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Next Week’s Bellwether Auctions: Guarantees, Investor Pleas, Uncertainties

Ahead of next week's major Impressionist, modern and contemporary art auctions, both Sotheby's and Christie's are assuring possibly skittish buyers that there are "signs of strengthening"  in the market (in the words of Tad Smith, Sotheby's CEO) and cause to be "confident in the art market" (in the words of Sara Friedlander, Christie's department head for post-war and contemporary art, in a Bloomberg video). Smith's remarks came as part of his earnings conference call yesterday morning with securities analysts, whom he was trying to … [Read more...]

Schmooze & Peruse: My Storify on the Frieze Art Fair in New York

I thought I'd give it another try by attending the preview for Frieze Art Fair (to May 7), but I still find that, for me, art fairs are a a good way to network with artworld luminaries but a poor way to view and absorb art. A suitable format for conveying this superficial, disjointed experience is a Twitter Storify. Aside from the people mentioned in my tweets, I ran into Max Hollein, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, who chided me for visiting SFMOMA but not his institution during my recent California visit (during which I … [Read more...]

Defying Trump, Bipartisan Deal Would Boost Funding for NEA and NEH (with strings attached)

The strong efforts of arts-and-humanities advocates appear to have (at least temporarily) overcome the pernicious, fallacious notion that the National Endowments of the Arts and Humanities are preserves of the elite and therefore unworthy of government support. But Congress has added some of its own guidelines for awarding federal arts grants, just to make sure. Far from slashing or even zeroing the budgets for the National Endowments of the Arts and Humanities, as proposed by President Trump, a bipartisan budget agreement to avoid a … [Read more...]

Blogback: John Ravenal, deCordova Director, Defends Higher Museum Fees for Out-of-Towners

John Ravenal, executive director of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA, which offers free admission to Lincoln residents, takes issue with Out-of-Towner Downer: Metropolitan Museum Considers a Xenophobic Admission Policy. Your comments on the Met's possible change in admission policy seemed shortsighted to me (and the metaphor of "xenophobia" strikes me as unhelpful at best). Here are two other US museums whose admission policies privilege their local constituents---deCordova (free to Lincoln, MA, residents) and … [Read more...]

Out-of-Towner Downer: Metropolitan Museum Considers a Xenophobic Admission Policy

Saul Steinberg's famous New Yorker cover portraying how Manhattanites view the rest of the world came to mind when I read Robin Pogrebin's NY Times article about the Metropolitan Museum's tentative (to my mind, wrongheaded) proposal to discriminate against out-of-towners in charging admission fees. Especially at a time when our President is fueling his supporters' xenophobia, the last thing we need is to make foreigners (let alone fellow citizens) feel less welcome at our country's premier repository for world culture by instituting a … [Read more...]

“Moral Obligation”: My Chat with Cleveland Museum of Art’s William Griswold (plus Benjamin & Rub)

William Griswold has no interest in leaving the directorship of the Cleveland Museum for Art (CMA) any time soon...not even for the top spot at the beleaguered Metropolitan Museum (for which I had presumptuously nominated him). That's what he averred towards the end of our extended conversation over oatmeal at the New York hotel where he was staying recently, from which he planned to walk over to the Met to see its Age of Empires show (to July 16) and to meet with Met colleagues to discuss "a possible exhibition, about which I can say no … [Read more...]

Amidst Villar Rojas’ Chaotic Ruins on Met’s Roof Garden, Dan Weiss Sets Me Straight (with video)

"Barratt's Back," I announced in the erroneous headline of a recent post. It seems that she never left. At least that's what Metropolitan Museum President Daniel Weiss told me at Thursday's press preview for the Met's latest Roof Garden commission---Adrián Villar Rojas' The Theater of Disappearance (to Oct. 29). "Theater of the Absurd" might be a more apt title for this surrealistic, macabre conglomeration of ghostly objects. They were cloned from the Met's collection using 3D scanning and advanced imaging techniques (done in-house by … [Read more...]

Blogback: Francis Naumann on Duchamp’s Remakes of the “Fountain” Readymade

Art historian and gallerist Francis Naumann responds to Plumbing Duchamp’s Urinal: How Erudite Art Historians Piss on Simplicity: As you can well imagine, I took considerable offense in your remarks, as you go on to identify me as the erudite art historian who has pissed on simplicity. To begin with, you call me a gallerist, which I am right now, but which I was not when this video was shot in the galleries of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 17 years ago. At that time, I was functioning exclusively as an art historian, lecturer and … [Read more...]

Plumbing Duchamp’s Urinal: How Erudite Art Historians Piss on Simplicity

When pondering the meaning of enigmatic artworks, critics and scholars often mix factual knowledge with leaps of interpretive imagination, conveyed through highfalutin verbiage. Thus it was when Francis Naumann, art historian and gallerist, expounded on the significance of Duchamp's commissioned knockoffs of his own game-changing 1917 "Fountain"---the unpretentious object that unleashed a stream of pretentious rhetoric. Here's one of the readymade's remakes---one of eight commissioned by the artist from the Galleria Schwarz, Milan, in … [Read more...]

Barratt’s Back: A Harbinger of the Met’s Administrative Readjustments? UPDATED

Last July, it was reported that the Metropolitan Museum's deputy director for collections and administration, Carrie Rebora Barratt, was one of those who had taken a voluntary buyout at the Met. Now, it appears, she's back: She was quoted in today's Met press release about the gift 91 works of Native American art from the collection of Charles and Valerie Diker. UPDATE: Met CEO Daniel Weiss has since informed me that, notwithstanding press reports, Barratt never left. Here's a highlight from a previous Met show from the Diker Collection, … [Read more...]

Unfair at “Vanity Fair”: William Cohan Muddies the Met Mess

With the intense interest generated by Robin Pogrebin's shocking front-page revelations in yesterday's NY Times about the Metropolitan Museum's governance lapses, it's likely that pundits will pile on with commentaries fueled more by indignation and sensationalism than by the deep knowledge of the Met's policies, practices and personnel that informs Pogrebin's latest piece. Beating everyone to the sucker-punch was William Cohan with his hit job for Vanity Fair---Inside a Met Director’s Shocking Exit and the Billion-Dollar Battle for the … [Read more...]

“Inappropriate Relationship”: Tom Campbell Must Go; Metropolitan Museum’s Board Must Reform

Two weeks ago, I had suggested that the increasing barrage of negative assessments of Tom Campbell's leadership at the Metropolitan Museum might lead him to "decide jointly with the board that it could be best to end his tenure sooner than scheduled" (at the end of June), rather than to prolong "a lame-duck directorship." Now, having read Robin Pogrebin's jaw-dropping NY Times exposé (which hit the web this evening), I'm guessing that tomorrow may be desk-cleaning day for the Met's embattled director: His authority to lead the country's … [Read more...]

Bonding with Bondil: Montreal MFA’s Head on Succeeding as a (Female) Museum Director

"In the end, I’d say that I’d hope I had been chosen for what I had between my two ears and not because of what I don’t have between my two legs," Nathalie Bondil, director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, said in a wide-ranging conversation with me in New York last Thursday, the day after the Association of Art Museum Directors released its report on The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships. Her quip was a raunchier version of what I tell people who question why I don't dye my graying hair: "I'm more interested in what's inside my … [Read more...]

“Emet” & Emmett: Why Truth-Telling (like Schutz’s) about Till’s Murder Should Be Ecumenical UPDATED

The Whitney Museum has now composed what is, to my mind, the most succinct, sagacious response to the firestorm of castigation, pontification and rationalization swirling around Dana Schutz's powerful "Open Casket" at the Whitney Biennial. Here's the statement sent to me this morning from the Biennial's co-curators, Mia Locks and Christopher Lew, in response to my request for comment about the calls for the removal or even destruction of Schutz's riveting portrait of the brutally mutilated Emmett Till: The 2017 Whitney Biennial brings … [Read more...]

Dan’s Plans: Weiss Rethinks the Metropolitan Museum’s Capital Projects UPDATED

In a departure from usual protocol, Daniel Weiss, the Metropolitan Museum's president, handed Kelly Crow of the Wall Street Journal a detailed scoop (published online this afternoon) about his revised plans for the museum's capital projects, which entail the sequential replacement of skylights in the European galleries, renovation of the British galleries and musical instrument galleries, and possible renovation of the galleries for Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Whether and when the $600,000 renovation and gallery expansion of the … [Read more...]

The Met Mess: Two Toxic Articles Make Bad Situation Worse

In the problematic tradition of kick-'em-while-they're-down, the NY Post and Vanity Fair magazine have opted for tabloid sensationalism with headlines about the Metropolitan Museum's financial predicament that are more click-worthy than praiseworthy. Money-Losing Met Hands Execs Hefty Raises is the title for Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein's Post piece. They reported last week that "records show" the Metropolitan Museum's top brass were getting "hefty pay raises and six-figure bonuses...despite a looming deficit that threatened to reach $40 … [Read more...]

Bludgeoned Budget: Reaction & Resistance to Trump’s Proposed Zeroing of NEA, NEH, IMLS, CPB

Late yesterday we learned that President Trump's proposed budget, released today, would do what we had feared: eliminate funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, which, while minuscule in relation to the total federal budget, has been the lifeblood of large and small museums and arts groups across the country. On page 5 of America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, the White House's Office of Management and Budget succinctly outlines "Major Agency Budget Highlights" (actually lowlights, in relation … [Read more...]

The “Resistance” Biennial: The Whitney Museum Gets Tough UPDATED

More on this here. How politically provocative can or should a nonprofit cultural institution allow itself to be in contentious times? With its 2017 Biennial (Mar. 17-June 11), the Whitney Museum is navigating those choppy waters. Some museums have been notably circumspect in their polite pushback against Trumpism. After all, they need to seem welcoming to all constituencies, including those who are pro-Trump. Although Graham Bowley attempted to update initial reports about the Trump Effect on cautious cultural institutions in his latest NY … [Read more...]

Ten Suggestions for Tom Campbell’s Successor at the Met

In December 2008, anticipating the imminent eminence of Thomas Campbell as new head of the country's premier art museum, I presumptuously posted a to-do list for the director-designate. The Met, I then felt, needed to be less insular, more outward-looking and more creative in conceiving exhibitions, notwithstanding the undeniably monumental achievements under Philippe de Montebello. Here's the Montebello Monument, which went on display five years ago near the main admissions desk: Nine years after I posted my wishlist for Campbell, it … [Read more...]

More on Met Directorship: My Takes on Puzzling Punditry by Cotter, Gibson, Dobrzynski, Oliver

I got an early jump on the culture pundits who are rushing to analyze Tom Campbell's planned departure from the directorship of the Metropolitan Museum. Commentary is now pouring in from people whose strong opinions are not always founded on a complete grasp of the facts. Holland Cotter's prescription for curing the ailing Metropolitan Museum bore an uncanny resemblance to my recent adventures in car repair: Last week, I brought my glitchy vehicle to the local mechanic, who did six different things, at a cost of $770, none of which solved … [Read more...]

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