A few markers of our present moment: every arts institution in the United States is under pressure to discard meritocratic standards in collections, programming, and personnel, in favor of race and gender preferences. When the Museum of Modern Art opened its renovated headquarters in New York City this October, a Wall Street Journal art critic noted that the new MoMA had been able to “correct, and even make reparations for, its heretofore almost exclusive parade of white male superstars.”Gender and race bean-counting is now the key to evaluating a collection’s worth.
When Christian Gerhaher and his long-time accompanist, Gerard Huber, stepped onto the stage of Alice Tully Hall on October 29, in other words, they were entering what university precincts call a “contested” space. Their featured composer—Gustav Mahler—is a dead white male; Gerhaher and Huber are themselves white and male. And they were offering works that represent the pinnacle of a civilization routinely denounced in the academy and the political arena as the font of the world’s racism and sexism. Gerhaher and Huber demonstrated why the preservation of that inheritance is the most pressing imperative of our time.If they're so embarrassed by the masterpieces in their possession, why not just give them away — first come, first serve? What could be more inclusive than that?