an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

Et Tu, Arnold? Lehman, Brooklyn Museum’s Director, Joins Museum-to-Market Defectors

Phillips auction house

I’m always taken aback when a distinguished, long-time art professional crosses over from the sanctum of the nonprofit museum world to the commercial side of the artworld---auction houses and galleries. It’s about to happen again, with Phillips auction house’s announcement that Arnold Lehman, director of the Brooklyn Museum, will soon become senior advisor to Edward Dolman, the auction firm’s chairman and CEO since last July. According to the above-linked press release, Lehman will “advise on the global expansion of the Phillips brand … [Read more...]

FAILE Fail: Brooklyn Museum as Gaming Arcade (with video)

Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Always defying norms of museum propriety, Arnold Lehman has outdone himself in outrageousness with one of the final exhibitions opening under his transformative 18-year directorship at the Brooklyn Museum (ending on Aug. 31). I'm not talking about Sneaker Culture (although it's more a popular than scholarly success), but the astounding display that opened on the same floor at the same time---FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds (to Oct. 4). Installed in a gallery adjoining the hightops is a low point in museum spectacle: a fully equipped game … [Read more...]

Tawdry Cosby (Continued): Smithsonian Secretary Skorton Supports the Controversial Show’s Run

National Museum of African Art

The Smithsonian's new head, David Skorton, last week endorsed the continuation of the Cosby Show at the National Museum of African Art, notwithstanding the flood of unfunny allegations regarding comedian Bill Cosby's personal character. The day before the latest sordid story appeared in the NY Times, Linda St. Thomas, the Smithsonian's chief spokesperson, responded to my query as to whether the institution might consider changes to the exhibition (beyond the recently added visitor-advisory message that disclaims any implicit Smithsonian … [Read more...]

The Smithsonian’s Cosby Debacle: Take Down that Exhibition, Dr. Skorton?

David Skorton, Smithsonian's new Secretary
Photo by Lee Rosebaum

Should the Smithsonian’s new Secretary, former Cornell University President David Skorton, who has barely had time to sit down at his desk (let alone make new policy), cancel or drastically modify the National Museum of African Art's embarrassing situation comedy, The Cosby Show? To inform your consideration of this question, here's the latest family-friendly episode in this ongoing saga---a new visitor-advisory message that now introduces the exhibition: We can only hope that Skorton will read and ponder the comments solicited at … [Read more...]

Pay-to-Play: Cosbys Bankrolled Their Show at Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art CORRECTED

Simmie Knox, "Portrait of Bill and Camille Cosby," 1984
Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr.
Photo by David Stansbury

Notwithstanding the latest tawdry Cosby revelations, let's elude the quaalude story and keep our eyes on the latest museum-related disclosures: Brett Zongker of Associated Press reports that Bill and Camille Cosby funded the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art's current 50th anniversary exhibition, Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue to the tune of $716,000, "which virtually covers the entire cost" of the show. A spokesperson for the museum confirmed those details to me today. Some 62 of the 171 works in … [Read more...]

“It’s a Guy Thing”: My Storify on the Brooklyn Museum’s “Sneaker Culture” Salon

Sneakers hanging from wire stretched across gallery's ceiling
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Yesterday, I brought you Arnold Lehman's fancy footwear, in my post about our conversation at the press preview for the Brooklyn Museum's Sneaker Culture show (July 10-Oct. 4). One thing that we can say about Arnold is that, right to the end, he hasn't backed down from his controversial commitment to street culture and populist sensibilities. Organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (and expanded for NYC), the show was goofy fun (with a little social commentary mixed in), perhaps more suited to … [Read more...]

Arnold Lehman on Life After the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum’s Life after Arnold

BkSneakLeh

While attending today's Sneaker Culture press preview, I took the opportunity to ask director Arnold Lehman about his plans after leaving the Brooklyn Museum. (He is due to retire on Aug. 31.) But first things first, Arnold: Who are you wearing? Let's take a closer look: Lehman told me his feet were clad in Yohji Yamamoto and that he had owned these for a number of years, until they were appropriated by his grandson. He borrowed them back to be strikingly shod for the new exhibition, which opens to the public on Friday. As … [Read more...]

“Milking Time” Milked: Delaware Museum’s Failed Deaccession Gambit

Sold to...? Winslow Homer, "Milking Time," 1875

With its announcement last week of the sale of one of its most beloved works---Winslow Homer's "Milking Time"---as well as Andrew Wyeth's "Arthur Cleveland," the Delaware Art Museum claimed to have closed one of its "most difficult chapters." Not so fast. Details about the amount of the money received by the museum from its four deplorable deaccessions, as reported by Margie Fishman of the Wilmington News Journal, suggest that DAM's difficulties are not over. In announcing its deaccession plans back in March 2014, the museum had … [Read more...]

CultureDaughter Commercial: Acoustic Engineer’s GoPro “Session” Obsession

GoPro's new Hero4 Session

My idea of extreme sports is playing two sets of tennis or descending a Carsten Höller slide. So I haven't quite envisioned myself using the product that Dr. CultureDaughter has been obsessively working on---GoPro video cameras, those very popular, rugged, waterproof contraptions that are designed to capture thrill seekers' adventures on land, sea and mid-air. But now, with my daughter's help, they've made a new version. With one-button operation, it's simpler to use for my technologically challenged generation and appealingly … [Read more...]

Crank It Up: Thomas Heatherwick’s Contrarian Contrivances at the Cooper Hewitt (with video)

L to R: Caroline Baumann, Cooper Hewitt director; Thomas Heatherwick; Brooke Hodge
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

With its new exhibition, Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio (to Jan. 3), the Cooper Hewitt has hit its stride after what struck me as a shaky debut. Organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, this traveling show owes its existence to the long-haul perseverance of the Nasher's director, Jeremy Strick, and the Cooper Hewitt's deputy director, Brooke Hodge, who were both at LA MOCA when they became intrigued by the brilliantly quirky creations of British architect Thomas Heatherwick, a mad inventor gone … [Read more...]

Hailing Harold Holzer: Retirement Bash Today for Metropolitan Museum’s Public Affairs VP UPDATED

Holzer3

I feel about guilty missing this, and Harold has just made me feel more guilty: A bum knee is preventing me from attending Harold Holzer's retirement reception at the Metropolitan Museum later today. My last-minute withdrawal from the guest list elicited this (tongue-in-cheek?) suggestion from my longtime facilitator (and sometimes detractor): Can’t you use a Met wheelchair? Harold, I'll make a public appearance in a wheelchair only if you push it! Curators and directors (not to mention critics and journalists) have come and gone, … [Read more...]

Cash-Cow Art Loans in Abu Dhabi: What “Commercial Interests” of British Museum Would Be Harmed by Disclosure?

Rendering of Zayed National Museum, designed by Norman Foster

In my previous post about the British Museum's collaboration with Abu Dhabi's planned Zayed National Museum, I questioned why the amounts paid to the London institution for its art loans and professional consultations were "commercially sensitive," exempting them from the disclosure requirements for public bodies under the UK's Freedom of Information Act. Here, in full, is the reply I received today (in response to my query sent last week) from Olivia Rickman, acting head of the British Museum’s press office [emphasis added]: The Museum … [Read more...]

“Fragmented Exhibition Spaces”: Guggenheim Picks Architects for Helsinki

GuggHelsWin

"Art in the City," the winning design for the proposed (but not yet government-approved) Guggenheim Helsinki, is "a collection of [nine] linked pavilions, each orientated to respect the city grid, and anchored by a lookout tower," in the words of the jury statement on the selection of Paris firm Moreau Kusunoki Architectes, founded less than four years ago by the husband-and-wife team of Nicolas Moreau (previously and briefly with SANAA) and Hiroko Kusunoki (previously with Shigeru Ban). The most distinctive feature of the sprawling "Art … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Helsinki Competition Winner Announced Tomorrow (fly-through video tonight)

Most photogenic rendering of six finalists' designs for Guggenheim Helsinki

More on this here. Speaking of international museum collaborations, early-rising (or insomniac) U.S. art-lings, alert and online at 11 a.m. Helsinki time (4 a.m. NYC time), can be among the first to know which architectural firm has won the anonymous competition for the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki. The design, chosen from the six finalists, must successfully navigate the government approval process before the project can get off the drawing boards and into development. You can see the models of the finalists in this Guggenheim-produced … [Read more...]

Commercial, Not Collegial: British Museum’s Major Loans to Abu Dhabi’s Zayed National Museum

Rendering of Zayed National Museum, designed by Norman Foster

My praise was premature in my Apollo magazine piece on satellite museums, where I favorably mentioned the British Museum's "collegial sharing" of "objects, exhibitions and expertise" with Abu Dhabi’s planned Zayed National Museum, contrasting this with the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi arrangement. It now seems, according to Martin Bailey's recent report in the Art Newspaper, that major objects traveling from the United Kingdom to the United Arab Emirates will be dispatched not as a collegial loan, but for an undisclosed "substantial fee" that … [Read more...]

Mondo Condo: Megabucks Residents at Nouvel Tower to Get Elite MoMA Privileges

Rendering of the in-construction 53W53 tower, adjoining MoMA

Are you hoping to purchase one of the multimillion-dollar apartments in the Jean Nouvel-designed 1,050-foot tapered tower adjoining the Museum of Modern Art... ...but wondering how you'll be able afford MoMA's pricey admission fee after emptying your bank account to acquire and furnish your posh new digs? Fear no more, affluent art-lings! As the recently launched sales website for the project tells us (click "view text" in upper-right corner): "Each resident will...receive title to a unique Benefactor W53 membership at MoMA, … [Read more...]

Cherchez “Les Femmes”: Mysterious Role of “Party with a Financial Interest” in the $179.37-Million Picasso

Picasso,

“A party with a financial interest may be bidding” on Picasso's “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’),” 1955, Christie's auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen announced at the start of the May 11 auction where the flesh-flaunting "Femmes" attracted a $179.37-million sugar daddy. But who was that mysterious "party with a financial interest" and did he/she/it help to pump up the price? In response to my query, a Christie's spokesperson (who did not wish to be named) told me that the "party" consisted of "outside partners" to whom Christie's had … [Read more...]

Trashing Tranquility: Pierre Huyghe Invades Oases at Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art (with video)

PIerre Huyghe being interviewed in the Roof Garden
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

In a audacious double-play, French artist Pierre Huyghe has managed to sabotage both the Metropolitan Museum's Roof Garden and the Museum of Modern Art's Sculpture Garden---two of my favorite outdoor summer spaces in New York. Both are beloved refuges for those seeking tranquility and aesthetic pleasure...not to mention snacks, beverages and a place to take little children: Now Pierre Huyghe has ruined my bliss. My first reaction to seeing the shambles he's made of the Met's Roof Garden was incredulity. My second: dismay that a source of … [Read more...]

The Frick’s Little Noticed “Prized Garden” Saved; Vital Expansion Still Planned

Russell Page's 1970s garden at the Frick

The Frick expansion is dead. Long live the Frick expansion. Preservationists who fought the planned destruction of the Frick's 1970s gated "viewing garden," designed by Russell Page, have gotten their way without ever having to make a formal case to government approval bodies. In his reluctantly conciliatory statement released today, Ian Wardropper, the Frick Collection's director, announced: After months of public dialogue and thoughtful consideration and weighing the potential for a protracted approval process against the Frick’s … [Read more...]

House Passes Bill that Could Make U.S. Museums a Temporary Safe Haven for Syrian Antiquities

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)

Reacting to ISIS's horrific plundering of and trafficking in cultural property to fund its operations, the House of Representatives yesterday passed H.R. 1493, a bill "to protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes." As described by its lead sponsor, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), this bill "would impose new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria and would enhance coordination among U.S. government agencies … [Read more...]

an ArtsJournal blog