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Archives for June 2013

A Cy-ing Shame: Dia Ditches All Its Twomblys

  [UPDATE: More on this, here.] In one of the most problematic art disposals in recent memory, the Dia Art Foundation has announced through Sotheby's that it plans to unload "nearly 30 works" by Cy Twombly, John Chamberlain and Barnett Newman that are "estimated to bring in excess of $20 million." Astonishingly, these include all of Dia's holdings by Twombly---some 14 works that, in the words of the auction house's Dia-approved press release, "provide a retrospective view of his indomitable career. The broad and varied selection … [Read more...]

James Russell’s and My WNYC Commentary: Meet the New Whitney, Not Like the Old Whitney

The audio for my conversation with Bloomberg architecture critic James Russell about the in-construction Downtown Whitney is now online. You can hear us here: Although it graciously offers some hat-tips to the Marcel Breuer-designed building that's been the Whitney Museum's home since 1966 (grid-like ceiling, spacious elevators opening directly onto the galleries), the Renzo Piano-designed 220,000-square-foot Downtown Whitney (three times the uptown space) is, in many ways, the anti-Breuer. The current granite-clad facility presents a … [Read more...]

Tomorrow on WNYC: Architecture Critic James Russell and I Double-Team the Downtown Whitney

UPDATE: More on this, here. Yesterday, the Whitney Museum invited members of the art and architecture press to peruse the not-ready-for-primetime Downtown Whitney. If all goes according to plan, you can hear my premature opinionating about this in-construction cultural anchor for the southern end of the High Line at about 8:30 a.m. on WNYC, New York Public Radio. (You can listen live, here.) I'll be joined on the program by Bloomberg's distinguished architecture critic, James Russell. (He'll be speaking from the studio; I'll be phoning … [Read more...]

Quick Study: My WNYC Speed-Date with Llyn Foulkes at the New Museum UPDATED

UPDATE: My Foulkes commentary was used this morning as a news item, not as a full-fledged segment. The WNYC link to that item is here. The piece showing the dead Lone Ranger and Mickey Mouse in drag, which I referred to in this news item, is "The Last Outpost," the second work in my slideshow, below. Here's the podcast for what aired. I was a bit unprepared for the professional challenge flung at me last Wednesday, when I visited the New Museum, New York, to learn more about a veteran Los Angeles artist about whom I knew a little but not … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Ex-Crystal Bridges Curator Chris Crosman on Turrell’s Arkansas Skyspace vs. “Aten Reign” at Guggenheim

Chris Crosman, Crystal Bridges founding curator, who in December 2011 began the alarming exodus of top curatorial talent from the Arkansas museum that opened on Nov. 11, 2011, responds to Guggenheim’s “Aten Reign”: Turrell’s “Skyspace” Obscures the Sky. (All links below are mine, not his.): I enjoyed your conversation [on New York Public Radio] with Deborah Solomon. And I tend to agree with you that [James Turrell's] skyspace at Crystal Bridges is a better example of this late stage of his work---the presence of sky itself is key, along with a … [Read more...]

Guggenheim’s “Aten Reign”: Turrell’s “Skyspace” Obscures the Sky

For weeks, I have been eagerly anticipating James Turrell's "reimagining the rotunda of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic building as one of Turrell’s luminous and immersive Skyspaces" (as the Guggenheim Museum's advance press release had described it). The only problem is, "Aten Reign" isn't a skyspace at all. It is, as the artist himself described it to us at yesterday's press preview, "a skylight space" [his emphasis]. There's a big difference...and for me, a big letdown. Some of you have heard me discuss my disappointment briefly this … [Read more...]

News Flash: Curator Kevin Murphy Leaves Crystal Bridges for Williams College Museum UPDATED

And then there were none. The alarming exodus of top curatorial officials from Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art continues. In the short time since its November 2011 opening, it has lost founding curator Chris Crosman, curatorial director David Houston and deputy director Matt Dawson. Now word has reached me that Crystal Bridges' curator of American art, Kevin Murphy (featured in this CultureGrrl Video), is leaving Bentonville, AR, for a curatorial position at the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, … [Read more...]

Two Crones Droning? Hear Deborah Solomon and Me Discuss Guggenheim’s Turrell Show on WNYC UPDATED

UPDATE: You can hear us now, here. For my more considered assessment of "Aten Reign," go here. I respect art critic Deborah Solomon and admire her writing, but I have often disagreed with her takes on art that we've both seen. Tomorrow, some time between 6 and 9 a.m. (if all goes according to plan), you'll hear us debate publicly on New York Public Radio (WNYC) about the merits of the Guggenheim Museum's James Turrell show, which opens tomorrow. (I'll post a CultureGrrl link to the audio, once it's on the station's website.) Deborah … [Read more...]

Sree Sreenivasan, My Blog’s Inspiration, Becomes Metropolitan Museum’s First Digital Officer

Sree Sreenivasan, who (for better or worse) was the direct cause of my starting this blog, has just been named as the Metropolitan Museum’s first chief digital officer (effective Aug. 12). Less than a year ago, this long-time professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (my alma mater), had been named chief digital officer for all of Columbia. His arts creds, aside from a "three-decade-long love affair with the Met," include having moderated two panels on the future of arts journalism. Sree, don't you think the … [Read more...]

Everyone But the Artist: Gehry, Govan, Campbell, Barron and Prather at Ken Price Retrospective (with video)

He shoulda been there. Ken Price, the category-crossing Los Angeles ceramicist, sculptor, painter and draftsman, had been intimately and enthusiastically involved in planning his dazzling retrospective, which opened last September at the LA County Museum of Art. He co-designed the installation in close collaboration with his long-time friend, architect Frank Gehry. But like the recent John Chamberlain retropective at the Guggenheim Museum, this long-planned exhibition sadly became a posthumous homage to a contemporary artist with a long, … [Read more...]

Detroit’s Emergency Manager’s Proposals Spare Detroit Institute’s Art (plus DIA’s work behind scenes)

It's a hopeful sign, but not a complete reprieve. This just in from Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press [emphasis added]: The sale of city-owned art at the Detroit Institute of Arts was not part of the plan presented to creditors Friday morning by the city’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr. The report makes no mention of monetizing the museum or its art to raise money to pay down the city’s massive debt. But the report does not rule out the possibility that the museum might be asked to contribute revenue as part of the restructuring plan … [Read more...]

Best Artworld News You’ve Had Today: Michigan AG Opposes Sales of Detroit Institute’s Art UPDATED TWICE

UPDATE: Here's the Attorney General's full 22-page opinion. There's a ray of hope regarding attempts to monetize the Detroit Institute of Arts' masterpieces to help solve the city's financial ills: This just in from Chad Livengood of the Detroit News: In an official opinion released Thursday [today], [Attorney General Bill] Schuette said Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr cannot sell off all or parts of the DIA’s multibillion-dollar collection to help pay off the city’s $15.6 billion in debts and long-term liabilities. “It is my opinion, … [Read more...]

Ownership vs. Stewardship: Timothy Rub on the “New Order of the Day” for Cultural Property CORRECTED

Serving as director of the Philadelphia Museum since 2009, Timothy Rub may well go down as the AAMD president who went where previous leaders of the nation's premier professional association for art museums feared to tread, in matters pertaining to collecting (and sometimes relinquishing) archaeological material. By his own admission, Rub, who became the Association of Art Museum Directors' president this month, has had a welcome "sabbatical" from dealing with antiquities controversies, because "Philadelphia is the first museum at which I’ve … [Read more...]

AAMD President Timothy Rub and the New Rules for Cultural-Property Engagement

Of the several issues that I hope Timothy Rub, the new president of the Association of Art Museum Directors, will address, few are as pressing as the development of collegial relationships with source countries regarding both repatriation requests and the disposition of "orphan objects"---those lacking complete provenances that go back at least to November 1970 (the date of the UNESCO Convention on cultural property). As it happened, I attended his provocative October 2011 lecture at the Penn Museum---The Shape of Things to Come: Developing … [Read more...]

Seducing Non-Art Students: Cornell’s Johnson Museum Pioneers Interdisciplinary Course Offerings (with video)

When I first met Stephanie Wiles, then the recently arrived director of the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University (where I'm an alum), she told me about exciting new plans to address the chronic problem that many university art museums grapple with---spotty student visitation at an institution that should be appreciated widely (not just by art-history and fine-arts students) as a valued cultural, educational and intellectual resource. A year later, Wiles' wiley ideas for more closely integrating the Johnson's riches with the … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Afsaneh Mirfendereski, Persian Artist/Architect, Blasts Corcoran’s Carpet Sale

Afsaneh Mirfendereski, a Chevy Chase artist and architect of Persian heritage, responds to Magic Carpet Ride: Corcoran Gallery’s “Sickle-Leaf” Persian Triples Previous Auction Record for Carpets and Rescue Miscue: Outlandish Proposal to Save the Corcoran by Dumping Its Art: Senator [William] Clark [who in 1925 bequeathed to the Corcoran Gallery the Sickle-Leaf Carpet that the museum just sold for $33.77 million] must be rolling in his grave. I learned a huge lesson: Never donate art to private museums.  Or else do so with conditions … [Read more...]

Maximum Massimiliano: What’s Next for Gioni, Acclaimed Director of 2013 Venice Biennale? (with video)

There has not in my memory been another director of the Venice Biennale who has been as widely acclaimed for his creative vision and assured execution as Massimiliano Gioni, the New Museum's associate director and director of exhibitions. From all accounts, he has expertly navigated the challenges of a nearly impossible task---to bring some order to the chaos of the international cutting edge, without blunting the edges, while putting it historic context. Who else could have pulled off such an eclectic, yet coherent, tour de force? Always a … [Read more...]

Magic Carpet Ride: Corcoran Gallery’s “Sickle-Leaf” Persian Triples Previous Auction Record for Carpets

"$16,000...I mean, $16 million. Hell-o-o-o-o!!! Excuse me, I'm not used to this!" blurted Sotheby's flustered auctioneer and senior consultant for rugs and carpets, Mary Jo Otsea, as bidding on Lot 12 soared today to more than three times the previous auction record for any carpet. (It also set a new auction record for any Islamic work of art.) Sought by at least four bidders in a 10-minute bidding battle was the Corcoran Gallery's prized (now discarded) “Sickle-Leaf” rug, bequeathed to it in 1925 by one of the D.C. museum's key benefactors, … [Read more...]

Bubble Burst: Hirshhorn Deflates Its “Inflatable”; Brougher to Be Acting Director

This just in from the Smithsonian Institution regarding the Hirshhorn's punctured plans for a 145-foot-tall temporary meeting hall, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro: The Smithsonian will not move forward with plans for the Hirshhorn’s Seasonal Inflatable Structure, known as the Bubble. Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, made the announcement today (June 5) citing financial uncertainties as the reason for the decision. The proposed structure on the plaza of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden was … [Read more...]

“Breach of Trust”: AAMD President Timothy Rub’s Eloquent Letter to Michigan’s Governor Defends Detroit Institute’s Collection

As I hoped he would, Timothy Rub, director of the Philadelphia Museum, has hit the ground running in his new gig as president of the Association of Art Museum Directors. His just released Letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder goes beyond the usual bromides (which he repeats) that monetizing the Detroit Institute of Art's collection to satisfy the financially Detroit's onerous financial obligations "would violate fundamental principles long recognized by the museum community." He also lays out how taking such a step would "constitute a … [Read more...]

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