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Mad Met: More on the Met Breuer’s Misfire on Madison

While the Met Breuer's inaugural show, Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, may prove to be a popular success, given the interest in the Metropolitan Museum's new Madison Avenue initiatives, it got mostly tepid to negative verdicts from the critics (five review links), with two major exceptions---Peter Schjeldahl of the New Yorker, who exclaimed that "pretty nearly everything on view is exemplary," and Sebastian Smee of the Boston Globe, who found the show to be "crowded with poignant beauty." The public opening of the Met Breuer is still ten … [Read more...]

Art Museums as Shakedown Artists: NY Times Front-Page Report on Dealers’ Support for Exhibitions

If museum exhibitions of contemporary art are increasingly looking like extensions of the commercial gallery system, it's because they are. Those who have paid attention to the funding credits for museums' contemporary shows during the last 10 years have seen a troubling increase in dealer support for displays of the artists whom they represent. What was news to me, until I read Robin Pogrebin's detailed Page One report in today's NY Times, is not that museums are increasingly seeking such support, but that some dealers are now openly … [Read more...]

“Unfinished” Business: Met Breuer Engulfed by a Dark Cloud of Unknowing

More on this here. What a disappointment! The debut installation at the Met Breuer, unveiled to the press on Tuesday (and to the general public on Mar. 18), fell short of the expectations raised by the Metropolitan Museum itself. I had looked forward to seeing how the museum's formidably erudite curators would rise to the challenge of creatively reimagining their roles by presenting art in fresh, provocative new contexts. Instead, what could have been an exhilarating exploration turned out to be a dispiriting letdown. All photos by … [Read more...]

Ripple Effect of My “Edlis Effect”: Crain’s Chicago Business, Lawyer Michael Dorf

My views on the Edlis Effect at the Art Institute of Chicago struck a chord with Crain's Chicago Business' Lisa Bertagnoli, who interviewed me about James Rondeau's appointment as the museum's director for her Feb. 27 piece analyzing what this change might mean for the AIC. She quoted my misgivings about the restrictions on the 44-work gift from the Edlis/Neeson Collection of contemporary art, which I said were "really putting the collectors before the artists. You should be able to intermingle different works," rather than create a … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Shortfalls: What’s Missing from CEO Tad Smith’s Earnings Conference Call?

Notwithstanding the assertion by Sotheby's CEO Tad Smith that he was "pleased with the progress we’ve made on our strategic objectives," there was much cause for concern in Sotheby's conference call with securities analysts this morning (covering fourth-quarter and full-year 2015). Professing to be "incredibly excited about our prospects," Smith tried to put an upbeat spin on the downbeat financial results in its latest 8-K report, filed with the SEC. Tad Smith, Sotheby’s CEO, addressing the crowd before the first of the Taubman … [Read more...]

Interactive Hijinks: Putting the Viewer in the Picture

For some, it seems, it's not enough to inhabit an artwork in their imaginations. They want to enter it physically. I'm embarrassed to own up to my own "living in a painting" experience: It occurred nine years ago, when I visited the Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ, for my WNYC radio report on sculpture gardens. The brainchild of artist J. Seward Johnson, Grounds for Sculpture displayed not only original outdoor works by contemporary artists, but also kitschy sculptural tableaux mimicking Impressionist masterpieces. Doing my … [Read more...]

Griffin/Geffen & the Art Institute of Chicago’s Edlis Misstep

Last year, while he was chair and curator of modern and contemporary art at the Art Institute of Chicago, the museum's new director, James Rondeau, made a Faustian bargain that could come back to haunt him. The museum's press release announcing Rondeau's promotion mentions that "over the course of his tenure, he secured numerous major gifts, most notably in 2015 when he ushered in the largest gift of art in the museum’s history—the Edlis/Neeson Collection" [emphasis added]. What the release doesn't mention is the strings attached to … [Read more...]

Vigée Le Brun: Flattery Got Her Everywhere, Including the Met (with video)

At about the halfway point in the 80-work Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum (to May 15), I ran into the museum's new president, Daniel Weiss, who asked me the dreaded question: "What do you think?" My usual strategy for deflecting attempts to preview my review is simply to tell the truth: "I'm still looking and thinking." But this time, although I had much yet to see, I blurted out: "I don't understand why the Met thinks this show is a sleeper!" Mounting this exhibition was described by the Met's … [Read more...]

Wroth About Rothko: “Order & Joint Stipulation of Dismissal” in De Sole Case vs. Freedman & Knoedler

When a litigant perceives, during the course of a trial, that there's a good chance he'll lose his case, there is an impetus to settle. With many expert witnesses having denied authenticating the disputed Rothko sold by a New York gallery to Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, and with the underlying implausibility of the sudden emergence on the market of a huge trove of previously unknown works by major artists, Ann Freedman and the shuttered gallery she formerly directed, Knoedler & Co., may have seen the writing on the courtroom … [Read more...]

A Milwaukee Walk: Photo Companion for My WSJ Review of the Milwaukee Art Museum

As promised in my last post, below is my illustrated companion for In Wisconsin, a Museum Reborn---my review in today's Wall Street Journal of the reinvented Milwaukee Art Museum, which gave me a very warm welcome on a single-digits day: The words in italics, below, are excerpted from my WSJ article. MAM's holdings are not only better preserved, but also shown off to greater advantage, thanks to the reorganization spearheaded by chief curator Brady Roberts: Before guiding me through the museum, Roberts surprisingly subjected me … [Read more...]

Squawking in Milwaukee: My Upcoming WSJ Review of the Milwaukee Art Museum UPDATED

For my article on the "Arts in Review" page of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal, (online later today, if all goes according to plan), I had the challenging task of reviewing an entire museum in 900 words. [UPDATE: The article is here and an illustrated companion to my WSJ piece is here.] The Milwaukee Art Museum had recently concluded an ambitious, praiseworthy, top-to-bottom renovation and reinstallation, as well as a 17,500-square-foot expansion: The driver for the makeover was a threat by the American Association of Museums (AAM, now … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Still Stalled, as Monitoring Report is Issued on Saadiyat Island Labor Conditions

PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC's) 4th annual monitoring report on labor conditions on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, recently released by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) of the United Arab Emirates' capital, gives a mixed picture of progress and continued concerns. The latter included a June 8 worker fatality, which occurred "as a result of a construction accident" at the Louvre Abu Dhabi's project site.  Whether for this or other reasons, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is still nothing more than "1,400 concrete piles [that] … [Read more...]

MoMA’s New Expansion Plan: Another Reality Check for Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Once again, with the recent revisions to the Museum of Modern Art's expansion plans, Diller Scofidio + Renfro's transgressively creative but farfetched architectural follies have been (mercifully) abandoned. All I can say is: I told you so. While we know that some high-profile innovations that had initially piqued MoMA's interest have now left the building, we still have scant information about what the new MegaMoMA will look like, save for this sketchy schematic: When I asked if there were any photographic renderings of the … [Read more...]

Getty Abducts Another Gorgeous Woman: $30.5 Million for “Danaë” UPDATED

When it comes to major acquisitions of drop-dead gorgeous women, no museum can compete with the deep-pocketed Getty. It has just abducted "Danaë" from the Metropolitan Museum, where she had been on loan from dealer/collector Richard Feigen, until he sent her to auction at Sotheby's. “Danaë” sold to the Getty tonight for $30.5 million with buyers premium, fetching a "reasonable" $27-million hammer price against its $25- to 35-million presale estimate. CultureGrrl readers may remember that the Getty carried off a pricier looker (that … [Read more...]

Rondeau/Chicago: Veteran Curator Promoted to Art Institute’s Directorship

Once again, the Art Institute of Chicago has looked to its own staff to find its new president and director: James Rondeau, chair and curator of modern and contemporary art (departments that merged under his leadership), will succeed Douglas Druick, who announced in October his planned retirement after more than 30 years at the AIC, including more than four years in the top spot. Rondeau's 18-year tenure in Chicago included planning the 2009 opening of the Modern Wing and co-organizing (with Sheena Wagstaff, now at the Metropolitan … [Read more...]

Another Erratic Outing: My Storify on the Taubman Old Masters Sale at Sotheby’s

I've asked Sotheby's to explain a puzzling assertion that its spokesperson made to me and also to the NY Times' Robin Pogrebin at the end of tonight's sale of the late A. Alfred Taubman's old masters: "The success of tonight's sale," according to a Sotheby's email, "reduces our estimated auction guarantee shortfall by half, to approximately $3 million [from $6 million]." In addition to that shortfall from the $515 million guaranteed by Sotheby's to the Taubman estate, the auction house is out the $6 million in expenses attributable to the … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Eats Crow from the Taubman Sales: $6-Million Guarantee Loss & $6-Million in Expenses

It's official: Sotheby's assumption of the risk for the consignment of more than 500 works from the estate of its former chairman, A. Alfred Taubman was no coup. It was a flop. In a conference call with securities analysts this morning, Tad Smith, Sotheby's CEO, said his firm expects to lose "approximately 1%, or $6 million of the guaranteed amount, due to a shortfall in sale proceeds." In addition, "approximately $6 million of sale-related expenses were incurred [for Taubman] in the fourth quarter of 2015." What's more, "additional … [Read more...]

Meier, Ingels, Seldorf, Cook: My Storify from Architects’ Panel on NYC’s Skyline

I would have hoped for more incisive questions from journalist/moderator C.J. Hughes for the inter-generational panel of major architects who shared tidbits last night in a conversation at the 92nd Street Y in New York. He should have elicited more interesting details about the projects (theirs in particular) "that now epitomize the city, the ever-evolving real estate market and what’s next for New York’s neighborhoods," as the panel's prospectus had led us to expect. I was struck by the sky's-the-limit attitude of the panel: Nobody seemed … [Read more...]

Digging Digital: What AAMD Will Discuss at Midwinter Meeting (& what it should discuss)

The Association of Art Museum Directors' midwinter meeting, Jan. 22-25 in LA, will feature "a series of presentations on digital practices, highlighting some of the ways AAMD museums are using technology to better carry out their missions," according to today's press release. Allow me to suggest some recommended reading to prepare for this discussion---The Brave New Museum Sputters Into Life, my irreverent analysis for the Wall Street Journal of museums' digital prestidigitations: As I wrote in the WSJ: Intended to inform and … [Read more...]

“Recent Criminal Charges”: Smithsonian Revises Cosby Show’s Text (again)

Reacting to the latest rent in Bill Cosby's tattered reputation, National Museum of African Art has quietly revised the Message to Our Visitors regarding its exhibition of works from the comedian's African-American art collection. The latest text begins like this: Allegations that publicly surfaced when we opened this exhibition in November 2014, now combined with recent criminal charges brought against Mr. Cosby in Pennsylvania [emphasis added], cast a negative light on what should be a joyful exploration of African and African American … [Read more...]

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