Under the leadership of Emily S. Rauh Pulitzer, the widow of newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts plans to open a "museum-like facility" in St. Louis, the New York Times reports.
In an age when museums embark on fierce marketing and fundraising campaigns in an attempt to attract a mass audience, Mrs. Pulitzer chose to revive a trend popular in the early part of the 20th century, when patrons such as Albert C. Barnes, founder of the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania, and Isabella Stewart Gardner, the founder of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, insisted on creating intimate, personal spaces for their collections.
The new facility will feature pieces from Pulitzer's private collection — including works by Rodin, Miro, Warhol, Monet, and Picasso — that haven't been publicly displayed in over a decade. Mrs. Pulitzer, who donated $12.5 million to the foundation for the construction of the museum, expects that, when completed, the museum will host 50 visitors a day, twice a week.
"We don't have to have big attendance to pay the bills," Pulitzer told the Times. "I hesitate to use the word elite, but this can be an elite, not just for one group of people but for anyone who wants to come."
Although Pulitzer is confident the museum will provide a positive experience for members of the general public, nonprofit experts and tax lawyers warn that the tax-exempt foundation's attendance restrictions might stir debate. "[O]nce this structure is complete, and people take notice," noted Whitney Watson, a past president of the National Association of Museum Exhibition, "I'm sure there will be a number of questions about who can or can't have access to the art, and to what degree the foundation feels it is performing some kind of community service will be much debated."