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Archives for December 2009

The Year in CultureGrrl, 2009 Edition

CultureGrrl in a Glass House (Philip Johnson's) shouldn't throw stones.Before I give you my fourth CultureGrrl Countdown of the year's most important posts (previous editions: here, here and here), I want to warmly thank my most loyal followers---the 103 CultureGrrl Donors for 2009, who have helped me to believe that my work does have value to a select group of artworld aficionados and to hope that next year these numbers may increase.The Complete Guide to Collecting Art is now in the mail, as promised, to CultureGrrl Repeat Donor 100 (hooray!) … [Read more...]

Gabriel Orozco and Urs Fischer: My Blind Spot and My Sweet Spot—PART II

Urs Fischer's 2006 self portrait---the cover illustration for his show's catalogue[PART I, on MoMA's Orozco retrospective, is here.]New York-based Swiss artist Urs Fischer has previously been known for blowing holes in walls. With his show at the New Museum (to Feb. 7), he blew a hole in my mind. There's currently no other place in New York (maybe, eventually, the Downtown Whitney, if that ever comes to be) that allows an artist to run so gloriously and extravagantly amok. Whatever the future may bring to this now embattled institution---which … [Read more...]

U.S. News’ “Top Careers”: Curatorial Work is a Growth Industry?

Take heart all ye downtrodden, downsized museum professionals! U.S. News & World Report has just designated "curator" as one of 2010's 50 Best Careers. If your sense of sardonic humor is still intact after this year's financial drubbing, you may find yourself wondering if some of the magazine's published job description is straightforward or parody:Whether it's ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, brachiosaurus fossils, or a splatter painting by Jackson Pollack, the pieces of history on display at your favorite museum were put in place by a curator … [Read more...]

Think Global, Act Local: Arquitectonica in Fort Lee, NJ? UPDATED

Bernardo Fort-Brescia, founding principal of ArquitectonicaIt's not Las Vegas' City Center. It's not Novartis' corporate campus in Basel. But in my own home town of Fort Lee, NJ, we've got a high-profile, fallow site of almost 16 acres, chockablock with the George Washington Bridge (which empties into our borough). Four developers are now vying to build a mixed-use project there---possibly including some combination of residences, retail, offices, hotel, museum, name it.Do I have an opinion? Am I CultureGrrl?I spoke out last night … [Read more...]

Gabriel Orozco and Urs Fischer: My Blind Spot and My Sweet Spot—PART I

The Derivative and the Inventive: Left, Gabriel Orozco at the press preview for his MoMA retrospective with his "Four Bicycles," 1994, Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz Collection; Right, Urs Fischer, "Untitled," (piano), 2009, photograph by Benoit PailleyAll critics have blind spots---works that they just don't "get" but must, nevertheless, review if they are art writers at major publications. Conversely, all critics, I presume, have moments of heightened perception, when they believe they appreciate what they're seeing better than almost anyone else … [Read more...]

99 Donors and Not Counting: Where’s CultureGrrl’s Corporate Sponsor?

With my CultureGrrl Donor total standing at a robust 98 last Friday, I blithely expressed optimism about achieving my goal of 100 contributions by the end of 2009. To clinch it, I threw in the resistible offer of an autographed copy of my Knopf-published book on art collecting, as a bonus for Number 100.Who wants that out-of-date, out-of-print book, anyway?Not you. After an immediate benefaction by CultureGrrl Donor 99 from Hampstead, Quebec (my warm thanks go out to her!), everyone hit the stores and the eggnog.Wait a minute! I just checked my … [Read more...]

New Frontiers in Corporate Sponsorship: A Museum’s “Official Cleaner”

Swiffer meets Chihuly at the Children's Museum of IndianapolisAttention Museum Development Officers:In these economically troubled times, when coming up with new naming opportunities for elevators and restrooms just isn't enough, here's an income-generator that you may never have considered (with good reason)---the official sponsored product!The Children's Museum of Indianapolis has just taken a first intrepid step in this dicey direction by naming Swiffer as "official cleaner of the world's largest children's museum." According to the press … [Read more...]

Lower Education: Fisk, Randolph College Still Pursuing Art-for-Cash Gambit

Not monetized yet: Left, Georgia O'Keeffe, "Radiator Building at Night," Fisk University; Right, George Bellows, "Men of the Docks," Randolph CollegeIn his Sunday column for the Tennessean, editorial page editor Dwight Lewis asks a question about Fisk University's plan to do a $30-million deal with Alice Walton. Unlike CultureGrrl, who had asked the same question, Lewis got an answer.Dwight writes:Since Fisk has won reaccreditation, does that mean school officials no longer want, or need, to sell the prestigious Alfred Stieglitz Collection [my … [Read more...]

Cultural-Property Watch: Chinese Kerfuffle at the Met and Other International Gambits

Repatriation Bait: Bronzes previously part of the Zodiac Fountain of Beijing's Summer Palace, offered last February at Christie's in Paris, from the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé In his Nov. 13 testimony to the State Department's Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC), Michael Conforti, president of the Association of the Art Museum Directors (AAMD), suggested that we are now in a "post-repatriation environment." He was primarily referring to American museums' recently improved cultural relations with Italy---the … [Read more...]

Blogging for Bucks: What Has “Art Fag City” Got that CultureGrrl Hasn’t? CORRECTED

Not-So-Grand Prize for CultureGrrl's 100th DonorAre Art Fag City's fans more devoted than CultureGrrl's?Paddy Johnson, author of that art blog, today launched her annual donor drive that seeks to raise at least $8,000 in two weeks! Art-lings, since I started rattling my tin cup for handouts last February, I've netted about half that. Something's better than nothing, and I've also received a modicum of advertising income, some paid speaking and broadcast engagements and new article assignments as a direct result of the blog. Still, I've been … [Read more...]

Reaccredited, Fisk Loses a Reason to Sell Art to Alice Walton

In its 2007 petition seeking court permission to sell a half-share of its Stieglitz Collection to Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges Museum, Fisk University gave the following (now outdated) justification for the proposed transaction:If Fisk's current financial condition doesn't improve, there is a high likelihood that it may lose its accreditation. Fisk is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), which will review the University's accreditation status in 2009. In its current condition, Fisk will fail to satisfy … [Read more...]

More Mortar: Updates on Yesterday’s Museum Building Story

Rendering of addition to Crocker Art Museum, on rightYesterday's CultureGrrl post, giving the other side of the story, as a corrective to Robin Pogrebin's gloomy NY Times piece on cultural institutions' building projects, has generated lots of comment. As I expected, other museums have been chiming in (via e-mail) with updates on their own full-steam-ahead expansion projects:---The Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, will open, next October, a new 125,000-square-foot building designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates.---The Mint Museum, … [Read more...]

Not Dead Yet: Museum Building Projects Are Alive and Kicking

Rendering of the planned Clyfford Still Museum, DenverJust as I thought---Robin Pogrebin's article about the various setbacks for museum building projects fits squarely in the NY Times' time-honored tradition of reporting on a trend that's almost at an end.Her Saturday piece had barely hit the recyclables pile when no less than four art museums (did I miss any?) released important capital-project news:---The St. Louis Art Museum announced at a press conference just this morning that it will hold formal groundbreaking on Jan. 19 for its David … [Read more...]

Seasonal Benefactions: CultureGrrl’s Holiday Supporters (and gift to self)

For our happy first-two-nights Hanukkah celebration, CultureSpouse and I traveled with CultureSon and Daughter-in-Law to CultureDaughter's university, where by next summer she will (we hope) have her acoustic engineering PhD. At a used books-and-records store in College Town, I got myself a present---a three-record set (notwithstanding my high-tech daughter, I still own a turntable) of classic Louis Armstrong performances.I'm still absorbed in Terry Teachout's biography of Satchmo---a rags-to-riches-through-music story---which constantly … [Read more...]

NY Times Watch: Kimmelman on Hoving; Pogrebin on the Museum Building Bust

Rendering of St. Louis Art Museum's planned David Chipperfield-designed expansionIn Saturday's NY Times, Michael Kimmelman provided a needed critical appraisal of the late Thomas Hoving's professional accomplishments and missteps. (For the record, though, Hoving acquired for the Met the Harry G.C. Packard Collection of Japanese art, not "David" (sic) Packard's collection.)For Kimmelman's earlier and more unsparingly critical look at Hoving's tenure at the Metropolitan Museum, read his 1993 review of the former Met director's book about his … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum’s Thomas Hoving Obit and De Montebello’s Remembrance

The Metropolitan Museum has posted no statement on its website regarding the death of its former director (which I've discussed here and here) and has not as yet announced plans to commemorate his contributions, either in its galleries or with a memorial event. But it has placed the following classified obit in today's NY Times: The Trustees and staff of The Metropolitan Museum of Art mourn the passing of Thomas Hoving, who for the decade from 1967 to 1977 was Director of this institution. With enormous energy and ability, and with magnificent … [Read more...]

Tom Hoving’s Metropolitan Museum, in His Own Words

After photographing the jacket of the late Thomas Hoving's Metropolitan Museum memoir, "Making the Mummies Dance," to illustrate my remembrance yesterday, I decided to leaf through the book, to relive through his eyes that tumultuous era. I came upon Hoving's own description (p. 369) of what his 10-year reign (1967-77) as the Met's director was all about:My goal was to make the Met a people's cultural paradise, full of fun and celebration, an open-book library of the visual arts of the highest possible excitement and controversy, an institution … [Read more...]

The Death of a Showman: Tom Hoving, 78 WITH ADDENDUM

Thomas Hoving, vamping on his book coverI had been thinking about Tom Hoving today, only to return home from a Guggenheim press lunch and some pre-Hanukkah shopping to learn from Randy Kennedy's online NY Times report that this morning he had died. [UPDATE: Eric Gibson's appraisal for the Wall Street Journal is here. My own further comments on Hoving are here.]I was thinking about him because during the last two days I happened to have spoken to his two successors. Today was a fluke: I was standing on the chow line for lunch at the … [Read more...]

Follow the Billions: Museum Directors Line Up Behind Pinchuk’s Prize

Left to right: Glenn Lowry, Victor Pinchuk and London dealer Jay Jopling at the Museum of Modern Art during Tuesday's press preview of its upcoming Orozco retrospective Does anyone besides me find it unseemly that four major museum directors---Glenn Lowry (MoMA), Richard Armstrong (Guggenheim), Nicholas Serota (Tate) and Alfred Pacquement (Pompidou)---have lent their prestigious imprimaturs to the new Future Generation Art Prize, a $100,000 biennial award for an artist under 35, which is being organized not under museum auspices but by … [Read more...]

Video Violation: My Cooper Union Clip Deleted

Observant art-lings may be wondering why, late last night, my CultureGrrl post and YouTube video about Cooper Union mysteriously vanished.I was sternly asked by the school to take them down, "immediately."I'm familiar with the parameters of print journalism, but I'm a YouTube rube. Or so I learned after my visit on Friday to what seemed to be a public space in the front part of the lobby of Cooper Union's new academic building, between the front door and the guard's desk, where anyone can gaze through an enormous window at the activity in the … [Read more...]

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