We’ve recently discussed GMAT Reading Comprehension question types and patterns in detail, so it’s time to try your hand at identifying question types and answering some difficult practice questions.
GMAT Reading Comprehension Practice: The Passage
“Strange Bedfellows!” lamented the title of a recent letter to Museum News, in which a certain Harriet Sherman excoriated the National Gallery of Art in Washington for its handling of tickets to the much-ballyhooed “Van Gogh’s van Goghs” exhibit. A huge proportion of the 200,000 free tickets were snatched up by homeless opportunists in the dead of winter, who then scalped those tickets at $85 apiece to less hardy connoiseurs.
Yet, Sherman’s bedfellows are far from strange. Art, despite its religious and magical origins, very soon became a commercial venture. From bourgeois patrons funding art they barely understood in order to share their protegee’s prestige, to museum curators stage-managing the cult of artists in order to enhance the market value of museum holdings, entrepreneurs have found validation and profit in big-name art. Speculators, thieves, and promoters long ago created and fed a market where cultural icons could be traded like commodities.
This trend toward commodification of high-brow art took an ominous, if predictable, turn in the 1980s during the Japanese “bubble economy.” At a time when Japanese share prices more than doubled, individual tycoons and industrial giants alike invested record amounts in some of the West’s greatest masterpieces. Ryoei Saito, for example, purchased van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet for a record-breaking $82.5 million. The work, then on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, suddenly vanished from the public domain. Later learning that he owed the Japanese government $24 million in taxes, Saito remarked that he would have the paining cremated with him to spare his heirs the inheritance tax. This statement, which he later dismissed as a joke, alarmed and enraged many. A representative of the Van Gogh museum, conceding that he had no legal redress, made an ethical appeal to Mr. Saito, asserting, “a work of art remains the possession of the world at large.”
Ethical appeals notwithstanding, great art will increasingly devolve into big business. Firstly, great art can only be certified by its market value. Moreover, the “world at large” hasn’t the means of acquisition. Only one museum currently has the funding to contend for the best pieces–the J. Paul Getty Museum, founded by the billionaire oilman. The art may disappear into private hands, but its transfer will disseminate once static fortunes into the hands of various investors, collectors, and occasionally the artist.
Analyze the Passage
A. What is the TOPIC (main idea) of this passage?
B. What is the SCOPE (specific focus) of this passage?
C. What is the PURPOSE of this passage? (What is the author trying to do with this passage? Describe/explain, argue, advocate, etc…)
D. What notes would you jot down on your noteboard to paraphrase each paragraph?
Earn Points by Answering Questions
As you answer each of these, first determine which type of question it is: Global, Detail, Inference, or Logic. This will help you proceed.
1 – Which of the following would be the most appropriate title for the passage?
- A. Art of Art’s Sake: A Japanese Ideal
- B. Van Gogh: Breaking New Ground
- C. Museums and the Press: Strange Bedfellows
- D. Money vs. Art: An Ethical Mismatch
- E. Great Art: Business as Usual
2 – It can be inferred from the passage that Harriet Sherman would be most likely to agree with which of the following statements regarding admission to museum exhibits?
- A. Tickets should be available on a first-come-first-served basis.
- B. Those with a genuine interest in art should not have to pay inflated prices.
- C. Museums need the income from ticket sales in order to buy great art.
- D. Tickets should be distributed without prior announcement.
- E. No one should be able to purchase more than one or two tickets.
3 – The passage supplies information for answering which of the following questions?
- A. Who owned van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet prior to its purchase by Saito?
- B. Where did Saito exhibit van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet?
- C. Which museum proposed to purchase van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet from Saito?
- D. Did the Van Gogh Museum threaten legal action in response to reports that Saito intended to destroy van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet?
- E. Did Saito actually intend to destroy van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet?
Post your answers in the comments – be sure you include Topic, Scope, Purpose, passage notes, question types, and answers to each of the questions. You can use this primer on GMAT Reading Comp to help you along, too. We’ll post the full answers and explanations in an upcoming blog entry. Happy practicing!
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