an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

Pay-to-Play? Maezawa Bankrolls Brooklyn Museum Show of His $110.5-Million Basquiat

Should a museum accept money from a private collector to show a work (or works) from his personal collection? Unless the work in question has been promised to the museum, such arrangements reek of pay-to-play, even if the collector's motives are believed to be altruistic. What are we to think, then, of the deal that will bring this record-breaking auction star to the Brooklyn Museum for a fleeting month-and-a-half "spotlight presentation"? Here's the credit line for One Basquiat, Jan. 26-Mar. 11: "One Basquiat" and surrounding … [Read more...]

Assailing the Sales: La Salle’s Art History Chair Says: “We Were Not Consulted”

With opposition continuing to grow over La Salle University's plan to sell 46 prime artworks from its collection through Christie's to fund non-museum activities, Susan Dixon, chair of the Philadelphia institution's art-history faculty, has circulated a letter lambasting the deaccessions (full text below). So far, I've seen nothing about whether this luminary intends to scrutinize La Salle's plans: When I asked the Attorney General's office if it's on the case, I got this cryptic reply from Joe Grace, its chief spokesperson: We can’t … [Read more...]

Derision for Admission Revision: Parsing the Metropolitan Museum’s New Mandatory Fees

Although I share the dismay over the Metropolitan Museum's new admissions policy (which, nevertheless, I grudgingly acknowledge may be necessary), I've been equally unsettled by the misconceptions and misinformation promulgated by many of the pundits who oppose the new fee. Before castigating the Met, the combatants need to take time to understand the complexity and difficulties of the financial situation that led to this controversial move. That said, the museum itself bent the truth to bolster its case, as I discovered when I analyzed its … [Read more...]

My Debt to Eugene Thaw, the Late Dealer, Collector, Connoisseur, Scholar, Donor, Mentor

I've never met an art dealer as brilliant and multifaceted as Eugene V. Thaw, who died Jan. 3 at the age of 90. Selling works of highest quality, from old masters to modern, he advised the wealthiest and most discriminating collectors. But he generously took time, long ago, to share his insights with me as a young journalist trying to understand the mysterious ways of the artworld. With a connoisseur's eye that encompassed a wide panorama of centuries and cultures, Gene collected eclectically, promising or gifting his wide-ranging … [Read more...]

Intersession Deaccession: AAM and AAMD Issue Joint Statement Deploring the La Salle Sales UPDATED

As they did in the ongoing Berkshire Museum saga, the American Alliance for Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors have just issued a joint statement strongly opposing La Salle University's planned sales of 46 objects from its museum, announced while students and faculty were away for winter intersession, which ends Jan. 12. (The Association of Art Museum Curators beat them to the punch yesterday with its own statement.) UPDATE: The Association of Academic Museums and Galleries has now joined the chorus of condemnation. The two … [Read more...]

Admission Revision: Metropolitan Museum Raises Eyebrows with Mandatory Fees for Non-New Yorkers

Were it not for my free-admission press pass, I'd be personally affected and affronted by the Metropolitan Museum's new admissions policy. I'd feel as if a longtime lover had jilted me. As a Bronx native who grew up roaming the Met, I took full advantage of what used to be free access for all. As current residents of Fort Lee, NJ, my neighbors and I live closer to the Met's three facilities (Fifth Avenue, Breuer, the Cloisters) than do most NYC residents of the outer boroughs, who can continue to pay whatever they choose when they enter the … [Read more...]

More on La Salle’s Sales: My Revealing Q&A with the University’s Spokesperson

More on this here and here. La Salle University's website provides surprisingly scant information about its astonishing plan under a relatively new president to dispatch to Christie's some 46 objects from its museum's collection to raise funds for non-museum activities. Here's the brief blurb about the planned disposal on the museum's webpage: In January 2018, La Salle University announced a decision by the Board of Trustees to deaccession 46 artworks. To see the full list of artworks, click here. That's it. There's no press release … [Read more...]

The Berkshire Museum Effect? La Salle University to Sell 46 Works from Its Museum

I'm sick of doing deaccession stories. But here we go again: Following in the stumbling footsteps of the Berkshire Museum, La Salle University, Philadelphia, has announced plans to sell some 46 works from its collection of more than 5,000 objects. The proceeds will "help fund teaching and learning initiatives in its new strategic plan," as reported by Susan Snyder and Stephan Salisbury in the Philadelphia Inquirer. In other words, the use of the proceeds will run contrary to professional guidelines for museums, which say that deaccession … [Read more...]

The Year in CultureGrrl: Kicking the “*!%&@” Out of Plan B (for “Blog”)

For me, 2017 was a year of transition: It marked the end of my decades-long run as a freelancer for the Wall Street Journal, precipitated by my having openly expressed unhappiness with the cutbacks in its superlative arts coverage, which I was proud to be part of. Disinclined to scramble for assignments in my grandparent stage of life (with three new family members so far), I decided, after two unsuccessful article queries, to take a page from Sheryl Sandberg. In her recent book about facing adversity far more serious than a mere editorial … [Read more...]

A Plenitude of Nudes: Drawn to Michelangelo’s Musclemen at the Met

"This drawing is the reason why I’m a curator at the Met," Carmen Bambach confided during a victory lap around her masterpiece marathon---Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer (to Feb. 12). She told me she had joined the Metropolitan Museum's staff because doing so gave her "extraordinary access" to its sheet of studies for a figure on the Vatican's Sistine Ceiling, exquisitely executed in red chalk, which she treasures as "the most beautiful drawing in America": For three magical months, America's "most beautiful drawing" is … [Read more...]

Wanna Pay $125 to See Two Shows at the Met? Now You Can!

"Have you dreamed of getting VIP treatment at The Met?...Now you can." That sounds like a quip I've used repeatedly on CultureGrrl. But the Metropolitan Museum is dead serious: If you wanna be a Met VIP, it'll cost you---$125 per "adult," defined (below) as ages 0-99. (I guess that discourages you from bringing the kids.) Here's the dubious deal: Exclusive access to The Met exhibits “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer” and “David Hockney" after hours. Complimentary audio guide (Available in English only). Next day admission … [Read more...]

Time to Rethink: Court Extends Injunction Preventing Berkshire Museum Disposals

It's time for the Berkshire Museum to face reality: Its pursuit of easy money through art disposals has backfired, devolving into a litigation exhibition with no end date, costly to both its reputation and what's left of its financial wherewithal. In a two-sentence notice filed today, Massachusetts Appeals Court Judge Joseph Trainor disregarded the surprising request by the museum's lawyers that proceedings to determine the legality of the museum's planned art sales at Sotheby's be allowed continue in the lower court, even while the … [Read more...]

More “Mundi” Conundrums: Exactly Who Paid the Leonardo’s Princely Price (and why)?

In my Friday post about those said to have "acquired" the $450.3-million Leonardo da Vinci, I suggested that the convoluted "Salvator Mundi" story was still developing and hard to predict. Sure enough, a mere two hours after my post appeared, Kelly Crow and Summer Said of the Wall Street Journal added a new twist: The Leonardo da Vinci painting acquired for $450.3 million by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince [Mohammed bin Salman] will be displayed at the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum—a gift from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates [emphasis added] … [Read more...]

Deal Revealed: Berkshire Museum Makes Public Its Consignment Agreement with Sotheby’s UPDATED

In a court filing today that made public previously impounded documents, the Berkshire Museum provided an inside look at auction-house/consignor dealings that are usually confidential. The filing includes the text of the agreement wherein the museum consigned for auction 40 works from its collection that were to be sold in a series of (now postponed) sales. (The consignment agreement is slightly redacted "to protect a trade secret of...Sotheby's.") On Nov. 29, the Berkshire Eagle's lawyers had filed an emergency motion asking the … [Read more...]

“Mundi” Conundrum: Latest Head-Spinning Chapter in Tangled Trajectory of Leonardo’s “Salvator Mundi”

Another bizarre twist has been added the convoluted tale of the modern odyssey of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," bought anonymously at Christie's on Nov. 15 for $450.3 million. The latest news, posted today on Christie's website, is this: And here's this morning's tweet from the Louvre Abu Dhabi: Louvre Abu Dhabi is looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci. The work was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi for the museum. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/ AP … [Read more...]

Attorney General Asks to Extend Preliminary Injunction Preventing Berkshire Museum Sales

The legal jousting in the Berkshire Museum case continues: The State Attorney General's Office has filed a new motion in Massachusetts Appeals Court, seeking "to extend the current injunction and stay until Jan. 29, 2018." The AGO says it is still waiting for a complete response to its request for a wide variety of documents that are listed in two letters to the museum's lawyers (Exhibits 1 and 2 in the above-linked filing). Judge Joseph Trainor's preliminary injunction, issued Nov. 10, prohibited the museum from disposing of any of the … [Read more...]

“Essential Personnel”: My Q&A with Getty’s Communications VP on the Approaching Wildfires UPDATED

With the area's surrounding streets and nearby freeway closed to traffic due to rapidly spreading wildfires that are approaching (but so far have not reached) the Getty Center, the Getty today is staffed by only "essential personnel"---mainly its security staff. But Ron Hartwig, the J. Paul Getty Trust's veteran vice president for communications, intrepidly reported for duty against considerable odds, to respond to queries about an emergency situation that has already claimed nearby homes but has so far spared the Getty. (Patricia Woodworth, … [Read more...]

Playing with Wildfire: Getty Museum Closed Due to Smoke in the Region

I sometimes worry about housing some of the world's greatest cultural treasures (including those from major loan shows) in a building that's located on a fault line (prompting special precautions in how objects are installed), and in an area that has been prone to wildfires. Speaking of which, this just in from the Getty Museum's Twitter feed: Due to continuing smoke from fires in the region, the Getty Center and Getty Villa will remain closed to visitors tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. pic.twitter.com/rAxpPYx0GT — J. Paul Getty … [Read more...]

Unsettled at the Met: Breuer Building, Southwest Wing, Director’s Search

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems obvious that the Metropolitan Museum, under Tom Campbell's directorship, got way ahead of itself in making ambitious plans to undertake a $600,000 makeover of its Southwest Wing for modern and contemporary art and to assume (for at least eight years) the operation and programming of a large additional facility---the former home of the Whitney Museum (now "the Met Breuer"). The negative impact of these miscalculations could complicate the search for what the Met needs most of all---a highly … [Read more...]

Beggar Blogger: Please Support CultureGrrl UPDATED

UPDATE 11/30: For some reason, my "Donate" button stopped working earlier today, which I discovered after wondering why last night's flood of responses (thanks so much!) had stopped cold today. ArtsJournal's tech gurus have now vanquished the gremlins. If your attempt contribute was thwarted, please try again (after reloading my blog page). Since losing my decades-long Wall Street Journal freelance gig at the end of last year (after expressing my dismay over the WSJ's reduction in art coverage), I've been focusing on my CultureGrrl commentary … [Read more...]

an ArtsJournal blog