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More on Eric Lee, Kimbell Museum’s New Director UPDATED

Old masters gallery at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

: It turns out that the “Dutch Utopia” show I describe below was NOT conceived by the Taft, as Lee had led me to believe. It was organized by the Telfair Museum, Savannah.]

If you watched the video clip that I linked to yesterday at the end of my report on Eric McCauley Lee‘s
appointment to the directorship of the Kimbell Museum, you know that
the Taft Museum, which he currently directs, has a two-year lead time
for exhibitions. That means that the exhibition plans that Lee
initiated during his two-year tenure in Cincinnati will not be realized until
after he leaves for Fort Worth.

That’s just another reason,
aside from his scant curatorial and art-purchasing experience, why it’s
hard to predict just how well he’ll do at the Kimbell. But I
liked what I heard, including this description of an upcoming show
he oversaw at the Taft, which combines an intriguing art-historical slant with a substantial local vibe.

Lee told Lee:

We’re planning a show called “Dutch Utopia,” which features American artists who worked in the Netherlands during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And that complements or permanent collection very well: The Taft’s strengths are European old master paintings and decorative arts, and the Taft has a very strong collection of Hague School paintings, which were popular among American collectors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This exhibition will complement that aspect of the collection and it will also feature many artists who were from Cincinnati, which has an amazing history of significant American artists, especially from the late 19th and early 20th centuries—John Twachtman, Edward Henry Potthast, Frank Duveneck, Worthington Whittredge, Robert Henri was here for two years—and it goes on and on.

Who knew? All of those artists, he said, will be in the “Dutch Utopia” show at the Taft, Feb. 5-May 2, 2010.

I’m going to postpone a more detailed report on our discussion until next week, because the Wyeth obit preempted the time I had planned to spend on the Lee report.

In the meantime, for a more personally informed perspective on Lee, let’s go to Janelle Gelfand of the Cincinnati Enquirer. She yesterday reported
the news of Lee’s imminent departure from her city, after receiving a
press release from the Taft that broke the Kimbell’s strict news embargo.
(Eric, what were you thinking?)

Here’s what Gelfand wrote to me this morning:

actually like Lee, as museum directors go. He seems very real,
accessible and has a sincere love for art and architecture (not evident
in every museum director I’ve met). I’m rather new in this “beat,”
since we didn’t replace our art writer when she took the buyout.

(One more bit of bad news about the state of cultural criticism at our nation’s newspapers.)

The Kimbell’s press release, from which you can learn more about Lee’s background, is here. The Taft’s farewell press release, where you can learn more about what he achieved in Cincinnati, is here. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram report is here. The Dallas Morning News report, here.

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