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Debating the value of red carpet events at museums, and Kim Kardashian’s Twitter following

October 28, 2010 |  8:44 am

Kardashian Over the last few years, museums here have literally been rolling out the red carpet for celebrities. Last year, MOCA's big gala drew Brad and Angelina and Gwen and Gavin. Last month, the Resnick gala at LACMA drew the likes of Tom Hanks, Teri Hatcher and Kim Kardashian.

All of the above took the time to pose for the paparazzi in front of museum logos. Kardashian also found a moment to tweet her 5-million-plus followers, "I'm at the most magnificent masquerade ball at the LACMA Museum!"

My sources for a larger story about Hollywood supporting the arts agreed that galas are important fundraising tools, as tickets sell for as much as $10,000 a seat. But opinion is split on the value of the red carpet itself.

Elizabeth Currid, a USC urban planning professor and author of the forthcoming book, "Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity," sees red-carpet events as key branding strategies. "I think this is a really smart move on the part of the museum directors and their boards. They get it: In order to generate buzz around cultural events, you need to bring cultural stars to them. It's a no-brainer.”

She also calls Kardashian's tweet "incredible p.r. for the museum -- if only 0.5% of her followers bother to look up LACMA, that's 2,500 people.”

But not everyone thinks celebrities send the right message. Dean Valentine, an art collector on the board of the Hammer Museum (which, for its part, has gala dinners without red carpets), is skeptical. "A museum's role is cultural and educational in the deepest sense. It's not clear to me that trotting celebrities out and having their mug shots taken has anything to do with promoting those values," he said.

"In the end, there's a real question: Do we care about art? Or do we treat a museum like just another bar or nightclub?"

-- Jori Finkel
twitter.com/jorifinkel

Photo: Kim Kardashian at LACMA's Resnick gala. Credit: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

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