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Archives for February 2016

Ripple Effect of My “Edlis Effect”: Crain’s Chicago Business, Lawyer Michael Dorf

My views on the Edlis Effect at the Art Institute of Chicago struck a chord with Crain's Chicago Business' Lisa Bertagnoli, who interviewed me about James Rondeau's appointment as the museum's director for her Feb. 27 piece analyzing what this change might mean for the AIC. She quoted my misgivings about the restrictions on the 44-work gift from the Edlis/Neeson Collection of contemporary art, which I said were "really putting the collectors before the artists. You should be able to intermingle different works," rather than create a … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Shortfalls: What’s Missing from CEO Tad Smith’s Earnings Conference Call?

Notwithstanding the assertion by Sotheby's CEO Tad Smith that he was "pleased with the progress we’ve made on our strategic objectives," there was much cause for concern in Sotheby's conference call with securities analysts this morning (covering fourth-quarter and full-year 2015). Professing to be "incredibly excited about our prospects," Smith tried to put an upbeat spin on the downbeat financial results in its latest 8-K report, filed with the SEC. Tad Smith, Sotheby’s CEO, addressing the crowd before the first of the Taubman … [Read more...]

Interactive Hijinks: Putting the Viewer in the Picture

For some, it seems, it's not enough to inhabit an artwork in their imaginations. They want to enter it physically. I'm embarrassed to own up to my own "living in a painting" experience: It occurred nine years ago, when I visited the Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ, for my WNYC radio report on sculpture gardens. The brainchild of artist J. Seward Johnson, Grounds for Sculpture displayed not only original outdoor works by contemporary artists, but also kitschy sculptural tableaux mimicking Impressionist masterpieces. Doing my … [Read more...]

Griffin/Geffen & the Art Institute of Chicago’s Edlis Misstep

Last year, while he was chair and curator of modern and contemporary art at the Art Institute of Chicago, the museum's new director, James Rondeau, made a Faustian bargain that could come back to haunt him. The museum's press release announcing Rondeau's promotion mentions that "over the course of his tenure, he secured numerous major gifts, most notably in 2015 when he ushered in the largest gift of art in the museum’s history—the Edlis/Neeson Collection" [emphasis added]. What the release doesn't mention is the strings attached to … [Read more...]

Vigée Le Brun: Flattery Got Her Everywhere, Including the Met (with video)

At about the halfway point in the 80-work Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum (to May 15), I ran into the museum's new president, Daniel Weiss, who asked me the dreaded question: "What do you think?" My usual strategy for deflecting attempts to preview my review is simply to tell the truth: "I'm still looking and thinking." But this time, although I had much yet to see, I blurted out: "I don't understand why the Met thinks this show is a sleeper!" Mounting this exhibition was described by the Met's … [Read more...]

Wroth About Rothko: “Order & Joint Stipulation of Dismissal” in De Sole Case vs. Freedman & Knoedler

When a litigant perceives, during the course of a trial, that there's a good chance he'll lose his case, there is an impetus to settle. With many expert witnesses having denied authenticating the disputed Rothko sold by a New York gallery to Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, and with the underlying implausibility of the sudden emergence on the market of a huge trove of previously unknown works by major artists, Ann Freedman and the shuttered gallery she formerly directed, Knoedler & Co., may have seen the writing on the courtroom … [Read more...]

A Milwaukee Walk: Photo Companion for My WSJ Review of the Milwaukee Art Museum

As promised in my last post, below is my illustrated companion for In Wisconsin, a Museum Reborn---my review in today's Wall Street Journal of the reinvented Milwaukee Art Museum, which gave me a very warm welcome on a single-digits day: The words in italics, below, are excerpted from my WSJ article. MAM's holdings are not only better preserved, but also shown off to greater advantage, thanks to the reorganization spearheaded by chief curator Brady Roberts: Before guiding me through the museum, Roberts surprisingly subjected me … [Read more...]

Squawking in Milwaukee: My Upcoming WSJ Review of the Milwaukee Art Museum UPDATED

For my article on the "Arts in Review" page of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal, (online later today, if all goes according to plan), I had the challenging task of reviewing an entire museum in 900 words. [UPDATE: The article is here and an illustrated companion to my WSJ piece is here.] The Milwaukee Art Museum had recently concluded an ambitious, praiseworthy, top-to-bottom renovation and reinstallation, as well as a 17,500-square-foot expansion: The driver for the makeover was a threat by the American Association of Museums (AAM, now … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Still Stalled, as Monitoring Report is Issued on Saadiyat Island Labor Conditions

PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC's) 4th annual monitoring report on labor conditions on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, recently released by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) of the United Arab Emirates' capital, gives a mixed picture of progress and continued concerns. The latter included a June 8 worker fatality, which occurred "as a result of a construction accident" at the Louvre Abu Dhabi's project site.  Whether for this or other reasons, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is still nothing more than "1,400 concrete piles [that] … [Read more...]

MoMA’s New Expansion Plan: Another Reality Check for Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Once again, with the recent revisions to the Museum of Modern Art's expansion plans, Diller Scofidio + Renfro's transgressively creative but farfetched architectural follies have been (mercifully) abandoned. All I can say is: I told you so. While we know that some high-profile innovations that had initially piqued MoMA's interest have now left the building, we still have scant information about what the new MegaMoMA will look like, save for this sketchy schematic: When I asked if there were any photographic renderings of the … [Read more...]

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