The Haunting

S M Chen
5 min readJul 19, 2020

I’m a fan of writer Malcolm Gladwell.

My son knows this — he’s also a fan — and recommends certain Apple podcasts from time to time.

His latest referral was something from Revisionist History entitled “Dragon Psychology 101.”

It’s an interesting compendium of observations on art museums, Andy Warhol, a couple of twin hoarders who have so much stuff in their matching penthouses they have to live in smaller quarters elsewhere, and partial recitation of one of his poems by J R R Tolkien. Also includes comments by the person considered the world’s leading expert on hoarding.

Pixabay; free use

If this sort of thing interests you, here is a link:

I had no idea of the amount of accretion of art museums.

Gladwell cites the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) of NYC, one of our great museums, as an odd (but by no means unusual) example of an organization which owns an incredible amount of priceless art, likely worth billions. In early 2018, faced with a $40M deficit, rather than sell any of their surplus art, they instead laid off 90 employees and began charging entry admission.


When asked to put on a balance sheet the value of their holdings, the museum’s curators left a blank, other than a cryptic note: ‘see A.’

What does ‘A’ read?

This: “In conformity with accounting policies generally followed by art museums, the value of the museum’s collections has been excluded from the statement of financial position.”

When asked specifically about the museum’s collection, one curator replied, “We cannot tell you what is in our collection. That is not the way our imaginations are wired.”

In fact, much of the MMA’s collection is packed away in storage, likely in a warehouse somewhere in New Jersey. That collection, including Islamic tapestry, has probably not…