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Archives for October 2013

Fright Night: Detroit Institute of Arts’ Attorney Shines Light on City’s Murky Bankruptcy Discussions (with video)

Halloween seems like the ideal time to confront a scary situation that spooks the artworld---the possibility that the Detroit Institute of Arts might be forced to sell masterpieces from its collection to help satisfy its destitute city's creditors. Last week, an important behind-the-scenes player not given to public pronouncements, Richard Levin, the NYC-based lawyer retained by the DIA to navigate these perilous waters, broke his silence in a public panel discussion by four DIA-friendly experts who were assembled in New York by the … [Read more...]

Pay to See: Court Upholds Metropolitan Museum’s “Recommended Admissions” Policy

As I've previously indicated, I think the court made the right decision. This just in from the "delighted" Metropolitan Museum. [The links are mine, not theirs.]: Today, Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich of the Commercial Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of The Metropolitan Museum of Art by granting its motion to dismiss claims that the Museum’s longstanding pay-what-you-wish admissions policy violates both its 1878 lease with the City and a State appropriations act from 1893. The following is a statement from the … [Read more...]

She’s Back: Deborah Gribbon Returns to Cleveland Museum as Interim Chief Curator

Deborah Gribbon, who in 2004 resigned the directorship of the then embattled J. Paul Getty Museum in return for a $3-million monetary settlement, has just been named to become (effective Friday) interim chief curator of the Cleveland Museum of Art, which she had served as interim director during the 2009-10 interregnum between Timothy Rub (who left to become director of the Philadelphia Museum) and David Franklin (who left last week recently and abruptly, under a cloud). This just in from Steve Litt of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: Fred … [Read more...]

Blogbacks: Gary Tinterow and Chris Crosman on the Late Sir Anthony Caro

Although he had lived a long, full life, British sculptor Anthony Caro's death from a heart attack last Wednesday came as a sad surprise, because he had seemed so energetic and productive right to the end. Responding to what he called my "poignant tribute" to Sir Anthony last week, Gary Tinterow, director of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, told me that the 89-year-old artist had been "in great shape at the opening in May" of Caro's Venice retrospective at the Museo Correr, which Tinterow had curated. Caro was then "robust, and engaged in … [Read more...]

Abstract Sculptor Anthony Caro Dies at 89: “I don’t look back.” (with video)

The abstract constructions in steel by Sir Anthony Caro, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at the age of 89, are bold, tough, yet infectiously ingratiating, very much like the man himself. I was privileged to chat with the charming, thoughtful Sir Anthony on the occasion of the press preview for his 2011 mini-retrospective of five painted and unpainted steel constructions on the Metropolitan Museum’s Roof Garden, which I reported on (with images and video), here. At the time, he was all abuzz about his new assignment to create a work … [Read more...]

“Personal Reasons” Revealed: Steve Litt’s Detailed Report on Cleveland Museum/David Franklin Mess

In my previous post on David Franklin's Sudden Shocking Exit from the directorship of the Cleveland Museum, I observed that "speculation (informed or otherwise) may run rampant" because of the vague "personal reasons" cited by the museum as the cause for this highly inopportune departure, so close upon the December opening of the museum's new Rafael Viñoly-designed West Wing. Speculation and fragmentary information did indeed run rampant in the "Comments" section for the Cleveland Plain Dealer's initial article on Monday and in subsequent … [Read more...]

David Franklin’s Sudden Shocking Exit: Another Dizzying Spin in Cleveland Museum’s Revolving-Door Directorship UPDATED

[More on this: here.] Not since the sudden, unexplained departure of Timothy Potts from the directorship of the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, in 2007 has there been such a shockingly precipitous exit from a major art museum as yesterday's resignation, effective immediately, of David Franklin from the Cleveland Museum of Art, which he had led since September 2010. Even Potts (who is now director of the J. Paul Getty Museum) offered to stay on at the Kimbell for three months, "to allow time for his successor to be identified and to ensure a … [Read more...]

MASS MoCA’s Kiefer Deal: Single-Collector Exhibition on Steroids (plus what’s next for the Hall Collection and for Joseph Thompson)

I've been an enthusiastic admirer of the inspired, resourceful stewardship of MASS MoCA under its director, Joseph Thompson, ever since I wrote a rave review in the Wall Street Journal when the cutting-edge contemporary art institution opened in 1999. But as you may have guessed from my Tuesday WSJ piece on the opening of MASS MoCA's new Anselm Kiefer pavilion, I was wowed by the art but had mixed feelings about how it got there. At the end of my Kiefer review, I noted that the North Adams, MA, museum "essentially relinquish[ed] a portion … [Read more...]

Steve Cohen of SAC Sacks Art: A Story So Nice, Carol Vogel Wrote It Twice

Usually newspapers seek to avoid the duplication of the same story in the same day's newspaper. But the news that embattled hedge fund mogul Steve Cohen of SAC Capital Advisors plans to offload some of his contemporary art collection next month at Sotheby's hit both the Arts section and Business section of yesterday's NY Times, with both stories authored (or co-authored) by veteran art-market reporter Carol Vogel. (Katya Kazakina of Bloomberg caught up with the story today.) In her "Business" section piece (co-bylined with Peter Lattman), … [Read more...]

Andrew Hall’s Hall: My WSJ Piece on Anselm Kiefer’s 3-Piece, 15-Year Installation (with my slideshow)

On assignment at MASS MoCA for the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago, I had what was for me a rare experience of witnessing the somewhat frenetic last-minute installation interplay among an artist, collector and museum director, right before the opening of the press preview for a new 15-year installation, in a repurposed water cistern, of three monumental works from the collection of Andrew and Christine Hall by the renowned German artist Anselm Kiefer. A New Art Partnership, my WSJ review of MASS MoCA's new Hall Art … [Read more...]

Guggenheim’s Modified Helsinki Proposal Reduces Costs, Keeps $30-Million Licensing Fee

In its revised proposal for a new Global Guggenheim branch in Finland, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation has attempted to address the concerns expressed by government officials who had scuttled the original proposal in May 2012. From the Finnish point of view, the new plan is likely to be seen as an improvement, but serious questions still remain as to whether it can live up to its billing as "a strategic investment for both Helsinki and Finland, raising the international profile of the entire region." The museum is conceived as having "a … [Read more...]

Palisades Escapade: Metropolitan Museum’s View of New Jersey Defended by World Monuments Fund

Nothwithstanding my admiration for my state's scenic Palisades overlooking the Hudson River (where I sometimes hike), I think both the Metropolitan Museum and the World Monuments Fund have wrongly overreached in attempting to prevent LG Electronics from erecting a $300-million, eight-story corporate headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, less than three miles down the road from where I live. The Met objects to this construction because it wants to protect the idyllic view from the Cloisters, its uptown branch for Medieval art. The WMF (whose … [Read more...]

“Shared” Ex-Steinhardt Mishneh Torah on View at Metropolitan Museum for Only Three Months

The Mishneh Torah, Italian, c. 1457, which was previously owned by collectors Michael and Judy Steinhardt, went on view last week at the Metropolitan Museum, but surprisingly, according to the museum's press release, it will "remain at the Metropolitan through January 5, 2014"---a mere three months. The Met's announcement also states: The manuscript will be open to an illustration in the Sefer Shoftim, or “Book of Judges,” in which an accused man under close guard stands before a bench of judges assembled in a lush, outdoor court. The … [Read more...]

On the Waterfront: Guggenheim’s New Helsinki Proposal

Away on assignment last week, I've been blissfully ignorant, until just now, of this Guggenheim Helsinki development (on the Guggenheim Museum's website): Guggenheim Foundation Presents a New Proposal for a Guggenheim Helsinki September 24, 2013 Before an audience representing a cross-section of Helsinki’s cultural, civic, and business communities, leaders of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation today shared a revised proposal for developing a Guggenheim museum in Helsinki. The purpose of the event was to inform the people of Helsinki … [Read more...]

Fighting Back: Sotheby’s New “Shareholder Protections” Plan Also Intended to Protect Management UPDATED

On Wednesday, Sotheby's announced that it would comment on anti-management pressure from activist investor Dan Loeb "at an appropriate time." The "appropriate time" was 9:01 a.m. this morning, when this announcment hit my inbox. Below is an excerpt from the so-called "Shareholder Rights Plan with Shareholder Protections" (and with "protections" for current management): The Board of Directors of Sotheby’s today adopted a shareholder rights plan and declared a dividend distribution of one preferred share purchase right on each outstanding … [Read more...]

Taubman Flashback: Will Sotheby’s Again Seek a White Knight?

Might history repeat itself? Sotheby's, which appears to have already anticipated a hostile takeover attempt by making changes in management and by reexamining financial strategies, yesterday issued a non-response to the harshly worded letter from activist investor Dan Loeb of Third Point LLC, who wants the auction house's long-time CEO, William Ruprecht, to leave the building. Loeb also wants seats on Sotheby's board for himself and other like-minded new directors. The hedge fund manager's jump-the-gun letter also states: There are at … [Read more...]

Architecture of the Absurd: Chris Burden’s Madcap Acts of Engineering (with video)

In his early career, Chris Burden was a provocative performance artist, best known for his 1971 "Shoot," where he instructed a friend to shoot him in his arm (as you can see in this disturbing video). Now that he's involved in sculptural works and monumental installations, he's perhaps best known for his popular Urban Light, 2008, an alluring army of 202 restored cast-iron antique street lamps that animate the entrance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's campus. This quickly achieved the status of beloved LA landmark: With … [Read more...]

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