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The DIY Museum, Part I: New Souped-Up Cooper Hewitt (with video)

Corner

I visit museums to admire and understand the work produced by the most talented people in their fields, not to try my hand at doing what they do. That means I'm probably not the ideal visitor for the reconceived, interactive Cooper Hewitt that has finally reopened after a too-long, three-year hiatus. All photos by Lee Rosenbaum It's not that I don't appreciate the artistry and utility of good design. But when I see great art, I don't feel inspired to make some myself. Similarly, when I see great design, I don't feel inspired to become a … [Read more...]

“Forever Now,” Forever Yesterday: MoMA’s Failed Defense of 21st-Century Painting

Laura Hoptman, curator of "Forever Now"

As a lover of painting, I was rooting for the curator Laura Hoptman's survey of current art in that venerable genre---The Forever Now, which opened yesterday (to Apr. 5) at the Museum of Modern Art. Sadly, this show didn't do much to help the cause. I had high hopes that this 17-artist exhibition of works featuring pigment that is applied by hand, not digitally (sometimes on canvas, sometimes on another surface) would counter the end-of-painting talk by major curators like Hans Ulrich Obrist who (according to the recent New Yorker … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Spence Porter on British Museum’s Elgin Marble Loan

Spence Porter

I'm not the only one speculating about Neil MacGregor's reasons for temporarily losing his Marbles. New York playwright Spence Porter responds to Preparing for Lawsuit? Why Might Neil MacGregor Be Doubling Down on His Elgin Marbles Bet?: I'm not an attorney so this may be totally off base, but I can't help thinking of another reason for the British Museum to do the Russian loan. If the argument that the sculptures should be returned to Greece hinges on the idea that the marbles are a single unified work of art that needs to be reunited, … [Read more...]

Stubbornly Figurative in an Age of Abstraction: Jane Freilicher, 90, Dies

Jane Freilicher in her studio, 1984
Photo by Nancy Crampton, courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery

Jane Freilicher, the deftly atmospheric figurative painter whose death at the age of 90 was announced yesterday by her New York gallery, Tibor de Nagy, was one of the artists I interviewed for a Mar. 7, 1993 piece in the NY Times "Arts & Leisure" section (no link available) on "older" artists (then in their 50s and 60s) who were well known but had fallen out of fashion. What I wrote about her back then remained true: Unlike many once trendy artists, Jane Freilicher has never been flavor of the month. "A lot of people who had flash … [Read more...]

Preparing for Lawsuit? Why Might Neil MacGregor Be Doubling Down on His Elgin Marbles Bet?

Neil MacGregor
Photo by Jason Bell

In his sudden, astonishing campaign to make piecemeal loans of Parthenon Marbles to foreign museums, Neil MacGregor---a lawyer before he became a museum professional---may be laying the groundwork for the British Museum's defense against the Greek government's contemplated lawsuit to reclaim the so-called Elgin Marbles. After I posted my perplexity as to why the always astute MacGregor would do something so seemingly clueless as to suggest that the irate Greeks should be "delighted" with the British Museum's dispatch of River-God Ilissos … [Read more...]

Neil MacGregor Plays Russian Roulette with the Acropolis Marbles

River-God Ilissos, 438–432 B.C., British Museum (originally from west pediment of the Parthenon, Athens)

More on this here. Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, is not a stupid person. So what can he have been thinking when he recently said (as reported by BBC Radio 4) "that he hoped the Greek government would be 'delighted'" about his institution's loan to the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, of the River-God Ilissos---a reclining male figure originally from the west pediment of the Parthenon in Athens? In Friday's radio interview, MacGregor added: I hope that they [the Greeks] will be very pleased that a huge new … [Read more...]

Blogger’s Bounty: CultureGrrl Receives Arts Writers Grant

GrantLogo

I had planned a more buoyant announcement of my "exciting personal news," as I called it in a draft written this afternoon. But it's hard to be self-congratulatory about relatively trivial matters when many of us in the NYC area tonight are mourning a "grotesque and outrageous" miscarriage of justice. So here, without embellishment, is my bit of news: I've been awarded the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for bloggers. Over the coming year, I'll be generously compensated for my online reports and reviews. The … [Read more...]

No Gehry Guggenheim: Six Outliers Are Finalists for Helsinki Outpost

Most photogenic rendering of six finalists' designs for Guggenheim Helsinki

The architects on the Guggenheim's six-firm shortlist for its proposed (but not yet government-approved) Helsinki facility are neither starchitects nor Scandinavians. The names and designs of the six finalists were released today at 4:14 a.m., NYC time (a more civilized hour in Helsinki). As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the architectural firms have now been publicly identified, but their names are not connected to their designs. Even the jurors still haven't been told which project belongs to which architect. Below is definitely the … [Read more...]

Good Morning, Helsinki: Guggenheim Poised to Announce Six Shortlisted Architects

Nancy Spector, Guggenheim's deputy director and chief curator

More on this here. When we awake in the U.S. tomorrow (unless you're an insomniac or even more of a night owl than I am), the Guggenheim will have announced the six finalists chosen from the 1,717 anonymous submissions in the architectural competition for its proposed Helsinki satellite facility (which has not yet received government approval). The decision of the 11 jurors is to be revealed at 11:15 a.m., Helsinki time (4:15 a.m. in New York). You can check this website to scoop me. I'll be in conference with my pillow. In accordance … [Read more...]

“Willful Provincialism”: More From Williams Curator Kevin Murphy on Crystal Bridges

Kevin Murphy

Kevin Murphy, curator of American art at the Williams College Museum of Art (and previously at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art), elaborates on Flight from Bentonville: Ex-Crystal Bridges Curator Kevin Murphy on Why He Left: I worried slightly when I read your initial blog post, because I do tend to err on the side of candor. The Afghanistan comment riled some Arkansan feathers, but colleagues from across the museum world were overwhelmingly positive [in reaction to Murphy's comments that were quoted in my above-linked Nov. 19 … [Read more...]

From Detroit to Delaware: Why We Need Government Deaccession Regulations

William Holman Hunt, "Isabella and the Pot of Basil" 
Sold at Christie's London for £2.88 million ($4.89 million)

In the Detroit Institute of Arts' recent ordeal, there's a sweeping, important takeaway for the entire museum field that went unmentioned in my Wall Street Journal article last week on the broader significance of that museum's expensive, protracted legal battle to protect the integrity of its collection. The legal proceedings (which, fortunately, went the DIA's way) reinforced my previous contention that legislation or government regulations to prevent monetization of collections to pay operating and capital costs or to defray debts are … [Read more...]

Flight From Bentonville, Part II: Chris Crosman, Crystal Bridges’ Founding Curator, on Its Brain Drain

Chris Crosman at Crystal Bridges in 2011
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Part I is here. Kevin Murphy's lament, posted last week on CultureGrrl, about his disheartening curatorial experience at Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, AR, struck a responsive chord with the museum's founding curator, Chris Crosman. Titled "chief curator" for most of the six years that he worked on the museum's development, Crosman left Crystal Bridges less than two months after its November 2011 opening. Below is his own perspective, emailed to me this weekend, on the accomplishments and shortcomings of his former institution. " … [Read more...]

Bill Ruprecht’s Planned Departure from Sotheby’s: Changed Priorities, Competitive Pressures

Daniel Loeb

Sotheby's goals and strategies have changed under its newly constituted board, but Bill Ruprecht, the firm's savvy, steely CEO since 2000, may not have changed along with them. That's my speculative takeaway from yesterday evening's cryptic but not surprising announcement that Ruprecht and Sotheby's would be parting ways. In listening over the years to the quarterly conference calls with stock analysts presided over by Ruprecht, it seemed clear to me that the firm was veering away from strategies he had advocated before the ascension of … [Read more...]

What Happened in Detroit Stays in Detroit? My Wall Street Journal Takeaway on Detroit Institute’s Ordeal

Richard Levin at the NYU art-law conference
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

For the long beleaguered Detroit Institute of Arts, there's been a happy ending, fittingly celebrated at the museum's gala, which by happenstance occurred the day after Judge Steven Rhodes' favorable ruling. But unless they take preemptive action, other museums with city-owned collections might not be so lucky, as I discuss in After Detroit's Close Call, my article on the "Leisure & Arts" page of tomorrow's (Thursday's) Wall Street Journal (online now). What happened in Detroit---a once thriving city, fallen on hard times---could … [Read more...]

Flight from Bentonville, Part I: Ex-Crystal Bridges Curator Kevin Murphy on Why He Left

Kevin Murphy at Crystal Bridges
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Part II is here. With the planned departure of Crystal Bridges president (and former director) Don Bacigalupi, Crystal Bridges Museum will have lost the entire senior curatorial staff that opened it just three years ago. The others are curatorial director David Houston, deputy director Matt Dawson, American art curator Kevin Murphy... ...and founding curator Chris Crosman: Murphy was last to leave, taking a position in September 2013 as American art curator at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA). As it happened, I … [Read more...]

Two Big Moves: Bacigalupi to Lucas Museum; Ravenal to deCordova Museum UPDATED

Don Bacigalupi taking reporters on a hardhat tour of the in-construction Crystal Bridges Museum, May 2011
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

More on the Crystal Bridges situation here and here. Crystal Bridges Museum has will suffer yet another major departure with today's announcement that its president (and, previously, founding director), Don Bacigalupi, will be heading to Chicago as the founding president of the planned Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, effective Jan. 15. He will remain on Crystal Bridges' board. According to Crystal Bridges' website, the Bentonville museum is still searching for people in "all levels of the Curatorial department including Curatorial … [Read more...]

Do I Hear $1 Billion? Christie’s Record-Smashing $852.89 Million Contemporary Sale

Ed Ruscha, "Smash," 1963
$30.4 million

It wasn't so much that big-money works soared over their estimates (although Warhol's "Triple Elvis" did hammer at $73 million against a presale estimate "in the region of $60 million). But quality, quantity and a bravura podium performance by auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen gave Christie's a final Contemporary Art total (with buyers premium) of $852.89 million---the most for any art auction, ever. This Ruscha, Lot 30, says it all: The sale's $751.57 million hammer total far outstripped the presale estimate, which was pegged at "in the … [Read more...]

After the Mellon, a Lemon? Sotheby’s Bidders Salute the “Flag” in Slow-but-Steady Veteran’s Day Sale

Jasper Johns, "Flag," 1983
Sold for $36 million ($32 million hammer against presale estimate of $15-20 million)
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

After breezing through the buoyant Mellon sale last night, Sotheby's auctioneer, Oliver Barker, needed to swig two glasses of water (at least that's what I think it was) at the end of tonight's various-owners contemporary sale. It was slow-going and less than riveting. But he gamely extracted whatever bidding was to be had and efficiently got the job done. Fittingly for a Veterans Day sale, this work broke the auction record for Jasper Johns: For full sale results, go here. Below is my running Twitter commentary of tonight's … [Read more...]

Christie’s and Sotheby’s Tout Fresh-to-Market Contemporary Wares (video)

SothLiz

If you're planning to attend this week's big contemporary sales (tonight at Sotheby's; tomorrow night at Christie's), whether in person or online, here's my CultureGrrl Video with a few highlights to get you in the mood to spend your multi-millions (or maybe not): … [Read more...]

“White Glove” Sale: My Storify on Bunny Mellon Sale at Sotheby’s

SothMellon

Single-collection sales from illustrious owners often fetch prices beyond the importance of the works themselves, as bidders vie for souvenirs from lifestyles of the rich and famous. The Mellon pedigree undoubtedly helped tonight's buoyant blowout at Sotheby's, irrespective of the fact that the cream of the collection had already gone to museums that the philanthropic Mellons strongly supported, including the National Gallery of Art and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Here's the scene at Sotheby's (a Diebenkorn flanked by two … [Read more...]

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