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Meet the Smithsonian’s Incoming Secretary: Jazz Flutist David Skorton (with video)

David Skorton, Smithsonian's Secretary-elect
Photo by Lee Rosebaum

Near the end of Cornell University's Sesquicentennial Celebration this Saturday at New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center, my jaw dropped at the unexpected entrance of the host venue's celebrated artistic director, Wynton Marsalis (who had attended Juilliard, not Cornell). Taking the stage with his combo, he launched into a lively set. "David Skorton (Cornell's president and the soon-to-be Smithsonian secretary) is going to play with them," I predicted to my husband, whom I met when we attended Cornell. I had previously seen the prez jam with a … [Read more...]

Art of 9/11: Remnants, Models, Memorial Tributes UPDATED

Detail from Spencer Finch installation
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Every visitor to the 9/11 Memorial Museum brings his personal remembrances and unique sensibility to its viscerally powerful displays. While art is a peripheral player in that solemn space, the remnants of sculptures found at the site and the new works created in commemoration of the horrific event beckoned to me from the agonizing agglomeration of mangled metal and memento mori. (The museum was closed today to the general public, because of the by-invitation 9/11 anniversary ceremony at the site. But the Memorial Plaza opened to the public at … [Read more...]

Capital Choice: Jessica Morgan Named to Direct Dia Art Foundation

DiaMorgan

In naming as its next director Jessica Morgan, now curator of international art (which includes U.S. art) at London's Tate Modern, the Dia Art Foundation picked a deeply experienced contemporary art curator to succeed Philippe Vergne (named last January to direct LA MOCA). Assuming her new post this January, Morgan is also artistic director of the current Gwangju Biennale in Korea and was previously chief curator at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art and curator at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. She curated LA MOCA's Urs Fischer … [Read more...]

Brooklyn Museum in Transition: The Arnold Lehman Years

The museum world and the Borough of Brooklyn have caught up with Arnold Lehman. The 17-year, 70-year-old director of the Brooklyn Museum, who has just announced he would retire in mid-2015, was a populist before it became fashionable, an early proponent of community engagement and crowdsourcing, an advocate of youth-attracting museum parties and, above all, a native Brooklyn booster. Even his museum's latest digital initiative has a human touch---a planned new app that will "enabl[e] visitors to utilize their mobile devices to interact in … [Read more...]

“Bridgegate” Anniversary (with video): Fort Lee Mayor’s Candid Account of What Happened (plus latest on LG flap) UPDATED

View from my terrace: Fort Lee side of George Washington Bridge
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

With today's press conference in my hometown, marking the first anniversary of the infamous (still inadequately explained) George Washington Bridge lane closures, I thought I'd share my own video of a candid address delivered last May to borough residents by our mayor, a Fort Lee native, who was improbably thrust onto the national stage last September. Although he had indicated, early in this unfolding saga, that he had no idea whether or why he was being targeted, Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who had declined to endorse Republican Gov. … [Read more...]

Hear Me Now: My WNYC Riff on Monika Sosnowska’s Mies Riff (with video)

Monika Sosnowska, "Tower," created for current Hauser & Wirth show
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Yesterday I recorded a segment for New York Public Radio (WNYC) on the just opened exhibition of Monika Sosnowska's "Tower" at Hauser & Wirth (to Oct. 25). Fabricated for the gallery's sprawling space (a former roller rink) from steel I-beams and related hardware (including window handles), it's a riff on the frame of Mies van der Rohe's Lake Short Drive Apartments in Chicago, filtered through the sensibility of a Polish artist who grew up with a historical architectural landscape ranging from Polish constructivism to the Socialist … [Read more...]

Frank Gehry Works His Magic on the Philadelphia Museum (with videos)

GehryPhEntr

While we're on the subject of Frank Gehry, all questions about why the Philadelphia Museum would hire such an out-there architect for a mostly underground expansion were, to my mind, decisively dispelled by the museum's brilliantly executed exhibition---Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I'm late in discussing this show. (It closed on Monday.) But it's not too late to discuss the promise of this capital project, since it's expected to take some 10-15 years to come to full fruition, in … [Read more...]

Zaha Brouhaha: Hadid and the Conscience of Architects

Architect Zaha Hadid

Why is Zaha Hadid now being uniquely and unfairly saddled with the burden of becoming standard-bearer for the social conscience of architects? Because of her big mouth. At the end of his Vanity Fair piece, Zaha Hadid is Still Wrong About Construction Worker Conditions (reacting to the recent Hadid/Martin Filler contretemps), architecture critic Paul Goldberger suggests that Hadid should use her fame to "bring enormous attention to the problem" of exploitation of migrant construction workers in Qatar, where she designed a planned World Cup … [Read more...]

Plagiarism, Libel Suit, Blackballing: Bad-News Summer for Art-&-Architecture Journalism

LawWriterBk

We all make mistakes. But Carol Vogel's NY Times-acknowledged lifting from Wikipedia (which I've already commented on here) and the recent retraction by the NY Review of Books' architecture critic Martin Filler of his factually wrong and allegedly defamatory statement regarding architect Zaha Hadid were gasp-inducing gaffes. More on the Zaha brouhaha here. From previous coverage of Hadid's statements regarding migrant workers' deaths on Qatar construction projects, Filler inferred, with disastrous inaccuracy, that there had been "an estimated … [Read more...]

Spier & Gasparatto: The Getty Museum’s Dark-Horse Curatorial Appointments UPDATED

Jeffrey Spier, Getty Museum's new senior curator of antiquities

Here's my main question: If Jeffrey Spier, just named to the Getty Museum's long-vacant position of senior curator of antiquities, is a "member of the Department of Classics at the University of Arizona" (as the museum's press release states), why isn't he listed on the faculty website for the University of Arizona's Department of Classics? I called the department, whose secretary told me it was her understanding that he was "a University Associate" but wasn't an employee. She also said she would get me further clarification from a … [Read more...]

Do You Know the Way to Cy Près? What’s Wrong with Judge Okun’s Corcoran Opinion

DC Superior Court
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

A newcomer to the bench, DC Superior Court Judge Robert Okun proved to be no Judge Stanley Ott when it came to the rigor of his courtroom questioning, legal analysis and writing mastery in crafting his momentous Corcoran-dissolving decision. The Corcoran name will be perpetuated (on its dispersed artworks, its figurehead board and its university-subsumed school), but not much else of the Corcoran as we know it (and as founder William Corcoran wanted it) will remain, save for a token "Legacy Gallery" in its landmark building. Notwithstanding … [Read more...]

Read It and Weep: Judge Okun Allows Corcoran/National Gallery/George Washington U. Merger THREE UPDATES

Corcoran Gallery of Art
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

My analysis of the decision is here. You can read these along with me: Here's DC Superior Court Judge Robert Okun's decision to allow the proposed merger of the Corcoran Gallery, National Gallery and George Washington University. Here's the judge's related order. The three parties to the merger have now issued this exultant press release. More on all this later. UPDATE: The Washington Post's Philip Kennicott, previously a strong critic of the merger, tries to see the bright side. UPDATE 2: The lawyers for the opponents to the … [Read more...]

Revived American Folk Art Museum: The Ingenuity of “Self-Taught Genius”

Sidney Janis and Stacey Hollander, AFAM's deputy director and chief curator, with the newly donated Hicks painting.
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Last week, I belatedly visited the American Folk Art Museum's engaging, rightly acclaimed Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum (closed Sunday), arguably its most ambitious, wide-ranging exhibition since it decamped in 2011 from its W. 53rd Street facility to what had been its satellite space on Lincoln Square. In astute wall texts and labels for some 100 objects from the museum's superlative permanent collection, AFAM reframed self-taught art as the visual expression of America's independent spirit, unrestrained by … [Read more...]

CultureGrrl on Corcoran is “Notable & Quotable” in Wall Street Journal; More on National Gallery’s Role

Carving up the Corcoran, Steven Knapp, Peggy Loar, Earl (Rusty) Powell

You read it here first, art-lings. The Wall Street Journal has just chosen to anoint as Notable and Quotable (in tomorrow's paper, but online now) an excerpt from yesterday's CultureGrrl post in which I was critical of the role that the National Gallery will play if the Corcoran Gallery gets court permission to disperse its collection. Here's an excerpt from the WSJ's excerpt: Two weeks ago, when I attended the Corcoran court hearings, I wandered through the National Gallery (a stone's throw from DC Superior Court) and checked out how … [Read more...]

Chris Crosman on Corcoran’s Endangered Legacy (plus: National Gallery’s Lonely Founding Fathers) UPDATED

CorcWash2

With Philip Kennicott, the Washington Post's art critic, having yesterday reemphasized his opposition to the dissolution of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and its collection, let's examine one of the arguments advanced by the Corcoran in favor of handing over its art holdings to the National Gallery of Art. The moribund museum had claimed in its initial press release that its "great cultural...resources" would become "more widely accessible" under the terms of the proposed deal. Two weeks ago, when I attended the Corcoran court hearings, I … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Earnings Conference Call: The Cost of Activist Shareholders

Daniel Loeb

Sotheby's press release today on recent earning results included two different figures for the key metric of profitability---"net income"---in the second quarter (ending June 30), which included the big May sales of Impressionist/modern and contemporary art. "Adjusted net income" for that quarter decreased 4% from the same quarter last year, to $87.83 million. But "net income" for that quarter decreased even more---by 15%, to $77.63 million. So what exactly was that "adjustment"? The more favorable figures are the result of adding back … [Read more...]

My Twitter/Storify Debate with Kriston Capps on the Corcoran (plus Univ. of MD’s spurned proposal)

Kriston Capps' Twitter avatar

My piece in today's Wall Street Journal on the possible dismantling of the Corcoran Gallery of Art got Kriston Capps of The Atlantic all a-Twitter, resulting in a somewhat contentious conversation between us on how to salvage that endangered museum. In his previous gig at the Washington City Paper, Capps was one of the most cogent commentators on the Corcoran mess, so I enjoyed our friendly sniping in snippets. Below is my Storify of that dialogue, which ends with a reference to the Corcoran's aborted deal with the University of Maryland … [Read more...]

“Isn’t There a Better Way?” My WSJ Piece on the Corcoran Gallery Court Case

Charles Patrizia (holding white file box), waiting to go through metal detectors at D.C. Superior Court
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

I spent two days last week in Judge Robert Okun's Courtroom 317 at D.C. Superior Court, hearing arguments and testimony by the Corcoran Gallery's attorneys and the three witnesses it called to help make its unconvincing case for ending the 145-year-old institution's function as a museum, scattering its collection to various nonprofit recipients (with the lion's share going to the National Gallery of Art) and transferring its the Corcoran's real estate, most of its financial assets and its college to George Washington University. Having … [Read more...]

Carol, Do You Copy? Vogel’s Sticky Wiki

Carol Vogel's research tool

By now you've likely heard that Carol Vogel, the NY Times' veteran art reporter, got caught with her hand in the wiki jar. As I tweeted below, I wasn't sure which of her lame moves was more irresponsible---plagiarizing from Wikipedia or relying on that frequently inaccurate, crowd-sourced compendium for journalistic research: Which is dumber? Plagiarizing Wikipedia or using it as a journalistic source in the 1st place? Carol Vogel's gaffe. http://t.co/0xvBo8i44f — Lee Rosenbaum (@CultureGrrl) July 29, 2014 .@Cristidel43 I don't think … [Read more...]

Koons, Whitney, Wynn and My “Greater Fool” Theory of Trophy Art

At the Jeff Koons press preview, L to R: Whitney directorAdam Weinberg, Pompidou Center director Alain Seban, Jeff Koons
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Having dutifully ingested the Whitney Museum's press preview for its monumental Jeff Koons retrospective (to Oct. 19) and then gagged on the laudatory commentary from two major critics whom I greatly admire, I hesitated to publicly air my indigestion, figuring it would likely reveal more about my own limitations than that of the art. But Tuesday's contrarian (and, to my mind, astute) review by Peter Plagens in the Wall Street Journal emboldened me to say what I came to feel about this perplexingly and aggressively vapid show: The only way … [Read more...]

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