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Bedford in Baltimore: Christopher is Third Contemporary Expert Recently Tapped to Lead a Major Art Museum

Are we seeing a trend here? Anne Pasternak at the Brooklyn Museum; James Rondeau at the Art Institute of Chicago; now Christopher Bedford at the Baltimore Museum of Art. In all three recent cases, a contemporary art specialist was chosen for the top spot at a museum with distinguished historic collections. (Notably bucking that trend were the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Wadsworth Atheneum.) The impetus for this predilection for the present is undoubtedly the same force driving the Metropolitan Museum (which tapped a tapestry … [Read more...]

Brothels & Landscapes: MoMA Mines Degas’ Monotype Monomania–Part II

Part I is here. While most of Degas: A Strange New Beauty at the Museum of Modern Art (to July 24) assembles the artist's usual cast of characters---dancers and singers, acquaintances and nudes (often in ungainly poses)---two sections at the end of this thoroughly engrossing show of the artist's monotypes reveal aspects of his work that are less familiar (as discussed by curator Jodi Hauptman in this CultureGrrl Video). The most baffling chapter in the exhibition (and in Degas' oeuvre) examines his brothel scenes, which were "unexhibited … [Read more...]

My Q&A with President Daniel Weiss–Part II: Financial Impact of Met Breuer & Planned New Wing

Part I is here. While implicitly faulting the Metropolitan Museum's administration for not having managed its operations "in a way that’s financially sustainable," Daniel Weiss, who has been the Met's president since July, diplomatically avoided direct criticism during most of our wide-ranging conversation last week. But in assessing the Met's plans for the new Southwest Wing for modern and contemporary art, he briefly became uncharacteristically blunt. In Part II of our Q&A, below, he asserted that the timeline previously being … [Read more...]

My Q&A with President Daniel Weiss–Part I: How Did Metropolitan Museum Fall into Financial Hole? How Will It Climb Out?

Part II is here. Last week's revelations about the Metropolitan Museum's disturbing financial reality check left a lot of unanswered questions, raising concerns about how prudently the museum has been managed under the seven-year leadership of its director and CEO, Tom Campbell. The museum's president, Daniel Weiss, who assumed his post last July, has dedicated himself to getting "a handle on how to control this behemoth of an institution in a way that’s financially sustainable," as he told me in a wide-ranging phone interview on … [Read more...]

Today in Museum Accounting: Financial Windfall at MoMA, Shortfall at the Met

The contrast in the financial news emanating today from New York's two premier art museums could not have been more dramatic. The Museum of Modern Art issued an exultant press release celebrating David Geffen's $100-million naming gift for its planned renovation and expansion. That equals his recent Lincoln Center benefaction for the NY Philharmonic's home. Meanwhile, about a mile up Fifth Avenue from MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum had deputized Robin Pogrebin of the NY Times to release some shocking financial news (not to be found … [Read more...]

Deaccessioning Its Home: National Academy’s Posh Digs on the Market for $120 Million

The National Academy's two interconnected townhouses and school building are now on the market for $120 million, according this listing by luxury real estate brokers Cushman & Wakefield. A museum spokesperson had previously told me that the property had been appraised at about $107 million in 2012. The realtors' sales pitch hawks the academy's property on Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park, as "one of the most remarkable conversion opportunities currently available in all of New York City." [It provides] "an exceptionally large blank … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Quicksand: Why Are We in Abu Dhabi?

The Guggenheim Foundation ought to cut its losses and pull out of its Abu Dhabi misadventure. There's no point in trying to analyze the salvos in the latest hostilities and breakdown of talks between the Guggenheim and the Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC). In a statement on its website yesterday, the foundation blasted GLC for "shift[ing] its demands on the Guggenheim beyond the reach of our influence as an arts institution, while spreading mistruths about the project and our role in it." GLC shot back that "the Guggenheim seems to be … [Read more...]

Degas Digs Deep: MoMA Mines His Monotype Monomania–Part I

Like the Frick Collection's Van Dyck show (discussed here), the Museum of Modern Art's Degas: A Strange New Beauty (to July 24) is informed by the discerning eye of a prints-and-drawings curator who provides new insights into a celebrated painter's sensibility and working methods through close examination of his more experimental works on paper. Both shows are visually exciting and, thanks to their curators' sharp interpretive skills, intellectually stimulating. At MoMA, Jodi Hauptman, senior curator of drawings and prints (with … [Read more...]

Smithsonian London? “Not So Fast!” Says Secretary Skorton

Notwithstanding the fact that its founding donor was British, the Smithsonian Institution's proposed London outpost, conceived before the institution's current head, David Skorton, came on board, is not necessarily a marriage made in museum heaven. During their meeting today, Skorton and the Smithsonian's Board of Regents, its governing body, again delayed greenlighting on the project, on which a decision had initially been expected to be made last year, according to a January 2015 NY Times report by Graham Bowley. Last month, Peggy … [Read more...]

Welcome CultureGranddaughter!

As you my have surmised from Sunday's tweet, this week I'm doting, not blogging! … [Read more...]

Perfect Pairings: Frick Draws on Van Dyck’s Drawings to Illuminate His Portrait Paintings

It takes not only brains but also curatorial brawn (which powerful institutions are in the best position to exert) to wrest seldom loaned choice works from discerning, possessive lenders. One of the many joys of two recently opened curatorial triumphs in New York---Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture (to June 5) at the Frick Collection and Degas: A Strange New Beauty (to July 24) at the Museum of Modern Art (more on that in a later post)---was a chance to see pairs of works that belong together and richly inform each other, but are usually … [Read more...]

Darts for Dartmouth: Hood Museum Has Less Moore in Tod Williams Billie Tsien’s Makeover (with video)

Win some, lose some: While adding five new galleries and increasing floor space by 50%, the much delayed $50-million expansion and renovation of Dartmouth College's Hood Museum will be less ambitious than originally planned in 2012. And for the next three years, students will be largely deprived of access to an important educational resource that may have attracted them to Hanover, NH, in the first place---the museum's eclectic 65,000-object collection. The Hood closed on Mar. 13. Construction is to start late this summer, with reopening … [Read more...]

Max Facts: How Hollein Straddles the Divides Between Contemporary/Historic, Tech/Traditional

When I interviewed him more than a year ago over lunch in New York, Frankfurt museum director Max Hollein and I were obsessed with technology. I was then working on this Wall Street Journal article about how museums use technology to improve the gallery experience (or not). He was promoting the new Digital Extension initiative at the Städel Museum, one of the three Frankfurt museums that he currently directs. Now poised to lead the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in the Tech Capital of the World, after having helped celebrate the … [Read more...]

Nuzzling Brussels: The Musical Instruments Museum Tweets Through the Tears

Horrified, as we all were, by the news from Brussels, I surfed yesterday to the website of a museum there that I'd always wanted to visit---the Musical Instruments Museum. My jaw dropped when I saw this intro on MIM's visitor information page: Everything you need to know to avoid unpleasant surprises. Tuesday's supremely "unpleasant surprise," which forced the closure of all Brussels museums (including MIM), moved me to tweet this: Sadly ironic: "Everything you need to know to avoid unpleasant surprises"--from @MIMBrussels' visitor info … [Read more...]

Fine with Hollein: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Snare an International Standout as Director

The last time I interviewed Max Hollein, 46, who has just been named to become the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco's new director (effective June 1), he was in New York for the November 2014 annual meeting of the Bizot Group (aka the International Group of Organizers of Large Scale Exhibitions), for which he then was (and still is) chairman. Bizot consists of the heads of about 60 of the world's leading museums, who convene to compare notes and grapple with hot-button issues affecting their institutions. The first time I met Max, we … [Read more...]

MoMA’s Degas Monotypes Press Conference: My Cantankerous Cameo (with video)

I've already awarded myself the Hilton Kramer Award for Old Fogey-ism. Lately, I've been feeling more and more like the Helen Thomas of art journalism. Thomas, UPI's (and later, Hearst Newspapers') veteran White House correspondent, was a persistent gadfly, notorious for asking the first or second questions at Presidential news conferences. (Hopefully, my career won't meet a similarly ignominious end.) My sense of identification with Thomas was cemented today at the Museum of Modern Art, courtesy of a playful remark to me by director Glenn … [Read more...]

Another “Stealth Deaccession”: National Academy to Sell Its Buildings UPDATED

Randy Kennedy of the NY Times beat me to this story, which I sat on for almost two weeks, because of my Met Breuer obsession. In a story posted online last night, Kennedy reported that the Academy plans "to sell two Beaux-Arts buildings on Fifth Avenue at 89th Street that have been its home since 1942." On Mar. 5, one of my confidential sources had emailed this to me: Apparently within the last two weeks, more staff members have either been let go, "encouraged to resign." or left....News is that a group of realtors have recently been given a … [Read more...]

Introducing the Met Breuer on Opening Day: Two Videos

It's been exhaustively covered---on CultureGrrl (here, here and here) and in virtually all art-interested American publications. But at 10 a.m. today, the general public can at last get to see what we've been writing about---the new Met Breuer: I don't know whether director Thomas Campbell intends to greet the first visitors, as Adam Weinberg did last May at the opening of the new Downtown Whitney: But you can be welcomed by Tom now on CultureGrrl, via my video of his introductory remarks at the Met Breuer's press preview, … [Read more...]

Buoyant about Met Breuer: My Q&A with Metropolitan Museum President Daniel Weiss–Part II

Part I is here. The last of the Metropolitan Museum’s “Five-Year Strategic Goals,” listed in the Mission Statement of its latest annual report, is to “to enable greater transparency, efficiency, collaboration and communication” (emphases added): Judging from my inability to gain some basic information about the costs and provisions of the Met Breuer deal with the Whitney, there’s still some work to be done on the transparency front. Last week, Daniel Weiss, the Met’s president, did share with me substantial information and insights about … [Read more...]

Buoyant about Met Breuer: My Q&A with Metropolitan Museum President Daniel Weiss–Part I

Part II is here. After many months of trying to extract detailed information from the Metropolitan Museum's press office about its operations at the Met Breuer (opening Mar. 18), my dogged persistence was rewarded last week with a brief but informative interview with its president, Daniel Weiss. One of the things I learned is that the Met has projected a worrisome operating deficit this fiscal year of $8.2 million---its largest shortfall in four years. (More details on this below.) Some of my key questions about the financial … [Read more...]

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