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Frick Flick: CultureGrrl Video Tour of Off-Limits Upstairs Living Quarters at Frick Collection

One of my favorite parts of the Frick Collection's controversial expansion plans was the commitment to opening to the public the historic upstairs rooms where the Frick clan lived 100 years ago. Now that I've had the chance to climb those stairs, thanks to a tour that director Ian Wardropper offered to me and two other writers after yesterday's press lunch, my excitement has yielded to disappointment. As you'll see in the CultureGrrl Video, below, I gradually learned that precious little remains of the decor and furnishings that the … [Read more...]

“Tidal Wave of Change”: The Sudden Turnover of U.S. Art Museum Directors (towards contemporary)

While the annual meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors (in Cleveland through tomorrow) focuses on ways "to increase diversity throughout the field," Kaywin Feldman, director of the Minneapolis Institute of Art and former AAMD president, has noticed a major change among her fellow attendees at the directors' conclave. She tweeted this insight: Majority of directors @MuseumDirectors meeting have been directors for under 5 years. Exciting tidal wave of change in the field! — Kaywin Feldman (@KaywinFeldman) May 23, 2016 To … [Read more...]

Art Museum Day’s Odd Couples: Corcoran/GWU, MASS MoCA/Crystal Bridges, Smithsonian/Hebrew University

In the provocative spirit of CultureGrrl, come join me, faithful art-lings, in an unconventional commemoration of Art Museum Day, spotlighting some unlikely pairings that have recently hit the news. Whether conceived in a spirit of innovation or desperation, they've caught our attention by being unexpected and a little eyebrow-raising: ---There have been new developments in the doomed three-way marriage of the Corcoran Gallery and College of Art + Design with George Washington University and the National Gallery. As reported by Peggy … [Read more...]

An Asterisk for Twombly Record* at Sotheby’s? Bloomberg Reports Payment by Art-Swap

When is an "auction record" not really an auction record? That's a question that may be raised regarding a wobbly Twombly benchmark set at Sotheby's last November. In her Bloomberg report on that auction house's $242.19-million evening Contemporary sale last week, Katya Kazakina unpacked the back story for this untitled Christopher Wool, for which the bidding inched up to $12.2 million, against a presale estimate of $14-18 million. (Final price for the Wool, with buyer's premium: $13.9 million.) Here's Katya's … [Read more...]

Are We Still Awake? My Storify on Christie’s Impressionist/Modern Snooze

I don't know about you, but I'm experiencing severe auction fatigue, which is not nearly as rewarding as museum fatigue. So let's cut to the chase and get right to my Storify account of tonight's dull, workmanlike Impressionist/Modern sale at Christie's, which, despite its record for Frida Kahlo, lacked electricity. Even Frida's nudes, nestled in this lush landscape, look drowsy: [View the story "Sleepwalking Through Christie's Colorless Impressionist/Modern Sale" on Storify] … [Read more...]

Competition Lives! My Storify on Sotheby’s Creditable Contemporary Sale

After its rocky night Monday, it looked like Sotheby's could become a distant also-ran in the art-auction sweepstakes. But tonight, with a little help from some late-breaking irrevocable bids (likely accompanied by lowered reserves), it glided through a smooth Contemporary sale, with an impressive 95.4% sold by lot and 98.6% sold by value. The price levels, for the most part, were not as impressive: This is a time of lowered expectations. So it was with the top lot, a Twombly blackboard with blue (instead of the usual white) scribbles, … [Read more...]

“Contemporary Confidence” Game: Brett Gorvy Tells How Christie’s Got it Done

The headline for my last post was: Christie's Gets It Done. At the press preview for last night's confidence-restoring contemporary sale, Brett Gorvy, Christie's chairman of Post-War and Contemporary art, told me how he had worked to achieve that. With the benefit of hindsight, his strategy worked, but with some added help from the previous night's disappointing Sotheby's sale of Impressionist and modern works. As reported by Bloomberg's Katya Kazakina, "Christie’s staff members made phone calls" yesterday before the start of their … [Read more...]

Christie’s Gets It Done: My Storify on Tonight’s Solid Contemporary Sale

Christie's tonight pulled the art market out of its Sotheby's-induced funk with a Post-War/Contemporary sale that hummed along nicely from beginning to end, with one manic moment---a new auction record for this untitled 1982 Basquiat, which sold for $57.29 million with buyer's premium: Here's my running commentary on Christie's spirited sale (thanks to the lively performance of auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen), which ups the ante for Sotheby's contemporary sale tomorrow night. It doesn't have to equal Christie's take. (Indeed, Sotheby's lower … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Slump: My Storify from Tonight’s Painful Impressionist/Modern Sale

If Sotheby's is trying to restore buyer confidence, tonight's mediocre Impressionist/Modern sale wasn't the way to do it. Only 66.1% of the works sold, and the sold total by hammer price total was considerably below the presale estimate of hammer price. Here's my running Storify commentary on how it went down: [View the story "Sotheby's Impressionist/Modern Slump" on Storify] … [Read more...]

“Cautious Optimism,” Depressed Results: Sotheby’s Spins the Art-Market Slump for Analysts

How do you restore investor confidence in a company whose first-quarter results show a net loss of $25.9 million (compared to net income of $5.2 million for the same period the previous year), with a 35% decrease in net auction sales and 33% decrease in auction revenues in this year's first quarter compared to last years? You try to show that this was an anomaly (because the first quarter last year included "unusually strong sales") and you profess "cautious optimism" that better days are coming. That's what Sotheby's CEO Tad Smith gamely … [Read more...]

Contraction Action: Sotheby’s & Christie’s Confront New Market Reality (plus Koons “Deflatable”)

The operative words for the art market this season are "correction" and "contraction." So Sotheby's can be forgiven for seeking comfort in nostalgia, via this Monday tweet, recalling a past triumph: #OnThisDay in 2012, Sotheby's sold Edvard Munch's 1895 'The Scream' for a record $120 million #SothebysImpMod pic.twitter.com/VO0i1XxsPc — Sotheby's (@Sothebys) May 2, 2016 Those days (and that auctioneer, Tobias Meyer) are gone. There's nothing in this spring's evening sales at Sotheby's expected to reach the giddy heights of "The Scream." … [Read more...]

Bedford in Baltimore: Christopher is Third Contemporary Expert Recently Tapped to Lead a Major Art Museum

Are we seeing a trend here? Anne Pasternak at the Brooklyn Museum; James Rondeau at the Art Institute of Chicago; now Christopher Bedford at the Baltimore Museum of Art. In all three recent cases, a contemporary art specialist was chosen for the top spot at a museum with distinguished historic collections. (Notably bucking that trend were the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Wadsworth Atheneum.) The impetus for this predilection for the present is undoubtedly the same force driving the Metropolitan Museum (which tapped a tapestry … [Read more...]

Brothels & Landscapes: MoMA Mines Degas’ Monotype Monomania–Part II

Part I is here. While most of Degas: A Strange New Beauty at the Museum of Modern Art (to July 24) assembles the artist's usual cast of characters---dancers and singers, acquaintances and nudes (often in ungainly poses)---two sections at the end of this thoroughly engrossing show of the artist's monotypes reveal aspects of his work that are less familiar (as discussed by curator Jodi Hauptman in this CultureGrrl Video). The most baffling chapter in the exhibition (and in Degas' oeuvre) examines his brothel scenes, which were "unexhibited … [Read more...]

My Q&A with President Daniel Weiss–Part II: Financial Impact of Met Breuer & Planned New Wing

Part I is here. While implicitly faulting the Metropolitan Museum's administration for not having managed its operations "in a way that’s financially sustainable," Daniel Weiss, who has been the Met's president since July, diplomatically avoided direct criticism during most of our wide-ranging conversation last week. But in assessing the Met's plans for the new Southwest Wing for modern and contemporary art, he briefly became uncharacteristically blunt. In Part II of our Q&A, below, he asserted that the timeline previously being … [Read more...]

My Q&A with President Daniel Weiss–Part I: How Did Metropolitan Museum Fall into Financial Hole? How Will It Climb Out?

Part II is here. Last week's revelations about the Metropolitan Museum's disturbing financial reality check left a lot of unanswered questions, raising concerns about how prudently the museum has been managed under the seven-year leadership of its director and CEO, Tom Campbell. The museum's president, Daniel Weiss, who assumed his post last July, has dedicated himself to getting "a handle on how to control this behemoth of an institution in a way that’s financially sustainable," as he told me in a wide-ranging phone interview on … [Read more...]

Today in Museum Accounting: Financial Windfall at MoMA, Shortfall at the Met

The contrast in the financial news emanating today from New York's two premier art museums could not have been more dramatic. The Museum of Modern Art issued an exultant press release celebrating David Geffen's $100-million naming gift for its planned renovation and expansion. That equals his recent Lincoln Center benefaction for the NY Philharmonic's home. Meanwhile, about a mile up Fifth Avenue from MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum had deputized Robin Pogrebin of the NY Times to release some shocking financial news (not to be found … [Read more...]

Deaccessioning Its Home: National Academy’s Posh Digs on the Market for $120 Million

The National Academy's two interconnected townhouses and school building are now on the market for $120 million, according this listing by luxury real estate brokers Cushman & Wakefield. A museum spokesperson had previously told me that the property had been appraised at about $107 million in 2012. The realtors' sales pitch hawks the academy's property on Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park, as "one of the most remarkable conversion opportunities currently available in all of New York City." [It provides] "an exceptionally large blank … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Quicksand: Why Are We in Abu Dhabi?

The Guggenheim Foundation ought to cut its losses and pull out of its Abu Dhabi misadventure. There's no point in trying to analyze the salvos in the latest hostilities and breakdown of talks between the Guggenheim and the Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC). In a statement on its website yesterday, the foundation blasted GLC for "shift[ing] its demands on the Guggenheim beyond the reach of our influence as an arts institution, while spreading mistruths about the project and our role in it." GLC shot back that "the Guggenheim seems to be … [Read more...]

Degas Digs Deep: MoMA Mines His Monotype Monomania–Part I

Like the Frick Collection's Van Dyck show (discussed here), the Museum of Modern Art's Degas: A Strange New Beauty (to July 24) is informed by the discerning eye of a prints-and-drawings curator who provides new insights into a celebrated painter's sensibility and working methods through close examination of his more experimental works on paper. Both shows are visually exciting and, thanks to their curators' sharp interpretive skills, intellectually stimulating. At MoMA, Jodi Hauptman, senior curator of drawings and prints (with … [Read more...]

Smithsonian London? “Not So Fast!” Says Secretary Skorton

Notwithstanding the fact that its founding donor was British, the Smithsonian Institution's proposed London outpost, conceived before the institution's current head, David Skorton, came on board, is not necessarily a marriage made in museum heaven. During their meeting today, Skorton and the Smithsonian's Board of Regents, its governing body, again delayed greenlighting on the project, on which a decision had initially been expected to be made last year, according to a January 2015 NY Times report by Graham Bowley. Last month, Peggy … [Read more...]

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