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Archives for May 2013

Former Detroit Institute Director Sam Sachs Downplays Collection Threat (plus, details of museum’s contract with the city) UPDATED

In what may be wishful thinking, Samuel Sachs II, who directed the chronically beleaguered Detroit Institute of Arts from 1985 to 1997, believes that the threat to the museum's collection posed by Detroit's dire financial circumstances may be "a lot of smoke but no fire." In a phone conversation yesterday, Sachs gave me a tutorial on Detroit politics and recounted to me the historical background behind the current alarming situation: Although the city and state have withdrawn their financial support for the museum's operations, they … [Read more...]

The Semi-Return of CultureGrrl: Back (sort of) from All-Family-All-the-Time

As those of you who have read this post already know, I've been mostly off-blog since mid-May for good reason---the early arrival of my fabulous (and, of course, brilliant) first grandson, followed by my beautiful (and also brilliant) daughter's wedding in the Washington, DC, area (a good thing, since the weather for the outdoor ceremony was glorious, while here, in the NYC area, it was dismal). With all this excitement, I've missed many big stories that I would otherwise have cogently commented upon---the bravura contemporary art auction at … [Read more...]

Dueling BlogBacks on Detroit Institute’s Endangered Collection: Michael Rush and James Maroney

The Detroit Institute of Arts' current dire predicament appears to have given Michael Rush, founding director of Michigan State University's Broad Art Museum, traumatic flashbacks to the near-death experience of Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum, which he directed during the period when the Waltham, MA, museum and its collection were endangered by the university's then severe financial difficulties. Here is Rush's response to my CultureGrrl post---From Millage to Pillage? Detroit Institute of Arts Confronts Possible Rape of Its … [Read more...]

More Than a Mere Cleaning: MoMA Removes Restorer’s Gunk from Pollock’s “One”

Carol Vogel's NY Times report about what appear to have been do-it-yourself alterations under the auspices a previous owner of the Museum of Modern Art's newly restored Pollock masterpiece, "One: Number 31, 1950" gave me traumatic flashbacks to the bombshell article by art historian Rosalind Kraus in the September/October 1974 issue of Art in America. That shocking article had revealed alterations made to the painted surfaces of several David Smith sculptures under the auspices of an executor of the artist's estate, the famed art critic … [Read more...]

From Millage to Pillage? Detroit Institute of Arts Confronts Possible Rape of Its Collection

To artworld observers, the notion that the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) could be forced, if the city declares bankruptcy, to relinquish its greatest masterpieces to satisfy Detroit's creditors is inconceivable. But the "inconceivable" is beginning to look possible: With the city's bankruptcy now looming as a real possibility, liquidating the museum's rich artistic assets, which are owned by the city, could be the easiest way for the city to raise quick cash for a bankruptcy settlement without disrupting other operations of this … [Read more...]

Thomas Messer, 93, Guggenheim’s Rock-Solid Director

In my 2008 tribute to the late Sherman Lee, long-time director of the Cleveland Museum, I had stated: He was my go-to person (along with Thomas Messer of the Guggenheim Museum) for brilliantly expressed, cogent and thoughtful quotes defending museum standards and ethics. He was always available, always unafraid to speak forcefully, and always generous with his insights. Now my other go-to person from that earlier era has died at the age of 93. Tom Messer, director of the Guggenheim from 1961 to 1988, was unfailingly available to share his … [Read more...]

Special Events: Why I’ve Stopped Writing (for now)

A few of my devoted art-lings may have been wondering about my utter disappearance from CultureGrrl and @CultureGrrl during the past few days. Here's why I've abandoned the keyboard, even though I had a lot of posts in mind: The only works of art I've been seeing since Monday evening are the Sol LeWitt mural, above, at New York-Presbyterian Children's Hospital and my fabulous first grandchild, who was born there Monday evening. Already precocious, he arrived almost a month earlier than expected, but in full cry and perfect condition, at a … [Read more...]

Expansion Derailed: Peabody Essex Terminates Relationship with the Late Rick Mather’s Firm

The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, has just announced that it will discontinue its relationship with the architectural firm of Rick Mather, whose death on Apr. 20 threw the museum's well planned expansion project into disarray. This just in from the PEM: “We are deeply saddened by Rick Mather’s passing. It was a privilege and an honor to work with Rick and his team. He was a gifted architect,” said Dan Monroe, PEM's...director and CEO. “After careful consideration, we have determined the best way forward to complete our expansion … [Read more...]

Benny Andrews Rediscovered: Holland Cotter (and my) Appreciation of Michael Rosenfeld’s Retrospective

There is a capsule review in today's NY Times that merits wider attention and museum follow-up---Holland Cotter's very belated praise for Michael Rosenfeld Gallery's Benny Andrews show (closing May 18). It's the artist's first (also belated) retrospective since his death in 2006. As I felt when I visited this show several weeks ago (tweeting appreciatively, here and here), Cotter believes Rosenfeld's show gives Andrews' oeuvre "the visibility it deserves. An institutional survey, accompanied by an edition of Andrews’s invaluable and … [Read more...]

Diller Scofidio + Renfro May Keep Folk Art Building in Designing MoMA’s New Galleries

Robin Pogrebin was given the story before the Museum of Modern Art sent it to the rest of us: It now appears there's a chance that the fierce opponents to the demolition of Tod Williams' and Billie Tsien's American Folk Art Museum building may actually have their way. This memo from MoMA's director, Glenn Lowry, to the museum's board and staff has just hit my inbox: The highly respected New York-based architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro has been retained by the museum to develop the West End expansion project, including a detailed … [Read more...]

Auctioneer Andreas Rumbler Gets Deserved Applause at Christie’s Bumpy Impressionist/Modern Sale

"This is the most important Fauve portrait to come to market, bar none," you can hear Brooke Lampley, Christie's Impressionist/modern department head, assert to the press in this CultureGrrl Video. Expounding upon Derain's “Madame Matisse in a Kimono,” 1905, the second-highest estimated work in the sale at $15-20 million, Lampley added: I try not to use the words 'museum quality' too lightly. We're tempted to, in our field. This is truly a museum quality work. The synergy and synthesis of aesthetics and narrative here are relatively … [Read more...]

Campbell/Cambodia: Metropolitan Museum’s Principled Repatriation of Looted Khmer Statues

In deciding to repatriate two important 10th-century Koh Ker stone statues of “Kneeling Attendants,” on public display in its permanent collection galleries for almost 20 years, the Metropolitan Museum has set a gold standard for museums' cultural-property policy, going far beyond what the Association of Art Museum Directors mandates. (AAMD's antiquities guideslines refer to future acquisitions, not to dicey objects that are already in museum collections.) But the Met's salutary influence on future practice could be even more powerful if the … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Slog: Lackluster Impressionist/Modern Sale UPDATED

You know it's a boring evening when the most exciting aspect of the just concluded Sotheby's Impressionist/modern sale (which I previewed here) was the first-time use of multiple cameras, allowing those of us viewing the sale online to see not only the auctioneer but also the auction-house officials fielding phone bids. This not only provides a livelier viewing experience for armchair auctiongoers, but also shows that bids were real, not "chandelier." It's not that the sale didn't do reasonably well. It's just that the offerings were … [Read more...]

Whither the Impressionist/Modern Art Market? Auction House PR Machines in Overdrive (with video)

It's the auction houses' job, during the run-up to the big spring sales, to hype the robust state of the art market and the importance of works being offered. But while there are some notable highlights, there's nothing to "Scream" about in this spring's major Impressionist/modern sales at Sotheby's and Christie's, scheduled for tonight and tomorrow night, respectively. Brett Gorvy, chairman for postwar and contemporary art at Christie's, described the offerings in his firm's spring Impressionist/modern and contemporary sales as "very … [Read more...]

Debunking “Punk”: Metropolitan Museum’s Exhibition from (Richard) Hell

In a series of tweets (with photos) that I posted @CultureGrrl earlier today, I essentially said all I'm going to say about the Metropolitan Museum's disheveled, disjointed, dismaying Punk: Chaos to Couture (May 9-Aug. 14). Here's my first of several salvos against a show that I put down as "theatrics without substance": My photo, taken near the entrance to the exhibition, shows the Met's recreation of the bathroom at the punk rock mecca, CBGB---an installation inspiration that, as one of my Twitter followers later informed me, was … [Read more...]

Brandishing the Brand: United Way’s Cynthia Round Becomes Metropolitan Museum’s New Senior VP

Here's the announcement that the art scribe tribe has been eagerly awaiting: Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, announced today the appointment of Cynthia Round to the newly created position of senior vice president, marketing and external relations.  Ms. Round will join the museum on June 3....Reporting to her will be communications and advertising, which will remain under the direction of Elyse Topalian, vice president for communications [who supervises relations with the press, including pesky people … [Read more...]

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