• U.S.

Art: Benton Hates Museums

2 minute read

Art museums, which lately got some sharp criticism from New York City’s Park Commissioner Robert Moses (TIME, March 10), last week caught another egg squarely on the ear. The egg was hurled with a will by tough, swart little Missouri Painter Thomas Hart Benton. Growled he: the average museum was “a graveyard run by a pretty boy with delicate wrists and a swing in his gait. … Do you want to know what’s the matter with the art business in America? It’s the third sex and the museums. Even in Missouri we’re full of ’em. Our museums are full of ballet dancers, retired businessmen and boys from the Fogg Institute at Harvard where they train museum directors and art artists. I’d have people buy the paintings and hang them in privies or anywhere anybody had time to look at ’em. Nobody looks at ’em in museums. Nobody goes to museums. I’d like to sell mine to saloons,* bawdy houses, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce—even women’s clubs.”

*Taking Painter Benton at his word, Manhattan Impresario Billy Rose last week asked for and succeeded in borrowing Benton’s most saloon-worthy canvas, the famed, undraped Persephone, to hang in his revamped cabaret, the Diamond Horseshoe. Said Rose: “You’ve got the painting; I’ve got the saloon.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com