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Do You Know the Way to Cy Près? What’s Wrong with Corcoran’s Court Petition UPDATED

District of Columbia Superior Court

I'm no stranger to cy près arguments, having attended the court hearing for the Barnes Foundation that paved its way to Philadelphia. Cy près is legal lingo describing petitions that request court permission to deviate from a donor's written stipulations. D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Okun is scheduled to hold a hearing at 2:30 p.m. on July 18, Courtroom 317, regarding the Corcoran Gallery's cy près request for approval of its proposed merger with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. From what I've seen in the … [Read more...]

My Wall Street Journal Article on Conservation at the 9/11 Memorial Museum (with slideshow)

Fragment from Rodin's "The Three Shades"
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

I probably wouldn't have visited the recently opened 9/11 Memorial Museum, on the site of the destroyed Twin Towers, had I not been asked by my Wall Street Journal editor to do a piece on the preservation and conservation of the battered, mangled objects that were presciently preserved during the cleanup of the Ground Zero. Some 1,000 artifacts, from a collection of about 13,000 (some directly from the site, others donated by individuals) are on display at the museum. My piece, Restoring the Ruins: Maintaining the Integrity of the … [Read more...]

Tech-Centric Museum Without a Functioning Website? What Happened to CooperHewitt.Org? UPDATED


UPDATE: Almost immediately after I posted this, the Cooper Hewitt's website returned to functionality, hopefully this time for good. In yesterday's post on the renewed and renamed Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, I wrote that the website for this technologically souped up institution seemed to be down. The museum's spokesperson told me I was wrong at that it was working (which seemed unlikely to me, since I had tried it repeatedly, on four different devices). Then she corrected herself, saying that there had been a problem with the … [Read more...]

Souped-Up Cooper Hewitt: Interactive Pen, Newark-Exiled Collection (with video) CORRECTED

Caroline Baumann, Cooper Hewitt director, holding the "Interactive Pen"
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

More on this here. It's way too early to review the renewed and renamed (but not yet reinstalled) Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (formerly, "Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum"). After a protracted three-year closure, it will reopen on Dec. 12. One thing that I can assuredly say right now is that the former Andrew Carnegie Mansion has great bones. The highlight, for me, of museum's advance press tour this week was the chance to admire its restored Babb, Cook & Willard-designed spaces, uncluttered by objects. The room … [Read more...]

Damning DAM: AAMD Sanctimoniously Sanctions the Delaware Art Museum

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

When will the Association of Art Museum Directors wake up and realize that its sanctions against museums that flout its deaccession standards have little or no power over financially desperate museums lacking strong professional governance? As you've probably already heard, AAMD today announced that it had sanctioned the Delaware Art Museum for its sale yesterday at Christie's, London, of one of its most important Pre-Raphaelite paintings---William Holman Hunt's "Isabella and the Pot of Basil"---to help pay down debts and beef up … [Read more...]

Frick Expansion Bonus: Opening the Upstairs Rooms (with slideshow and Storify)

Soon to be opened: stairs leading to second floor of Frick mansion
Photo by Michael Bodycomb

How many times have you gazed at those stairs and wished you could ascend? My favorite aspect of the Frick's expansion plans won't occupy any more space on E. 70th Street, won't need government approvals, will greatly enhance the visitor experience and should attract nothing but plaudits from critics who (like me) are starting to grumble about some aspects of the Davis Brody Bond-designed expansion. (See my Storify, below. And if you want to see more reactions, take a look at the readers' comments---114 at this writing---attached to Robin … [Read more...]

Beaux Arts on Botox: The Frick Collection’s Planned Expansion

Rendering of the Frick with expansion by Davis Brody Bond on right (seen from 70th
Street, looking west
Courtesy of
Neoscape Inc., 2014

More on this here. Following in the footsteps of the Morgan Library and Museum, another New York jewel-box museum established by a Gilded Age mogul/collector---the Frick Collection, founded by Henry Clay Frick---has outgrown its space and plans to expand. But without mentioning the Morgan, the Frick's press release announcing the expansion yesterday suggests that the approach to be taken by its architects, Davis Brody Bond, will be the antithesis of what Renzo wrought in 2006 under the Morgan's previous director, Charles Pierce Jr. Piano's … [Read more...]

Detroit Exploits: Today’s Grand Bargain Announcement (plus Detroit Institute’s more aggressive legal stance)

Detroit Institute of Arts director Graham Beal (and me)
Photo by

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) was not providing any advance details regarding its "major Grand Bargain announcement," planned for later this morning. After getting a heads-up from the museum on Friday about the planned announcement, I assumed it might have something to do with fundraising successes. At least some (if not all) of the news was leaked early to Detroit reporters by other sources: Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press reported that "leaders of the Detroit Institute of Arts will join Gov. Rick announce a … [Read more...]

My Q&A with Timothy Potts: Reinstalling the Getty Museum’s Antiquities (and more on the Getty Bronze)

Timothy Potts, director, J. Paul Getty Museum
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

The inscrutable Italian courts may have once again delayed their decision on the Getty Bronze case, but that doesn't mean CultureGrrl needs to hold off any longer from reporting about Getty Museum director Timothy Potts' plans to thoroughly overhaul the installation of his institution's antiquities holdings in the Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades, where the contested "Victorious Youth" is a signature work. When I was at the Getty researching my Pollock piece for the Wall Street Journal, I took the occasion to find out what Potts has been up to … [Read more...]

Getty Bronze Court Decision Postponed Again

"Victorious Youth," aka the Getty Bronze, 300-100 B.C.
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Italy's highest court, the Court of Procrastination...I mean, "Cassation," punted once again in the never-ending Getty Bronze case. This just in from the Getty Museum: The Court's official report, which was issued today, simply states: "Stayed pending hearing by the Constitutional Court." Why has the court repeatedly balked on bringing this case to conclusion? Might it be that the judges are reluctant to issue the decision that they feel is legally warranted but that would roil Italy's repatriationists? (A lower court ruling was in the … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition Launched; Armstrong Walks Off TV Interview

Elevated view of the competition site from
Restaurant Palace building, looking southeast 
Photo by Tuomas Uusheimo

Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation today announced in Helsinki the launch of the design competition for the Guggenheim Helsinki, which will need final approval from both the City of Helsinki and the State of Finland after the two-stage competition concludes. The winner of the competition is expected to be announced next June. According to a report by Finland's YLE News, Ari Wiseman, the Guggenheim's deputy director, revealed that "more than 800 pre-registrations have already been received ahead of … [Read more...]

Chagrin Over Pellegrin: NY Observer and Chris Crosman on “National Academy Eight” (with video)

The National Academy
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

The NY Observer's "Gallerist" and I approached the story of the National Academy Eight---staffers abruptly fired on Thursday---from different angles in stories that we published yesterday. (Theirs came first.) Taken together, our pieces piece together the complicated, troubling situation there, still unfolding. (I suspect that the NY Times will eventually move this ball down the field.) M.H. Miller's story in "Gallerist" focused on the new Academy position of creative director, assumed by Maurizio Pellegrin, whom Miller interviewed to … [Read more...]

News Flash: Financially Challenged National Academy Restructures and “Streamlines” Its Staff

They have left the building: National Academy curators Marshall Price and Bruce Weber at Sept. 2011 press preview for reopened, renovated National Academy
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

UPDATE: More on this here. We interrupt the upbeat program of the annual meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors to bring you some downbeat news from the National Academy in New York. As you may remember, that financially challenged institution had incurred AAMD's wrath for its 2008 stealth deaccessions of important paintings by Frederic Edwin Church and Sanford Robinson Gifford to help fund operations and defray debts---a story that I broke on CultureGrrl. According to Carmine Branagan, the Academy's director, no subsequent art … [Read more...]

Rotter Chatter: How Sotheby’s, with Reconstituted Board, May Recharge Contemporary Art Sales

Alex Rotter, Sotheby's Co-Head of Worldwide Contemporary Art. in front of Basquiat, "Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi," 1983
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

If you follow my tweets @CultureGrrl, you already know that I attended yesterday's annual meeting at Sotheby's, which elevated activist investor Daniel Loeb from a thorn in Sotheby's side to its newly elected board member (joined on the board by his two hand-picked candidates---Harry Wilson, an expert in corporate restructurings and turnarounds and Olivier Reza, president of Reza Gem, a French jewelry company). In victory laps before and after the meeting, Loeb chatted up new and old board members, but seemed to stay clear of CEO William … [Read more...]

Caravaggio Viaggio: My Public Radio Chat on Museums’ Art Rentals with Tim Rub and Steve Litt (with audio)

Caravaggio, "The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew," 1606-1607, Cleveland Museum of Art

One of the first things I did last week while Lost Around Los Angeles was grant a phone interview to David Barnett, senior arts reporter and producer for ideastream, the Cleveland-based public broadcasting outlet. He wanted my views on a topic that I've frequently fulminated about---some museums' exploitation of their collections as cash cows by renting them for high fees to sister institutions, contrary to the customary practice of collegial loans. The short-term financial benefits of this gambit had inspired Sicily to make a last-minute … [Read more...]

Lost Around Los Angeles: My West Coast Storify

Alexander Calder, "Three Quintains (Hello Girls)," 1964, Director's Roundtable Garden at Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

I've just burrowed into my blog-cave after a week away in not-so-sunny California on a vacation that ended with a friend's wedding celebration. Although I didn't blog, I did (as promised) tweet some art-related musings @CultureGrrl. With my usual nose for news, I stumbled upon an interesting occurence (described below) while on an "unofficial" visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to catch its must-see Frank Gehry-designed Calder retrospective, consisting largely (but not entirely) of works from the Calder Foundation. I also … [Read more...]

Is It William Griswold? Cleveland Museum to Announce New Director Tomorrow UPDATED

Director William Griswold in J.P. Morgan’s library at the Morgan Library and Museum

UPDATE: It is, indeed, Griswold, who will start his new gig this fall. Here's the Cleveland Museum's official announcement. We'll find out tomorrow if I'm right, but what I've learned from a good (if not quite airtight) source is that the Cleveland Museum of Art is poised to name its new director tomorrow morning, and that he's none other than William Griswold, the incomparable director of the Morgan Library and Museum, where the job had matched his specialty---prints and drawings. If he is, in fact, the director-designate, the Cleveland … [Read more...]

Pulling the Rug Out from Under the Corcoran and Disregarding William Corcoran’s Deed

Clark "Sickle-Leaf" carpet, probably Kirman, South Persia, 17th century, approximately 8' 9" by 6' 5"
Sold for $TK million

Est. $5/7 million

Only by reverse-engineering the deal signed on Thursday by the Corcoran Gallery and college, the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University does the Corcoran's auction of its Clark "Sickle-Leaf" carpet, almost a year ago, start to make sense. Why would the financially floundering Corcoran have sold one of its great treasure for the stated purpose---to bankroll acquisitions---at a time with its future existence was in serious doubt? I've wondered about that ever since the time of that problematic, perplexing June 5 disposal, … [Read more...]

Not a Done Deal: Court Approval Still Needed for Just-Signed Corcoran Agreement

Protected in the agreement: One of the Canova lions guarding the Corcoran
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Exactly an hour after the details were published in the Washington Post, this press release from the National Gallery of Art (NGA) hit my inbox, regarding the belated signing of the final agreements (originally slated for Apr. 7) for the planned merger by the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University (GW). I subsequently also received this FAQs document about plans for the merger. Under the terms of the agreement, "the Corcoran building will close to the … [Read more...]

Contemporary Sales: Aside from Sender’s “Ahead of the Curve,” Sotheby’s Remains Behind the Curve

Oliver Barker, auctioneer at tonight's contemporary art sale at Sotheby's

With Sotheby's continuing to lag far behind arch-rival Christie's in the high-profile, high-stakes contemporary art field, I couldn't help but wonder if all the recent turmoil that has embroiled it---including the unceremonious departure of contemporary art head Tobias Meyer and culminating in the costly surrender to activist investor Dan Loeb's unwanted advances---may have further weakened it. With Loeb's shareholder value-oriented agenda, we can expect some changes in the not-so-distant future. But what they will be and whether they will … [Read more...]

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