Just prior to the recent Christie’s auctions of antiques and artifacts
owned by Barbra Streisand, Tom McPherson, director of the Craftsman
Farms Foundation which exhibits the Arts and Crafts furniture of
Gustav Stickley, injected into the wide press coverage about the
auctions his assertion that his organization had been contacting Ms.
Streisand for eight or ten years to solicit her donation of two
Stickley pieces that were to about to be auctioned.
When New York Times art reporter William Hamilton called a
representative of Ms. Streisand to check when she first had received
this request and to inquire why she hadn’t responded to it, it was
quickly determined (and conveyed to Mr. Hamilton) that neither Ms.
Streisand or any of her associates had ever heard of the Craftsman
Farms interest until the inquiry of Mr. Hamilton.
It was only then that Mr. McPherson contacted a
representative of Ms. Streisand to leave word that he had PR issues
between his museum and Ms. Streisand and that they “had to be
resolved before the papers get it.
This drew a clear implication of either/or, either the
Farms get the Stickley pieces or the papers get the story.
Although Mr. McPherson declined to validate to whom he had
submitted his requests, the issue of his charge became the central
focus of subsequent press about the auctions.
Mr. McPherson colored the reportage of the auctions so
thoroughly with his false claims of having conveyed his request
previously, that Ms. Streisand has now chosen to clarify the truth
of the matter.
Barbra Streisand’s Response:
I think it’s a matter of fairly accessible record that charitable
giving is an important part of my life, so I feel no call to defend
how much or to which causes I give.
But because I refused to capitulate to coercion, a very false
issue was exploited in the press concerning my recent Christie’s
auctions, so I finally feel obliged to comment and to set the matter
concocted debate about whether I was morally bound to donate two
Gustav Stickley corner cabinets to the Craftsman Farms Foundation,
the press largely disregarded the fact that all of the
proceeds of the first of the three auctions went to charity.
What a conveniently short memory some of the media have.
is a much more important issue that was ignored in this
coverage the circumstances under which one should choose to make
contributions. Had I
ever been contacted by the Foundation in advance of the auction
arrangements.. which I most definitely never was.. I quite certainly
would have donated the pieces. But when the director of the Craftsman Farms finally conveyed
his interest to us.. by having the New York Times call to inquire
why we had not responded and acquiesced to the Farm’s request (a
request which had never been communicated to us).. it was done in a
coercive and adversarial manner, colored with the implication by the
director of the Foundation that if I didn’t make the donation,
they would take the story to the press (which, obviously, they had
already done). It was
impossible to capitulate to such rude and inappropriate tactics. As a matter of record, I had offered another lovely Arts and
Crafts piece to the Metropolitan Museum, but they didn’t have room
This brings up another consideration. While I believe it is proper for any legitimate charity or
cultural entity to request a donation (we receive hundreds each year
and give each serious consideration), I think any supporter of
charities has the right to determine the causes he or she most
passionately wants to contribute to. And no potential recipient, however worthy, has the right to
say “either you accede to our request or else we will go to the
newspapers,” which is how the Craftsman Farms’ desire arrived on
our doorstep. The fact remains that no one should dictate to anyone how
their charitable instinct should be expressed.