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Archives for February 2009

Richard Koshalek: From High Life to Hirshhorn

Richard Koshalek, the Hirshhorn Museum's director designatePhoto: Steven A. HellerI don't remember everything I read, but as soon as I learned that veteran art museum director Richard Koshalek had been named to become the new director of the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (effective Apr. 13), a startling article that had appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in May 1999 immediately popped into my head.I had trouble finding it through the WSJ's website, but here's a synopsis that gives you the gist: "Wooing … [Read more...]

Resourceful Rishel: Philadelphia&#146s Sensational “Cézanne and Beyond”

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, decked out for its new blockbusterIf you live within driving distance of Philadelphia, I've got just two words for you:ROAD TRIP!If the Philadelphia Museum is too far a drive, then hop a train, a boat or a plane, but DO NOT let May 17 pass by without devoting serious time to the masterful Cézanne and Beyond, crafted by that consummate exhibition-maker, Joseph Rishel. Those of you, like me, who had the good fortune to be levitated by Joe's definitive Cézanne retrospective of 1996 don't need any further … [Read more...]

Castiglione Casting: Auctioned “Chinese” Bronzes, Sought By China, Likely Italian-Designed

Jackie Chan, repatriation fighterCalling the two 18th-century Qing Dynasty bronzes of a rat and rabbit, auctioned yesterday by Christie's, "Chinese bronzes" (as I did in yesterday's post) is a bit of a misnomer.According to Christie's catalogue entry:These superb and remarkably realistic heads were almost certainly designed by Giuseppe Castiglione [an Italian Jesuit missionary living in China]. Clear similarities can be seen, for example, between the style of the bronze head of the monkey from the clepsydra (sold by Christie's Hong Kong in … [Read more...]

Rare Chinese Bronzes Fetch $20.12 Million Each at Christie&#146s Bravura French Auction

Bronzes from the Zodiac Fountain of Beijing's Summer Palace, sold today by Christie's in Paris from the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé With the final session of the Saint Laurent/Bergé dispersal still in progress, the two rare Chinese Qing Dynasty bronzes of a rat and a rabbit, looted by French and British troops in 1860 (during the Second Opium War) from the Chinese Emperor's Summer Palace in Beijing, have sold (with buyer's premium) for a whopping $20.12 million (€15.75 million) each. (Presale estimate, without buyer's … [Read more...]

Concert Hall Gaffes: An Irreverent Alice Tully Hall Photo Essay (Part Two)

[Part One is here.]It's an happy coincidence that this final post in my series about the death of a once admired example of Brutalist architecture, Pietro Belluschi's 1969 Alice Tully Hall and Juilliard School (reborn as Diller Scofidio + Renfro's new contemporary eye-catcher), appears on the same day as the indispensable Ada Louise Huxtable's Wall Street Journal appraisal of Yale University's respectful restoration of another Brutalist bruiser, Paul Rudolph's Art and Architecture building.In The Beauty in Brutalism, Restored and Updated, Ada … [Read more...]

Concert Hall Gaffes: An Irreverent Alice Tully Hall Photo Essay (Part One)

[Part Two is here. My previous posts on the transformation of Lincoln Center's intimate, multipurpose theater, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, are here, here and here.]Some critics think that the old Alice Tully Hall was the pits. But I thought that its new entrance pit was the pits.One of the strangest bits of misleading hype attached to this newly transformed performing arts venue is that it brings to the street a fortress that was previously aloof from pedestrians. In fact, Tully Hall was the only Lincoln Center facility with a main … [Read more...]

Scene from a Paris Auction: Christie&#146s Saint Laurent/Bergé Sale

They don't make 'em like this in New York.Above is a view of the enormous, enthusiastic audience at yesterday's extraordinarily successful Impressionist/modern sale that kicked off the three-day, six-session dispersal of the collection of Pierre Bergé and the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. (I hope they had lots of bid spotters.)Steven Erlanger of the NY Times reports:More than 1,200 buyers, dealers, collectors and wealthy art lovers were in their seats as Christie's staff members took bids from those abroad on 100 telephone lines. … [Read more...]

Alice Tully’s Extreme Makeover (Part Two): How Bad Was the Old Hall?

The original Alice Tully Hall, designed by Pietro Belluschi, 1969 Photo: Sandor Acs I've already told you what I admire about the total transformation of Alice Tully Hall. In a subsequent post, I'm going to take you on a curmudgeonly tour, grumbling about some vexing missteps as I escort you, via photographs, from the entrance to your seats, with a break for intermission. But first, let the critical spin-resistance begin: I felt gratified (but also a bit scooped) this afternoon when, after my first mention of the hall's basic … [Read more...]

The CultureGrrl Fund Drive, Continued

Those of you who aren't empty-nesters like me are just coming back to work from your winter-break, ski-or-swim vacations, so I just want to direct your attention to last week's innovation on the CultureGrrl website---the "Donate" button, administered through PayPal, on the right.For further explanation of the fiscal urgency of this blogger bailout, go here. I was gratified by the initial response; discouraged by a recent falling-off.It's going to be blogging-as-usual this week, in gratitude to those of you who have stepped up to the plate. But … [Read more...]

Alice Tully’s Extreme Makeover (Part One): “Wow” Building Disappoints as Concert Hall

The new Alice Tully Hall [Part Two is here.] Diller Scofidio + Renfro's transformation of Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall is an enticing architectural eyeful to passersby on the outside and a bit of a letdown to concertgoers on the inside. Its deficiencies are basic---comfort, safety, and to my ears, acoustics (although the ears that count most, those of NY Times' chief music critic Anthony Tommasini, thus far were pleased). To me, the sound was too often brittle, not resonant. It's easiest to gauge the quality of a performance and … [Read more...]

Mulling Tully: Architecture Critics Jump the Gun

I attended yesterday's press preview of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's completely transformed Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center and I expect to attend the inaugural concert on Sunday. After that, I'll have much more to contribute, including an irreverent photo essay (but only if someone feels moved to click my dormant "Donate" button, on the right, sadly untouched all day yesterday). But what's astonished me in the run-up to the concert hall's reopening week is the rush of a handful of newspaper and magazine critics to review what was essentially … [Read more...]

Andrew Wyeth&#146s Last Painting, Fleetingly Displayed: His Elegaic “Goodbye”

Instead showing you this notation from the book of remembrance stationed just outside of the Andrew Wyeth gallery at the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, PA, I wish I could have shown you an image of the artist's last painting, "Goodbye," which astonished me when I made my pilgrimage almost two weeks ago to the gallery-turned-shrine in Wyeth's hometown:For one weekend, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, the Museum of Modern Art's iconic "Christina's World" was on view at the Brandywine, as part of its Wyeth tribute.But the luminous, ethereal "Goodbye's" … [Read more...]

Demolition Derby: Another Teardown Preceding a Museum Buildup

While we're on the subject of nasty-looking demolition projects that are prelude to the construction of snazzy new museum facilities, guess which one this is: Let's move to the west for another view:That cheery construction worker, who color-coordinates (sort of) with the artwork behind him, informed me that there's a lot of asbestos in the hulk shown in the first picture, necessitating a slow and painstaking dismantling process.Let's move even further west, still surveying the same museum's expansive construction site:Now I've given it away: … [Read more...]

Philadelphia Museum and the Barnes: The Synergy Begins

Demolition-in-Progress: Site of the new Barnes Foundation building in Philadelphia, formerly home to a juvenile detention centerIn what is perhaps a harbinger of their future relationship as neighbors on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation are collaborating on a high-powered lecture series, Cézanne, Still Going (scroll down), in conjunction with the museum's soon-to-open Cézanne and Beyond exhibition.The most renowned lecturers in the series will be speaking at the Barnes, not the Philadelphia … [Read more...]

The Glocal Guggenheim: Richard Armstrong&#146s Plans for New York

Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation"I have this private fantasy that the museum casts itself northwards," Richard Armstrong told me during our recent hour-long conversation in the director's office on the 8th floor of the Guggenheim Museum, which he has occupied for the last three months.Northwards? I immediately began seeing visions of the Guggenheim Saskatchewan.But he actually had something very unKrensian in mind:There's a big constituency north of here that may not have a neighborhood museum. Why couldn't we … [Read more...]

Richard Armstrong Goes Global: My Interview with the Guggenheim&#146s New Director

Abu Dhabi Boys (lead singer, Frankie Gehry)Left to Right: Lee Tabler, CEO of Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company; Richard Armstrong, director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; architect Frank Gehry; Juan Ignacio Vidarte, Guggenheim's chief officer for global strategies and director, Guggenheim Bilbao; Frederick Henry, Guggenheim trusteeI've had occasion in the last few weeks to interview a few recently anointed museum directors, and I've been struck by the differences in how they approach their new assignments. In future … [Read more...]

Emily Jacir at the Guggenheim: From Poetic to Polemic

Emily Jacir takes aim, misses the markEmily Jacir's work has always moved me with its understated, poetically symbolic approach to empathetically documenting the plight of Palestinians. In my Wall Street Journal review of the 2004 Whitney Biennial (which displayed Where We Come From), I included her among three artists whom I particularly admired. And in my CultureGrrl review of the Brooklyn Museum's "Global Feminisms" show, I again singled out Jacir's work, Crossing Surda, for praise and gave this account of my personal encounter with the … [Read more...]

Blogger Bailout: The CultureGrrl Economic Stimulus Button UPDATED

Before I decide to bail out, here's a chance to bail me out:Bloggers were omitted from the federal economic stimulus package. And my CultureGrrl Ad Drive has, thus far, not been a roaring success. But some dedicated readers who have nothing to advertise have assured me that they'd gladly support the blog.So for those of you who would like to help keep CultureGrrl thumping the keyboard, now you can:As you may have noticed, I have now added a "Donate" button to the blog's middle column. Payment can be either through your own PayPal account or by … [Read more...]

BlogBacks: Readers&#146 Prose on the Rose

Brandeis University's proposal to close or repurpose its Rose Art Museum, selling works from the collection, has occasioned much comment from artworld luminaries who are Brandeis alums, as well as from many CultureGrrl readers. Here are some notes that I've received:Donald Knaub, former director of both the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University, writes: I hope that universities and their museums would take the opportunity this financial crisis presents to explore the … [Read more...]

Philly Fling: My Peeks at Cézanne, Eakins, Kelly

Like the sign says, this much anticipated show doesn't open at the Philadelphia Museum of Art till Feb. 26, but I got a sneak preview of what will likely be its introductory artwork by peering through a crack in the door:The painting itself wasn't yet installed, just a mock-up. But you all know who we're looking at: He's the Museum of Modern Art's iconic "Bather" by Cézanne, which (pre-Taniguchi) long held pride of place as the introduction to the entire modernist canon---the first work you encountered in the museum's paintings and sculpture … [Read more...]

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