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Adjaye in Play? What’s Behind Worldwide Search for Obama Center’s Architect?

David Adjaye

Could architect David Adjaye be in play to design the planned Obama Presidential Center on Chicago's South Side? He was, after all, the choice of Thelma Golden to design the new home (on the old site) for the Studio Museum of Harlem, which she directs. Golden is a recent addition to the board of the Obama Foundation, which is responsible for all aspects of the plans for the Presidential Center. Adjaye could benefit from the Obama Foundation's unorthodox decision, announced today, to mount a worldwide search for an architect to design the … [Read more...]

True-isms: Marion True, the Getty’s Sacrificial Ex-Curator, Vents Again

John Walsh

The lionization of the late dealer in dicey antiquities, Robert Hecht, on the occasion of the publication of his memoir, apparently struck a nerve with the Getty Museum's ex-curator of antiquities, Marion True: In her recent interview with Washington Post reporter Geoff Edgers, True again vented her bitterness about how she had been left to twist slowly in the wind by her colleagues and her superiors, including then Getty director John Walsh, who had overseen her controversial acquisitions: I never understood is why American museums did what … [Read more...]

Chewing Up Chiu: Thin-Skinned DC Critics Feel Snubbed by Hirshhorn’s NYC Fundraising Gala


Memo to Philip Kennicott and Kriston Capps: Get over it! These two estimable Washington, DC-based art writers have gotten bent out of shape over the decision by Melissa Chiu, director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden since September, to hold a 40th-anniversary gala in New York, where she had directed the Asia Society Museum from 2004 until her Hirshhorn appointment. There she had notable fundraising success as described in her Hirshhorn bio: Chiu secured about 80 percent of the Asia Society Museum’s budget through gifts from … [Read more...]

Reading the Tea Leaves: What is Ai Weiwei Thinking? UPDATED

Reuters' Noah Barkin interviews Ai Weiwei
Photo from @NoahBarkin's Twitter feed

Trying to interpret the underlying meaning of Ai Weiwei's enigmatic and sometimes contradictory pronouncements since he traveled to Germany from China is like trying to decipher the cryptic pronouncement inside a fortune cookie. The more Ai Weiwei speaks to Western media, the more people struggle to interpret his ambiguous words. Today he told Noah Barkin of Reuters that the timing of his possible return to China "depends on how long the West will allow me to stay here, really. Maybe they will throw me out very fast and I will have to go … [Read more...]

Ai Weiwei Watch: International Travel Plans, Sympathy for His Tormentors UPDATED TWICE

From Ai Weiwei's Instagram feed

UPDATE: Ai Weiwei retweeted and favorited my tweet that links to the post below. Does that constitute an endorsement? In what many will see as an excess of empathy for those who harshly punished him, Ai Weiwei, who promptly flew to reunite with his son and his son's mother in Germany, after being reunited with his passport, gave a revealing interview with Joerg Haentzschel, arts and culture writer for the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, in which he expressed surprising sympathy for the repressive government authorities responsible for … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Stock Price Plummets as CEO Tad Smith Reports “Rather Bumpy Quarter”


Activist investors who have roiled Sotheby's management and negatively impacted its bottom line may be gratified by the auction firm's announcement today that it will increase a previously authorized $125-million stock repurchase program by another $125 million, with the funds coming from the company's current cash balances. But investors can't be happy with the plummeting of today's stock price (down 9% and falling, at this writing) in reaction to today's release of disappointing quarterly financial results. At the beginning of his most … [Read more...]

My Donald Trump and Yours: A Rueful Reminiscence UPDATED


With frontrunner Donald Trump's having staked out prime real estate at the table for the first Republican debate tomorrow, it's time for me to dust off a 41-year-old story of my personal encounter with The Donald, then known as "Young Donald." While working on a 1974 NY Times article in the Sunday Real Estate Section on the shifting rent patterns in New York City, I interviewed Donald in his limo. He had kindly offered me a ride back to Manhattan, after learning that to get from my Bronx apartment to the Trump Organization's offices on … [Read more...]

Who’s “Unfair”? Guggenheim & Gulf Labor Coalition Exchange Barbs Over Delayed Abu Dhabi Project UPDATED

Rendering of planned Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

The Guggenheim appears to have lost all patience with the Gulf Labor Coalition, the watchdog group of artists and others concerned with the welfare of migrant workers who are building museums on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island. Instead, the Guggenheim should lose patience with the slow and still inadequate progress that's been made in implementing essential labor reform. In its latest report, issued at the end of last month, GLC summarized its on-site researchers' new findings regarding the progress (or lack thereof) in safeguarding construction … [Read more...]

Peter Brant’s Brands: Whither ARTnews and Art in America?

Peter Brant at his foundation’s Art Study Center, with his Basquiat
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

In its recently announced merger plans with Brant Publications' three art magazines---Art in America, The Magazine Antiques and Modern Magazine---ARTnews, sold in April 2014 by its long-time editor and publisher, Milton Esterow, will likely be altered beyond recognition. Ceasing monthly publication, it would be reduced to an unspecified number of "theme issues," along the lines of last month's Women in the Art World compilation and its ever-popular yearly list of The Top 200 Collectors. Brant Publications is wholly owned by mega-collector … [Read more...]

Philbrook Museum Director Randall Suffolk Gets High (Museum, that is)

Randall Suffolk

The High Museum today named Randall Suffolk to become its new director, succeeding the Atlanta museum's 15-year head, Michael Shapiro, who leaves on July 31. Suffolk, director of the Philbrook Museum, Tulsa, since 2007, will assume his High position Nov. 2. Philip Verre, the High's COO of and previously director of the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, will be the High's interim director during the interregnum. The press release announcing Suffolk's appointment highlights his "comprehensive plan that aligned [the Philbrook's] programming … [Read more...]

Et Tu, Arnold? Lehman, Brooklyn Museum’s Director, Joins Museum-to-Market Defectors UPDATED THRICE

Phillips auction house

I’m always taken aback when a distinguished, long-time art professional crosses over from the sanctum of the nonprofit museum world to the commercial side of the artworld---auction houses and galleries. It’s about to happen again, with Phillips auction house’s announcement that Arnold Lehman, director of the Brooklyn Museum, will soon become senior advisor to Edward Dolman, the auction firm’s chairman and CEO since last July. According to the above-linked press release, Lehman will “advise on the global expansion of the Phillips brand … [Read more...]

FAILE Fail: Brooklyn Museum as Gaming Arcade (with video)

Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Always defying norms of museum propriety, Arnold Lehman has outdone himself in outrageousness with one of the final exhibitions opening under his transformative 18-year directorship at the Brooklyn Museum (ending on Aug. 31). I'm not talking about Sneaker Culture (although it's more a popular than scholarly success), but the astounding display that opened on the same floor at the same time---FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds (to Oct. 4). Installed in a gallery adjoining the hightops is a low point in museum spectacle: a fully equipped game … [Read more...]

Tawdry Cosby (Continued): Smithsonian Secretary Skorton Supports the Controversial Show’s Run

National Museum of African Art

The Smithsonian's new head, David Skorton, last week endorsed the continuation of the Cosby Show at the National Museum of African Art, notwithstanding the flood of unfunny allegations regarding comedian Bill Cosby's personal character. The day before the latest sordid story appeared in the NY Times, Linda St. Thomas, the Smithsonian's chief spokesperson, responded to my query as to whether the institution might consider changes to the exhibition (beyond the recently added visitor-advisory message that disclaims any implicit Smithsonian … [Read more...]

The Smithsonian’s Cosby Debacle: Take Down that Exhibition, Dr. Skorton?

David Skorton, Smithsonian's new Secretary
Photo by Lee Rosebaum

Should the Smithsonian’s new Secretary, former Cornell University President David Skorton, who has barely had time to sit down at his desk (let alone make new policy), cancel or drastically modify the National Museum of African Art's embarrassing situation comedy, The Cosby Show? To inform your consideration of this question, here's the latest family-friendly episode in this ongoing saga---a new visitor-advisory message that now introduces the exhibition: We can only hope that Skorton will read and ponder the comments solicited at … [Read more...]

Pay-to-Play: Cosbys Bankrolled Their Show at Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art CORRECTED

Simmie Knox, "Portrait of Bill and Camille Cosby," 1984
Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr.
Photo by David Stansbury

Notwithstanding the latest tawdry Cosby revelations, let's elude the quaalude story and keep our eyes on the latest museum-related disclosures: Brett Zongker of Associated Press reports that Bill and Camille Cosby funded the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art's current 50th anniversary exhibition, Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue to the tune of $716,000, "which virtually covers the entire cost" of the show. A spokesperson for the museum confirmed those details to me today. Some 62 of the 171 works in … [Read more...]

“It’s a Guy Thing”: My Storify on the Brooklyn Museum’s “Sneaker Culture” Salon

Sneakers hanging from wire stretched across gallery's ceiling
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Yesterday, I brought you Arnold Lehman's fancy footwear, in my post about our conversation at the press preview for the Brooklyn Museum's Sneaker Culture show (July 10-Oct. 4). One thing that we can say about Arnold is that, right to the end, he hasn't backed down from his controversial commitment to street culture and populist sensibilities. Organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (and expanded for NYC), the show was goofy fun (with a little social commentary mixed in), perhaps more suited to … [Read more...]

Arnold Lehman on Life After the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum’s Life after Arnold


While attending today's Sneaker Culture press preview, I took the opportunity to ask director Arnold Lehman about his plans after leaving the Brooklyn Museum. (He is due to retire on Aug. 31.) But first things first, Arnold: Who are you wearing? Let's take a closer look: Lehman told me his feet were clad in Yohji Yamamoto and that he had owned these for a number of years, until they were appropriated by his grandson. He borrowed them back to be strikingly shod for the new exhibition, which opens to the public on Friday. As … [Read more...]

“Milking Time” Milked: Delaware Museum’s Failed Deaccession Gambit

Sold to...? Winslow Homer, "Milking Time," 1875

With its announcement last week of the sale of one of its most beloved works---Winslow Homer's "Milking Time"---as well as Andrew Wyeth's "Arthur Cleveland," the Delaware Art Museum claimed to have closed one of its "most difficult chapters." Not so fast. Details about the amount of the money received by the museum from its four deplorable deaccessions, as reported by Margie Fishman of the Wilmington News Journal, suggest that DAM's difficulties are not over. In announcing its deaccession plans back in March 2014, the museum had … [Read more...]

CultureDaughter Commercial: Acoustic Engineer’s GoPro “Session” Obsession

GoPro's new Hero4 Session

My idea of extreme sports is playing two sets of tennis or descending a Carsten Höller slide. So I haven't quite envisioned myself using the product that Dr. CultureDaughter has been obsessively working on---GoPro video cameras, those very popular, rugged, waterproof contraptions that are designed to capture thrill seekers' adventures on land, sea and mid-air. But now, with my daughter's help, they've made a new version. With one-button operation, it's simpler to use for my technologically challenged generation and appealingly … [Read more...]

Crank It Up: Thomas Heatherwick’s Contrarian Contrivances at the Cooper Hewitt (with video)

L to R: Caroline Baumann, Cooper Hewitt director; Thomas Heatherwick; Brooke Hodge
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

With its new exhibition, Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio (to Jan. 3), the Cooper Hewitt has hit its stride after what struck me as a shaky debut. Organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, this traveling show owes its existence to the long-haul perseverance of the Nasher's director, Jeremy Strick, and the Cooper Hewitt's deputy director, Brooke Hodge, who were both at LA MOCA when they became intrigued by the brilliantly quirky creations of British architect Thomas Heatherwick, a mad inventor gone … [Read more...]

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