an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

Archives for January 2013

AAMD’s “Strengthened” Antiquities-Collecting Guidelines Boost the Loopholes

My enthusiastic response to the Association of Art Museum Directors' announcement that it had voted to "strengthen" its 2008 antiquities-collecting guidelines was premature. Having now read and analyzed the full document, comparing it closely with the 2008 guidelines, it seems to me that the primary change in AAMD's eight-page Revisions to the 2008 Guidelines on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art involves the delineation of loopholes that could be used to justify a member museum's decision to acquire pieces despite … [Read more...]

Hispanic Society, Metropolitan Museum, Middlebury: One Institution’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure

The privileged installation at the Metropolitan Museum of one of the many highly important coins cast off by the Hispanic Society of America (HSA)---the silver coin of Brutus, commemorating the murder of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March---is "Exhibit A" in the case (pun intended) against museum disposals of museum quality objects. As I've argued repeatedly, a museum-owned object that belongs in the public domain should remain in the public domain, not be monetized. What's more, no museum or museum benefactor should be required to pay … [Read more...]

AAMD’s Revised Guidelines Issued for Antiquities Collecting

You've been waiting for this and so have I. Now it's here. The Association of Art Museum Directors' Revisions to the 2008 Guidelines on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art has just hit its website, so I'll be reading it along with you. But this welcome news did leap out at me from the "Introduction": The 2013 revision also adds certain definitions and examples, and clarifies that if an acquisition must be posted on the AAMD Object Registry because it was acquired based on an exception in the Guidelines, the posting … [Read more...]

News Flash: AAMD Votes to Strengthen Antiquities-Related Guidelines

It sounds like, Hugh Eakins' screed notwithstanding, the Association of Art Museum Directors has done the right thing. This just in from its midwinter meeting in Kansas City: AAMD’s members voted today to approve revisions to strengthen and clarify its guidelines for collecting archaeological material & ancient art. Full details will be publicly released upon the conclusion of AAMD’s meeting later this week. … [Read more...]

News Flash: American Numismatic Society Retrieves Another 7,291 Ex-Huntington Coins (plus a visit to “Brutus” at the Met)

Great news from the American Numismatic Society! Thanks to a second anonymous donor, the ANS has now retrieved a total of about 26,500 of nearly 38,000 Spanish coins and tokens that had resided at the ANS since 1949 on long-term loan but had been removed by their owner, the Hispanic Society of America, for disposal at a sealed-bid auction at Sotheby's last March. That sale took place despite provisions in the trust indenture of the HSA's founder/donor, Archer Huntington, that appeared to prohibit such dispersals of his HSA … [Read more...]

Antiquities Antics: Hugh Eakin’s Astonishing Anti-Repatriation Screed

Hugh Eakin's distorted, often mistaken opinion piece, The Great Giveback, which finds fault with American museums' willingness to return antiquities to their countries of origin, would best be ignored if it hadn't been accorded the high-profile bully pulpit of a full-page spread in today's NY Times "Review" section. Since Eakin has extensively covered the Cultural Property Wars in pieces for many publications, his misstatements and distortions regarding repatriations are likely to have been either deliberate or indicative of how much he has … [Read more...]

The New Improved(?) CultureGrrl: Makeover Madness

I apologize to those of you who, like me, may have experienced some technological trauma (or, in my case, utter panic) during today's CultureGrrl transition to this new format. Many of you (including me) probably encountered broken links (leading to error messages) that should have connected you to my previous posts. This was happening, for a while, with links from my blog, the ArtsJournal homepage or my Twitter feed. I think things are working better now, but do inform me by hitting my "Contact" button on the upper left, if you're having … [Read more...]

Antiquities Collecting in Spotlight at AAMD’s Midwinter Meeting

I can't take any credit for this, but when it meets in Kansas City next week, the Association of Art Museum Directors will do exactly what I said it should do---review how members are following (or not) the association's 2008 guidelines for antiquities collecting. AAMD's just released rundown of highlights from its midwinter meeting's agenda includes this hot-button colloquy (unfortunately closed to the public): A presentation about the application of AAMD’s guidelines [emphasis added] for collecting antiquities and ancient art, and updates … [Read more...]

Coin Toss: Hispanic Society’s Contradictory Stances on the Rights of Archer Huntington’s Heirs

The far-flung, tortuous odyssey continues for the superlative collection of coins related to Spain that were once owned by collector/philanthropist Archer Huntington and were donated by him in 1946 to the Hispanic Society of America. One of the most important of these emblems of history and culture has now happily landed on loan at the Metropolitan Museum (Gallery 166), in a small case with coins of Julius Caesar, Marcus Antonius, and Roman emperors of the 1st century A.D. The Met labels this silver piece as "one of the most famous and … [Read more...]

BlogBack: More on AAMD&#146s (Mis)use of Its Object Registry for Antiquities

It seems to me that art museums' use, misuse and non-use of the Association of Art Museum's Object Registry should be ripe for review at AAMD's imminent midwinter meeting, Jan. 27-30 in Kansas City. In the meantime, perhaps the association's members should get hold of the masters thesis of Alyssa Hagen, who graduated last spring from Rutgers University's Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies program. She analyzed and criticized the Association of Art Museum Directors' Object Registry, as she explains in this response to my recent … [Read more...]

What Would Ada Louise Say? NY Public Library Explains Why Building Won&#146t Collapse After Blowing Its Stacks

Without naming her newspaper's late architecture critic, the Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Maloney on Wednesday published the New York Public Library's rejoinder to one of the main gripes voiced by Ada Louise Huxtable regarding that institution's planned major overhaul of its flagship Fifth Avenue building (to be designed by Norman Foster). Maloney wrote: Critics of the New York Public Library's $300 million renovation plan have doubted whether its most important engineering challenge is even possible: the removal of seven levels of … [Read more...]

AAMD Has “Every Confidence” in Members&#146 Appropriate Use of Their Antiquities Object Registry

In my Sunday post on recent cultural-property news and controversies, I argued (and demonstrated) that some members of the Association of Art Museum Directors appeared to be using the group's Object Registry "as a pretext to skirt the UNESCO guidelines [regarding acquisition of antiquities and other cultural property] that they purport to uphold." I asserted that museums need to be more "rigorously and scrupulously vigilant in following both the letter and the spirit" of AAMD's own acquisition guidelines. Today, at my request, AAMD's … [Read more...]

$65-Million Naming Opportunity: Groundbreaking for Metropolitan Museum’s “David H. Koch Plaza” (with video)

In an after-the-fact groundbreaking ceremony, postponed due to Hurricane Sandy, VIPs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and government officials belatedly assembled yesterday to speech-ify and celebrate the museum's in-construction, revamped entrance plaza, to be named for its $65-million benefactor, Met trustee David Koch: Here's how the Met's two new fountains (as conceived by Fluidity Design Consultants) are expected to look at the plaza's reopening, projected for Fall 2014: Rendering courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of … [Read more...]

From Stalled Guggenheim Helsinki to the Albright-Knox: Janne Sirén Named to Direct in Buffalo

First off, he shortened his name. When he was helping to formulate and promote plans for the Guggenheim Helsinki, for which he was thought to be a likely choice for director, we knew him (scroll down) as Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén, director of the Helsinki Art Museum. Even Ari Wiseman, the Guggenheim's deputy director, had difficulty pronouncing his name. On the streets of Helsinki: Janne Sirén, left; Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong, center; Ari Wiseman, right. (Only Sirén convincingly looks like he might actually throw that … [Read more...]

Getty&#146s Latest Repatriation (plus AAMD members&#146 loose interpretation of cultural-property guidelines)

In another case of a voluntary repatriation by an American museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum announced last week that it would hand over its 10 3/4-inches-high Head of Hades, now on display at the Getty Villa, to the Archaeological Museum in Aidone, Italy, after the conclusion of the Getty-organized traveling exhibition, Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome (Getty Villa, Apr. 3-Aug. 19; Cleveland Museum of Art, Sept. 30-Jan. 5, 2014; Palazzo Ajutamicristo, Palermo, February to June 2014). This is the second recent repatriation … [Read more...]

Ada Louise Huxtable&#146s Estate Attorney Discusses Her Getty Surprise

Speaking to me by phone today, Ada Louise Huxtable's estate attorney, Robert Shapiro, declined to confirm or deny that his client had been in discussions with the New York Public Library or other possible recipients of her archives before her last-minute surprise deal with the J. Paul Getty Trust. Citing the confidentiality of his relationships with clients, he would only say that "she was extremely excited and thrilled with her papers' and Garth's [her late husband's] papers' and her estate's going to the Getty. They were working on a news … [Read more...]

Ada Louise Huxtable&#146s Posthumous Commentary? Her Entire Estate to the Getty

The startling news that the late, preeminent architecture critic and inveterate New Yorker Ada Louise Huxtable arranged for the transfer of not only her archives but her entire estate to the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles raises the obvious question: What was she thinking? In his obit for the LA Times, architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne noted that the bequest was "something of a surprise, given the critic's close association with New York and the East Coast." In its celebratory press release, the Getty writes: Her papers, … [Read more...]

Warhol Museum Regards the Met’s “Regarding Warhol,” Plans Major Changes

What do you do when you sign onto what sounds like a very promising project---the Metropolitan Museum's Regarding Warhol exhibition (now closed), only to find that it's a popular success but a critical train wreck? You reconceive it. Eric Shiner, director of the most sympathetic place to see Warhol's work---the Andy Warhol Museum, where the show travels (Feb. 3-Apr. 28)---is billed in his institution's recent press release as curator of the show's Pittsburgh presentation. I asked Shiner if his show would differ from the New York version, … [Read more...]

Ada Louise Huxtable, Doyenne of Architecture Criticism, Dies at 91

The world of architecture is in mourning. Ada Louise Huxtable, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, high spirited, fiercely opinionated architecture critic, revered by architecture historians and feared by developers, was the pioneer who brought serious, informed architecture criticism to daily newspapers. Her writing was invariably erudite, lucid and witty. The few times when she graciously conversed with me, in writing or in person, I felt I as though I had been touched by royalty. At the time of her death today at the age of 91, she was … [Read more...]

Masterpiece Postage: Museum-Owners of “Modern Art in America” Identified

Late on Friday, a CultureGrrl reader/librarian and a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service almost simultaneously e-mailed to me the list I was waiting for---the names of the museums that own the originals reproduced on the glorious Modern Art in America stamps, above, to be issued on Mar. 7 (but available for pre-order now). The Whitney Museum is one of three institutions (also including the Museum of Modern Art and Yale University) that have two works in this philatelic display. How much more appropriate would it have been for the USPS … [Read more...]

an ArtsJournal blog