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Archives for April 2008

What’s Gross About the “Gross Clinic” Deaccessions

Thomas Eakins, two sketches for the 1888 painting "Cowboys in the Badlands"Maybe it's time for the Association of Art Museum Directors to trash its "Criteria for Deaccessioning and Disposal." These published guidelines are being conspicuously and repeatedly ignored by institutions eager to acquire works that they believe they can't pay for without selling other works important enough to have been displayed in their galleries.So it is with Eakins' "Cowboy Singing" (image here) and the artist's two sketches (above) for "Cowboys in the Badlands" … [Read more...]

Vote of Confidence: Blog Slogger Makes British Prof’s Top-10 List

Mary BeardI was once enshrined on the "Worst of the Web" list of another art blogger (who shall remain nameless). So just at the moment when I've decided to slow down (have I done that yet?), it was nice to make the "excellent blog" list of a colleague I greatly admire, Mary Beard, professor of classics at Cambridge, classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement, and the "wickedly subversive commentator" of A Don's Life---a wide-ranging blog with a fixation on ancient Greeks and Romans.Mary had generously singled me out previously on BBC … [Read more...]

News Flash: Austrian Supreme Court Rejects Bloch-Bauer Heirs’ Appeal for Sixth Klimt

Gustav Klimt, "Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl," 1918 (unfinished) E. Randol Schoenberg, the lawyer who obtained restitution from Austria to the heirs of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer of five works by Gustav Klimt (including the famed "Adele Bloch-Bauer I"), informs me that the Austrian Supreme Court last week rejected the heirs' appeal of a 2006 arbitration decision against the return of a sixth Klimt, "Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl" (above).Aside from disappointing his clients, the court opinion, Schoenberg asserts, runs counter to Austria's own … [Read more...]

Calatrava Trauma: Bird Man Gets His Wings Clipped in Manhattan

Architect's rendering of 80 South Street, Santiago CalatravaGeorge Howe's and William Lescaze's model of unexecuted proposal for the new Museum of Modern Art, 1930, on recent display at MoMABy Guest Blogger Martin FillerFor superstar architect Santiago Calatrava, the cruelest month has indeed been April, which witnessed the demise of one of his headline-making New York City projects and announcement of likely cutbacks to another. Readers of the New York Review of Books know I'm no fan of his work, which I find irredeemably corny, ostentatiously … [Read more...]

Art History Productivity Index: Rankled by Another University Ranking

As if the U.S. News & World Report college rankings weren't bad enough, now we've got the Chronicle of Higher Education's 2007 Art History and Criticism Productivity Index [via Art History Newsletter]. The index "compiles overall institutional rankings on 375 universities that offer the Ph.D. degree." (I'll give you one guess as to which school is Number One.) Yardsticks for "faculty productivity" include: number of books published; journal publications; citations of journal articles; federal grant dollars awarded; honors and awards. … [Read more...]

Cult of CultureGrrl: Readers’ “Blog Slog” Comments Posted

As much as I appreciate them, I don't usually post the many "love your blog" comments that hit my inbox, since my egotistical vanity is already amply in evidence in this space. But my semi-valedictory Middle-Aged Blog Slog post evoked such an outpouring of warm responses that I felt I should gratefully acknowledge them by adding a few (with permission) to the end of that essay, which ran on Apr. 23.I particularly liked the left-handed compliment (I'm a lefty) from Ron Hartwig, the J. Paul Getty Trust's vice president for communications, who … [Read more...]

My Public Radio Commentary on the Philadelphia Museum’s Eakins Disposals

You can hear my Philadelphia Public Radio soundbite on the disposal of three Eakinses by the Philadelphia Museum here. They did use my comment that I thought the sale was inappropriate but executed in the most responsible way possible, under the circumstances. This was followed by museum director Anne d'Harnoncourt's observation that "you don't part with anything by Eakins eagerly." What you don't hear in this very fleeting WHYY radio segment is what I said about WHY this sale was inappropriate. More on that, COMING SOON. … [Read more...]

“Gross Clinic” Disposals: Why is this “Cowboy Singing”?

Sold by Philadelphia Museum:Thomas Eakins, "Cowboy Singing," 1892Kept by Philadelphia Museum:Thomas Eakins, "Home Ranch," 1892Just when I had decided I wasn't going to rush to comment about the Philadelphia Museum's Eakins disposals that have raised the last of the funds needed to help defray its $34-million half-share of the purchase price for "The Gross Clinic," WHYY, Philadelphia Public Radio, called me up for analysis. I guess they couldn't find anyone locally to speak out against what seems, on the face of it, to be a good "exchange" for … [Read more...]

Middle-Aged Blog Slog: CultureGrrl’s Second-Anniversary Makeover

Tatami Whammy: Me and My TeaWhat's this? Blogging can be hazardous to your health?Matt Richtel's recent story about dropped-dead middle-aged bloggers, published in the NY Times on the day that I left for my (non-working) vacation in Japan, struck a chord. So did a comment by a Buddhist monk who spoke to my tour group before a CliffsNotes version of a Japanese tea ceremony (above) in which I participated with CultureDaughter. The monk's metaphor: You have to empty a glass to be able to fill it again.Today, Apr. 23, marks my second anniversary as … [Read more...]

Koons Lampoon: Joy to the Met, Sorrow at LACMA

Jeff Koons in yesterday's press scrum at the Metropolitan Museum's roof gardenMemo to the Metropolitan Museum: Does the artworld really need another high-profile showcase for Jeff Koons' faux inflatables? Is it particularly desirable to borrow two of them from the coveted private collection of Steve Cohen, whose loans have recently been seen enriching just about every New York art museum? If you throw in one more piece, owned by Louis Vuitton's foundation, does that make it just about perfect? (Speaking of which, I mercifully neglected to … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Arts Writer Brett Campbell Defends Brad Cloepfil

Brett Campbell, a Portland-based arts writer, responds to Martin Filler's guest blog post, MAD's Striptease: Cloepfil Shows New York What He's Got: Brad Cloepfil has done some magnificent work around the country and is on his way to becoming one of America's leading museum architects. This project [the new Museum of Arts & Design] was fraught with challenges from the get-go; I wonder what he could have done if offered the freedom to really give the building the total overhaul---or replacement---it needed. … [Read more...]

News Flash: Rutelli Out as Culture Minister

Life is short for Italian culture ministers (as you can see on this list of past officeholders). The Great Repatriator, Francesco Rutelli (above), is no exception: With the recent election of Silvio Berlusconi as Italy's new (and former) prime minister, a new culture minister will be named, according to Louis Godart, advisor on culture to Italy's president, responding to my e-mailed query. (I neglected to ask Godart if he also gives up his post.)Rutelli has been culture minister only since May 2006, but has accomplished much (to the detriment … [Read more...]

Nouvel News: MoMA Monster Gets Drubbed (and defended)

Architect's rendering of 53 W. 53rd Street---the "Tour Verre"Photo: Ateliers Jean NouvelWhy am I not surprised? While I was away in Japan (where I marveled at I.M. Pei's awe-inspiring Miho Museum and the "wow"-worthy Kansai International Airport Terminal on a manmade island in Osaka, which I later discovered had been designed by Renzo Piano), Jean Nouvel's MoMA Monster was getting beaten up at New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission.Colin Moynihan of the NY Times reports:Neighbors, public officials and preservationists were among the … [Read more...]

Back from Japan: Updates on Stories We’ve Been Following

Edward Hicks, "The Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity"Photo: Sotheby'sFirst, another hearty thanks to my fabulous, recidivist guest blogger, Martin Filler, who has upstaged me in my own production: Thanks to his delicious posts on the best and worst new museums of 2007, visitors flocked to CultureGrrl in record numbers this week. And the hits just keep on coming.The very good news is that Martin threatens to do it again: If all goes according to plan, he will be popping in on CultureGrrl whenever the spirit moves him, even when I'm … [Read more...]

Lascaux Walls Being Scraped, Watchdog Group Alleges

Black Mold Patches Above a Cow's Horns, Lascaux Photo, French Ministry of CultureHere I am just back from Japan, bringing you news from the south of France. This just in from the International Committee for the Preservation of Lascaux: The International Committee for the Preservation of Lascaux (ICPL) challenges the French National Television (TF1) announcement last Friday claiming the crisis in Lascaux is resolved.The report asserts that the black spots, which have attacked the cave and its prehistoric paintings since 2006, are now … [Read more...]

MAD’s Striptease: Cloepfil Shows New York What He’s Got

The Dance of the MAD Veils, as observed last JulyBy Martin Filler, Guest BloggerI smiled when I read the juicy NY Times obituary of Sherry Britton, the burlesque queen of prewar renown, who died on April 1 at age 89. After her stripping days were done, she became a summer stock trouper during the 1950s, when I saw her perform at New Jersey's Camden County Music Circus in some musical or other--perhaps "Guys and Dolls," in which she toured nationally as the golden-hearted floozy Miss Adelaide--though all I really remember is Miss Britton's, um, … [Read more...]

Rating the New Museums: The Best (and Worst) of 2007—Part II

Arkon Art MuseumBy Martin Filler, Guest BloggerAfter yesterday's accolades, here are my selections (by no means comprehensive) of the worst new museum architecture completed last year. Consider these as stand-ins for similar examples that share the same basic problem epitomized by each of these three.---John S. and James L. Knight Building, Akron Art Museum, by Coop Himmelb(l)au (above): Just as there are fashion victims whose gullible trendiness blinds them to how ridiculous they appear, so there are architecture victims. Among the latest is … [Read more...]

Rating the New Museums: The Best (and Worst) of 2007—Part I

Top of the Heap: The New Museum on the Block By Martin Filler, Guest BloggerLast year marked both the 10th anniversary of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the 30th of Renzo Piano's and Richard Rogers' Centre Georges Pompidou--the two most influential cultural buildings of our time. As the worldwide construction boom spurred by those watershed projects continued unabated, 2007 witnessed the inauguration of still more museum buildings and additions. Here are my highly opinionated personal picks for the best new museum architecture of … [Read more...]

Nouvel Riches: Pritzker Gold, Tower of Glass

By Martin Filler, Guest BloggerEvery spring I vow to remain silent about the new winner of the Pritzker Prize, having dismissed the so-called Nobel of Architecture in a 1999 New Republic piece as no more than a redundant, self-regarding publicity stunt that promotes architects already rich and famous. Try telling that to an architect, though. I've yet to meet one who doesn't crave the honor (or the $100,000 honorarium), and have repeatedly seen my words fall on deaf ears when I try to console dejected also-rans with my opinion that the Pritzker … [Read more...]

John Richardson Tribute: The Case of the Missing Medals

John RichardsonBy Martin Filler, Guest BloggerA few night ago, I was one of several speakers at a tribute to John Richardson given by the National Arts Club, which awarded the art historian its Gold Medal, several months after publication of A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932, volume three of his acclaimed biography. I followed a daunting roster of golden-tongued praise-givers, including Fabrice Gabriel, literary attaché to the French Embassy (whose éloge quoted lyrically and appropriately from Apollinaire, adored by the subject … [Read more...]

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