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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


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


"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


“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...]

Dismissive Missive: Could Peer Pressure Put an End to Guggenheim’s Abu Dhabi Misadventure?

Image of photo of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi model, shown at Philadelphia Museum's recent Frank Gehry show
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation thus far has resisted the demands of rowdy demonstrators decrying its continued involvement in Abu Dhabi, where workers rights violations have persisted, notwithstanding the Guggenheim's efforts to encourage reform. But now the Guggenheim finds itself confronted by critics who it can't so easily dismiss: Major museum officials (including Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, and Sheena Wagstaff, chairman of the Metropolitan Museum's department of modern and contemporary art) have violated … [Read more...]

Bubble Alert: Are Third-Party Guarantors Inflating the Art Market? UPDATE


UPDATE: More on this here. Whenever an artwork sells at auction for more than any previous work has fetched (as with Munch's "The Scream" and Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud"), the pundits pile on, decrying the questionable taste of megabucks buyers and the self-centered values of the 1%. They enjoy a frisson of schadenfreude at the prospect that the art-market bubble may soon burst. Until now, I haven't joined the chorus: Dissenting from the detractors, I admired both of the above-mentioned record-smashing works (particularly … [Read more...]

“Breaking the Brand”: Malcolm Rogers Reflects on Successful, Controversial Directorship at Museum of Fine Arts Boston (with video)

Malcolm Rogers, BMFA director, speaking at last week's NYC press lunch
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Malcolm Rogers, retiring Aug. 3 from his 21-year stint as director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (the longest such tenure in that museum's history), will soon be going the George Goldner route: He plans to advise a wealthy art-collecting couple. In announcing last January's retirement from the Metropolitan Museum, Goldner, who was chairman of its department of drawings and prints since 1993 (and, before that, curator at the Getty Museum), disclosed his plan to "work as an advisor to Leon Black, a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum, in … [Read more...]

Parsing Pasternak: What Were the Brooklyn Museum’s Trustees Thinking?

Anne Pasternak, next director of the Brooklyn Museum

Help Wanted: Direct one of this country's major encyclopedic museums. No museum experience required. If Phillips Oppenheim, the headhunting firm responsible for the Brooklyn Museum's director's search, had put out such a wacky solicitation, an uproar of incredulity would have ensued. More likely, its job description (which I have not seen) for the position now awarded to museum neophyte Anne Pasternak would have included a variation on the requirements in the same search firm's publicly posted job description for the still unannounced new … [Read more...]

Pro Bono Ono: Yoko Sees Her MoMA Show as Encouragement for Those Long Overlooked (with video)

Screenshot from Yoko Ono's and John Lennon's "Bed-In for Peace," 1969
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

For those (like me) who sometimes feel that no one notices the quality of the work they're doing, Yoko Ono's remarks about the significance of her belated close-up at the Museum of Modern Art, Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971, should resonate. Then again, most of us don't have an internationally famous partner to participate in our projects and help boost our public profiles: Coincidentally, Ono's partial retrospective (covering only 11 years of her long career) opened at the same time that the NY Times was publishing a piece, … [Read more...]

Whither the Whitney? Outtakes from My Tour of the New Whitney with Donna De Salvo and Carter Foster

The two Marsden Hartleys that confront visitors coming off the elevator at the beginning of the Whitney's installation
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

"We’re expecting a very detailed review from you now," the indispensable Donna De Salvo warned me, with a slight edge to her voice, when we had reached about the midway point of the very extensive tour she gave me (for my Wall Street Journal article) of the Whitney Museum's expanded, reinterpreted and refreshed installation of its permanent collection. I gulped and said nothing, knowing l that the WSJ's "Arts in Review" page could allow me only about 1,200 words, tops, to evaluate the entire installation (which I greatly admired, with … [Read more...]

Give Yoko Ono a Chance: Pioneering Conceptual Artist Belatedly Gets Her MoMA Show

Yoko Ono at MoMA press preview
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

There are very few museum shows that make me smile from beginning to end. But I suddenly realized that I and several other women I encountered at Tuesday's press preview were walking around with goofy grins at Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971, which opens Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art. One could argue that the trajectory of a show devoted to a living and still working artist should have been a full retrospective, rather than ending in 1971. But as Glenn Lowry, MoMA's director, explained it, this was the show that MoMA could have … [Read more...]

Christie’s Maintains Contemporary-Art Dominance with $658.53-Million Sale


I've attended countless major art auctions, both in person and online, but I've never seen an ending quite like the one at Christie's contemporary sale tonight. The ingratiating and efficient auctioneer, Jussi Pylkkänen, perhaps seeking to avoid an uncomfortably anemic ovation like that received by Oliver Barker the night before at Sotheby's, called upon whoever was still left at the end of the 82-lot sale to applaud the winning bidder on the final lot. "Let's have a round of applause for Larry," he gamely urged the stragglers. That was … [Read more...]

Slinging the Art-Market Lingo: A Crash Course for Confused Journalists

The scene last night at Sotheby's

All of the muddled misinformation and misinterpretations being dispensed this week by well-intentioned but insufficiently informed art-market journalists are beginning to set my teeth on edge. In advance of tonight's numbingly long Christie's contemporary sale (85 lots, unless some are withdrawn), below is a timely corrective. It is intended to be helpful, not accusatory: I will not name the guilty, but for those of you who have been following the sales coverage, some of this may sound familiar: PRESALE ESTIMATE: This is what it says it … [Read more...]

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