an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

Welcome CultureGranddaughter!

As you my have surmised from Sunday's tweet, this week I'm doting, not blogging! … [Read more...]

Perfect Pairings: Frick Draws on Van Dyck’s Drawings to Illuminate His Portrait Paintings

It takes not only brains but also curatorial brawn (which powerful institutions are in the best position to exert) to wrest seldom loaned choice works from discerning, possessive lenders. One of the many joys of two recently opened curatorial triumphs in New York---Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture (to June 5) at the Frick Collection and Degas: A Strange New Beauty (to July 24) at the Museum of Modern Art (more on that in a later post)---was a chance to see pairs of works that belong together and richly inform each other, but are usually … [Read more...]

Darts for Dartmouth: Hood Museum Has Less Moore in Tod Williams Billie Tsien’s Makeover (with video)

Win some, lose some: While adding five new galleries and increasing floor space by 50%, the much delayed $50-million expansion and renovation of Dartmouth College's Hood Museum will be less ambitious than originally planned in 2012. And for the next three years, students will be largely deprived of access to an important educational resource that may have attracted them to Hanover, NH, in the first place---the museum's eclectic 65,000-object collection. The Hood closed on Mar. 13. Construction is to start late this summer, with reopening … [Read more...]

Max Facts: How Hollein Straddles the Divides Between Contemporary/Historic, Tech/Traditional

When I interviewed him more than a year ago over lunch in New York, Frankfurt museum director Max Hollein and I were obsessed with technology. I was then working on this Wall Street Journal article about how museums use technology to improve the gallery experience (or not). He was promoting the new Digital Extension initiative at the Städel Museum, one of the three Frankfurt museums that he currently directs. Now poised to lead the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in the Tech Capital of the World, after having helped celebrate the … [Read more...]

Nuzzling Brussels: The Musical Instruments Museum Tweets Through the Tears

Horrified, as we all were, by the news from Brussels, I surfed yesterday to the website of a museum there that I'd always wanted to visit---the Musical Instruments Museum. My jaw dropped when I saw this intro on MIM's visitor information page: Everything you need to know to avoid unpleasant surprises. Tuesday's supremely "unpleasant surprise," which forced the closure of all Brussels museums (including MIM), moved me to tweet this: Sadly ironic: "Everything you need to know to avoid unpleasant surprises"--from @MIMBrussels' visitor info … [Read more...]

Fine with Hollein: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Snare an International Standout as Director

The last time I interviewed Max Hollein, 46, who has just been named to become the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco's new director (effective June 1), he was in New York for the November 2014 annual meeting of the Bizot Group (aka the International Group of Organizers of Large Scale Exhibitions), for which he then was (and still is) chairman. Bizot consists of the heads of about 60 of the world's leading museums, who convene to compare notes and grapple with hot-button issues affecting their institutions. The first time I met Max, we … [Read more...]

MoMA’s Degas Monotypes Press Conference: My Cantankerous Cameo (with video)

I've already awarded myself the Hilton Kramer Award for Old Fogey-ism. Lately, I've been feeling more and more like the Helen Thomas of art journalism. Thomas, UPI's (and later, Hearst Newspapers') veteran White House correspondent, was a persistent gadfly, notorious for asking the first or second questions at Presidential news conferences. (Hopefully, my career won't meet a similarly ignominious end.) My sense of identification with Thomas was cemented today at the Museum of Modern Art, courtesy of a playful remark to me by director Glenn … [Read more...]

Another “Stealth Deaccession”: National Academy to Sell Its Buildings UPDATED

Randy Kennedy of the NY Times beat me to this story, which I sat on for almost two weeks, because of my Met Breuer obsession. In a story posted online last night, Kennedy reported that the Academy plans "to sell two Beaux-Arts buildings on Fifth Avenue at 89th Street that have been its home since 1942." On Mar. 5, one of my confidential sources had emailed this to me: Apparently within the last two weeks, more staff members have either been let go, "encouraged to resign." or left....News is that a group of realtors have recently been given a … [Read more...]

Introducing the Met Breuer on Opening Day: Two Videos

It's been exhaustively covered---on CultureGrrl (here, here and here) and in virtually all art-interested American publications. But at 10 a.m. today, the general public can at last get to see what we've been writing about---the new Met Breuer: I don't know whether director Thomas Campbell intends to greet the first visitors, as Adam Weinberg did last May at the opening of the new Downtown Whitney: But you can be welcomed by Tom now on CultureGrrl, via my video of his introductory remarks at the Met Breuer's press preview, … [Read more...]

Buoyant about Met Breuer: My Q&A with Metropolitan Museum President Daniel Weiss–Part II

Part I is here. The last of the Metropolitan Museum’s “Five-Year Strategic Goals,” listed in the Mission Statement of its latest annual report, is to “to enable greater transparency, efficiency, collaboration and communication” (emphases added): Judging from my inability to gain some basic information about the costs and provisions of the Met Breuer deal with the Whitney, there’s still some work to be done on the transparency front. Last week, Daniel Weiss, the Met’s president, did share with me substantial information and insights about … [Read more...]

Buoyant about Met Breuer: My Q&A with Metropolitan Museum President Daniel Weiss–Part I

Part II is here. After many months of trying to extract detailed information from the Metropolitan Museum's press office about its operations at the Met Breuer (opening Mar. 18), my dogged persistence was rewarded last week with a brief but informative interview with its president, Daniel Weiss. One of the things I learned is that the Met has projected a worrisome operating deficit this fiscal year of $8.2 million---its largest shortfall in four years. (More details on this below.) Some of my key questions about the financial … [Read more...]

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...]

an ArtsJournal blog