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The Cost of the Met Breuer (and other nuggets from Metropolitan Museum’s FY16 financials)

Back in April, the Metropolitan Museum's president, Daniel Weiss, declined to disclose to me the cost of renovating the Whitney Museum's Breuer building, now repurposed (at least temporarily) as the Met Breuer. Thanks to the Met's annual report for fiscal 2016 (now online), the truth can now be told: Some $10.43 million was spent in FY16 and $2.52 million in FY15 for the "Breuer Building Preoccupancy Upgrade"---a total of $12.95 million. Weiss previously told me (see my top-linked post) that the renovation costs had been "funded through … [Read more...]

Slam from “Ham”: Unpacking the (Lin-Manuel) Miranda Warning for Mike Pence (& for Trump)

I've been off-blog too long---a combination of mainstream-media commitments and technological trauma (new computer). Let me start playing catch-up by addressing the latest arts/politics flashpoint: the "Hamilton" show vs. the Trump Show. I'll begin by coming out of my political closet: I disagree with almost everything the President-elect said to get himself elected, which gets validated on Dec. 19 by the Electoral College (barring the unimaginable). I'm in good company: Now Donald Trump himself seems to disagree with almost everything he … [Read more...]

Snowball’s Chance in Helsinki: Guggenheim Again Seeks Council Approval (plus Abu Dhabi update)

Will the Guggenheim Helsinki, proposed in 2011 and stalled ever since, finally get off the drawing board? On Monday, the Helsinki City Board voted 8-7 to revive this persistent project, which will be up for approval by the full 85-member City Council on Nov. 30. In May 2012, the City Board had voted 8-7 to stop it. The project was recently dealt another serious blow when the Finnish Government, in its fall budget negotiations, declined to provide any funds for the proposed museum. This prompted a rushed revision of the financial plan, … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Puts a Good Face on an Ugly Loss During (Non-)Earnings Conference Call

Sotheby's officials usually try to find something to crow about in their quarterly conference calls with analysts. But it's hard to sound bullish in the face of a third-quarter net loss of $54.5 million, as compared to a $17.9-million loss for the same period a year ago. The third quarter, when relatively few auctions are scheduled, is traditionally weak for the auction houses. This year's was super-weak, with a $211-million decline in net auction sales, compared to the same quarter last year. That was partly due to the shift of London's … [Read more...]

“I’m Still Here” (despite buyouts): My Q&A with Keith Christiansen at the Met’s “Valentin de Boulogne”

By some strange curatorial telepathy, the Metropolitan Museum's justly acclaimed Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio (to Jan. 16) bears a title closely resembling that of a major show at another world-class museum: Less than a week after the Met's show opened, the National Gallery, London, unveiled Beyond Caravaggio, which, from its description, covers similar ground to the great Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome that I saw (and wrote about) five years ago at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. All photos by Lee … [Read more...]

“Showtime” at the Met for Kerry James Marshall: All that Glitters…?

It's no wonder that Chicago artist Kerry James Marshall, a youthful 61, murmured, "Showtime," as he strode through the Met Breuer's press scrum yesterday, turned to the crowd that filled the lobby, and raised his arms triumphantly before making introductory remarks at his highly anticipated retrospective: There had been so much fervid media acclaim, in advance of the show, for the nearly 80-work, two-floor display that I wondered if my own deficiencies had caused me to feel unexpectedly disappointed by Kerry James Marshall: Mastry … [Read more...]

Reshuffling the Deck: An Illustrated Companion to My WSJ Piece on National Gallery Reinstallations

Although my Wall Street Journal piece, A Capital Overhaul at the National Gallery, on the reinvented and revitalized permanent collection displays, was generously granted three images by my editors, I think readers often crave a chance to see the other works discussed. You wish, artlings, is CultureGrrl's demand. Below are most of the works whose images didn't make it into the article, along with a few other related works and additional information and commentary. But what I didn't have space to tell you in yesterday's artcle is that … [Read more...]

“Capital Overhaul”: My WSJ Review of National Gallery’s Reinvented East & Strengthened West

If you've been wondering why I've been AWOL from the blog, here's the answer: A Capital Overhaul at the National Gallery, my review in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal (online now). The reinstallations of the permanent collection---comprehensive in the renovated, expanded East Building (modern and contemporary art), far-reaching in the West Building (historic collections)---amount to a reinvention and revitalization of the institution. Here's the cast of curators who reshuffled the deck with provocative pairings and strengthened representation … [Read more...]

Ethereal & Otherworldly: Transported by Agnes Martin at the Guggenheim

The mesmerizing Agnes Martin survey, organized by the Tate Modern and now gracing the Guggenheim Museum's rotunda (to Jan. 11), enraptured me from the start: In the pocket gallery just off the first ramp is a perfectly lit, glowing array of "The Islands," 1979, a series of 12 panels owned by the Whitney Museum that can make you feel mesmerized and even a little woozy, if you stare long enough to allow them to overcome you. The problem with these rhapsodies in modulated whites, lightly delineated with pencil, is that they defy photographic … [Read more...]

Wilsey or Won’t She? FASMF’s Board Head Defies Regime Change (plus: Albright-Knox name change)

Now she's a board chair, not president. But whatever names you call her, it appears that Diane ("Dede") Wilsey has out-maneuvered the proponents of regime change at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The smartest move in this continuing chess game comes from Max Hollein, FAMSF's new director, who (in conformance with professional guidelines [p. 5] for art museum directors) has rightly assumed the CEO position that was previously held by Wilsey: When asked by the San Francisco Chronicle's Phil Matier and Andy Ross if he "expected less … [Read more...]

Tech Crash at Metropolitan Museum: “Digital Underground” Buried? UPDATED

While I've been distracted from blogging by mainstream-media assignments (one completed, the other in process), I've been itching to weigh in on several important museum developments. Let's start with Metropolitan Museum President Daniel Weiss' tough-love strategies to address the shocking financial crisis that he inherited. Museum digerati may disagree, but I welcome the indications (not yet confirmed to me by the museum's press office) that the money-saving cutbacks may include the closing of the museum's run-amok MediaLab, which I've … [Read more...]

“Polemical History Lesson”: Illustrated Companion to my WSJ Piece on the Brooklyn Museum’s American Rehang

There's a difference between displaying political art and politicizing art. As I argue in A Polemical History Lesson, my piece in today's Wall Street Journal, the Brooklyn Museum's rehang and reinterpretation of its American art collection crosses that line, fixating on everything that's shameful or elitist about our country's past. Other critics have praised the new interpretive spin for eschewing American "triumphalism." But after a while, I began to feel that I was intended to hang my head in shame, rather than revel in the verve of our … [Read more...]

Adulated Adjaye: Acclaimed in DC, Under-the-Radar in NYC (with video) UPDATED

While there's been widespread critical acclaim for David Adjaye's $540-million (including installation of displays) National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington (opening Saturday), few New Yorkers have heard of, let alone visited, his $84.7-million, 13-story Sugar Hill Project, commissioned by Broadway Housing Communities in Harlem: Photos by Lee Rosenbaum I toured the project about a year ago, when its ambitious Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling was about to open, and got to chat with the architect, … [Read more...]

Carmen Herrera, 101-Year-Old Overnight Success, Gets Her Whitney Close-Up (with video)

Given her centenarian status, I was astonished by the Whitney Museum's decision to schedule its Carmen Herrera show to open more than a year after the Whitney had unveiled its new facility. I felt the show should have been fast-tracked at all costs, to increase the odds that this doggedly persistent, under-recognized artist would live to see it. Happily, Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight (to Jan. 2), did not turn out to be a memorial exhibition: The feisty artist, now 101, is still working and at last getting some very belated adulation. … [Read more...]

From Private Delectation to Public Display: The Prado’s Once Hidden Nudes Flaunted at the Clark

The seemingly robust attendance (figures not yet available) at the Clark Art Institute's current summer extravaganza---Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado (to Oct. 10)---runs counter to Robin Pogrebin's assertion in the NY Times on Monday that "many experts are questioning" whether old masters "can stay relevant at auction houses, galleries and museums." That analysis seems to me more relevant to art-market preoccupations than to museum visitors' predilections. The Clark's ability to host this stimulating (pun intended) … [Read more...]

The “Scoop” that Wasn’t: Fisher Collection’s 75%-25% Rule at SFMOMA Exposed Six Years Ago (with Storify)

In my previous post about the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's deal to display the coveted Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, I took the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Charles Desmarais at his word and credited him with having "dislodged" (as he described it) previously undisclosed information about problematic concessions made by the museum to snare this 100-year loan. Particularly troubling to me was the requirement that "no more than 25 percent of what is on view [in the three floors of Fisher-named galleries] may come from other lenders … [Read more...]

SFMOMA’s Seismic Fisher Fissure: “Integration with the Museum’s Collection”? UPDATED & CLARIFIED

The San Francisco Chronicle's Charles Desmarais last weekend blasted the lid off a huge hole in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's description of the strictures governing its 100-year mega-loan of the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection. CLARIFICATION: I subsequently learned that some of the details that Desmarais "dislodged" (his word) had been published in the NY Times six years ago by Carol Kino. Details here. In his report on his Fisher fishing expedition---Unraveling SFMOMA’s Deal for the Fisher Collection---the newspaper's art … [Read more...]

Twerking the Berkshires: Storify & Video from My Workation

If you've been following my @CultureGrrl Twitter feed, you know that I made the rounds of Berkshire museums this week. It was meant to be a mini-vacation. But then I kept seeing things that I wanted to praise---the Williams College Museum's eclectic mix of thought-provoking exhibitions; Richard Nonas' massive railroad-tie installation (in sync with MASS MoCA's industrial vibe)---and others that I wanted to criticize---Alex Da Corte's inappropriate appropriation of Joseph Beuy's "Lightning with Stag in Its Glare" (also at MASS MoCA); all the … [Read more...]

False Confidence? A Closer Look at Sotheby’s 2nd-Quarter Report that Lifted Its Stock

The economic picture painted by Sotheby's in its Form 10-Q second-quarter report (filed with the SEC on Monday) was not as rosy as stock traders seemed to have believed. Notwithstanding the uptick in its share price, Sotheby's auction commission revenues declined by 11% and 17%, respectively, for the first three and six months of 2016, compared to the same periods in 2015. What's more, CEO Tad Smith told participants in Monday's earnings conference call that the company's "overall sales volume" this year was "down some 30%." And CFO Mike … [Read more...]

Clark Lark: What Will I Miss on My Busman’s Holiday? (Sotheby’s edition)

Anyone within driving distance of Williamstown, MA, who has read Lance Esplund's voluptuous review in the Wall Street Journal of the Clark Art Institute's Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes From the Prado must be exclaiming, "Road trip!" I'm on it. What I'll likely be missing (unless I break my resolve for a blogging hiatus next week, with occasional tweets) is Monday morning's Sotheby's conference call with securities analysts. This should be more newsworthy than usual, thanks to the acquisition late last month of more than 7.9 … [Read more...]

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