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New Yorker’s Bad Role Model for Berkshire Museum: NY Historical Society’s “Responsible” Sales

In his well-intentioned but flawed Oct. 4 New Yorker article, The Lost Masterpieces of Norman Rockwell Country, Felix Salmon demonstrates more understanding of museum ethics than the leaders of the embattled Berkshire Museum possess. But that's not quite enough. When a conscientious journalist doesn't quite "get it," those who do---including the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums---clearly need to do a better job in educating the public about the thorny issues surrounding the sales of objects from museum … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Timothy Cahill, Regional Art Writer, on Berkshire Museum’s Decline (& how it should regroup)

Timothy Cahill, a veteran journalist and critic focused on the Berkshire art scene, responds to CultureGrrl Video: My Opinionated Tour of the Embattled Berkshire Museum: I watched the video of the your visit to the Berkshire Museum with mixed feelings. I'm glad you made it up here and grateful you keep training your light on what's happening with the misguided sale. But it sure is sad to see through the eyes of a visitor just how diminished the museum has become. The young mom you spoke to at the beginning is right: The exhibits, especially … [Read more...]

How Might the Guggenheim Museum Have Dodged the Pit-Bull Onslaught?

The short answer to my headline is: by realizing in advance that works predicated upon artist-inflicted cruelty to animals are morally repugnant and have no place in a museum display. Such was the case with the three pieces withdrawn from the Guggenheim's upcoming Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World (Oct. 6-Jan. 7), organized by senior curator Alexandra Munroe. Munroe told @artnet that @Guggenheim was "prepared" for China show critics ...or maybe not — Lee Rosenbaum (@CultureGrrl) … [Read more...]

CultureGrrl Video: My Opinionated Tour of the Embattled Berkshire Museum

Having written extensively and critically (four links) about the Berkshire Museum's deaccession plans, I thought I ought to revisit that embattled institution in person. I'd been there twice before, decades ago, before my skiing knees gave out. It seemed to me largely frozen in time (save for the solar panel): At the end of this post is my CultureGrrl Video of what I saw and thought during my two-hour journey through the galleries on Monday. Have patience, art-lings: The gallery for the paintings in the very eclectic (and now about to be … [Read more...]

Smith Smites: Tom Campbell’s Precipitous Fall from Favor (plus, my I-told-you-so)

Now that we know what the Metropolitan Museum wants in its next director, I'm going to allow myself an I-told-you-so moment about its last director, responding to Roberta Smith's recent autopsy of Tom Campbell's trouble-plagued tenure. Her negative appraisal of his "financial mismanagement and overreach" and her recommendations for the Met's future (a female director; no adoption of the mandatory admission charge that has been proposed) appeared in Sunday's hardcopy of the NY Times (almost a week after being posted online). As if she had … [Read more...]

Breaking: Metropolitan Museum’s Job Description for Its Next Director (contrasted with its last one)

This just in---the memo sent today to the Metropolitan Museum's staff by president and CEO Dan Weiss, followed by the text of the job description for the new director. Here are excerpts from Dan's memo: Dear Colleagues, I want to provide an update on the Director search, specifically to share the position description (attached) that has been developed over the past several months. Led by Trustees Candace Beinecke and Richard Chilton, the search process began in the spring. Since then, more than 400 staff members and Trustees have … [Read more...]

Berserk in the Berkshires: Museum’s Perverse Plan Underscores Need for Government Regulations

The sad saga of the Berkshire Museum's descent into madness---its wrongheaded, self-destructive obsession with solving its financial problems by selling off the best works in its collection---reaffirms my long-held conviction that strict laws and/or ironclad government regulations (such as those enacted in 2011 in New York) are urgently needed to protect the public's patrimony from being squandered by inadequate administrators and untrustworthy trustees. As recent history has shown, interventions, censures and sanctions by individual … [Read more...]

Breaking (& heartbreaking): Sotheby’s Releases Checklist & Price Estimates of Berkshire Museum Disposals UPDATED

Read 'em and weep. Sotheby's has just released the checklist (with presale estimates and sale dates) for the Berkshire Museum 40. Apparently the seller and its agent don't believe that the Massachusetts Attorney General's interest in the deaccessions will pose any impediment. The two top lots (no surprise) are the Rockwells, to be sold along with 12 other Berkshire Museum works at the Nov. 13 American art sale: Here are the two next highest-estimated lots in the American art sale: The rest of the works, scattered among at least five later … [Read more...]

How to Save the Berkshire Museum: A Roadmap Provided by the Endangered Danforth Art Museum

Could Williams College come to the rescue of the foundering Berkshire Museum and its endangered collection? The financially challenged Danforth Art Museum\School has shown how this might be done, with its director's announcement of a yet-to-be-finalized "thoughtful and mutually beneficial" merger agreement with Framingham State University (FSU). The Danforth solution is contingent on the Town of Framingham's allowing FSU to purchase the museum's building. (The potential stumbling blocks are detailed in this Boston Globe article.) I've … [Read more...]

In Harvey’s Wake: An Update on Houston MFA and the Menil Collection

Updates to my previous post on the effects of Hurricane Harvey on two of Houston's premier art museums: ---The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which stood up well to the hurricane, reopens to the public on Tuesday, Sept. 5, with regular hours. Admission, usually $18 for non-senior adults, will be free through Sept. 7, giving hard-hit residents a welcome respite from coping with widespread devastation. Featured in the MFAH's temporary exhibition of work by Pipilotti Rist is an installation comfortingly titled, "Worry Will … [Read more...]

Hurricane Harvey & Museums: Houston MFA, Menil Collection in Relatively Good Shape UPDATED TWICE

UPDATED again here. This just in from Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in response to my query about how his institution has been weathering the Hurricane Harvey maelstrom: We did not have to evacuate any art out of our buildings. Our main campus facilities and our art storage building are in good shape. We do not yet know when we will reopen; that largely depends on when streets become navigable. But our main campus buildings have fared well, thanks to the expert preparations of our hurricane task force and … [Read more...]

Berkshire Bumble: Director’s Letter Reveals Focus Groups Kept in the Dark About Planned Art Sales

In the sell-job for its New Vision, the Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA, has made much of the fact that "approximately 400 people have participated in the community consultation process" during the planning phase. But a letter (text obtained by CultureGrrl and posted below), sent this week by director Van Shields to members of the museum's community focus groups, reveals that most of them were given no heads-up that the museum was strongly considering a sell-off 40 works---the cream of its collection---to bankroll a multimedia … [Read more...]

Resistance Insistence: Museums (& CultureGrrl) Grapple with Political Turmoil UPDATED

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. ---the late Heather Heyer Like most of you, I've been "paying attention" all week---upset and obsessed with the Charlottesville explosion and its toxic fallout. I've finally emerged from my apartment complex's fallout shelter. I haven't felt up to tweeting, let along posting, on my usual subject---the artworld---since a few hours after I tweeted this about my last blog post on the demonstration in Pittsfield protesting the Berkshire Museum deaccessions: Seems fatuous for me to … [Read more...]

Save the Forsaken 40! Protest March Tomorrow by Opponents of Berkshire Museum’s Art Sales UPDATED

Opponents of the Berkshire Museum's planned sale of 40 artworks from its collection plan to stage a protest march tomorrow (Saturday), 9 a.m.-noon, on the sidewalk in front of the Berkshire Museum, South Street, Pittsfield, MA. Yesterday evening, Leslie Ferrin of Ferrin Contemporary (a gallery for contemporary ceramics) told me this about the plan: We hope to engage the Berkshire community, first by simply letting them know that we exist, and welcome all who’d like to participate in the protest to join in. We are planning subsequent … [Read more...]

Pink Jinx? Sotheby’s Still Awaits Payment for Record-Setting $71.2-Million “Pink Star” Diamond

When the Pink Star---a 59.60-carat, oval, internally flawless diamond---fetched $71.2 million (including buyers premium) at Sotheby's Hong Kong on Apr. 4, it was touted by the auction house as setting a "New World Auction Record for Any Diamond or Jewel." That amount was considerably less, however, than the aborted $83-million Sotheby's sale of that the same gem in 2013---a transaction never consummated "because the buyer...never paid and the auction house had to reclaim the stone," as reported by Bloomberg's Corinne Gretler. Now it … [Read more...]

Memo to Berkshire Museum: Homeless National Academy Suspends Its School, Slashes Price for Its Posh Digs

The Berkshire Museum's self-proclaimed deaccession-or-die desperation measure has triggered traumatic flashbacks to the National Academy's failed attempt to secure its future by selling off important works by Frederic Edwin Church and Sanford Robinson Gifford---a story I broke and closely followed on CultureGrrl. In light of the widely condemned, deplorable developments in Pittsfield, it's high time we checked on how things are going in New York at the venerable but tottering National Academy Museum and School. For the Berkshire … [Read more...]

“Deeply Opposed”: Joint Statement by AAMD & AAM Blasts Berkshire Museum’s Planned Art Sales UPDATED TWICE

I predicted in my previous post that the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums were "likely to exert pushback" against the Berkshire Museum's deplorable deaccession plans. Now they have, after communicating with the errant museum's leadership earlier today via teleconference.                 This just in from AAM and AAMD. While they've collaborated on other issues, this is, to my knowledge, the first time they've joined forces for a joint … [Read more...]

Berkshire Museum Disposables: Bierstadts, Bouguereaus, Calders, Church, Inness, “George Washington”

More on this here. The hit list is out. The Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA, today identified all 40 works that it intends to sell through Sotheby's to bankroll its $60-million reinvention plan. Based on this report in the Berkshire Eagle, I had previously written that the museum's Calder mobiles were "not being sold." In fact, two landmark 1932 Calders---"Dancing Torpedo Shape" and "Double Arc and Sphere"---are headed for auction unless opposition derails them. Other highlights leaving the building include Church's "Valley of the Santa … [Read more...]

“Public Trust” Bust: Berkshire Museum to Jettison 40 Works (including 2 artist-donated Rockwells) UPDATED

More on this here, here and here. Why should it matter if the Berkshires lose two major paintings by Norman Rockwell, when there are already so many in the vicinity? That mindless mindset seems to be driving the deplorable decision by the Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA, to monetize, in a series of Sotheby's auctions, some 40 artworks in its collection, including Rockwell's "Shuffleton's Barbershop" and "Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop." Astonishingly (and not disclosed in the announcement), the donor to the museum of the two Rockwells … [Read more...]

Bible Bumble: The Befuddled Build-Up to the New Museum of the Bible

How is the ambitious, soon-to-open Museum of the Bible (MOTB) hoping to repair the collateral damage to its reputation, now that Hobby Lobby---the crafts and home decor company led by the museum's founder, chairman and mega-donor, Steve Green---has been roundly condemned by the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York for committing antiquities-collecting sins of biblical proportions? The museum's face-saving strategy is to distance itself from this debacle. According to the museum's statement, as reported by the … [Read more...]

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