Letter in Response to Paul Golberger’s Vanity Fair Article on the Eisenhower Memorial Controversy

[Published in the October 2012 issue of Vanity Fair.]

To the Editor:

In his article on the growing opposition to the design for the National Memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Paul Goldberger doubted whether the Eisenhower family’s denunciation of Frank Gehry’s deconstructionist plan should matter at all.

In 1964 the Roosevelt family condemned the modernist design for the F.D.R. Memorial, which was the work of one of the country’s leading architecture firms. Speaking for his family, the president’s eldest son said about the proposed monument, “We don’t like it, and I’m sure father wouldn’t either.” That was good enough to kill it; the architects had the good grace to withdraw their plan.

Likewise, there is no doubt that Eisenhower, who was famous for his modesty, would have hated Gehry’s grandiose design. Disdaining modern art and architecture, which he did not believe represented the taste of the American people, the president said in 1962, “We see our very art forms so changed that we seem to have forgotten the works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. . . . What has happened to our concept of beauty and decency and morality?”

Goldberger also makes a telling omission. Despite the thousands of words in his article, he does not defend Gehry’s design. Instead, he merely defends the architect. Whether or not Gehry should gracefully heed the Eisenhower family’s fierce opposition, not to mention the president’s own taste in art, he should listen to what his friends are saying — or pointedly are not.

Justin Shubow
President and chairman
The National Civic Art Society
Washington, D.C.

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