an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

Archives for July 2013

Thomas Hirschhorn’s Lively Gramsci Monument Brings Intellectual Gobbledygook to the Masses (with video)

Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn's Gramsci Monument, presented by the Dia Art Foundation (to Sept. 15), is a ramshackle, purpose-built philosophers' lair that works admirably as a vibrant community center, but not so well as an incubator of public intellectuals. The joint was jumping on the balmy Saturday afternoon when I visited: It was Family Day---a celebratory community event accompanied by lively dance grooves and abundant barbecued food. Gramsci's target audience is the population of Forest Houses, the public housing complex on Tinton … [Read more...]

Steven Litt Survives Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Newsroom Purge

The Plain Dealer today became the Pain Dealer: About 50 members of its newsroom staff were reportedly laid off this morning, via phone calls. I had feared that my post today would be another Jori Finkel story, with the Cleveland newspaper's veteran art and architecture critic, Steven Litt, as another victim of the national decline in arts coverage. I was pleasantly surprised: The job-cutters apparently deemed Litt to be as indispensable as I regard him. He stays. So we will soon have his reports on what the Cleveland Museum will … [Read more...]

“Sounder Grasp of Issues”: Schjeldahl Says Detroit Institute of Arts Shouldn’t Be Decimated After All

In a headspinning turnaround, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl yesterday asked for a do-over, after being pelted with a torrent of tirades for his muddled analysis regarding possible sales of the Detroit Institute of Art's masterpieces in connection with the city's pending bankruptcy filing. In retracting his ill-considered views, he essentially acknowledged that (in my words yesterday) his "mistaken assumption" had led "to a confused conclusion." Saying that he now has a "sounder grasp of the issues involved," Schjeldahl yesterday … [Read more...]

Fatuous Journalistic Commentary on the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Plight (and why it must be saved) UPDATED

UPDATE: For my take on Peter Schjeldahl's subsequent retraction, go here. There has been an astonishing amount of wrongheaded commentary---ranging from clueless to the pernicious---regarding the severe threat to the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection that could be triggered by the city's bankruptcy. With one exception, I don't wish to dignify this foolishness with links that would provide further exposure. The exception, because it was to me (and many readers) the most astonishing and unexpected, is the muddled argument by the New … [Read more...]

“Leadership Changes”: Text of LA MOCA’s Announcement on Jeffrey Deitch

The expected has now happened. LA MOCA's official announcement of the eventual (but still indeterminate) departure of Jeffrey Deitch has just hit my inbox. As far as I can tell, it's not on the museum's website at this writing, but you can read it in full at the above link. Saying that Deitch "will be stepping down," the release about "leadership changes" (including shifts on the board) sidesteps the question of whether he voluntarily resigned or was asked to leave. It also doesn't specify when he will depart, stating that "he will stay … [Read more...]

Cleveland Museum’s David Franklin Draws the Line: Cancels Sicily’s Loan Show

David Franklin, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, was absolutely right to reject Sicily's outrageous, untimely attempt to change its financial conditions for the critically praised loan show, Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome, now at the Getty Museum. Until its just announced cancelation, the show was scheduled to appear in Cleveland from Sept. 29 to Jan. 5. Deborah Vankin of the LA Times reports that "according to two sources with knowledge of the situation, ...Sicily asked the museum for roughly $700,000." I think … [Read more...]

My KCRW Radio Commentary on Deitch’s Possible Departure from MOCA UPDATED

  UPDATE: You can hear us now: A little too quickly for me to give you a proper heads-up (although I did announce it on my @CultureGrrl Twitter feed, in the righthand column of the blog), I contributed commentary this afternoon on Southern California's public radio station, KCRW, regarding an unconfirmed artworld development that's been touched upon during the last few days in various news accounts (here, here, here and here)---the possible imminent departure of Jeffrey Deitch from the directorship of LA MOCA. I was joined on … [Read more...]

More Cultural Politics: Andrew Finch, AAMD’s Policy Director, on Congress’ Convoluted Budgetary Process

As I noted late yesterday, the draconian proposed Fiscal 2014 budget cuts for culture-related funding, as outlined yesterday by the House Appropriations Committee, are (thankfully) far from the last word on the subject. At my request, Andrew Finch, the Washington-based director of policy for the Association of Art Museum Directors, walks us through the steps of the budgetary dance, putting yesterday's shocker into perspective: The President always submits to Congress a proposed budget [my link, not his], but Congress never simply accepts … [Read more...]

Cultural Politics: House Appropriations Committee Lacks Art Appreciation

It's not yet time to panic, but if you care about federal arts funding, it is time to make some noise. The House Appropriations Committee's proposed Fiscal 2014 Budget (beginning Oct. 1) for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, includes what would be, if adopted, draconian cuts in the budgets of arts-related federal agencies and museums. The following percentage decreases proposed by the Appropriations Committee (as summarized here) represent reductions from the levels originally enacted for Fiscal 2013 (which were later reduced by … [Read more...]

Detroit Institute of Arts Issues Statement Regarding City’s Bankruptcy Filing Today

The Detroit Institute of Arts, whose rich collection is owned by the destitute City of Detroit, today posted this statement on its website regarding the news that the city has filed for bankruptcy: Like so many with deep roots in this city, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is disappointed that the Emergency Manager determined it was necessary to file for bankruptcy.  As a municipal bankruptcy of this size is unprecedented, the DIA will continue to carefully monitor the situation, fully confident that the Emergency Manager, the Governor and … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Acknowledges Its Turrell “Skyspace” Isn’t One (plus my video of Turrell explaining how “Aten Reign” was made) CORRECTED

Criticized by me on CultureGrrl and on WNYC public radio for over-hyping its rotunda installation as "one of [James] Turrell’s luminous and immersive Skyspaces,” the Guggenheim Museum, I've just learned, has posted a video about how "Aten Reign" differs from (and, I believe, falls short of) true Skyspaces. A link to that video was tweeted yesterday by @MOMAPS1, whose Meeting, 1986, is an early, authentic Skyspace. [CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this post, I called the museum's clip a "corrective video." But the Guggenheim has now … [Read more...]

Repatriation and Restitution: Crimes of Omission in NY Times’ Cultural-Property Coverage

In articles on two successive days at the beginning of this month, the NY Times reported on cultural-property controversies regarding the restitution of artworks with sketchy Nazi-era ownership histories, and the repatriation of antiquities thought to have been illicitly exported from their countries of origin. In both articles, writers Patricia Cohen and Tom Mashberg, respectively, omitted crucial facts bolstering museums cases for retention of two hot-button objects---the Mummy Mask of the Lady Ka-nefer-nefer. Egyptian, Dynasty 19, (click its … [Read more...]

Dia Founders Blast Art Disposals: “Complete Betrayal of Trust”

Last Monday, in my second post lamenting the Dia Art Foundation's planned sale of some about 30 works (including all its Cy Twomblys, its only Barnett Newman and two John Chamberlains displayed in the Guggenheim Museum's 2012 retrospective), I wrote that Philippe Vergne, the foundation's director, had "offered to speak with me on Monday [that is, today]. I'll report on that conversation, if and when it occurs [emphasis added]." As I anticipated might happen (hence, the "if and when" proviso), today's scheduled conversation never … [Read more...]

Your Money or Your Show: Sicily Makes Cleveland an Offer It Can (and should) Refuse for “Art and Invention”

On yesterday's Cleveland Plain Dealer website (and, I assume, in today's hardcopy), Steven Litt reported on an unspecified "economic proposal" made by Sicily to the Cleveland Museum regarding the critically acclaimed (now jeopardized) Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome. Readers commenting on Litt's article, blasting this as "extortion," have been making not-so-veiled Mafia references. With no contract ever having been signed to cement the arrangements for this blockbuster, Sicily is now trying to change the rules in the middle … [Read more...]

Here’s to the Losers: LA Times Dumps Jori Finkel; Cleveland Museum Mourns Its Scuttled Sicily Show UPDATED

Both of these late-breaking developments are hard to swallow. The LA Times' ace arts reporter, Jori Finkel, whom I called "estimable" while she was writing for the NY Times and whose reliable, informed and comprehensive reports I've cited repeatedly since she moved to the West Coast, has been laid off by the financially strapped Los Angeles newspaper. In an unprecedented show of museum support for a cultural journalist, directors of 15 California museums (including the Getty's Jim Cuno and Timothy Potts, LACMA's Michael Govan and LA … [Read more...]

Wanna See Ellsworth Kelly Receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Obama?

Now you can! Below is the video of today's White House ceremony for the 24 recipients of the National  Medals of Arts and Humanities. Ironically, despite Obama's appreciation (as stated during the ceremony) of the arts' and humanities' power "to open up minds and nourish souls," he hasn't yet managed to nominate new chairpersons for the National Endowments for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities. The acting chairs---Joan Shigekawa and Carole Watson, respectively---were in attendance this afternoon, as was (in Obama's … [Read more...]

More on the “Dia-ccessions”: Honoring Twombly, Discarding Twomblys (and Chamberlains, Newman)

Why has Philippe Vergne, the Dia Art Foundation's director, green-lighted the wrongheaded plan to raise acquisitions funds by substantially weakening the existing "permanent" collection? Dia's director has yet to grant my requests to discuss with him the rationale behind the decision to auction at Sotheby's all of the foundation's Cy Twomblys, plus key works by John Chamberlain and Barnett Newman. [UPDATE: Just as I posted this, Philippe offered to speak with me on Monday. I'll report on that conversation, if and when it occurs.] Last week I … [Read more...]

Goshen Commotion (not again!): Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center Remains Imperiled

Even after the county legislature had voted in favor of renovating, rather than demolishing, the Paul Rudolph-designed Orange County Government Center in Goshen, NY, there were those who believed that the rescue of this distinctive building was still not a done deal. They were right. Chris Mckenna of Orange County’s Times Herald-Record now reports: Demolition is back in play, despite a 15-6 Legislature vote in February to renovate all three buildings in the 43-year-old complex. [County Executive Ed] Diana's Public Works Department has … [Read more...]

Cultural Exchange with Italy (or not): “Boxer at Rest” in Metropolitan Museum vs. Sicily’s Newly Combative Stance (with video) UPDATED

It's beginning to look like Italy's left hand doesn't know what its right hand is doing. At the same time that American institutions are celebrating the Year of Italian Culture in the U.S.---including stellar loans from Italy to the Metropolitan Museum of a Velázquez portrait (to July 14) and the astonishing, over-lifesize Boxer at Rest (to July 15), it appears that American museums' recent repatriation agreements may be starting to unravel. The win-win provisions in those accords, which included reciprocal loans of major works and … [Read more...]

an ArtsJournal blog