Brain Dropping #98
This Brain Dropping was triggered by an article in The New York Times about the battle among narcissistic philanthropists for bragging rights.
Lincoln Center is a fifteen acre complex devoted to the arts. It was a project of that ‘titan’ of mindless urban renewal and neighborhood destruction for the sake of the automobile, Robert Moses. (See Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker.”) The Center houses The Metropolitan Opera (Murals by Marc Chagall), The New York State Theater, recently renamed The David H. Koch Theater (Yes! That David Koch.) and Philharmonic Hall, home base for the NY Philharmonic which opened first in 1962. It was an acoustical disaster. The musicians on stage could not hear each other. So, the interior was gutted for an acoustical face-lift to the tune of the then,1970, huge sum of ten point five million dollars donated by a member of the Lincoln Center board – Avery Fisher. The Hall reopened n 1976 with new acoustics (Not all that great!) and a new name – you guessed it – Avery Fisher Hall. The first shot in the battle for bragging rights was fired. After all, millionaires and billionaires need to prove to posterity that they were mover and shakers. Roman Emperor Trajan had the Trajan column erected in The Forum to celebrate his victories, Generalissimo Franco built The Valley Of The Fallen as a monument to his brutal regime. And the Great Pyramid of Cheops or Kufu has to be mentioned.
Today, the board of the Philharmonic wants to do yet another surgery on the building requiring a sum more than forty times what Mr. Avery donated. They want to elicit donations from the scores of oligarchic billionaires who cover their “stinking fish with cultural sauce.” (See Sir Herbert Read “Education Through Art.”) The fly in the ointment is that in the original agreement with Mr. Fisher, the $10.5 million was donated on the condition that the Hall be named Avery Fisher Hall in PERPETUITY – meaning FOREVER.
The Philharmonic organization has offered Mr. Fisher’s heirs $15 million dollars to redefine perpetuity to mean less than forever so that they can expunge the name and go after the patronage of another obscenely wealthy, self-aggrandizing narcissist. One of the names in contention is the above named David H. Koch. And so the philological fun has begun. Lexicographers of every stripe have been consulted to see if their is any wiggle-room to get out of the original agreement by re-defining PERPETUITY. Even the esteemed linguist, Noam Chomsky has been sought out for advice. His terse reply: “People with money can get anything they want!”