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Archives for February 2014

Martin Sullivan, 70, Dies: Museum Director of Integrity, Grace Under Pressure (with video)

  My path crossed Martin Sullivan's three times. On each occasion, this consummate museum director, who died on Tuesday at 70, revealed himself as a man of conscience and integrity, with powers of persuasion and empathy that helped him navigate deftly through tangled controversies. The first time I encountered him, he spoke on a cultural-property panel where, as director of the Heard Museum, he argued strongly and feelingly for museums' adherence to the letter and spirit of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act … [Read more...]

Corcoran Confusion: Bungled Rollout of Its “Wonderful News”

Rarely have far-reaching, potentially disruptive changes to a venerable cultural organization been presented to its stakeholders as misleadingly and confusingly as the proposed alliance among the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design, the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. The bumbled attempt to explain this tentative arrangement is riddled with evasions (partly because details are still being worked out) and has raised more questions than it has answered. The end of the Corcoran as its devotees have … [Read more...]

Unfair Advantage? New Artists Royalties Bill Still Exempts Dealers

The new American Royalties Too [ART] Act of 2014, introduced today by U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ed Markey (D-MA), tweaks a number of provisions that were contained in the dead-in-the-water Equity for Visual Artists Act of 2011. It takes into account some recommendations in Resale Royalties: An Updated Analysis---a report issued in December by the U.S. Copyright Office, which reversed its previous anti-resale royalties position. The Copyright Office now acknowledges that "certain visual … [Read more...]

Emergency Manager Favors Detroit Institute’s “Grand Bargain” (plus: more controversies)

I'm juggling three stories of major interest, but can't do justice to all of them at once: ---The Corcoran Gallery's likely dismemberment, for which that Washington, DC, institution on Saturday issued a detailed list of FAQs, answering some important questions but raising others. ---The raucous surprise protest demonstration Saturday evening inside the Guggenheim Museum, New York, lambasting alleged human rights violations involving Abu Dhabi construction workers, to which the Guggenheim issued a cryptic but somewhat encouraging response. … [Read more...]

Washington City Paper: University of Maryland Blindsided by Corcoran’s Surprise Deal

In an astonishing article posted online yesterday by the Washington City Paper, Kriston Capps and Jonathan Fischer reported that the University of Maryland was among those who were blindsided by the Corcoran's surprise decision to drop its discussions with the University of Maryland in favor of an arrangement with the National Gallery and George Washington University. According to the City Paper: In an email to staff and faculty today [Feb. 20], University of Maryland president Wallace Loh writes that the school learned only yesterday that … [Read more...]

Dismemberment of the Corcoran: Whither the Collection? UPDATED

UPDATE: More on this here. I wasn't the only one blindsided by the Corcoran Gallery and College's announcement yesterday that (if details can be hammered out) it will essentially be divvied up by George Washington University and the National Gallery of Art, with a token "Corcoran Legacy" gallery remaining behind. It will display "a selection of works from the collection that are closely identified with the 17th Street landmark." Unlike previous proposals for addressing the venerable institution's serious financial morass, this one was … [Read more...]

More on Joseph Lewis Antiquities Case: Dealer Got More Than Wrist-Slap

Thanks to Cultural Heritage Lawyer blogger Ricardo St. Hilaire, I now have more complete information about the court sentence for dealer Mousa Khouli, one of the three co-defendants of collector Joseph Lewis (against whom charges were dismissed) in a federal criminal case involving Egyptian antiquities. In my previous post on this case, I wrote: The one who got the worst of it, dealer Mousa Khouli of Windsor Antiquities, New York, “received a one-year suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty in April 2012 to smuggling Egyptian … [Read more...]

“Fight of My Life”: Antiquities Collector Joseph Lewis Wins Dismissal of Charges UPDATED

In a case that will undoubtedly be Topic A at the Apr. 10 cultural-property symposium in New York organized by the collector-friendly Committee for Cultural Policy, Joseph Lewis, a Chesterfield County, VA, collector of Egyptian antiquities (whose objects were displayed at several American museums) recently won dismissal of all federal charges involving alleged antiquities smuggling and money laundering. Mark Bowes of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports: After 2½ years of legal wrangling and a seven-figure cost for his defense, a federal … [Read more...]

Bellowing about Bellows: Randolph College’s Maier Museum is “Not a Museum”

In reporter Amy Trent's Feb. 7 article in the Lynchburg, VA, News and Advance, she quoted President Bradley Bateman of Randolph College proudly touting the “fiduciary responsibility” evinced by his institution's deplorable deaccession of its Maier Museum's signature Bellows painting. That $25.5-million sale to the National Gallery, London, was arranged through dealer Rachel Kaminsky, New York, who customarily handles "Old Master and 19th Century Paintings, with a specialty in 16th and 17th century Dutch and Flemish." In Trent's dumbfounding … [Read more...]

Why Now? Federal Debt Limit Lifted, Obama Chooses Chu for NEA Chair

I've been tweeting up a storm about President Obama's choice of Jane Chu to chair the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) since shortly after the White House announcement hit my inbox at 6:50 p.m. yesterday. The initial buzz about the president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, has been generally favorable (Kansas City Star, Washington Post), although the LA Times did note that she "has had a much lower national profile than most nominees for the NEA chairmanship over the past 20 years." From the … [Read more...]

Under the Influence: Pawel Althamer’s States of Consciousness at New Museum (with video)

Pawel Althamer: The Neighbors, which opened today (to Apr. 13) at the New Museum, is the latest in that uninstitutional institution's distinguished list of visually and intellectually stimulating presentations of artists whose work I don't know well but undoubtedly should. Born in 1967, Althamer still has no gallery representation in New York. (This show could change that.) I had seen a couple of his works in the New Museum's controversial Dakis Joannou "Skin Fruit" show (numbers 7 and 14 in the slideshow at this link). And he was, for me, a … [Read more...]

Spinning the Bad News: Randolph College Puffs Discarded Bellows With Hot Air

More on this here, including identification of the dealer who helped arranged the Bellows' sale. Too often, local newspapers cross the line from journalism to boosterism when covering dubious doings at institutions in their hometowns. In this not-so-grand tradition, Amy Trent, writing for the Lynchburg, VA, News and Advance, seemed to buy Randolph College's win-win spin of its deplorable sale to London's National Gallery of its signature Bellows, "Men of the Docks." In her Friday article, Trent did acknowledge that the disposal "drew … [Read more...]

Deplorable Deaccession: Randolph College’s Signature Bellows Sold to London’s National Gallery

Just as Brandeis University, after a change of presidents, abandoned its plan to sell works from its Rose Art Museum to help address the university's financial needs, one might have hoped that when Bradley Bateman assumed the presidency of Randolph College last year, he would have reconsidered the ill-conceived, long-standing but not yet realized plan to dispose of George Bellows' celebrated "Men of the Docks," the signature work of the college's Maier Museum. No such luck. The college today announced that it had sold "Men of the Docks" … [Read more...]

Detroit Detritus: Critics of Detroit Institute’s “Grand Bargain” Dig for Dirt (and unearth some)

In an off-base article that purports to report on the objections of "critics" regarding the Detroit Institute of Arts' handling of executive compensation, Robert Snell of the Detroit News quotes only one such critic---Republican state Rep. Kurt Heise. The state legislator fumes that “at a time when we are asking for so much from people in Detroit---pensioners, firefighters and police officers---it is outrageous that these individuals are being so grossly compensated.” It's outrageous to call director Graham Beal's compensation … [Read more...]

See It Now: Video of Architect’s Presentation and Panel Discussion on MoMA’s Expansion

You've read what I had to say last week about Elizabeth Diller's "bravura performance" at the recent presentation and panel discussion in New York on the Museum of Modern Art's controversial planned expansion. Now, courtesy of the Architectural League of New York, you can see and hear the full two-hour discussion for yourself, including comments by MoMA's director, Glenn Lowry, its chief curator of painting and sculpture, Ann Temkin, and the six panelists: … [Read more...]

“The American West in Bronze”: Action-Packed Casts at Metropolitan Museum (with video)

Last Thursday I was glad to see the Wall Street Journal's Eric Gibson call out (without naming him) the NY Times' Ken Johnson for his perplexing, dyspeptic review last month of the Metropolitan Museum's rip-roaring roundup of The American West in Bronze (to Apr. 13). Johnson dismissed that show as "troubling, because it underplays a real-world history of appalling violence and evil, to which the sculptures appear oblivious." This is not the first time that a choice selection of lushly textured, lusciously patinated bronzes has triggered … [Read more...]

Curator Barry Bergdoll Explains MoMA’s “Frank Lloyd Wright and the City” (with video)

My brief WNYC comments and related CultureGrrl post on the Museum of Modern Art's just opened exhibition, Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs.Dispersal (to June 1), didn't adequately explain what this show is about. Who better to do that job than the show's co-organizer, Barry Bergdoll, MoMA's acting chief curator for architecture and design? He nominally left his chief curatorship last summer to return full time to his art-history professorship at Columbia University. But he's still acting in the chief curator's role until MoMA … [Read more...]

Hear Me Now: My WNYC Comments on MoMA’s Frank Lloyd Wright Show

Below is the audio for my New York Public Radio (WNYC) commentary (click the arrow) on the Museum of Modern Art's just opened Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs.Dispersal (to June 1). It's the first exhibition drawn from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives, which MoMA jointly acquired with Columbia University's Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. Here are the two models for projects that I mentioned in my remarks: One drawing I wish I had mentioned was Wright's no-longer-so-outlandish concept for the … [Read more...]

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