Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Metropolitan Fails Lincoln Kirstein: An Open letter to Philippe de Montebello

I’ve just come back from the Metropolitan Museum’s presentation on Lincoln Kirstein very disappointed. This ad hoc, unscripted, uninformative program gave no insights into the source of Kirstein’s genius.
The executor of Kirstein’s literary estate told us nothing about Kirstein’s writing, nor did he read anything by Kirstein. Instead, he suggested a vague and unconvincing relationship between some quotes from T.S. Eliot and Kirstein.
The Met’s curator of photography showed two photos of Kirstein by Walker Evans and many pictures by Evans with the excuse that Kirstein was Evan’s patron. Why not read a letter from Kirstein to Evans illustrating this relationship?
The comments from Violette Verdy and Peter Martins were more about Balanchine than Kirstein. The most we got was that he ate tuna fish.
Besides being slapdash and unprofessional, the evening avoided completely a central aspect of Kirstein’s life: his homosexuality. Why hide this central feature of his life? When people talk and write about Balanchine they never fail to mention his many wives and affairs. This is not prurient prying, but an important key to his personality and his genius. Has not Martin Duberman in his new biography of Kirstein shown us that his sexuality was a major source of his passion? Although married, Kirstein never hid his homosexual life. How much better would the evening have been if someone who had researched Kirstein’s life, such as Duberman, had spoken? As it was, the only information we got was from the handout which was fine as far as it went, sketching his role in the New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet, but without much depth.
The best part of the program was the dancing. Unlike the panel, the student dancers were poised, expressive, and professional. They gave the evening what pleasure there was to be had in this unfortunate exercise.