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Squawking in Milwaukee: My Upcoming WSJ Review of the Milwaukee Art Museum

For my article on the "Arts in Review" page of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal, (online later today, if all goes according to plan), I had the challenging task of reviewing an entire museum in 900 words. The Milwaukee Art Museum had recently concluded an ambitious, praiseworthy, top-to-bottom renovation and reinstallation, as well as a 17,500-square-foot expansion: The driver for the makeover was a threat by the American Association of Museums (AAM, now the American Alliance of Museums) to withdraw MAM's accreditation, unless prompt … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Still Stalled, as Monitoring Report is Issued on Saadiyat Island Labor Conditions

PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC's) 4th annual monitoring report on labor conditions on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, recently released by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) of the United Arab Emirates' capital, gives a mixed picture of progress and continued concerns. The latter included a June 8 worker fatality, which occurred "as a result of a construction accident" at the Louvre Abu Dhabi's project site.  Whether for this or other reasons, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is still nothing more than "1,400 concrete piles [that] … [Read more...]

MoMA’s New Expansion Plan: Another Reality Check for Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Once again, with the recent revisions to the Museum of Modern Art's expansion plans, Diller Scofidio + Renfro's transgressively creative but farfetched architectural follies have been (mercifully) abandoned. All I can say is: I told you so. While we know that some high-profile innovations that had initially piqued MoMA's interest have now left the building, we still have scant information about what the new MegaMoMA will look like, save for this sketchy schematic: When I asked if there were any photographic renderings of the … [Read more...]

Getty Abducts Another Gorgeous Woman: $30.5 Million for “Danaë” UPDATED

When it comes to major acquisitions of drop-dead gorgeous women, no museum can compete with the deep-pocketed Getty. It has just abducted "Danaë" from the Metropolitan Museum, where she had been on loan from dealer/collector Richard Feigen, until he sent her to auction at Sotheby's. “Danaë” sold to the Getty tonight for $30.5 million with buyers premium, fetching a "reasonable" $27-million hammer price against its $25- to 35-million presale estimate. CultureGrrl readers may remember that the Getty carried off a pricier looker (that … [Read more...]

Rondeau/Chicago: Veteran Curator Promoted to Art Institute’s Directorship

Once again, the Art Institute of Chicago has looked to its own staff to find its new president and director: James Rondeau, chair and curator of modern and contemporary art (departments that merged under his leadership), will succeed Douglas Druick, who announced in October his planned retirement after more than 30 years at the AIC, including more than four years in the top spot. Rondeau's 18-year tenure in Chicago included planning the 2009 opening of the Modern Wing and co-organizing (with Sheena Wagstaff, now at the Metropolitan … [Read more...]

Another Erratic Outing: My Storify on the Taubman Old Masters Sale at Sotheby’s

I've asked Sotheby's to explain a puzzling assertion that its spokesperson made to me and also to the NY Times' Robin Pogrebin at the end of tonight's sale of the late A. Alfred Taubman's old masters: "The success of tonight's sale," according to a Sotheby's email, "reduces our estimated auction guarantee shortfall by half, to approximately $3 million [from $6 million]." In addition to that shortfall from the $515 million guaranteed by Sotheby's to the Taubman estate, the auction house is out the $6 million in expenses attributable to the … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Eats Crow from the Taubman Sales: $6-Million Guarantee Loss & $6-Million in Expenses

It's official: Sotheby's assumption of the risk for the consignment of more than 500 works from the estate of its former chairman, A. Alfred Taubman was no coup. It was a flop. In a conference call with securities analysts this morning, Tad Smith, Sotheby's CEO, said his firm expects to lose "approximately 1%, or $6 million of the guaranteed amount, due to a shortfall in sale proceeds." In addition, "approximately $6 million of sale-related expenses were incurred [for Taubman] in the fourth quarter of 2015." What's more, "additional … [Read more...]

Meier, Ingels, Seldorf, Cook: My Storify from Architects’ Panel on NYC’s Skyline

I would have hoped for more incisive questions from journalist/moderator C.J. Hughes for the inter-generational panel of major architects who shared tidbits last night in a conversation at the 92nd Street Y in New York. He should have elicited more interesting details about the projects (theirs in particular) "that now epitomize the city, the ever-evolving real estate market and what’s next for New York’s neighborhoods," as the panel's prospectus had led us to expect. I was struck by the sky's-the-limit attitude of the panel: Nobody seemed … [Read more...]

Digging Digital: What AAMD Will Discuss at Midwinter Meeting (& what it should discuss)

The Association of Art Museum Directors' midwinter meeting, Jan. 22-25 in LA, will feature "a series of presentations on digital practices, highlighting some of the ways AAMD museums are using technology to better carry out their missions," according to today's press release. Allow me to suggest some recommended reading to prepare for this discussion---The Brave New Museum Sputters Into Life, my irreverent analysis for the Wall Street Journal of museums' digital prestidigitations: As I wrote in the WSJ: Intended to inform and … [Read more...]

“Recent Criminal Charges”: Smithsonian Revises Cosby Show’s Text (again)

Reacting to the latest rent in Bill Cosby's tattered reputation, National Museum of African Art has quietly revised the Message to Our Visitors regarding its exhibition of works from the comedian's African-American art collection. The latest text begins like this: Allegations that publicly surfaced when we opened this exhibition in November 2014, now combined with recent criminal charges brought against Mr. Cosby in Pennsylvania [emphasis added], cast a negative light on what should be a joyful exploration of African and African American … [Read more...]

New Year’s “Resolutions,” Sotheby’s Edition: What Artworld Uncertainties Should Be Resolved in 2016?

This is the third post in my series (here and here) of how thorny artworld issues that vexed us in 2015 could achieve satisfying resolution in the year ahead: Sotheby's nine-month CEO, Tad Smith, has been throwing tons of money at the problem of his firm's disappointing net income---the aggressive $515-million guarantee (without outside party backing) for the underperforming Taubman consignment, staff buyouts (expected to cost $40 million), the high-cost severance of CFO Patrick McClymont and hiring of Christie's chairman Marc … [Read more...]

New Year’s “Resolutions,” Pasternak Edition: What Artworld Uncertainties Should Be Resolved in 2016?

This is the second in my series of how thorny artworld issues that vexed us in 2015 could achieve satisfying resolution in the year ahead: Parsing Pasternak Memo to Arnold Lehman: Be careful what you wish for! The last time I saw the veteran populist director before he retired from the Brooklyn Museum, he described his successor, Anne Pasternak, as “my reward for having been here for 18 years. I’m a great admirer of what she does....She is coming up to speed really quickly and she shares all the values that we stand for—community, … [Read more...]

New Year’s “Resolutions,” Cosby Edition: What Artworld Uncertainties Should Be Resolved in 2016?

Last year left the artworld on edge, with several dramatic, unresolved cliffhangers. Here's hoping that some of the thorny issues that vexed us in 2015 achieve satisfying resolution in the year ahead. In a series of posts, I intend to analyze a few of these tangled situations and suggest how they may be best resolved. For now, let's consider the sensationalistic saga that's once again in the news: Tawdry Cosby The collateral damage to the Smithsonian Institution from Bill Cosby's fall from grace has gone from bad to worse with … [Read more...]

The Year in CultureGrrl, 2015 Edition

2015 was, for me, a high point of my CultureGrrl "career"---the only year when my dogged blogging was generously compensated, thanks to the munificent Art Writers Grant from Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation. This windfall temporarily suspended my internal debate over whether it was time to move on to more sensible activities, like increased mainstream-media work and more energetic grandmothering (which, if all goes well, will become more intense beginning in April). Barring some miraculous benefaction, my internal debate about future … [Read more...]

Puerto Rican/European: Francisco Oller’s Hybrid Paintings at the Brooklyn Museum

Like the works of Archibald Motley, now featured at the Whitney Museum, the art of Puerto Rican painter Francisco Oller, subject of a concurrent retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum (to Jan. 3), inhabits two separate worlds. More than Motley, Oller often conflated those worlds on the same canvas. Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World is one manifestation of the Brooklyn Museum's attempt to have "more interchange with the Latino community, to increasingly diversify our audience"---an objective of former … [Read more...]

Motley & Oller (Part I): Whitney & Brooklyn Museums Embrace Black & Latino Cultural Forebears (with video)

[Part II is here.] Notwithstanding the latest spike of interest in diversifying museums' displays and personnel, the problem of stimulating greater inclusiveness is nothing new: It has been a source of periodic discussion and sporadic action for decades. Now the Whitney Museum and Brooklyn Museum have taken steps to move the needle, by means of felicitously concurrent shows (soon to close) that give major exposure and scholarly attention to highly accomplished, under-the-radar artists from earlier eras---an African American at the former … [Read more...]

Canon Fodder: Will MoMA’s New Generation of Curators Intercept Barr’s Torpedo? (with video)

If you think that the de-installation of the Museum of Modern Art's fourth-floor permanent collection  to make way for Picasso Sculpture was a one-off, think again. That floor's traditional survey of works from 1940 to 1980 is not coming back any time soon. That was one of the revelations at MoMA's press breakfast on Tuesday, where director Glenn Lowry and chief curator of painting and sculpture Ann Temkin told the scribe tribe how installations may change both in the near future and also after the completion of the new expansion, designed … [Read more...]

$3.75m Cash Severance: Patrick McClymont, Sotheby’s CFO, Steps Down Suddenly

In the latest Sotheby's shocker, the auction house has just announced that its chief financial officer, Patrick McClymont, is precipitously stepping down. He will resign, effective Dec. 31, to pursue the proverbial "other opportunities." Looks like it's going to be another costly severance. According to today's 8-K SEC filing: Upon his scheduled departure from the Company and subject to his delivery of a general release, Mr. McClymont will receive $3,750,000 in cash severance and will be entitled to continued vesting of his 26,261 … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s to Cut Some 80 Positions; Charles Moffett, Its Former Executive VP, Dies

In an amendment filed today to its Nov. 13 8-K filing with the SEC, financially challenged Sotheby's revealed that its planned staff buyouts will result in a net headcount reduction of about 80 staffers. Because of the $40-million cost of the buyouts, which will be charged to the 4th quarter of 2015, it will take a year and a half for the expected savings to compensate for the $40-million hit. Here is an excerpt from today's amendment to the 8-K: Sotheby’s expects to recognize a charge of approximately $40 million in the fourth quarter … [Read more...]

Skorton Meets the Press: Outreach, Public Input, “Trade Secrets” UPDATED

In his cautious comments yesterday during an hour-long appearance at the National Press Club, Washington, David Skorton, the Smithsonian Institution's new secretary, seemed to be guided by his expressed belief that "the first thing in nonprofit leadership is to do no harm...Basically, my first duty is to listen to the people on the ground." He "did no harm" by uncontroversially endorsing the value of the arts and humanities, the Smithsonian's need for outreach and public input, and the importance of generous federal funding and … [Read more...]

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