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ISIS Crisis: Archaeologist Pedro Azara, UNESCO, AAMD & AIA on the Mosul Museum Attack UPDATED

Pedro Azara
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

In light of news reports that some of the objects seen being smashed by members of ISIS in videos widely circulated yesterday may have been replicas, I have sought clarification from the Metropolitan Museum (which yesterday issued a forceful statement decrying the destruction) and from archaeologist Pedro Azara, who had worked on a dig near Mosul and had described unstable conditions there when I chatted with him in New York two weeks ago at a press preview for an exhibition he co-curated at the Institute for the Study for the Ancient … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum Decries “Catastrophic Destruction” of Mosul Museum’s Collection

The Mosul Museum

Tom Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum, was among those sickened by the videos released today by Islamic State (to which I shall not link) showing militants smashing archaeological artifacts (which they regard as forms of idolatry) from Iraq’s Mosul Museum. The museum was also looted during the 2003 Iraq war. Here in full is Campbell's statement, issued this afternoon, regarding this deplorable destruction: Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays … [Read more...]

“Crucifixion” Conservation: Cleveland Museum’s Time-Ravaged Caravaggio (with video)

"The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew," 1606-1607
Photo courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art

As CultureGrrl readers may remember, the Cleveland Museum's great Caravaggio, "The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew," 1606-1607, was recently used as a bargaining chip by that institution's previous director, David Franklin, to salvage a nearly sabotaged show of antiquities loaned from Sicily. But that proposed loan to Sicily was subsequently scrapped (or at least postponed) when Cleveland suddenly decided, after Franklin's departure, that "Saint Andrew" was not fit to travel and needed extensive conservation work at home. (Nevertheless, the … [Read more...]

From “Griddle Griswold” to “Twister Griswold”: New Outreach by Cleveland Museum’s Playful Director (with video)

William Griswold
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

The ebullient, always welcoming William Griswold is a ubiquitous presence at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where he assumed the directorship in May. After hearing him introduce two scholarly lectures related to the museum's exhibition program... ...I kept seeing Bill popping up around the premises, engaging with visitors and staff at every turn. During the time that he set aside for me, which included a wide-ranging conversation over lunch at a corner table of the museum's public restaurant, he made it a point to address a complaint in my … [Read more...]

Cleaving to Cleveland: Where I’ll Be on My Winter Workation


It's not quite cold and snowy enough here in New Jersey, so I think I'll go on a workation to Cleveland, where the temperature tomorrow night is predicted by the National Weather Service to -11 °F (not counting the wind chill). Here it will be a toasty 0 °F. (Where's global warming when we really need it?) I'll get to catch up with my old friend Bill Griswold, now ensconced as director of the third museum where he plans to stay forever. I guess it's too soon to flit to Boston. But what if the National Gallery directorship eventually becomes … [Read more...]

Cubist Accumulation: How “Unrestricted” Are Leonard Lauder’s Metropolitan Museum Gifts?

Leonard Lauder, speaking about his Cubist collection, Feb. 11 at the Metropolitan Museum
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

I have nothing but admiration for Leonard Lauder's accomplishments as a collector and his beneficence as a museum patron---especially at the Whitney Museum and now at the Metropolitan Museum and Boston Museum of Fine Arts (not to mention our mutual alma mater, the Bronx High School of Science). But I did wonder about Carol Vogel's claim in her April 2013 front-page NY Times report that "Mr. Lauder did not put restrictions on his [promised] gift" to the Metropolitan Museum of 78 Cubist paintings, drawings and sculptures by Picasso, Braque, … [Read more...]

“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


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?


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...]

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