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A golden age for museums

September 07, 2007

Re "So long, masterpieces," Opinion, Sept. 4

The fact is that the only issue at hand is the ill-conceived congressional action that ended fractional giving to art museums. The American art museum and the American public are still receiving great gifts of artworks by their patrons, and will continue to do so.

History proves that single-patron museums (like the Whitney Museum of American Art or the Frick Collection in New York) broaden over time -- and the newer versions, like the Menil Collection in Houston or the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, add something extraordinary to their communities (and by extension to all of us).

Let's stop wailing about high art prices. Either it is a bubble that will correct, or it represents a remarkable level of competition (and intelligence) focused on art. And if the latter is the case, it may indicate that our society has finally learned to value things that are truly worthy of their price -- great works of art. Now, if only the U.S. government would wake up and correct the tax law changes, we would find that we are in a golden age.

David A. Ross

New York

The writer is former director of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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