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Bailey Bails, Philippe Leaps: Big Surprises At Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Hispanic Society of America

Colin Bailey

I don't know which astonished me more---Colin Bailey's short-notice decision to desert the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in June, after barely two years as its director, or Philippe de Montebello's decision to attach his formidable reputation to the sadly substandard Hispanic Society of America, by becoming its chairman. (Mitchell Codding remains its executive director.) Hobbled with staff turnover and without a permanent director for 16 months after John Buchanan's death, FAMSF desperately needed stability and scholarly ballast when … [Read more...]

Global Guggenheim Updates: Abu Dhabi (workers’ rights), Bilbao (renewal), Helsinki (finalists’ show)

Image of photo of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi model, shown at Philadelphia Museum's recent Frank Gehry show
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Will the Guggenheim's Middle East plans be affected by last week's NY Times revelations about yet another report detailing widespread violations of workers' rights guidelines in Abu Dhabi? (This latest chapter concerns New York University's new campus there.) Although its announced completion date remains 2017, there is still "no construction underway" on the Guggenheim's project, Tina Vaz, its director of communications for global initiatives, told me today. She added: We cannot comment on the specifics of the report. We do note … [Read more...]

“One-Way Ticket’s” Missed Connection: Lawrence’s “Migration” Show at MoMA Bypasses a Crucial Stop

MoMA director Glenn Lowry and curator Leah Dickerman
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

As I suggested near the end of my previous post, my enthusiasm for the Museum of Modern Art's profoundly illuminating, entertaining (thanks to its rich musical component) and deeply researched One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Works was tinged with a drop of disappointment. During her opening remarks at the press preview, curator Leah Dickerman noted that one of the reasons for rehanging Lawrence's epic 60-panel account of the Great Migration of African-Americans from South to North was "to understand how it can … [Read more...]

“One-Way Ticket”? Lawrence’s “Migration Series” Should Remain Whole after MoMA’s Showing (with video) UPDATED

Panel 1 caption: During the World War there was a great migration North by Southern Negroes.
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

More on MoMA's Lawrence show here. Jacob Lawrence's "Migration Series" is our country's Parthenon Marbles---a monumental frieze-like epic, meant to be experienced in a single, stately procession, but sadly sundered by two covetous owners. In the 1942, within months of their completion by the precocious 23-year-old, the 60 small tempera paintings chronicling the movement of millions of African-Americans from South to North were divvied up by the Museum of Modern Art (which bought the even-numbered panels) and the Phillips Collection in … [Read more...]

Inaugural Jolt: The Whitney and Metropolitan Museums Go Against Type in Their New Digs

The New Whitney
Photo by Tim Schenck

In the inaugural displays that they have recently announced for their new digs, the Whitney and Metropolitan museums seem to be sending contrasting messages, bucking their respective images as provocatively experimental and conservatively sedate.                     With its 50,000-square-foot Renzo Piano-designed indoor gallery space to be devoted to some 650 works from its permanent collection (May 1-Sept. 27) and with a Frank Stella retrospective in … [Read more...]

More on “Cash Cow” Collections: Scotland’s Dazzling Rent-a-Show at the De Young

Velázquez, "An Old Woman Cooking Eggs," 1618
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

In Monday's post about the latest regrettable sales of art from the collection of Randolph College's Maier Museum, I adopted the NY Times' use of the term "cash cow" to signify what I've previously dubbed "deplorable deaccessions"---museums' disposals of art to raise money for purposes other than acquisitions. My own past use of "cash cow" has referred to a another dicey fundraising gambit that some museums resort to---exacting high fees for loans of permanent-collection shows to sister institutions (what I've previously termed … [Read more...]

“Cash Cow” Collections: Two More Maier Museum Works Sold, by Hicks & Hennings

Ernest Martin Hennings. "Through the Arroyo"

While a front-page NY Times piece by Doreen Carvajal yesterday focused primarily on recent European examples of museums' holdings being regarded as possible "cash cows" (in the words of the headline), an under-the-radar development in the U.S. has just added another chapter to the saga of deplorable deaccessions from Randolph College's Maier Museum. Randolph President Bradley W. Bateman last week announced the recent sales of Ernest Martin Hennings’ “Through the Arroyo” and Edward Hicks’ “A Peaceable Kingdom”---the remaining two of the … [Read more...]

Grousing about Klaus: Biesenbach and MoMA Get Björked

Klaus Biesenbach, speaking about upcoming exhibitions at last April's MoMA press briefing
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Just when Klaus Biesenbach must have thought the critics' response to his Björk retrospective couldn't get worse, he became the butt of an unfunny April Fools joke today on the website of the Art Newspaper. There's admittedly much to debate about the Museum of Modern Art's chief curator-at-large, who undeniably has had a mixed track record of hits and misses. But the recent swarm of attacks seems to me both excessive and meanspirited---a function of our Internet Age, in which clicks are king. The "Björking" that MoMA's controversial … [Read more...]

Extolling Viñoly: Q&A with Bill Griswold on Cleveland’s New Additions & How He’ll Pay for Them

Bill Griswold talking with a staff member about Family Game Night, in which he participated
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

William Griswold came to the Cleveland Museum of Art ready to party. With the museum celebrating its centennial in 2016, "there will be the requisite parties all year long, starting early in the year but certainly reaching a fevered pitch in June [the anniversary month]," he told me over lunch while visiting to work on two articles, including this Wall Street Journal review of the museum's current Senufo show. Looking ahead to more substantive centennial plans, Bill revealed: We hope to bring important loans of individual works of art … [Read more...]

Boffo Senufo: Companion Images for My WSJ Piece on Cleveland Museum’s African Show

SenCoupSid

As I suggest in my Wall Street Journal review on tomorrow's "Arts in Review" page (online now), the Cleveland Museum's stunning installation of what Westerners (but not the creators themselves) call "Senufo" art produces an immediate "wow" effect. But the museum's African art curator, Constantine Petridis, had a didactic, as well as aesthetic, agenda in how he orchestrated this display. Although he chose the objects for their beauty and power, Petridis kicked off the presentation in a way that struck me, at first, as … [Read more...]

More Metropolitan Museum Good News: Elated Over Ellsworth, Chipper About Chipperfield

Maxwell Hearn
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

While Christie's last week was triumphantly totaling up some $131.6 million in sales from the estate of the consummate Chinese art connoisseur, collector and dealer, Robert Ellsworth, the Metropolitan Museum's Asian Art Department chairman, Maxwell "Mike" Hearn, was quietly anticipating some Ellsworth worth for his own institution. "It's a new golden age," Hearn told me excitedly during our brief chat last week in the museum's Astor Court, just before the Met's press announcement of the public phase of its $70-million fundraising … [Read more...]

Mysterious Disappearance: Michael Taylor’s Unceremonious Departure from Dartmouth’s Hood Museum UPDATED

Taylor

UPDATE: Michael Taylor promptly replied to my post: This is an ongoing situation and all I can say right now is that: "I have left my position as Director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College to pursue other career opportunities." Under mysterious circumstances, Michael Taylor has abruptly exited Dartmouth's Hood Museum, which he directed since 2011, after having served as curator of modern art at the Philadelphia Museum. So far, no one is saying why he's left the building. I have made no secret of my admiration for … [Read more...]

Weiss’ Wishes: Dan’s Plans for the Metropolitan Museum–Part II

Time to pack up again?
Dan Weiss unpacking cartons in his then new Haverford office, July 2013

Part I is here. During our recent phone conversation, Daniel Weiss, soon-to-be president of the Metropolitan Museum, repeatedly (and understandably) deflected my persistent queries seeking specific details about what he hopes to accomplish at the Met. "I'm not there yet!" he patiently reminded me. What Weiss did convey to me was a deep, sympathetic understanding of the Met's complex operations and activities, as well as a profound respect for what its professionals have accomplished. Although he's "not there yet" physically, he seems … [Read more...]

Bridging the Scholarly/Administrative Divide: My Q&A with Daniel Weiss, Metropolitan Museum’s Next President—Part I

Daniel Weiss, outside his office at Haverford College

Part II is here. In our wide-ranging phone conversation yesterday, Daniel Weiss demonstrated analytic acumen, unforced candor and fluid articulateness that should serve him well as the next president of the Metropolitan Museum. The first thing that impressed me about Dan was his willingness to talk to me at all, in light of yesterday's CultureGrrl post, in which I dredged up controversies that had erupted during his tenure as Haverford College's president. Not only did he tackle these issues head-on, but, as you'll see below, he was … [Read more...]

Hard Times at Haverford: Recent Travails of Daniel Weiss, Metropolitan Museum’s Incoming President

Daniel Weiss, Metropolitan Museum's incoming president

More on this here and here. Daniel Weiss' attractiveness as incoming president of the Metropolitan Museum---a post he is to assume this summer--derives more from his deep knowledge of art history than from his brief, mixed record as Haverford College's president. With an art history PhD from Johns Hopkins and an MBA from Yale, this Medieval Studies specialist has a double-barreled background that is increasingly common among art museums' directors but is not often found among their presidents. Weiss' official bio on Haverford's … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Annual Report: Doubled Cap on Guarantees; Reduced Profits Attributable to Investor Activism

SothNight2

As revealed in its 2014 Annual Report, released on Monday, Sotheby's sustained a 9% drop in its net income (profits), compared to 2013. Its profitability has been under close scrutiny ever since activist investor Dan Loeb launched his attack on management. But this drop in profitability seems less significant after analyzing what caused it: Last year's $12 million decline in net income (from $130 million in 2013 to $118 million in 2014) wouldn't have happened were it not for the $20 million in expenses directly related to shareholder … [Read more...]

ISIS Crisis: Archaeologist Pedro Azara, UNESCO, AAMD & AIA on the Mosul Museum Attack UPDATED

Pedro Azara
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

In light of news reports that some of the objects seen being smashed by members of ISIS in videos widely circulated yesterday may have been replicas, I have sought clarification from the Metropolitan Museum (which yesterday issued a forceful statement decrying the destruction) and from archaeologist Pedro Azara, who had worked on a dig near Mosul and had described unstable conditions there when I chatted with him in New York two weeks ago at a press preview for an exhibition he co-curated at the Institute for the Study for the Ancient … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum Decries “Catastrophic Destruction” of Mosul Museum’s Collection

The Mosul Museum

Tom Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum, was among those sickened by the videos released today by Islamic State (to which I shall not link) showing militants smashing archaeological artifacts (which they regard as forms of idolatry) from Iraq’s Mosul Museum. The museum was also looted during the 2003 Iraq war. Here in full is Campbell's statement, issued this afternoon, regarding this deplorable destruction: Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays … [Read more...]

“Crucifixion” Conservation: Cleveland Museum’s Time-Ravaged Caravaggio (with video)

"The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew," 1606-1607
Photo courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art

As CultureGrrl readers may remember, the Cleveland Museum's great Caravaggio, "The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew," 1606-1607, was recently used as a bargaining chip by that institution's previous director, David Franklin, to salvage a nearly sabotaged show of antiquities loaned from Sicily. But that proposed loan to Sicily was subsequently scrapped (or at least postponed) when Cleveland suddenly decided, after Franklin's departure, that "Saint Andrew" was not fit to travel and needed extensive conservation work at home. (Nevertheless, the … [Read more...]

From “Griddle Griswold” to “Twister Griswold”: New Outreach by Cleveland Museum’s Playful Director (with video)

William Griswold
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

The ebullient, always welcoming William Griswold is a ubiquitous presence at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where he assumed the directorship in May. After hearing him introduce two scholarly lectures related to the museum's exhibition program... ...I kept seeing Bill popping up around the premises, engaging with visitors and staff at every turn. During the time that he set aside for me, which included a wide-ranging conversation over lunch at a corner table of the museum's public restaurant, he made it a point to address a complaint in my … [Read more...]

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