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“CultureGrrl is Right”: Crosman, Founding Chief Curator, Posts Comment on Crystal Bridges’ Website

Chris Crosman at Crystal Bridges in 2011
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Chris Crosman, Crystal Bridges Museum's founding chief curator, took up my challenge to my readers to "share your views" on the secrecy surrounding the rollout of news on the museum's stellar new acquisitions. Here's what Crosman fired off in the "comments" section below the museum's bungled blog post yesterday, in which it attempted to explain its misconceived policy on Announcing New Acquisitions: The practice of not disclosing recent acquisitions predates the opening of the museum. It had much to do with the unusually high volume and … [Read more...]

Mauling Malaro: Crystal Bridges on Its Reasons for Keeping Its Acquisitions Secret

Diane Carroll, Crystal Bridges Director of Communications

Two days ago, I asked Crystal Bridges Museum for an explanation as to why it hadn't announced its recent highly important new acquisitions, which it purchased at public auction. Late this afternoon, the answer arrived in the form of an emailed link to a new post on the museum's blog---Announcing New Acquisitions: Process & Recent Highlights, written by Diane Carroll, its director of communications: "I’ve chosen to post this information on our blog," she wrote me, "in the interest of allowing comments and broader perspectives." … [Read more...]

College Art Association’s Guidelines for Appropriation Art

CAACode

They never actually used the "A" word. But the College Art Association (meeting this week in New York) has just issued some needed guidance for appropriation artists who fear running afoul of copyright laws. CAA's 22-page Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in the Visual Arts, available free online, may help stem the tide of lawsuits targeting artistic appropriation, by providing artists with detailed information regarding the legal limitations on use of other people's copyrighted material. At the risk of infringing on CAA's own … [Read more...]

Arkansas Times Detective Work: Four More Likely Crystal Bridges Acquisitions at Sotheby’s

Mark Rothko, "No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)," signed and dated 1953, executed in 1951
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

More on this here. Artnet was quick to pick up on my Crystal Bridges acquisitions story today, but missed an obvious follow-up about Alice Walton's November shopping spree, which was hiding in plain sight on its own website. It took Arkansas Times journalist Leslie Newell Peacock (whose company I enjoyed during my visit to the then in-construction Crystal Bridges Museum), to put two and two together, remembering today (after seeing my post) that the then unidentified buyer of the Johns "Flag" at Sotheby's on Nov. 11 had been reported by … [Read more...]

$80.4-Million Question: Why Hasn’t Crystal Bridges Disclosed Purchase of Major Works by O’Keeffe & Johns?

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Jimson Weed"
Sold by Georgia O'Keeffe Museum at Sotheby's on Nov. 20 for $44.4 million (presale estimate: $10-15 million)

More on this here and here. Contrary to standard museum practice, Crystal Bridges Museum has yet to announce two highly important purchases that occurred almost three months ago---a Georgia O'Keeffe and a Jasper Johns, acquired for a total of $80.4 million at separate Sotheby's auctions in November. In my earler post about a radio interview last month with Rod Bigelow, executive director of Crystal Bridges, I had speculated as to whether this might have been one of the "fantastic new acquisitions" he then alluded to, without disclosing … [Read more...]

Crystal Bridges’ Great Catch: Margaret Conrads Named Director of Curatorial Affairs

Margaret Conrads at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, with Thomas Hart Benton's "Open Country," 1952, and Henry Varnum Poor's "Footed Dish," 1932
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

After suffering an exodus of its top officials, Crystal Bridges has taken an major step towards rebuilding its ranks with today's announcement that Margaret (Margi) Conrads will become the Bentonville museum's director of curatorial affairs, effective next month. Margi had impressed me with her knowledge and skill in 2009, when she gave me a tour of the new installation she had brilliantly orchestrated of the Nelson-Atkins Museum's superb American art collection, which closely commingled paintings and decorative arts. At that time, I … [Read more...]

“Deep, Strong Opinions”: Met Director Tom Campbell’s Remembrances of Curator Walter Liedtke

Walter Liedtke,smiling at a joke he had just made at El Greco press preview
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum (screenshot from my video)

In a tribute to the late Walter Liedtke , posted Thursday evening (judging from when people started to link from it to my blog), Tom Campbell, the Metropolitan Museum's director, said the news that the museum's eminent, long-time curator of European paintings had died Tuesday (not Monday, as Campbell had written) in a Metro-North train crash "sent shock waves through the Museum....For 35 years, Walter had come and gone from the Met every day, and now that would never happen again." Liedtke knew the Met's Dutch and Flemish paintings "like … [Read more...]

Walter Liedtke, Consummate Curator of Dutch and Flemish Painting, Dies in a Train Crash (with my late video at the Met)

Curator Walter Liedtke discussing the fine points of Vermeer's "The Milkmaid"
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

More on this here. I've attended hundreds of museum press previews over the past four decades, but the ones I relished most were those where Walter Liedtke was our erudite, entertainingly witty host. The Metropolitan Museum's great European paintings curator, 69, a renowned expert in Dutch and Flemish painting and decipherer of all the period references and cultural connotations therein, perished Tuesday, at the height of his intellectual powers. He was one of the five train passengers killed in a horrific Metro-North crash in Valhalla, … [Read more...]

Happy Returns: Relinquished Hellenistic Silver Back on Display at Metropolitan Museum

Gilt-silver medallion representing Scylla, Greek, South Italian or Sicilian, 3rd century BC, lent to the Met by the Republic of Italy, Sicilian Region
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

My previously stated conviction that the Metropolitan Museum didn't get what it bargained for in its silver swap with Sicily was reaffirmed yesterday, when I again saw in the Met's Hellenistic galleries the pieces it had relinquished five years ago as part of a broader 2006 agreement with Italy: All photos by Lee Rosenbaum In accordance with the Met's agreement to return these and other objects to Italy, the silver was to rotate every four years between Sicily and New York. That means they should have made the return trip a year ago. … [Read more...]

Goshen Commotion: Kimmelman’s Belated, Muddled Plea to Save Architect Paul Rudolph’s Masterpiece (with video)

Paul Rudolph-designed Orange County Government Center
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

"Where's Kimmelman?" I had asked the end of one of my many posts (beginning with this one) about the need to save Brutalist architect Paul Rudolph's endangered Orange County Government Center, Goshen, NY. Almost three years later, the NY Times' architecture critic, seemingly more intent upon writing about urban planning issues than architectural achievements, has at last turned his attention to this: Until now, it has fallen to the Times' veteran arts writer, Robin Pogrebin, to cover the controversy---a political football in Orange … [Read more...]

“The Dish” to Fold: Andrew Sullivan’s Blogger Burnout

Andrew Sullivan's blogging avatar

In yet another sign that Holland Cotter may have been right to debunk "the one-personality blog of yore," Andrew Sullivan, the widely read and respected creator of The Dish, wrote today that he has "decided to stop blogging in the near future." Sullivan has posted almost daily for 15 years, leaving his host publication, the Daily Beast, in 2013 to set out on his own. Here's why he's calling it quits: I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again....Although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have … [Read more...]

Glenn Lowry as AAMD’s Improbable Expert on “Public Trust”

Left to right: Lisa Phillips, Jacob Weisberg, Glenn Lowry
Photo from Twitter feed of Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization

Sometimes wrongly, but sometimes rightly, Glenn Lowry has a major public-trust problem. That's why I did a double take when I saw he was one of the panelists for the “Conversation on the Public Trust" at the Association of Art Museum Director's midwinter meeting in Mexico City (ending today). I did another double take yesterday, when I followed AAMD's live-tweets from that panel, and read this: Lowry: once you lose the public's trust, there is no one thing you can do to quickly regain it. #aamdmex — Art Museum Directors … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Raises Its Buyer’s Premium. How Much Is Too Much?

Leapfrog

In the midst of a flurry of publicity about how the Big Two auction houses are self-sabotaging their profitability through cutthroat competition to win top consignments, Sotheby's today announced an attempt to bolster its profits---yet another hike in the fee it charges to buyers. If things go true to form, Christie's will soon follow the leader. Here are Sotheby's new charges (with old ones in parentheses), effective Feb. 1: Buyers will be charged 25% of first $200,000 (previously $100,000) of the hammer price; 20% of amount above … [Read more...]

AAMD’s Midwinter Meeting: Cultural Property, “Public Trust”

Photo from Twitter feed of National Museum of Anthropology

The Association of Art Museum Directors hasn't released many substantive details about topics and possible actions being considered at its midwinter meeting, which began Saturday and ends tomorrow. While those of us in the Northeast are bracing for a blizzard, the directors, with a talent for being in the right place at the right time, are gathered in balmy Mexico City, where today's official opening was preceded by two days of preliminary committee meetings and visits to museums and cultural sites, including the National Museum of … [Read more...]

“Translucent Complementary Contrast”: Steven Holl’s Alluring Expansion of MFA, Houston (with video)

Steven Holl, presenting his Houston designs
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

It's about time that architect Steven Holl got another shot at a major art museum in the U.S., given the nearly universal acclaim that greeted his 2007 addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City. Judging from his preliminary renderings (presented an NYC press lunch last week) for a suavely handsome, 164,000 square-foot-building for 20th- and 21st-century art---just one part of the architect's master plan to enhance and unify the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's 14-acre campus---this project's planned 2019 completion will be well worth … [Read more...]

KUAF Public Radio Gets Crystal Bridges Officials’ Response to Kevin Murphy’s CultureGrrl Lament

CrysBesaw2

After I published Kevin Murphy's candid appraisals (here and here) of his frustrating stint as American art curator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR, I invited the museum to respond. I received no reply. But Sara Burningham of KUAF, the Fayetteville, AR, public radio station, did get the museum's reaction, as part of her "Ozarks at Large" segment today about A Year of Mixed Headlines for Crystal Bridges, in which she interviewed Rod Bigelow, the museum's executive director, and Mindy Besaw, its new … [Read more...]

George Washington University Offers Corcoran’s Fillmore Building for $14 Million (plus: preservationists’ challenge) CORRECTED

Fillmore School

George Washington University's media relations office today announced this new development related to the controversial GWU-Corcoran-National Gallery deal that I just posted about: TTR Sotheby’s International Realty announced that it will serve as the exclusive listing agent for the former Corcoran College’s Fillmore building, which the George Washington University plans to sell this upcoming year. GW took control of the property as part of the historic agreements with the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran last summer.... The … [Read more...]

Corcoran Collection Under Wraps: Long Wait Until “Legacy Gallery” Opens

Edgar Degas,
"The Dance Class," c. 1873
Trustees of the Corcoran Collection (William A. Clark Collection)

Peggy McGlone in her Washington Post report last week, ominously suggested that there's some sinister plot afoot regarding the collection of the defunct Corcoran Gallery of Art: The works are "being divvied up under a cloak of secrecy," she warned. But it's unreasonable to expect the National Gallery of Art, the new custodian of the Corcoran's collection (as approved by the DC Superior Court), to publicize its every step in executing the complicated assignment of determining the fate of this eclectic 17,000-object trove---a dispersal … [Read more...]

Statistical Shenanigans: AAMD Plays the Numbers on Admission Fees (so does Indianapolis Museum)

Source: 220 AAMD museums across the U.S., Canada and Mexico

In 2006, I complained that the “State of North America’s Art Museums” survey, which the Association of Art Museum Directors released annually from 2002 to 2011, was "frustratingly incomplete." Fast-forward to Art Museums by the Numbers, a six-page infographic released by AAMD last week, which makes earlier AAMD surveys seem like a mathematical PhD theses. (You can see the 2011 survey here.) As in 2006, AAMD has interpreted the latest figures as evidence that "museums are stable,” in the words of executive director Christine Anagnos, as … [Read more...]

News Flash: Graham W.J. Beal, Detroit Institute of Arts’ Director, To Retire (“Quite a Ride”)

BealMe2

It was an open secret that the most heroic, steadfast and principled art museum director I've ever met, the Detroit Institute of Arts' Graham W.J. Beal, was likely to retire when his contract expired June 30. He will have stayed the often difficult but rewarding course for almost 16 years. Clearly Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press knew Beal was soon to leave: Like obituary writers who have detailed biographies ready to go at the moment someone expires, Mark had a full appraisal of Beal's career and a recap of his monumental … [Read more...]

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