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Berkshire Bumble: Director’s Letter Reveals Focus Groups Kept in the Dark About Planned Art Sales

In the sell-job for its New Vision, the Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA, has made much of the fact that "approximately 400 people have participated in the community consultation process" during the planning phase. But a letter (text obtained by CultureGrrl and posted below), sent this week by director Van Shields to members of the museum's community focus groups, reveals that most of them were given no heads-up that the museum was strongly considering a sell-off 40 works---the cream of its collection---to bankroll a multimedia … [Read more...]

Resistance Insistence: Museums (& CultureGrrl) Grapple with Political Turmoil

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. ---the late Heather Heyer Like most of you, I've been "paying attention" all week---upset and obsessed with the Charlottesville explosion and its toxic fallout. I've finally emerged from my apartment complex's fallout shelter. I haven't felt up to tweeting, let along posting, on my usual subject---the artworld---since a few hours after I tweeted this about my last blog post on the demonstration in Pittsfield protesting the Berkshire Museum deaccessions: Seems fatuous for me to … [Read more...]

Save the Forsaken 40! Protest March Tomorrow by Opponents of Berkshire Museum’s Art Sales UPDATED

Opponents of the Berkshire Museum's planned sale of 40 artworks from its collection plan to stage a protest march tomorrow (Saturday), 9 a.m.-noon, on the sidewalk in front of the Berkshire Museum, South Street, Pittsfield, MA. Yesterday evening, Leslie Ferrin of Ferrin Contemporary (a gallery for contemporary ceramics) told me this about the plan: We hope to engage the Berkshire community, first by simply letting them know that we exist, and welcome all who’d like to participate in the protest to join in. We are planning subsequent … [Read more...]

Pink Jinx? Sotheby’s Still Awaits Payment for Record-Setting $71.2-Million “Pink Star” Diamond

When the Pink Star---a 59.60-carat, oval, internally flawless diamond---fetched $71.2 million (including buyers premium) at Sotheby's Hong Kong on Apr. 4, it was touted by the auction house as setting a "New World Auction Record for Any Diamond or Jewel." That amount was considerably less, however, than the aborted $83-million Sotheby's sale of that the same gem in 2013---a transaction never consummated "because the buyer...never paid and the auction house had to reclaim the stone," as reported by Bloomberg's Corinne Gretler. Now it … [Read more...]

Memo to Berkshire Museum: Homeless National Academy Suspends Its School, Slashes Price for Its Posh Digs

The Berkshire Museum's self-proclaimed deaccession-or-die desperation measure has triggered traumatic flashbacks to the National Academy's failed attempt to secure its future by selling off important works by Frederic Edwin Church and Sanford Robinson Gifford---a story I broke and closely followed on CultureGrrl. In light of the widely condemned, deplorable developments in Pittsfield, it's high time we checked on how things are going in New York at the venerable but tottering National Academy Museum and School. For the Berkshire … [Read more...]

“Deeply Opposed”: Joint Statement by AAMD & AAM Blasts Berkshire Museum’s Planned Art Sales UPDATED TWICE

I predicted in my previous post that the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums were "likely to exert pushback" against the Berkshire Museum's deplorable deaccession plans. Now they have, after communicating with the errant museum's leadership earlier today via teleconference.                 This just in from AAM and AAMD. While they've collaborated on other issues, this is, to my knowledge, the first time they've joined forces for a joint … [Read more...]

Berkshire Museum Disposables: Bierstadts, Bouguereaus, Calders, Church, Inness, “George Washington”

More on this here. The hit list is out. The Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA, today identified all 40 works that it intends to sell through Sotheby's to bankroll its $60-million reinvention plan. Based on this report in the Berkshire Eagle, I had previously written that the museum's Calder mobiles were "not being sold." In fact, two landmark 1932 Calders---"Dancing Torpedo Shape" and "Double Arc and Sphere"---are headed for auction unless opposition derails them. Other highlights leaving the building include Church's "Valley of the Santa … [Read more...]

“Public Trust” Bust: Berkshire Museum to Jettison 40 Works (including 2 artist-donated Rockwells) UPDATED

More on this here, here and here. Why should it matter if the Berkshires lose two major paintings by Norman Rockwell, when there are already so many in the vicinity? That mindless mindset seems to be driving the deplorable decision by the Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA, to monetize, in a series of Sotheby's auctions, some 40 artworks in its collection, including Rockwell's "Shuffleton's Barbershop" and "Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop." Astonishingly (and not disclosed in the announcement), the donor to the museum of the two Rockwells … [Read more...]

Bible Bumble: The Befuddled Build-Up to the New Museum of the Bible

How is the ambitious, soon-to-open Museum of the Bible (MOTB) hoping to repair the collateral damage to its reputation, now that Hobby Lobby---the crafts and home decor company led by the museum's founder, chairman and mega-donor, Steve Green---has been roundly condemned by the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York for committing antiquities-collecting sins of biblical proportions? The museum's face-saving strategy is to distance itself from this debacle. According to the museum's statement, as reported by the … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum’s Empty Director’s Chair: Text of Dan Weiss Memo to Staff

Now that Metropolitan Museum director Thomas Campbell has officially left the building (as of June 30), who will serve as acting director until a new director is chosen? Surprisingly, the short answer appears to be: "No one." Here's the memo sent to the museum's staff by its president and CEO, Daniel Weiss (the text of which I received from a highly reliable Met source): I am pleased to share that we will be promoting Quincy [Houghton] to Deputy Director for Exhibitions. Together, Quincy and Carrie Rebora Barratt [my link, not his], … [Read more...]

Shoehorned at Hirshhorn: Imprisoning Ai Weiwei’s “@Large” Alcatraz Installation

I can understand why Philip Kennicott felt unenthusiastic about the Hirshhorn Museum's Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn (to Jan. 1), which riveted me when I saw it to best advantage at its original venue---Alcatraz. The Washington Post's art critic dismissively stated that the renowned Chinese dissident "needs to make better art, more thoughtful art, art that isn’t consumed and exhausted in a single glance." Actually, he did just that, but you might not know it from the installation at the Hirshhorn, whose director, Melissa Chiu, has a … [Read more...]

“On Deadline with Gabe Pressman”: My Starstruck 1973 Profile of the Late Dean of NYC TV Reporters

Back in 1973, clutching a masters degree in journalism from Columbia, I decided to take the class that Gabe Pressman, gave at the New School. This "indefatigable dean of New York's television reporters" (as described in his Friday NY Times obit) generously allowed a few students to shadow him on different days. I was one of the lucky ones. Gabe proved to be both a tough reporter and a kind mentor. Watching him cover two breaking news stories from start to finish, and chatting with him throughout the day, I knew a lively profile story … [Read more...]

Ethics and Critics: Conflicts of Interest Infect NY Times Reviews

If a newspaper accepted outside compensation for favorable coverage, that would be clearly be a violation of journalistic ethics---a conflict of interest, potentially compromising the integrity of its reports. That's essentially what's happening, though, on the arts pages of the NY Times, where clickable "FIND TICKETS" buttons have been appended to theater and movie reviews. Clicking the button leads to an online ticket-selling site. Here's an image of one example (in the blue box on the right, below): Here's what the faint text below the … [Read more...]

AAMD’s Response to Metropolitan Museum’s Renegade Reorganization: “Guidance to Consider”

In last week's post---Metropolitan Museum as Renegade: Reorganization Defies AAMD’s Professional Standards---I noted that Met President Daniel Weiss' designation as his museum's CEO, with the yet-to-be-named new director as his subordinate, ran contrary to the professional guidelines (P. 5) of the Association of Art Museum Directors. I also predicted that AAMD's reaction to the Met's going rogue would be to ignore it. I was right. Here's the answer that I received today from AAMD's executive director, Christine Anagnos, to my query about … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum as Renegade: Reorganization Defies AAMD’s Professional Standards

The Metropolitan Museum has become a renegade. Its decision to rejigger its organizational chart---elevating the finance-oriented CEO (now President Daniel Weiss) above its (as yet unnamed) new art-centric director---runs contrary to common wisdom about the appropriate chain of command in art museums. That said, I reluctantly concede that desperate times may call for desperate measures. Notwithstanding outgoing director Tom Campbell's gracious endorsement on his Instagram feed of Weiss' CEO designation, subordinating the director to the … [Read more...]

President Dan Weiss Snares Top Spot at Metropolitan Museum (with director as subordinate)

Congratulations, Daniel Weiss. You've passed the audition. As announced in today's press release, the Metropolitan Museum's board voted unanimously to make permanent President Weiss' previously interim appointment as the museum's CEO. No surprises there. The big news, unmentioned in today's NY Times report, but implicit in the Met's official announcement, is the board's laudable decision not to add "director" to Weiss' titles. According to the press release: The museum will lead a search to appoint a director of the museum, who will … [Read more...]

Diller Thriller: MoMA’s Mega-Makover, An Irreverent Photo Essay

After my involuntary hiatus, I re-joined the scribe tribe on Thursday to learn more about what Robin Pogrebin had already announced to us in the NY Times earlier that morning---the completion of Phase One of the Museum of Modern Art's $450-million capital project (the renovation and reconfiguration of the eastern portion of its sprawling physical plant) and the plans for the rest of the project, which involve renovation of the rest of the existing facility and expansion into the lower floors of the in-construction Jean Nouvel-designed … [Read more...]

Proud and Unbowed: Tom Campbell’s Valedictory to the Press (plus, a look to the future)

I was surprised and saddened to realize (from Robin Pogrebin's tweet) that I hadn't been invited to Tom Campbell's press briefing at the Metropolitan Museum on Wednesday---the last of these biannual events before he "step[s] down" (his words, my link) from the museum's directorship on June 30. I've attended these informative conclaves for decades: Hearing of my plight, a friendly colleague provided me his own digital recording of the proceedings. I transcribed Campbell's astonishingly self-congratulatory oration, but then decided that instead … [Read more...]

The Impermanent Permanent-Collection Display: LACMA Follows MoMA’s Dicey Example

Memo to LA Times art critic Christopher Knight: You were mistaken when you wrote the last week that "an impermanent permanent collection"—such as what is being proposed by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for its planned Peter Zumthor-designed galleries—"is unprecedented." It's already happened at New York's Museum of Modern Art---a cautionary tale that should give pause to art-loving Angelenos. In a far-ranging interview with Knight, LACMA's director, Michael Govan, revealed details of his installation strategy for the transformed … [Read more...]

Doomsday Scenario: President Trump’s Bludgeoned Budgets for NEA, NEH, IMLS (with video)

William "Bro" Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and an Obama appointee, clearly knew what was coming when he precipitously resigned his position yesterday, effective today. Short notice, Bro! As reported by The Hill, the NEH, National Endowment for the Arts, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting are among 66 programs that would be eliminated under President's Trump's FY 2018 budget, released today and outlined here (without listing the all the targeted programs). The … [Read more...]

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