

In line with the staff pay cuts, Mr. Gelb said he would ask singers  
across the board to donate back a portion of their fees next season.  
Already, a handful of “prominent artists” have offered to make  
donations this season, he said, declining to name them.

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