folly . . . A costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome.
—The American Heritage Dictionary
Of the many questions to be raised about the new Lila Acheson Wallace Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, surely the most fundamental is: Who needs it? To which question we have yet to be given a cogent or credible reply. Here are twenty-two galleries, some of them very large and none of them very beautiful, which have been built at great expense to house an immense permanent collection of twentieth-century art. Yet the Met, as everyone knows, does not have even the shadow of a twentieth-century collection of the size and substance which this elephantine facility calls for, and the likelihood of the museum ever acquiring such a comprehensive collection is exceedingly remote.
Moreover, the need for such an outsize public collection in a city already extremely rich...