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Archives for June 2011

Rose Art Museum Flash: Brandeis President Lawrence Discusses Amicable Legal Settlement, Future Museum Plans

Brandeis University President Frederick LawrenceWhat a difference a new president makes!Thanks in part to personal conversations initiated by Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence, who assumed his post Jan. 1, an agreement has now been struck between Brandeis University and the three board members of the university's Rose Art Museum who had filed a lawsuit in July 2009 seeking to prevent the museum from shutting down and/or selling its art. As a result of this rapprochement, the lawsuit has been dismissed and the state Attorney … [Read more...]

Fighting Words: Randolph College Responds to AAMD&#146s Censure

Randolph College President John KleinThe Association of Art Museum Directors has now posted online the link to its June 22 letter to Randolph College President John Klein, reaffirming AAMD's previous censure of deaccessions (past and possibly future) by the Maier Museum of Art, Lynchburg, VA, to raise funds for the college's general financial needs.Now Klein has responded to AAMD's missive.In a message sent this morning to faculty and staff, Klein noted that "the letter from the AAMD will be reported in the media." (Actually, it was already … [Read more...]

AAMD Reaffirms Condemnation of Maier Museum Art Disposals, After Visits to Randolph College

Signature of Dan Monroe, AAMD's new president, affixed to letter sent to Randolph College's president condemning Maier Museum's past and (possibly) future deaccessionsBack in October 2007, the Association of Art Museum Directors condemned Randolph College's plan to sell four artworks from its Maier Museum, with proceeds to be used for general university purposes. (The Maier is not a member of AAMD.)In a longer, more strongly worded letter sent last Wednesday to Randolph President John Klein, AAMD's new president, Dan Monroe, reaffirmed the … [Read more...]

$200-Million Illusion: Barnes&#146 Fundraising “Success” Depended on Halving Its Endowment Goal CLARIFIED

Yikes! It's GROWING! The view from the webcam of the Philly BarnesThe Barnes Foundation, which plans to close its Merion galleries on Sunday, in anticipation of its eventual move to Philadelphia, today announced (in an e-mail, not on its website) that it had raised "more than $200 million," which, in the foundation's words, "fulfills campaign promises to fund both the new home [my link, not theirs] for the Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and an initial endowment."Not exactly.When it became clear that building costs would … [Read more...]

Bulger/Gardner? Speculation on Whether Arrest of Fugitive Mobster Will Solve Boston Art Heist

Most Wanted: Vermeer, "The Concert," 1658-1660 It seems like a longshot. But Jason Felch's and Ralph Frammolino's "Chasing Aphrodite" Twitter page now tantalizes us with the following: Coming tomorrow: a story in the LA Times about how the arrest of #whiteybulger could help crack the biggest art heist in history.That could only be the 1990 theft of 13 artworks from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, including three Rembrandts and the above Vermeer.James "Whitey'' Bulger, the alleged former Boston crime boss, wanted for 16 years, was … [Read more...]

Tom Armstrong, 78: Whitney&#146s Former Director Gave It a Forward-Looking Focus

Tom Armstrong, left, and artist Mark di Suvero (whose work Tom showed at the Whitney), attending a 2008 luncheon at Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NYPhoto: NY Social DiaryI feel I ought to write a proper appreciation of Thomas N. Armstrong III, the former director of the Whitney Museum, who died on Monday at age 78. It was under his leadership, from 1974 to 1990, when, for better or worse, this museum of American art became much more strongly associated with edgy contemporary work than with the historic icons that were the bedrock of its … [Read more...]

Ai Weiwei Is Released (but his freedom of expression isn’t) UPDATED

Ai Weiwei on Metropolitan Museum's roof gardenPhoto from the website of upcoming film, Ai Weiwei: Never SorryI've been away from the computer all day, for personal reasons---my own diagnosis this morning of "patellofemoral syndrome" (aka "bum knee"); my friend's need for me to accompany her to an afternoon hospital appointment. So I'm now just catching up with the cheering news of Ai Weiwei's release by Chinese authorities, after his 81 days in detention.New York Public Radio (WNYC) had e-mailed me late this morning for comment on this … [Read more...]

New Yorker Corker: “Crystal Bridges Has Earned the Respect of the Museum Establishment”

Yesterday was a banner day for the Walton clan. The family business, Wal-Mart, had a huge win when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a huge class-action suit on behalf of female employees who had claimed discrimination on both pay and promotions.In less momentous news (unless you're an art enthusiast), Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, scheduled to open on Nov. 11 in Bentonville, AR, got good press in a long New Yorker piece by Rebecca Mead (posted online yesterday, printed on paper in the June 27 issue).I've already shown … [Read more...]

Chunk of the “Hunk”: Andersons’ Collection Bypasses SFMOMA for Stanford

Pollock, "Lucifer," 1947, Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson Collection Win one, lose one. One can only speculate that when the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art signed its deal to borrow (for at least 100 years) the 1,100-work Donald and Doris Fisher Collection, it may also have unintentionally helped Stanford University sign its deal to acquire highly important works (including the great Pollock, above) from the Harry W. ("Hunk") and Mary Margaret ("Moo") Anderson Collection. Had their Bay Area collection gone to SFMOMA, the … [Read more...]

“Page One” Documentary: The NY Times as a Stoppard Play CORRECTED

You couldn't have had a more rapt audience for a movie filmed largely inside the NY Times' newsroom than the attendees at the recent Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Orlando, with whom I got an advance look last week at Page One, Andrew Rossi's inside-baseball documentary (opening today) about the goings-on, over the course of a year, within a few marginal cubicles that constitute the Times' Media Desk.As I watched these Timesmen (emphasis on men) engage in the navel-gazing pursuit of reporting the news about their own … [Read more...]

Alice Walton’s “World-Class Museum”: Does NY Times Know Something We Don’t about Crystal Bridges?

André Harvey, "Stella," 2009, installed on outdoor path on the grounds of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Interviewing Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton about her in-construction Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was, journalistically speaking, a good get. Alice didn't appear, let alone make herself available for interviews, during the press tour of the facility that I attended last month (reported here, here, here and here). But Carol Vogel of the NY Times blew her chance to come up with something new and interesting. She … [Read more...]

The Michelangelo of Buffalo? Uncanny Resemblance to Gardner&#146s Drawing (plus the Met&#146s Giaquinto find)

Cover of new book, depicting the purported Michelangelo of BuffaloBy now, we've had enough of the Michelangelo of Fifth Avenue, which was taken off view at the Metropolitan Museum and dispatched to its conservation department (as Keith Christiansen, the museum's chairman of European paintings, recently told me, when I asked why it wasn't on view).But we now have a new aspirant---the Michelangelo of Buffalo. (It rhymes!)I'm late in commenting on last month's NY Times piece, The Pietà Behind the Couch, by Kevin Flynn and Randy Kennedy. They, in … [Read more...]

Invigorated by Investigators: Adventures at the IRE Conference (plus video from my panel)

First things first.I need to warmly thank those of you who rose to the Send CultureGrrl to Orlando challenge, which, I'm delighted to report, exceeded my goal of paying for my two nights at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference hotel. (Let's forget about the cost of airport taxis in Orlando or parking at Newark airport.) I surpassed my fundraising target (by $25) when CultureGrrl Donor 170 from New York cheerfully clicked my "Donate" button, less than two hours before I boarded my Newark flight.I had another surge of gratitude for … [Read more...]

AAMD’s Play-It-Safe Annual Meeting (plus Rent-a-MoMA)

From the looks of its post-meeting press release, it doesn't appear that the Association of Art Museum Directors paid much attention to the two hot-button issues that I had suggested should be fodder for discussion at the group's annual conclave last week. I still believe that forceful guidelines are urgently needed to rein in self-sponsored shows of objects drawn entirely from a collection of an individual or a corporation. And the association needs to put a lid on rent-a-shows, whereby object-rich museums extract big bucks from object-poor … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Martha Graham Center&#146s Director on Met&#146s Admission Fee Hike

Judith Martin aka Miss MannersI'm back, art-lings, and invigorated by the Investigative Reporters and Editors Conference. I'll fill you in on this later. But in the meantime, here's a ball that I dropped while in Orlando---another bit of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the cashiers at the Metropolitan Museum's ticket counter may not always be as "extremely well-trained" and "extremely nice" as Harold Holzer, the museum's senior vice president for external affairs (who told me he has supervisory responsibility over them) insists that they … [Read more...]

Off to Orlando: Investigative Reporters and Editors Conference

I'm about to powwow with my betters at the national conference of Investigative Reporters and Editors. Even Bill Keller, the executive editor of the NY Times (who is soon to step down), is scheduled to be there! (How come his successor, Jill Abramson, hasn't started tweeting yet?)Still, among the panelists on Digging Culture: The fine art of investigating the business of museums and collectors (scroll to the 12-1 p.m. sessions), I'm the only one whose primary beat is actually culture. I guess that I'll bring some useful perspective.Below are … [Read more...]

The Shaky Finances Behind the Met&#146s Admission Fee Increase

Harold Holzer, Metropolitan Museum's senior vice president for external affairsWhat exactly is the "economic necessity" that the Metropolitan Museum says is behind its recently announced admission-fee increase?Harold Holzer, the Met's senior vice president for external affairs, told me today that, unlike fiscal 2010, when the Met had an operating surplus of $3.7 million, the museum expects to run a deficit of about $2 million in fiscal 2011, ending June 30. Fiscal 2012 is expected to be even more challenging: Operating overhead will increase … [Read more...]

More on the Met&#146s Admission-Fee Hike: Lessons in Pricing and Etiquette

The Metropolitan Museum of ArtOn Friday, I promised to expand upon this post about the entirely predictable kerfuffle over the Metropolitan Museum's announced $5 increase in its suggested admission fee ($25, effective July 1). I never heard what soundbite New York Public Radio did (or didn't) use from my 10-minute Friday conversation on this topic with WNYC's reporter. But the main point (aside from the crucial fact that the increase is NO increase for anyone who doesn't choose to pay it) is that the Met has, thus far, resisted the trend … [Read more...]

Architectural Transition: Nicolai Ouroussoff Leaves the NY Times

Former Timeswoman Julle Iovine, writing in the blog of the Architect's Newspaper (where she is executive editor), got hold of culture editor Jonathan Landman's internal memo announcing the departure, after seven years, of Nicolai Ouroussoff, the NY Times' architecture critic. According to Landman's memo, Ouroussoff plans "to write a book about the architectural and cultural history of the last 100 years."Ouroussoff will be remembered by CultureGrrl readers for many memorable missteps (scroll down), but most of all for his unhinged … [Read more...]

AAMD’s Annual Meeting: CultureGrrl’s Hot-Button Agenda

In its revised Professional Practices in Art Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors did a laudable job in directly confronting many of the thorny issues that have roiled the field in the 10 years since the last iteration of this bible for best practices in museums. (More on these issues later.) But there are a two hot-button topics that I feel urgently require closer examination and more stringent, detailed guidelines than are provided in the new 32-page document or in recent AAMD position papers. We need to hear more from AAMD on … [Read more...]

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