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Archives for November 2008

BlogBack: Reader Defends Appointment of Italian Museum “Super-Manager” Resca

Virginia Curry, a retired FBI agent who was involved in art-crime investigations in Los Angeles, responds to Italian Museum "Super-Manager": Illustrious Artworld Signatories Oppose New Profit-Driven Post: The Italian museum system has no money, save what they receive for the foreign loans of their collection. Italy is proof that under socialism there is barely money left for government programs, and the arts are left to forage for themselves. When staff is poorly compensated for their education and skill, they look elsewhere for compensation, … [Read more...]

Go Ask Alice: Where’s the Top Lot (Robert Henri) That’s Gone Missing from a Christie’s Price List? UPDATED

Robert Henri, "Jessica Penn in Black with White Plumes," 1908, Crystal Bridges MuseumI recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal about how art auction houses report results in a way that make their sales appear more successful than they really are.But thanks to a tip from a reporter in Arkansas, Leslie Newell Peacock of the Arkansas Times, I recently came across one way in which a house reported results in a way that made a sale seem LESS successful:A Robert Henri (above) that was top lot at an American art sale at Christie's on May 19, 2005, … [Read more...]

The Un-Review and the Review: Ouroussoff Merely Describes I.M. Pei’s Qatar Museum, Lauds Ito’s Unbuilt Berkeley Museum

I.M. Pei's new Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar In one of the more puzzling turns by an architecture critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff in yesterday's NY Times published a 640-word dispatch from Qatar, in which he described but never really evaluated the much anticipated new Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, opening to the public next Monday. According to Ouroussoff, architect I.M. Pei "has described it as his last major cultural building." So how was it? Ouroussoff describes it but never really tells us if he likes it. His most judgmental words … [Read more...]

Italian Museum “Super-Manager”: Illustrious Artworld Signatories Oppose New Profit-Driven Post

         Mario RescaAs of yesterday, some 2,400 art historians, museum luminaries and other concerned artworld notables had signed the petition against the planned appointment (scroll to the bottom) of Mario Resca, former head of McDonald's Italy, to the new position of "super manager" for Italy's museums. The petition (including English translation) and names of the signatories are here.The petition states:The plan to create a "super-manager" figure with absolute powers within the new Directorate … [Read more...]

Mummy Mask Morass: Egypt’s Hawass Again Threatens to Haul St. Louis Director into Court

"Mummy Mask of the Lady Ka-nefer-nefer," Egyptian, Dynasty 19, St. Louis Art MuseumThe fight over the St. Louis Art Museum's "Mummy Mask of the Lady Ka-nefer-nefer"continues, with the stakes raised higher by the recent appointment of the museum's director, Brent Benjamin, to the U.S. State Department's Cultural Property Advisory Committee, which considers (and usually grants) source countries' requests for heritage protection.Through the press, Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's antiquities authority, has just renewed his previous threat to try to … [Read more...]

Eli Broad Offers LA MOCA a $30-Million Challenge Grant

In an Op-Ed piece to appear in tomorrow's (Saturday's) LA Times, businessman/collector Eli Broad, who was the founding chairman of LA MOCA, challenged the Los Angeles philanthropic community to join him in stepping up to the (collection) plate for the financially beleaguered museum. Broad writes: I'd like to make a proposal to the MOCA board and to the civic angels of Los Angeles. I'll step up if you do too. The Broad Art Foundation is prepared to make a significant investment in MOCA---$30 million---with the expectation that the museum's … [Read more...]

Terrorism’s Cultural Toll: 55 Syrian Loans Excluded from Met’s “Beyond Babylon” Show

It's a wall label so small and inconspicuous near the beginning of the Metropolitan Museum's just opened Beyond Babylon show (to Mar. 15) that if you didn't look for it, you would probably miss it: What IS that recent U.S. legislation referred to in this cryptic label, and how did it make it "too difficult and risky" for Syria to lend to the Met 55 works, already published in the exhibition catalogue? It's the section on "Terrorism Exception to Immunity" in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2008, signed by President Bush on … [Read more...]

LA MOCA’s Crisis Fact-Sheet Scenario: Keep Identity and Programing, Expand Collection, Raise $$$$

LA MOCA's Geffen Contemporary: Closing Jan 6 to June 30Because there's been so much concern and speculation about the endangered LA MOCA, I thought I'd publish the fact sheet just issued by the financially beleaguered institution. The clinchers, which come at the end, are these: MOCA is exploring several options, and in doing so talking to many partners in the Los Angeles community....All options entail MOCA retaining its identity, programing and expanding its permanent collection....Internal board discussions will continue with no fundamental … [Read more...]

More on Cleveland Museum’s Returns to Italy: 25-Year Loans

Relinquished by Cleveland: Apulian Volute-Krater, Darius Painter, ca. 330 BC Steven Litt, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's art critic, is the go-to person for the full details on yesterday's agreement by the Cleveland Museum to relinquish 14 objects to Italy, in exchange for collegial cooperation on various projects, as well as "13 antiquities similar to those being returned to Italy, for a renewable 25-year period." Did he say "25 years"? That would appear to be a sea change in Italian policy---one that American museums have long desired. As … [Read more...]

Major News from All Over: Eli Broad, LA MOCA, Cleveland Repatriations, New Manager of Italy’s Museums

If figures that on my birthday, when I wanted to blog lite, there are more major news stories than candles on my cake. (Well, not quite.) I may flesh out some of these later. But for now:---Bloomberg and the NY Times (on the web only) both report that collector Eli Broad has changed his mind about not opening a museum of his own.CultureGrrl readers will remember that shortly before the opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Broad issued a press release, stating:We have developed a new paradigm by … [Read more...]

Artists Talk Market at Guggenheim Gala; Hirst Says He’ll Lower Prices

Catherine Opie talks about her day job on NY Times video of Guggenheim GalaWhile we're on the subject of the Guggenheim: Do you wish you could have attended last week's Guggenheim Gala? Now you can---via video on the NY Times website.Listen in as the Guggenheim's new director, Richard Armstrong, entertains the assembled swells with his dry wit, saying that he's "very happy to have this job. In fact, I'm glad to have a job, period!" Watch Christie's Christopher Burge as he energetically wields the gavel at the benefit auction, which "raised … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Guggenheim President Jennifer Stockman on Trustees’ Conflict-of-Interest

Jennifer Stockman, above, the president of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, responds to Conflicts of Interest: Museum Trustees Play the Market: The director and the curators, not the trustees, of the Guggenheim make all decisions as to the exhibitions that are shown at the museum. I in no way influenced the Guggenheim's decision to hold the 2007 retrospective of Richard Prince's work. In fact, at the time I purchased Lake Resort Nurse in 2003, I was not aware that the Guggenheim would hold the retrospective and had been collecting … [Read more...]

Why Aren’t All Smithsonian Board Meetings Public?

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Chancellor of the Smithsonian's BoardBilled as its first public meeting, the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents' question-and-answer session yesterday with Smithsonian-ologists may have been therapeutic but it wasn't a sufficient step towards greater transparency: It didn't reveal to the public what goes on at the closed-door meetings where the Smithsonian's business really gets done.The public Q&A's unasked question that needs an answer is this: Since the Smithsonian is a quasi-federal … [Read more...]

Kimbell Museum to Construct Piano Building Beside Kahn’s Masterpiece UPDATED TWICE

The lawn to the west of the Kimbell Art Museum, site of its planned Renzo Piano buildingThe Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, has opted to court controversy with plans (to be announced at a 9 a.m. press conference today) that will plant a new 90,000-square-foot, Renzo Piano-designed building just west of Louis Kahn's 120,000-square-foot 1972 masterpiece.According to the press release (not online at this writing):Mr. Piano's new building subtly mirrors the Kahn building in height and scale and in the span of the façade, as well as in its … [Read more...]

Christie’s, Like Sotheby’s, Goes Back-to-Basics

At the end of my last post (on Sotheby's losses from contemporary art guarantees), I noted that "since Christie's is not a publicly traded company and doesn't have Sotheby's financial reporting requirements, we don't know whether its experience with guarantees this month was similarly unfavorable."Now Carol Vogel has weighed in with her market-crash post mortem in the NY Times. She reports that Christie's, while not giving out specific figures, "also admitted to having lost millions of dollars [on guarantees]" and will also be cutting back … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Loses $28.2 Million on Contemporary Art Guarantees

Form 8-K Current Report Filed Nov 14, 2008 As I previously reported, Sotheby's announced on Nov. 7 that it was predicting a loss of about $17 million on its contemporary art sales this month. Now that the sales are over, Sotheby's has reported that the actual loss on contemporary art guarantees was much worse: On the Form 8-K that it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, the auction house revealed that the $17.6 million in predicted losses (related to guaranteed property scheduled in the Nov. 11 and 12 … [Read more...]

My Auctions Article in Tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal UPDATED

If I've been blogging lite since the big auctions, it's because I've been on desperate deadline for an article on p. W11 of the "Weekend" section of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal. It concerns an auction-related pet peeve of mine, already quite familiar to CultureGrrl readers. I'll link to it when it's up, probably late tonight.UPDATE: You can read me now---Making Sales Look Stronger: The auction houses have an interesting way of reporting their auction results. If you've been following CultureGrrl, you already know what I'm hammering away at … [Read more...]

Tom Campbell, Met’s Director-Elect, Meets the Press (again)

Tom Campbell, back in his open-collar daysI couldn't get a good shot of Tom Campbell at the Metropolitan Museum's press lunch earlier this week, because I was seated at the far rear, facing the back corner. (Are they trying to tell me something?)So since he recently said he's an "open collar kind of guy" and since I'm tired of running the same old headshot, I thought I'd show you his hometown newspaper's open-collar photo of the Met's future director, from back in the day. I won't credit the newspaper, because that would tell you the town where … [Read more...]

Contemporary at Christie’s: Gaveling the Nail in the Coffin

Joseph Cornell, "Pharmacy," 1943, subject of a rare bidding warIs there an art-market anodyne in there?Let's put me and this season of lackluster evening sales to bed quickly, if not painlessly.First, the good news:The chief excitement at Christie's contemporary sale tonight was for Yayoi Kusama's "No.2" (one of her white dot paintings). It was the only work that soared above its presale estimate, in an intense bidding duel that set a new auction record for the artist. It fetched $5.79 million, with the buyer's premium, and its $5.1-million … [Read more...]

NYC Opera Rescue: Enlisting “Turnaround” Expert Michael Kaiser

Michael KaiserThe New York City Opera, urgently needing to stop the press-fed rumors that it might cease to exist after the sudden departure of Gerard Mortier, must have rushed right out to the bookstore to pick up Michael Kaiser's new book on "The Art of the Turnaround," after reading about it yesterday in the NY Times. (Just kidding about the last part.)They liked it so much that they engaged him to help "to identify new leadership and to craft a practical and comprehensive plan for the 2009-2010 season and beyond---a plan that respects City … [Read more...]

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