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Robust App, Weak Tours: My WSJ Review of SFMOMA’s Technological Transformation

I seem to have landed the museum-tech beat on the Wall Street Journal's "Arts in Review" page. In tomorrow's Personal Journal section (online now), you can read: At SFMOMA, Tech and Culture Meet---my mixed review of the newly expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's digital transformation. In my previous digital adventure---The Brave New Museum Sputters Into Life---I groused that several art museums’ high-tech interpretive aids were “unintuitive, inadequately explained, or exasperatingly dysfunctional.” SFMOMA's robust new app, by … [Read more...]

Willful Wilsey Wilts: Regime Change at Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The long overdue wresting of control over the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco from a bejeweled socialite and consummate fundraiser, Diane "Dede" Wilsey, is finally occurring under the museums' new director, Max Hollein, who assumed his post on June 1. What we don't yet know is whether Max impelled this change or just got lucky. In her dual role as FAMSF's board president and CEO, Wilsey was an eccentric, capricious leader, delaying the naming of a successor to late director John Buchanan on the shaky grounds that the staff needed more … [Read more...]

“The Keeper” Sleeper: The New Museum Displays the Harrowing “Sketchbook from Auschwitz”

"Start on the fourth floor, but make sure not to miss the second floor," New Museum director Lisa Phillips advised me when I arrived with only an hour to spare for the press preview of The Keeper (to Sept. 25)---an ephemera-packed exhibition of the stuff assembled and preserved by obsessive-compulsive accumulators of objects and images. Astutely curated by the indispensable Massimiliano Gioni, the museum's artistic director, the show examines and ennobles the visionary and/or documentary impulses behind these eccentric labors of love. When I … [Read more...]

The Met Mess: Parsing the Organizational Upheavals at the Metropolitan Museum

What do the disarray of the Metropolitan Museum's finances and the shakeup of its senior staff say about Tom Campbell's performance as director of this country's preeminent art museum? It could be that directing the Met is too complicated and challenging a task for someone who assumed the post with scant administrative experience. In September 2008, at Campbell's meet-the-press moment upon being named to succeed the formidable Philippe de Montebello, I had questioned the respected tapestry specialist about his paucity of administrative … [Read more...]

GOP Stop? Cleveland Museum’s Convention Intervention

The Cleveland Museum of Art today finds itself near "the room where it happens" (to quote from Broadway's "Hamilton"). Some convention-weary delegates and families will probably migrate there, seeking respite and cultural solace.   While awaiting further developments, the museum posted a mischievous tweet, which sparked this @ClevelandArt/@CultureGrrl exchange: … [Read more...]

Shiner Whiner: Warhol Museum’s Director Joins the Flight from Museum to Market

Should museum directors and curators parlay their nonprofit contacts into for-profit pursuits? The latest news in museum-to-market defections---last week's announcement that Eric Shiner, the five-year director of the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, will leave Aug. 15 to join Sotheby's---is one of several eyebrow-raising transitions suggesting that the financial incentive and frisson of becoming an art-market player are overcoming some directors' and curators' reluctance to forsake disinterested scholarly, educational and populist … [Read more...]

Climate-Control Crisis Closes Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum dropped this bombshell in my inbox at 5:23 p.m.: Because of an air-conditioning outage, the Brooklyn Museum will be closed tomorrow, Friday, July 8 through Sunday, July 10. Our team is working around the clock to replace the damaged systems during this time. All museum collections are being constantly monitored and sensitive materials are being moved to climate controlled spaces. Please check for updates and for more information on rescheduled programs. New York City is in the midst of a … [Read more...]

Injured Elvis’ Secret Tryst with Conservators: SFMOMA’s Neal Benezra Tells All

Journalists (including me) extracted only minimal information from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's press office about the "minimal" damage suffered by Warhol's celebrated "Triple Elvis [Ferus type]," 1963, on 100-year loan from the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection. But Neal Benezra, the museum's director, was more forthcoming when I caught up with him last week in New York at the press preview for the exhilaratingly eclectic, must-see Bruce Conner retrospective, premiering at the Museum of Modern Art (to Oct. 2), before traveling … [Read more...]

“Masterpiece of Design”: MoMA Flies Its Copy of “Rainbow Flag” for Pride Week; SFMOMA Marches!

I scooped the Museum of Modern Art on Twitter, regarding its observance of Pride Week. On Thursday, I tweeted about the museum's prominent display (in front of the picture window overlooking its Sculpture Garden) of the iconic "Rainbow Flag," as it is titled on its wall label. (The museum's collection website gives it a different name---"LGBT Flag.") Two days later, MoMA posted its own tweet about its current display of this enduring gay pride symbol, with a link to its informative 2015 interview with Gilbert Baker, the self-described … [Read more...]

“Commercial in Confidence”: National Gallery of Victoria Upholds MoMA’s Secrecy on Loan (or rental) Fees

In my post last week spotlighting the lack of transparency about the financial terms (collegial loan or money-making rental?) of the Museum of Modern Art's planned dispatch of some 150 masterworks for temporary display at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne, I promised that if I learned more from the NGV, you'd learn more. Here's how a spokesperson from the Australian museum answered my recent queries (emphasis added): We are delighted to be working in partnership with MoMA to bring some of the world’s best contemporary … [Read more...]

Broken Link: Sree Sreenivasan, Metropolitan Museum’s Chief Digital Officer, to Depart

This bombshell (in the form of an internal memo) has just been dropped by Thomas Campbell and Daniel Weiss, director and president, respectively, of the Metropolitan Museum. (Photos, text in italics and links are mine, not theirs): We wanted to share the news that Sree Sreenivasan will be leaving his position at the Met after three years serving as the Museum’s first chief digital officer. This decision has been made in the context of the recentering of the Museum’s work and our current financial restructuring. In his time with us, Sree has … [Read more...]

ARTnews Lives! (former parent company files for bankruptcy)

A lot of confusion ensued from this artnet post today, in which Brian Boucher reported: Artnews S.A., the Polish company that briefly published the New York-based ARTnews magazine and, even briefer still, Art in America, has filed for bankruptcy and liquidation of its assets, according to the Polish website Investments. Did this mean that ARTnews was going to fold? Not so, according to the official statement, just issued by Rubenstein Associates, the media relations firm, on behalf of collector/publisher Peter Brant's BMP Media … [Read more...]

“What Is an Art Museum?” Some 50 AAMD Members Tell Us (video)

For museum junkies like me, the video below, produced by the Association of Art Museum Directors in connection with its 100th birthday, is a delight---not only for the contagious enthusiasm and astute insights of museum leaders from around the country, limning the value of the museum experience, but also, in my case, for the chance to reencounter many directors whom I've known and interviewed but haven't seen in years. As part of his institution's recent press release announcing an intriguing show that will juxtapose the works of Jasper … [Read more...]

Ruing Roulin: MoMA Lends (or rents?) Some 150 Works to National Gallery of Victoria

Bye-bye, Joseph Roulin! The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne, recently announced that it will be the exclusive venue for a multi-disciplinary installation of some 150 MoMA masterworks, June 8, 2018-Oct. 7, 2018. Fans of the home team are going to miss these heavy-hitters by van Gogh, Dali and Lichtenstein (top to bottom), among many others: If you scroll down at this link, you'll see many more players from the A-team who will be AWOL from MoMA. Organizing their Australian road trip is Samantha Friedman, MoMA's … [Read more...]

“The King” Gets Dinged: Warhol “Triple Elvis” Roughed Up by SFMOMA Paparazzi

"We had an incident," Gary Garrels, SFMOMA's senior curator of painting and sculpture, told me last Friday when I encountered him in the fifth-floor galleries, only minutes after I had interviewed him in his office. He was answering my query as to why, less than three weeks after the expanded museum had opened, this Warhol room was closed to the public... ...while a "Jackie Triptych" was being installed there: To my astonishment, Garrels told me that the day before (Thursday), a visitor had bumped into one of the Warhols on … [Read more...]

Warhol Damaged, von Rydingsvard Caressed: My Storify on Unexpected Encounters at the New SFMOMA

As you've probably guessed if you follow my Twitter feed (@CultureGrrl), I've neglected the blog because I've been traveling in the San Francisco area, where I spent two rewarding, if exhausting, days (Friday and Monday) in the generous, welcoming spaces of the expanded SFMOMA. The advantage of arriving after the scribe tribe has decamped lies in getting to see how the museum is being used by real visitors (not just persnickety critics). Press previews are fine for receiving useful, spoonfed information, but not so great for judging how … [Read more...]

Hard Times at NYC Museums: National Academy Homeless (with video); Staffing Cuts at the Metropolitan Museum, Brooklyn Museum, MoMA

Unlike the 2008 meltdown, there's currently no major economic recession in the U.S. to blame for the recent epidemic of belt-tightening by three major New York City art museums---the Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Brooklyn Museum. While the long-term viability of those institutions is not in doubt, a fourth---the National Academy Museum---intends to shut its doors tomorrow ceasing normal operations (but offering to lend works to other institutions), until and unless it can sell its posh Fifth Avenue buildings and find a new, … [Read more...]

Frick Flick: CultureGrrl Video Tour of Off-Limits Upstairs Living Quarters at Frick Collection

One of my favorite parts of the Frick Collection's controversial expansion plans was the commitment to opening to the public the historic upstairs rooms where the Frick clan lived 100 years ago. Now that I've had the chance to climb those stairs, thanks to a tour that director Ian Wardropper offered to me and two other writers after yesterday's press lunch, my excitement has yielded to disappointment. As you'll see in the CultureGrrl Video, below, I gradually learned that precious little remains of the decor and furnishings that the … [Read more...]

“Tidal Wave of Change”: The Sudden Turnover of U.S. Art Museum Directors (towards contemporary)

While the annual meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors (in Cleveland through tomorrow) focuses on ways "to increase diversity throughout the field," Kaywin Feldman, director of the Minneapolis Institute of Art and former AAMD president, has noticed a major change among her fellow attendees at the directors' conclave. She tweeted this insight: Majority of directors @MuseumDirectors meeting have been directors for under 5 years. Exciting tidal wave of change in the field! — Kaywin Feldman (@KaywinFeldman) May 23, 2016 To … [Read more...]

Art Museum Day’s Odd Couples: Corcoran/GWU, MASS MoCA/Crystal Bridges, Smithsonian/Hebrew University

In the provocative spirit of CultureGrrl, come join me, faithful art-lings, in an unconventional commemoration of Art Museum Day, spotlighting some unlikely pairings that have recently hit the news. Whether conceived in a spirit of innovation or desperation, they've caught our attention by being unexpected and a little eyebrow-raising: ---There have been new developments in the doomed three-way marriage of the Corcoran Gallery and College of Art + Design with George Washington University and the National Gallery. As reported by Peggy … [Read more...]

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