an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

Leaked Release: National Academy’s Feel-Good Statement on Carmine Branagan’s Departure

The chaotic, unprofessional rollout of the National Academy's leadership transition (which I chronicled in the above-linked posts) continues with today's anonymous leak to me of the very overdue, nearly finalized press release, to be issued on Monday (subject to approval by key board members). In it, the Academy's president, Bruce Fowle, expresses the institution's "accept[ance] with regret and appreciation" of Carmine Branagan's resignation from its directorship (a month-old story that I broke). Dewey Blanton, the Academy's director … [Read more...]

Sugarcoating Gonzalez-Torres’ Candy: Crystal Bridges Updates from NW Arkansas Business Journal & Me

What has Alice Walton's generously endowed startup, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary, been up to lately? In Richard Massey's lead article in today's Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, he reports on upcoming programs and exhibitions at Bentonville's Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and briefly touches upon future acquisitions, relying on a quote from me in an email that I sent in response to his query. Little did we know that the evening before our Nov. 11 email exchange, Crystal Bridges had acquired this green candy … [Read more...]

Carnage and Kentridge: Metropolitan Opera’s “Lulu,” Then and Now

Enriched by more than four decades of avid museum- and performance-going, I'm both blessed and cursed with having seen so many definitive exhibitions and performances that I'm hard to impress. I was knocked out and drained by the Metropolitan Opera's presentation of Alban Berg's savage "Lulu"---the one in 1980, with the emotionally intense Teresa Stratas in the title role and the masterful James Levine in the pit. Tomorrow you can view in local movie theaters a live performance of the Met's current "Lulu," with the title role embodied by … [Read more...]

Whitney Museum’s Adam Weinberg Movingly Mourns Paris Massacre’s Impact on Creative Community (with video)

Addressing the press on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Museum's director, Tom Campbell, had reacted to the Paris massacre forcefully but formally, detailing how his institution had mentored colleagues from countries in crisis. Yesterday, the Whitney Museum's director, Adam Weinberg, showed how to make it personal and heartfelt. At a press preview of an exhibition co-organized with Paris' Centre Pompidou of promised gifts from the extensive contemporary art collection (1980s to the present) of Thea Westreich Wagner and her husband, Ethan … [Read more...]

Another Rough Night: Sotheby’s Underperforming Sale of Alfred Taubman’s American Art

With a total of $13.04 million (including the buyer's premium), the auction at Sotheby's tonight of 31 works from A. Alfred Taubman's American art collection (eight of which failed to sell) will be of little help in reducing the formidable $95-million gap between the $420 million that two previous sales from his collection have brought and the $515 million that the auction house has promised to pay the Taubman heirs, regardless of the amount fetched at auction. The hammer total for tonight's Taubman sale was $10.85 million, far short of its … [Read more...]

Tom Campbell of Metropolitan Museum Responds to L’Horreur in Paris (with video)

It wasn't as scary as the sight of heavily armed police in a bullet-proof vests Saturday night at Lincoln Center (where I attended the hyperactive William Kentridge production of Alban Berg's "Lulu" at the Metropolitan Opera). But (without giving away the details) it was clear to me, when I entered the garage of the Metropolitan Museum to attend its press lunch today, that security measures there had been tightened. Fittingly, director Tom Campbell began his remarks to the scribe tribe by describing how the Met's professionals are … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Buyout Bombshell: Turning Towards the “Less-Tenured”

Maybe the Sotheby's buyout bombshell (first reported Friday by Bloomberg's Katya Kazakina) shouldn't have come as a shock: This purge was foreshadowed by CEO Tad Smith's cryptic comments in last Monday's quarterly conference call with stock analysts: One of the most delightful surprises of the year has been how many excellent, less-tenured staff  appeared on our initial list of high potential talent within our organization. These people are bursting with energy to change the worlds of art, jewelry, cars or wine, and my more senior colleagues … [Read more...]

Taubman’s Revenge? Sotheby’s Gavel-Busting $515-Million Guarantee

My misgivings about how Sotheby's success in winning the A. Alfred Taubman consignment might backfire, which I voiced early last month in an interview with a British reporter, now appear to be on the money. At the end of his Oct. 10 London Times article---Sotheby's Gambles on $500m Art Sale (paywalled)---investigative reporter Alexi Mostrous gave me the last word: The art journalist Lee Rosenbaum said Taubman had always thought it unfair that he was “the only one who went to jail in the [Sotheby's/Christie's price-fixing] scandal....So if … [Read more...]

Camp GoPro: Acoustics Theatrics from Dr. CultureDaughter (with video)

WARNING: PROUD MOM ALERT! Dr. CultureDaughter, an acoustic design engineer at GoPro, goes to camp, Silicon-Valley Style. You'll see her wielding the HERO4 Session video camera (which she worked on), released last July, and using a Slinky to illustrate sound waves to enthusiastic young attendees at Curiosity Camp. I became more interested in getting a GoPro for myself (even though my idea of extreme sports is going to three museums in one day) after seeing a photographer use one (and hearing him rave about it) at the Frank Stella press … [Read more...]

Twombly Blackboard Helps Sotheby’s Chalk Up a Solid Contemporary Sale

Christie's, the recent market leader in major contemporary art sales, has less to crow about this week: Its uneven sale last night (during which I was on flights back home from Hawaii) made Sotheby's contemporary sale tonight look good. (For my report on Christie's erratic "Artist's Muse" sale Monday, headlined by the immodest Modigliani, go here.) As you'll learn in my Twitter recap and analysis, below, Sotheby's sale, as compared to its counterpart at Christie's, had a lower total for fewer works, under the steady hand of auctioneer Oliver … [Read more...]

“The Artist’s Muse”: $170.4-Million Modigliani Doesn’t Float All Boats at Christie’s

While the rest of the scribe tribe has moved on to parsing tonight's contemporary auction at Christie's, here's my recap of the same auction house's attempt last night to repeat the breakout success of its similarly eclectic Looking Forward to the Past sale last season. No such luck. While the $170.4-million price for the star lot of "Muse"---Modigliani's 1917-18 "Reclining Nude"---was just as jaw-dropping as the $179.4 million for Picasso's 1955 "Les Femmes d'Alger" in "Looking Forward," the hammer total last night failed to reach the … [Read more...]

Taubman Was No Havemeyer: Sotheby’s Rough Night (My Storify)

A lot was riding on Sotheby's "Masterworks" sale from the Taubman Collection tonight, and it was a rough ride. Luckily, I'll be traveling starting tomorrow, which means that I'm unlikely to post on the other big auctions until after my return. As you'll see below, not only was the bidding erratic, but so was the sale's souped-up technology. And what was CEO Tad Smith thinking when he tried to warm up the crowd, like an emcee, before auctioneer Oliver Barker got down to business? For those who want the full illustrated price list from … [Read more...]

“Masterpiece” Theater: Sotheby’s & Christie’s Tout Megabucks Wares at Auction Previews (with video)

More on this here. Hyperbole is always the order of the day when the auction houses unveil their wares at their press previews for the big evening sales of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art. But the back-to-back presentations by the Big Two auction houses on Friday ("Taxi!") were even more boastful than usual. In my CultureGrrl Video, below, you'll hear the experts from Sotheby's and Christie's tout their offerings as "fresh to the market," " the best of the series," and that old standby, "masterpiece." Special mention for … [Read more...]

Auction High-Wire Act Without a Net: Sotheby’s Daredevil Taubman Guarantee

More on this here and  here. This is a watershed moment for Sotheby's and its new CEO, Tad Smith. When I heard the astonishing news in September that Sotheby's had provided the Taubman Collection's consignors with a guarantee of approximately $500 million for some 500 works, ancient-to-contemporary, I assumed that the auction house would make strenuous efforts to offload large portions of that hefty risk to third parties. But comments to me by several Sotheby's officials indicate that this risk-sharing hasn't happened. In its Form … [Read more...]

Walid Raad’s Blurred Lines at MoMA: Does Truth Matter?

The Museum of Modern Art's bewildering Walid Raad exhibition (to Jan. 31) "investigates distinctions between fact and fiction," according to its press release. In truth, it blurs those distinctions in a ways that sometimes feel more like heavy-handed propaganda than subtle artistry or clever parody. Raad intentionally distorts political and economic relationships through lens of his slyly subversive sensibility. He has occupied MoMA's cavernous atrium with stage-set components for his four-times-a-week public performance---"Scratching on … [Read more...]

Suffering Suffragettes: Save Tenafly’s Feminist Landmark (aka Charlie Brown’s)!

I ate at Charlie Brown’s while it was there for 25 years, and I never felt a connection with Elizabeth Cady Stanton while eating there. So said Mayor Peter Rustin of Tenafly, NJ, whom I knew quite well during the 21 years that I lived in this town. Pete's statement applies to me too: I had no clue about the historic significance of this meat-and-potatoes place, site of many Rosenbaum family dinners. Photo by Lee Rosenbaum Now, almost too late, we've learned that this building was "the polling location where Elizabeth Cady Stanton and … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Curator Jonathan Stuhlman on the Met-to-Sotheby’s “Danae”

As suggested in the BlogBack below, a few CultureGrrl readers and tweeters have interpreted my previous post---“Danaë” Downpour: Metropolitan Museum & Yale University Shower Dealer Richard Feigen With Gold---as criticizing the Metropolitan Museum's curators for their high praise of a privately owned work displayed in their galleries that has now been dispatched to Sotheby's for sale. Nothing could be further from the truth. The curators' praise was fully justified, as was the Met's decision to display "Danaë" as a loan to its … [Read more...]

“Danae” Downpour: Metropolitan Museum & Yale University Shower Dealer Richard Feigen With Gold

More on this here. Dealer Richard Feigen has once again used the imprimatur of the Metropolitan Museum to add luster to a work transferred from the Met's galleries to an auction house's premises. It now appears that Danaë's golden sojourn at the Met was an extended presale exhibition. When it opened its expanded and revamped European paintings galleries in 2013, the Met announced that "a number of special loans from private collectors will be on view for the next six months to a year, filling gaps [emphasis added] in the Metropolitan … [Read more...]

More on Carmine Branagan’s Departure from the National Academy

You have reached the office of Carmine Branagan, director of the National Academy Museum and School. So said the voicemail message when I called Branagan's office about an hour ago. But a highly reliable informed source today unequivocally informed me: "She's gone." Based on previous tips I received, I broke the story on Oct. 4 about the shakeup rumor, which I believed was credible. I now have stronger information: A former staffer at the National Academy still in direct contact with those still working there today read to me an emailed … [Read more...]

Worth 1,000 Words: An Illustrated Companion to My WSJ Review of the Wadsworth Atheneum

At the Wadsworth Atheneum, an Old Building Gets New Life---my article in today's Wall Street Journal on the gloriously transformed Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford---paints many verbal pictures of what I enjoyed during my visit. But "verbal" is often a poor substitute for "visual." To help you see what I saw, here's my illustrated tour of what I described in the WSJ (and a bit more). In yesterday's post, I provided images of the paintings in or near the Great Hall. Excerpts from my WSJ article are in italics. ALL PHOTOS BY LEE … [Read more...]

an ArtsJournal blog