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Archives for February 2013

Bested by Christie’s, Sotheby’s Sales Drop. Net Income Plummets 37%. Both Raise Buyer’s Fee.

Notwithstanding its sale last year of the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, Sotheby's today reported lackluster results for 2012: Net income was down a whopping 37%, ($108.29 million, compared to $171.42 million the previous year). Total sales for the year (including private and dealer sales) were $5.4 billion (down 7%), compared to $6.27 billion at Christie's (up 10%). Christie's, unlike Sotheby's, is not publicly traded and does not disclosed its net imcome, so we can't compare profits at the two houses. Total revenues at … [Read more...]

Flower Power: A Personal Note…

Those of you who follow my @CultureGrrl Twitter feed (embedded on the blog, at right) know I was in Washington, DC, last week (on assignment). Now I need to write that article, host CultureDaughter's bridal shower (centerpiece pictured) and undergo (gulp) cataract surgery on my left eye---all in rapid succession. After that come preparations for a family Passover seder (late March), for a talk and media interviews in the Midwest (early April) and for the wedding (late May). I've got another Big Event in June, but more on that when it … [Read more...]

A Bent for Bentonville: Crystal Bridges’ Don Bacigalupi Was Considered for San Francisco’s Directorship UPDATED

An unimpeachably reliable inside source at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) has unequivocally confirmed to me one part of a rumor that I heard yesterday after I published this post about the surprising administrative realignment and worrisome staff departures at the Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, AR: My source confirmed that Don Bacigalupi, director of Crystal Bridges, had been in recent discussions with FAMSF about the possibility of his assuming the directorship of that institution, which includes both the de Young … [Read more...]

Crystal Bridges Shake-Up: What Is Alice Walton Thinking?

What's going on between the lines and behind the scenes of the recent surprising news about the regime change at Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, AR? The answers could prove telling for the future of a still nascent institution that's trying to find its way and play in the big leagues, with the help of munificent financial support from its founder, Alice Walton. The turnover of the curatorial staff during the 15 months since Crystal Bridges opened bespeaks an institution that may be too unstable to attract and keep the best curatorial … [Read more...]

NY Public Library Responds to Architecture Critics’ Letter Regarding Norman Foster’s Design

The NY Public Library today issued a statement in response to the letter by 20 architecture critics who called on the library's board to reconsider the planned renovation designed by Norman Foster. This hit my inbox earlier this evening, sent to me by Ken Weine, who last week assumed his post as the NY Public Library's vice president for communications and marketing (and is now experiencing trial by fire): All large public projects get stronger as they receive feedback---which has certainly been the case for this plan, which will unite the … [Read more...]

Goshen Commotion: Paul Rudolph’s Government Center May Not be Saved After All

It's not over until the construction contract is signed. Although the county legislature voted last week in favor of renovating, rather than knocking down, the flood-damaged Orange County Government Center, politicians on both sides of the controversy (the pro-renovation Democrats and the pro-demolition Republicans) now indicate that the rescue of architect Paul Rudolph's Goshen, NY, masterwork is not a done deal. Chris Mckenna of the Times Herald-Record reports: Two people runnning for county executive this year contend that last week's … [Read more...]

20 Architecture Critics Call on NY Public Library to Reconsider Norman Foster Renovation Plan

The skeptical sensibility of our city's preeminent architecture watchdog, Ada Louise Huxtable, lives on through her devoted disciples. Some 20 architecture critics, including such notables as Martin Filler, Joseph Giovannini, Cathleen McGuigan, Victoria Newhouse and Suzanne Stephens, have shot off a letter to the NY Public Library's board, citing Ada Louise's "last essay (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 3, 2012) [that] criticized the New York Public Library’s plan to remove its seven stories of stacks in the main branch at 42nd Street and Fifth … [Read more...]

Crystal Bridges’ Administrative Turnover: Director’s “Promotion” Follows Exodus of Top Curatorial Officials

In my mental file cabinet of future stories, this one was at the top of my to-do list---a detailed post on the brain drain from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Now a surprising press release has hit my inbox. It tries to put a positive spin on Crystal Bridges' future, but instead suggests even more administrative turmoil may lie ahead: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Board of Directors and board chair Alice Walton have promoted Crystal Bridges Executive Director Don Bacigalupi to the newly created position of president and … [Read more...]

A Conservator’s BlogBack: Are the Purported Bush Paintings a Hoax?

When you're dealing with a self-proclaimed hacker, how can you ever be sure that the information and images you get from such a dubious source are reliable? CultureGrrl reader Lenora Paglia, a paintings conservator in New York (and evidently an amateur detective on the side), closely scrutinized the online images of putative Presidential daubs and responded to yesterday's post---The Bush Paintings: Saltz and Smith as Hacker Flacks: Are we certain these paintings are actually by George W. Bush? I notice that in the photo of him actually … [Read more...]

The Bush Paintings: Saltz and Smith as Hacker Flacks

                  Where's a culture editor when the NY Times really needs one? Husband-and-wife art critics Jerry Saltz (NY Magazine) and Roberta Smith (NY Times) simultaneously got all excited about the fact that George W. Bush could actually paint a decent picture. Saltz calls W's paintings "'simple' and 'awkward,' but in wonderful, unself-conscious, intense ways." For Smith, they "might qualify as outsider art," with "forms [that] are handled with care, but … [Read more...]

Online Now: Complete Video of AFA’s All-Star Panel on Museum Funding Complexities

Judging from the large number of viewers of my 12-minute CultureGrrl Video excerpting comments from last October's all-star panel discussion of Art Museum Funding at the Crossroads, I'm certain that some of you wish you were there. Now you can be. The American Federation of Arts, which organized the event, has posted videos of the entire fascinating discussion---here (Part I) and here (Part II). At 46:02 in Part II, you'll hear me pose the final audience question, regarding the issue of donor influence on exhibitions---possible … [Read more...]

From Glocal to Local: Does “Checkpoint Helsinki” Supplant Guggenheim Helsinki?

With the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki stalled, if not moribund (and with one of its prime movers, Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén, director of the Helsinki Art Museum, about to shuffle to Buffalo), it now appears that the elaborate plans (embodied in the Guggenheim's $2-million, 186-page feasibility study) to boost the Finnish capital's cultural profile through the intervention of outsiders may have had unintended but very promising consequences. Clemens Bomsdorf reports in the Art Newspaper: The creation of an artist-led museum called … [Read more...]

Goshen Commotion: Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center Saved!

Sometimes miracles (and bipartisan cooperation) do happen. I've been reporting since last March about the precarious situation of the flood-damaged Orange County Government Center, Goshen, NY, a masterful composition of cubes by architect Paul Rudolph. It was deemed so important that it had been placed on the World Monuments Fund’s 2012 Watch List of endangered cultural-heritage sites. The building has been shuttered since September 2011. Last night, Chris Mckenna of Orange County's Times Herald-Record reported some very welcome, overdue … [Read more...]

Birth of the “Blues”: From 2006 at Boston ICA to Today at the Whitney (with video)

When Adam Weinberg, director af the Whitney Museum, mentioned at yesterday's press preview for the revelatory Blues for Smoke (to Apr. 28) that he had first discussed the show six years ago with its curator, Bennett Simpson, then at the Boston ICA (and now at LA MOCA, which organized the show), I had a sudden flashback to my own conversation in December 2006 with the ICA's director, Jill Medvedow. I was interviewing her in the auditorium of the ICA's striking new waterfront building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which I was reviewing … [Read more...]

Dept. of Tasteless Product Promos by Museums: Brillo® at the Warhol

From time to time, I have griped about how some museums have allowed themselves to be co-opted into promoting the commercial products of their corporate sponsors. One such instance involved the Warhol Museum's loan of 30 Warhol Coca-Colas to the then new World of Coca-Cola museum near the soft-drink company’s Atlanta headquarters. (I also published rebuttals by the Pittsburgh museum's then director, Tom Sokolowski, and other CultureGrrl readers.) But Brillo really rubbed (and scrubbed) me the wrong way with the over-the-top advertising copy … [Read more...]

Kim Sajet Named to Directorship of Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

Kim Sajet (pronounced, "Sayet"), president and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, has been named to the directorship the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery effective Apr. 1. She succeeds the rock-solid Martin Sullivan, who ably navigated his museum through the uproar caused by the removal of a David Wojnarovicz work from the landmark Hide/Seek exhibition. As CultureGrrl readers may remember, Sajet oversaw the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts' regrettable secret sale to an anonymous buyer of one of its signature … [Read more...]

Gagosian Commotion: Zwirner Poised for Artists Seeking New Gallery (with video and Q&A)

In the financial field, they call it "headline risk"---the negative influence that bad publicity can have on the future prospects of a hedge fund or other type of investment firm. In the event that the headline risk at the high-flying Gagosian Gallery might spook some represented artists, two expanding New York galleries are among those especially well positioned to capitalize on possible defections---Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner. Both hosted major press events late last month to trumpet their upcoming shows and promote their spiffy new … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Middlebury’s Richard Saunders on Why Object-Rich Museums Should Share (not sell) the Wealth

Prof. Richard Saunders, who in November invited me to speak to a general audience and (on the following day) to his museum studies class at Middlebury College, responds to Hispanic Society, Metropolitan Museum, Middlebury: One Institution’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure: I totally agree [with my "Trash/Treasure post]. As the director of a small "collections-poor" college museum, I am always pained when a collector decides to leave his/her collection to a major museum, as we all know most of it will go into storage and some of it is very likely … [Read more...]

Antiquities Antics in Davos: Whatever Happened to “Kinder, Gentler” James Cuno?

When you're speaking to a general audience far from home, you sometimes tend to be less guarded and more candid in your observations than you might be on your own turf. I know this firsthand, from my own speaking engagements. It appears that James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, dusted off his provocative, anti-repatriation rhetoric when discussing source countries' antiquities claims at the recently concluded annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland---an exclusive international conclave of leading … [Read more...]

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