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Trusty Rusty: Powell to Retire from Longtime Gig at National Gallery

It's entirely in keeping with Rusty Powell's self-effacing nature that the National Gallery's homepage today is all about the art, with no hint of its big news: The museum's longest-serving director, who assumed that post in 1992, has announced his plans to retire in early 2019, when he'll be 75. As did Philippe de Montebello at the Metropolitan Museum, he's giving his institution a long lead time to search for his successor. With the Met's directorship again open, these two preeminent institutions could be going head-to-head for top … [Read more...]

Macron Magic: My Storify of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Aborted Livestream of Opening Ceremonies

I wasn't invited to the Louvre Abu Dhabi's opening ceremonies today (no surprise), but I did get an emailed invitation to watch them livestreamed on the museum's Facebook page. Below is my tweeted account of that broadcast, which was abruptly interrupted without explanation, depriving us of what I assume were to have been speeches by the Louvre's director, Jean-Luc Martinez, and the dazzling museum's architect, Jean Nouvel. Was there a technical glitch (museum's website also seems very balky), or did something untoward occur? So far, I've … [Read more...]

“Tepid Investigation” by the AG: Judge Permits Berkshire Museum Sales

It seems that the Attorney General Office's intervention in the Berkshire Museum case was too little, too late in the view of Judge John Agostini of Berkshire County Superior Court. He ruled this afternoon (full text here) that the museum could proceed with its controversial planned art sales, notwithstanding the opposition of several plaintiffs and the Attorney General's Office (AGO), all of whom sought a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to delay the sell-off. The judge also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that … [Read more...]

Berkshire Bombshells: Revelations in the Attorney General’s Berkshire Museum Brief

In consigning its collection's 40 highest-valued artworks to Sotheby's, the Berkshire Museum tried to pull a fast one. That's not gonna wash. In a nutshell, that's the position taken by the Massachusetts Attorney General in her brief filed Monday (full text here) and in arguments yesterday in Berkshire County Superior Court. She chided the museum for "notify[ing] the AGO of the intended sale and vote to deaccession and sell the items" only after the museum "was already committed to a contract [with Sotheby's] that carried with it the threat … [Read more...]

After Inconclusive Hearing, Attorney General Steps In as Possible Plaintiff in Berkshire Museum Case

After hearing more than two hours of arguments today (Wednesday) from two sets of lawyers for plaintiffs, as well as a response to the plaintiffs' motion by the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, Judge John Agostini of Berkshire County Superior Court in Pittsfield reserved judgment on whether to grant requests for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction that would pause the Berkshire Museum's controversial plans to sell works from its collection. As told to me this afternoon by art-law attorney Nicholas O'Donnell, who … [Read more...]

Deaccession Obsession: AG Enters the Fray; Compendium of My Berkshire Museum Commentary UPDATED

As I reported Monday on my Twitter feed (while I was traveling and off-blog), the Massachusetts Attorney General has officially entered the fray in the legal battle over the Berkshire Museum's planned art sales. Now we're talking: @MassAGO seeks temp restraining order vs @BerkshireMuseum's planned art sales. Still reviewing https://t.co/UlOo3Ypy3E — Lee Rosenbaum (@CultureGrrl) October 30, 2017 As I've previously suggested, the AG is the only player in this case with the power to pry loose the background information necessary to … [Read more...]

Parsing the Arguments: Second Lawsuit and Reply Brief Filed Today on Berkshire Museum’s Art Sales

In the continuing saga of Berkshire Museum's planned art sales through Sotheby's, a second lawsuit and motion for an injunction (following close upon these) have today been filed by a new set of complainants in a different court. Both legal challenges, to my mind, fail a crucial test---the need to argue convincingly that the sales would violate explicitly stated donor intent. The museum this afternoon issued this press release regarding its reply to the first lawsuit, filed today. The press release essentially reiterates the museum's … [Read more...]

News Flash: Berkshire Museum’s Head on Medical Leave; 21 of 40 Consignments Pulled from Sotheby’s Auctions

There have been two major plot twists in the convoluted saga of the Berkshire Museum's highly controversial plans to sell 40 works from its collection at Sotheby's. This just in from the Berkshire Museum: The Berkshire Museum today announced that effective Oct. 31, 2017, museum operations will be led by Acting Co-Executive Directors Nina Garlington [the museum's chief engagement officer] and Craig Langlois [its chief engagement officer], as Executive Director Van Shields prepares to undergo major surgery and be out on medical leave. … [Read more...]

Berserk in the Berkshires: Lawsuit Filed Against Berkshire Museum Sales UPDATED TWICE

As I previously wrote, the only realistic hope to stop Berkshire Museum's misguided course would be legal action, either by the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office (which is reviewing the case but has not yet announced whether it will act) or by opponents to the sale. Now it's happened. This just in from Foley Hoag, the Boston law firm: Foley Hoag LLP filed a complaint and motion for a temporary restraining order in Massachusetts Superior Court on October 20, 2017 on behalf of several plaintiffs, including the three sons of renowned … [Read more...]

Dandy Danforth: Framingham Approves Win-Win University Partnership to Rescue Museum & Its Collection

I recently denounced as a bad role model for the Berkshire Museum the deplorable disposals by the New-York Historical Society 1995. Those selloffs were recently touted by Felix Salmon in a Berkshire Museum-related article as "relatively responsible deaccessioning." Now, here's some breaking news about a much better role model: Last night, another financially endangered Massachusetts institution---the Danforth Art Museum\School---got the required go-ahead at a Town Meeting to merge with Framingham State University---a win-win agreement … [Read more...]

Warhol Effect: Can Leonardo’s Strange Bedfellow Make Christie’s Bidders Salivate for “Salvator Mundi”?

It seems Christie's couldn't resist the chance to pair Leonardo da Vinci's Jesus with one (or, more accurately, 60) by art-market megastar Andy Warhol, whose 32-foot-long "Sixty Last Suppers" (riffing on the Italian Renaissance master's famous take on that subject) is being offered at the same Nov. 15 Contemporary auction as the incongruous interloper, "Salvator Mundi." The Warhol's presale estimate is half of Leonardo's: Not previously known for his old-masters expertise, Loic Gouzer, Christie's chairman for Post-War and Contemporary … [Read more...]

Salvaging “Salvator Mundi”: Inside Look at “Extensive Restoration” of Leonardo at Christie’s

"Without question," Christie's confidently declared last week, Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" (being auctioned on Nov. 15 in New York) is "the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 21st century." Really? With 83 years still remaining in this century, we're entitled to pose a few questions. First off: Might this century have other extraordinary rediscoveries that are yet to come? Even Leonardo seems to have new contenders for his canon emerging every few years, although they usually don't gain the overwhelming expert consensus of true … [Read more...]

New Yorker’s Bad Role Model for Berkshire Museum: NY Historical Society’s “Responsible” Sales

In his well-intentioned but flawed Oct. 4 New Yorker article, The Lost Masterpieces of Norman Rockwell Country, Felix Salmon demonstrates more understanding of museum ethics than the leaders of the embattled Berkshire Museum possess. But that's not quite enough. When a conscientious journalist doesn't quite "get it," those who do---including the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums---clearly need to do a better job in educating the public about the thorny issues surrounding the sales of objects from museum … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Timothy Cahill, Regional Art Writer, on Berkshire Museum’s Decline (& how it should regroup)

Timothy Cahill, a veteran journalist and critic focused on the Berkshire art scene, responds to CultureGrrl Video: My Opinionated Tour of the Embattled Berkshire Museum: I watched the video of the your visit to the Berkshire Museum with mixed feelings. I'm glad you made it up here and grateful you keep training your light on what's happening with the misguided sale. But it sure is sad to see through the eyes of a visitor just how diminished the museum has become. The young mom you spoke to at the beginning is right: The exhibits, especially … [Read more...]

How Might the Guggenheim Museum Have Dodged the Pit-Bull Onslaught?

The short answer to my headline is: by realizing in advance that works predicated upon artist-inflicted cruelty to animals are morally repugnant and have no place in a museum display. Such was the case with the three pieces withdrawn from the Guggenheim's upcoming Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World (Oct. 6-Jan. 7), organized by senior curator Alexandra Munroe. Munroe told @artnet that @Guggenheim was "prepared" for China show critics https://t.co/ERF5xeYqKQ ...or maybe not https://t.co/BvNMu86azM — Lee Rosenbaum (@CultureGrrl) … [Read more...]

CultureGrrl Video: My Opinionated Tour of the Embattled Berkshire Museum

Having written extensively and critically (four links) about the Berkshire Museum's deaccession plans, I thought I ought to revisit that embattled institution in person. I'd been there twice before, decades ago, before my skiing knees gave out. It seemed to me largely frozen in time (save for the solar panel): At the end of this post is my CultureGrrl Video of what I saw and thought during my two-hour journey through the galleries on Monday. Have patience, art-lings: The gallery for the paintings in the very eclectic (and now about to be … [Read more...]

Smith Smites: Tom Campbell’s Precipitous Fall from Favor (plus, my I-told-you-so)

Now that we know what the Metropolitan Museum wants in its next director, I'm going to allow myself an I-told-you-so moment about its last director, responding to Roberta Smith's recent autopsy of Tom Campbell's trouble-plagued tenure. Her negative appraisal of his "financial mismanagement and overreach" and her recommendations for the Met's future (a female director; no adoption of the mandatory admission charge that has been proposed) appeared in Sunday's hardcopy of the NY Times (almost a week after being posted online). As if she had … [Read more...]

Breaking: Metropolitan Museum’s Job Description for Its Next Director (contrasted with its last one)

This just in---the memo sent today to the Metropolitan Museum's staff by president and CEO Dan Weiss, followed by the text of the job description for the new director. Here are excerpts from Dan's memo: Dear Colleagues, I want to provide an update on the Director search, specifically to share the position description (attached) that has been developed over the past several months. Led by Trustees Candace Beinecke and Richard Chilton, the search process began in the spring. Since then, more than 400 staff members and Trustees have … [Read more...]

Berserk in the Berkshires: Museum’s Perverse Plan Underscores Need for Government Regulations

The sad saga of the Berkshire Museum's descent into madness---its wrongheaded, self-destructive obsession with solving its financial problems by selling off the best works in its collection---reaffirms my long-held conviction that strict laws and/or ironclad government regulations (such as those enacted in 2011 in New York) are urgently needed to protect the public's patrimony from being squandered by inadequate administrators and untrustworthy trustees. As recent history has shown, interventions, censures and sanctions by individual … [Read more...]

Breaking (& heartbreaking): Sotheby’s Releases Checklist & Price Estimates of Berkshire Museum Disposals UPDATED

Read 'em and weep. Sotheby's has just released the checklist (with presale estimates and sale dates) for the Berkshire Museum 40. Apparently the seller and its agent don't believe that the Massachusetts Attorney General's interest in the deaccessions will pose any impediment. The two top lots (no surprise) are the Rockwells, to be sold along with 12 other Berkshire Museum works at the Nov. 13 American art sale: Here are the two next highest-estimated lots in the American art sale: The rest of the works, scattered among at least five later … [Read more...]

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