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Archives for April 2013

So Much for the “Plain People”: Barnes Foundation’s Ellsworth Kelly Show Accompanied by Admission Hike

Once again, it's "in with the new, out with the old" today at the Barnes Foundation, which reopened almost a year ago in its new digs in Philadelphia. As I write this, the scribe tribe is gathering (without me) at the Barnes for the press preview of what the foundation bills as its "first contemporary art exhibition in 90 years" (a year after the Barnes was founded). Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall (May 4-Sept. 2) consists of five works by the artist, who himself turns 90 in May and is attending today's press preview. The "out with … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum Goes on Shopping Spree at Sotheby’s Steinhardt Judaica Sale

The Metropolitan didn't only (partially) acquire the Mishneh Torah from the Michael and Judy Steinhardt collection of Judaica today. It later scooped up two lots from Sotheby's auction of the Steinhardt trove (as reported in the auction house's post-sale press release): ---Large (13" diameter) Italian parcel-gilt silver Torah crown, Venice, c. 1740-50, $857,000 (with buyer's premium); presale estimate: $300,000-500,000 (without premium) ---Pair of Russian parcel-gilt silver Torah finials, Georgia, c. 1896, $43,750; estimate: … [Read more...]

Monetizing a Museum’s Imprimatur: Mishneh Torah Missteps UPDATED

Was it all just a charade? It seems clear to me now, from my revelatory discussion on Friday with Michael Steinhardt, that Sotheby's must have had more than an inkling that the Frankfurt Mishneh Torah was going to be withdrawn from this morning's Steinhardt Judaica auction, even as its experts were touting to the press and prospective bidders the sale's purported star lot. The c. 1457 illustrated copy of Maimonides' magnum opus, which he completed in 1180, bore the highest estimate ($4.5-6 million) in a sale packed with many modest objects … [Read more...]

Auction Preempt: Israel and Metropolitan Museums Jointly Purchase Michael Steinhardt’s “Mishneh Torah”

My informed guess proved correct. This just in from the Israel Museum and Metropolitan Museum: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today the joint acquisition of one of the finest illuminated Hebrew manuscripts ever created, a rare handwritten copy of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides, one of the most important rabbinical figures of the Middle Ages. The manuscript was previously in the collection of Judy and Michael Steinhardt, New York, and will be shared by the two museums on a rotating basis. The … [Read more...]

Will Mishneh Torah Go to Israel Museum (Instead of Sotheby’s Auction)? Michael Steinhardt’s, James Snyder’s Enigmatic Responses (with video)

I was surprised and irked Wednesday when I learned that the star offering in this Monday's New York auction of the Michael and Judy Steinhardt's Judaica collection---the 15th-century illustrated Frankfurt Mishneh Torah (presale estimate: $4.5-6 million) had not only been proudly displayed on "extended loan" for the past three years in the permanent-collection galleries of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, but had first been restored to exhibition-worthy condition by the museum, which had unbound, painstakingly conserved and reassembled … [Read more...]

Monroe, Safdie Are Mum on Peabody Essex’s Expansion After Architect Rick Mather’s Death

Proving that the best-laid plans sometimes go dismayingly astray, the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, has suddenly found itself in the stricken position of mourning the death of architect Rick Mather, who was chosen in 2011 to design PEM's 175,000-square-foot expansion, scheduled for completion in 2017. Here's all that a spokesperson for the PEM's understandably dumbstruck director, Dan Monroe, could tell me yesterday about the status of the project, in light of this unforseen development: Dan relays that everyone is still in shock at … [Read more...]

London Architect Rick Mather, Designer of Virginia MFA and Peabody Essex Expansions, Dies

As reported on Rick Mather's website, the London-based architect died Saturday after a short illness. He was 75. Not as renowned as some starchitects, but admired for his tasteful expansions of the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford and the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, as well as his masterplan for London's Southbank Centre arts complex, he was just beginning to have an impact in his native country, the U.S., with his 2010 McGlothlin Wing for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. His next big U.S. museum project was … [Read more...]

“Everybody Must Get Stoned”: LA MOCA’s Far-Out Gala

The description of LA MOCA's benefit gala last night, contained in a press release from the museum that just landed in my inbox, requires little comment. It operates as its own parody. In her raised-eyebrow recap of last night's festivities, Jori Finkel of the LA Times called the extravaganza, "one weird night." Particularly strange, she said, was "a fake appearance by museum director Jeffrey Deitch, who was in attendance but didn't take the microphone himself. Instead, an actor wearing a patch over his left eye was introduced as Deitch and … [Read more...]

The Year of Italian Culture: Metropolitan Museum Gets Velázquez, Will Get “Boxer” (with video)

This year has been designated The Year of Italian Culture, bringing to our shores important loans from Italian museums. One of those, Velázquez's "Portrait of Francesco I d'Este," 1639, has just been accorded a room of its own at the Metropolitan Museum (to July 14), on loan from Modena's Galleria Estense. The lending museum has been closed due to extensive damage (not, fortunately, to the artworks) since the severe May 2012 earthquake in that region. Another perhaps more spectacular loan, not yet announced by the Met (but already announced … [Read more...]

AAMD Argues Against Artists’ Royalties in Statement to Copyright Office; Hearing to Be Held Tuesday

On Apr. 23, the U.S. Copyright Office will conduct a public hearing on the pros and cons of possible federal legislation to mandate artists' resale royalties. In advance of the hearing, the Copyright Office invited statements from interested parties. Some 59 comments are posted here. Among them---an astonishing missive from the Association of Art Museum Directors, finding fault with the notion of granting artists the right to participate in the profits from resales of their work. You can read about the specific issues that the Copyright … [Read more...]

Score One for Art Criticism: Philip Kennicott’s Pulitzer Prize

It's no secret that I haven't always seen eye-to-eye with the Washington Post's Philip Kennicott, the art-and-architecture critic who on Monday was named to receive the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. But reasonable critics can disagree, and it's good to see art criticism once again getting the spotlight. The Pulitzer had now gone to three art critics in the past five years---Holland Cotter (NY Times), Sebastian Smee (Boston Globe) and now Kennicott. UPDATE: The year before Cotter, another art critic won---Mark Feeney (Boston Globe). … [Read more...]

The Contactable CultureGrrl

My glitchy "Contact" link on the blue strip in the upper left corner of this blog is now working again. If you sent me a message in the last few weeks, I did not receive it. Please send it again. (But try not to inundate me all at once, art-lings!) While you're clicking "Contact," please don't forget to also click "Donate" (in the right column), if you care about what I do and would like to support it. Support via speaking engagements (such as my recent gig in St. Louis) is also welcome. Now that this brief commercial is done, back to … [Read more...]

Spiritual Sustenance After Marathon Massacre: Free Admission Today at Two Boston Museums

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts this morning added the missing ingredient (which I had been hoping for) to last night's message regarding its role as refuge for traumatized Bostonians. This just in from the BMFA: In response to the tragic events at yesterday’s Boston Marathon, general admission to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), will be free to the public [emphasis added] today, Tuesday, Apr. 16.  The Museum’s galleries and special exhibitions will be open for visitors who wish to find a place of respite during this painful time for … [Read more...]

Marathon Massacre: Boston Museum of Fine Arts As a “Place of Comfort, Refuge”

As we all struggle to comprehend the incomprehensible, here's how the Boston Museum of Fine Arts responded last evening to the Marathon Massacre: Our hearts go out to the runners, families, fans and first responders impacted by the tragic events at the Boston Marathon finish line today. The Museum will be open tomorrow (Tuesday, Apr. 16). We hope to be a place of comfort, refuge, and joy for thousands of families during this vacation week. Museum security staff will be on high alert and in communication with the Boston Police Department to … [Read more...]

The Un-Contactable CultureGrrl

If you've been trying to reach me through the "Contact" link in the upper left of this blog, I just realized a few days ago that it's not working and hasn't for many weeks. From your end, it has looked like it worked, but those messages never got through to me. The ArtsJournal techies are trying valiantly to vanquish these gremlins. I'll let you know if and when they succeed. Meanwhile, there's always carrier pigeon. I apologize, but I can't post my e-mail address on the blog, due to the spam factor. If you already do have my e-mail … [Read more...]

Chipper about Chipperfield: St. Louis Art Museum’s Soon-to-Open Expansion (with video) UPDATED

While in St. Louis for my speaking engagement at the Contemporary Art Museum, I also got a chance to explore the exterior of the soon-to-open David Chipperfield-designed, LEED gold-certified expansion of the St. Louis Art Museum, fully funded at a thrifty $160 million, including about $30 million for endowment. The new East Building, more than 200,000 square feet in size, will contain 21 galleries, increasing the museum's total space for exhibiting art by about 30 percent. It will be be a place for post-1945 works and some ancient art from … [Read more...]

Demolition Decision: American Folk Art Museum’s Former Building Gets MoMA-ized

There was a lot of late-night handwringing (some of which you may have caught on my Twitter feed) bemoaning yesterday's announcement of the imminent demolition by the Museum of Modern Art of the 12-year-young former flagship facility of the American Folk Art Museum. I regard its failed interior as unworthy of saving, although its distinctive (if somewhat forbidding) sculptural bronze façade (with its almost hidden recessed entrance) might have merited preservation: MoMA bought this building (which adjoins it) from AFAM in 2011 for $31.2 … [Read more...]

Obama’s 2014 Budget: 28% Limit on Charitable Deductions; Increases for Smithsonian, Arts Agencies UPDATED

In his just submitted proposed budget for 2014 (on P. 36), President Obama ignored the plea of nonprofits to preserve the current level of deductibility for charitable donations, sticking to his plan for a 28% limit on the combined financial benefit to taxpayers from charitable donations and mortgage deductions. The current limit is 39.6%. Here's an example to illustrate what this means: Under current law, if you donate $100 and are in the top tax bracket, your deduction of $100 from your taxable income could be worth a maximum of $39.60 in … [Read more...]

Cubist Infusion: Leonard Lauder’s “Transformational Gift” to the Metropolitan Museum

I got this one right. The Metropolitan Museum this evening announced what director Tom Campbell called, with no hyperbole, "a truly transformational gift"---the pledge by megacollector Leonard Lauder of 78 works, including 33 by Picasso (including the painting shown above), 17 by Braque, 14 by Gris, and 14 by Léger. The gift will be accompanied by the establishment of a new Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, which will be bankrolled by a $22-million endowment, contributioned by Lauder and other Met trustees and patrons. I … [Read more...]

Corcoran’s Strategic Plan with University of Maryland: A “Partnership” or Takeover?

In Wednesday's press release announcing its new strategic plan to forge a close connection with the University of Maryland (UMD), the financially foundering Corcoran Gallery and College of Art + Design described their proposed relationship as a "partnership." But reading between the lines of the institutions' Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) strongly suggests that far from a collaboration of equals, this a takeover by the fiscally and administratively stronger institution. He who pays the piper calls the tune. What's more, it appears that … [Read more...]

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