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Getty Bronze Court Decision Postponed Again

"Victorious Youth," aka the Getty Bronze, 300-100 B.C.
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Italy's highest court, the Court of Procrastination...I mean, "Cassation," punted once again in the never-ending Getty Bronze case. This just in from the Getty Museum: The Court's official report, which was issued today, simply states: "Stayed pending hearing by the Constitutional Court." Why has the court repeatedly balked on bringing this case to conclusion? Might it be that the judges are reluctant to issue the decision that they feel is legally warranted but that would roil Italy's repatriationists? (A lower court ruling was in the … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition Launched; Armstrong Walks Off TV Interview

Elevated view of the competition site from
Restaurant Palace building, looking southeast 
Photo by Tuomas Uusheimo

Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation today announced in Helsinki the launch of the design competition for the Guggenheim Helsinki, which will need final approval from both the City of Helsinki and the State of Finland after the two-stage competition concludes. The winner of the competition is expected to be announced next June. According to a report by Finland's YLE News, Ari Wiseman, the Guggenheim's deputy director, revealed that "more than 800 pre-registrations have already been received ahead of … [Read more...]

Chagrin Over Pellegrin: NY Observer and Chris Crosman on “National Academy Eight” (with video)

The National Academy
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

The NY Observer's "Gallerist" and I approached the story of the National Academy Eight---staffers abruptly fired on Thursday---from different angles in stories that we published yesterday. (Theirs came first.) Taken together, our pieces piece together the complicated, troubling situation there, still unfolding. (I suspect that the NY Times will eventually move this ball down the field.) M.H. Miller's story in "Gallerist" focused on the new Academy position of creative director, assumed by Maurizio Pellegrin, whom Miller interviewed to … [Read more...]

News Flash: Financially Challenged National Academy Restructures and “Streamlines” Its Staff

They have left the building: National Academy curators Marshall Price and Bruce Weber at Sept. 2011 press preview for reopened, renovated National Academy
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

UPDATE: More on this here. We interrupt the upbeat program of the annual meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors to bring you some downbeat news from the National Academy in New York. As you may remember, that financially challenged institution had incurred AAMD's wrath for its 2008 stealth deaccessions of important paintings by Frederic Edwin Church and Sanford Robinson Gifford to help fund operations and defray debts---a story that I broke on CultureGrrl. According to Carmine Branagan, the Academy's director, no subsequent art … [Read more...]

Rotter Chatter: How Sotheby’s, with Reconstituted Board, May Recharge Contemporary Art Sales

Alex Rotter, Sotheby's Co-Head of Worldwide Contemporary Art. in front of Basquiat, "Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi," 1983
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

If you follow my tweets @CultureGrrl, you already know that I attended yesterday's annual meeting at Sotheby's, which elevated activist investor Daniel Loeb from a thorn in Sotheby's side to its newly elected board member (joined on the board by his two hand-picked candidates---Harry Wilson, an expert in corporate restructurings and turnarounds and Olivier Reza, president of Reza Gem, a French jewelry company). In victory laps before and after the meeting, Loeb chatted up new and old board members, but seemed to stay clear of CEO William … [Read more...]

Caravaggio Viaggio: My Public Radio Chat on Museums’ Art Rentals with Tim Rub and Steve Litt (with audio)

Caravaggio, "The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew," 1606-1607, Cleveland Museum of Art

One of the first things I did last week while Lost Around Los Angeles was grant a phone interview to David Barnett, senior arts reporter and producer for ideastream, the Cleveland-based public broadcasting outlet. He wanted my views on a topic that I've frequently fulminated about---some museums' exploitation of their collections as cash cows by renting them for high fees to sister institutions, contrary to the customary practice of collegial loans. The short-term financial benefits of this gambit had inspired Sicily to make a last-minute … [Read more...]

Lost Around Los Angeles: My West Coast Storify

Alexander Calder, "Three Quintains (Hello Girls)," 1964, Director's Roundtable Garden at Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

I've just burrowed into my blog-cave after a week away in not-so-sunny California on a vacation that ended with a friend's wedding celebration. Although I didn't blog, I did (as promised) tweet some art-related musings @CultureGrrl. With my usual nose for news, I stumbled upon an interesting occurence (described below) while on an "unofficial" visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to catch its must-see Frank Gehry-designed Calder retrospective, consisting largely (but not entirely) of works from the Calder Foundation. I also … [Read more...]

Is It William Griswold? Cleveland Museum to Announce New Director Tomorrow UPDATED

Director William Griswold in J.P. Morgan’s library at the Morgan Library and Museum

UPDATE: It is, indeed, Griswold, who will start his new gig this fall. Here's the Cleveland Museum's official announcement. We'll find out tomorrow if I'm right, but what I've learned from a good (if not quite airtight) source is that the Cleveland Museum of Art is poised to name its new director tomorrow morning, and that he's none other than William Griswold, the incomparable director of the Morgan Library and Museum, where the job had matched his specialty---prints and drawings. If he is, in fact, the director-designate, the Cleveland … [Read more...]

Pulling the Rug Out from Under the Corcoran and Disregarding William Corcoran’s Deed

Clark "Sickle-Leaf" carpet, probably Kirman, South Persia, 17th century, approximately 8' 9" by 6' 5"
Sold for $TK million

Est. $5/7 million

Only by reverse-engineering the deal signed on Thursday by the Corcoran Gallery and college, the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University does the Corcoran's auction of its Clark "Sickle-Leaf" carpet, almost a year ago, start to make sense. Why would the financially floundering Corcoran have sold one of its great treasure for the stated purpose---to bankroll acquisitions---at a time with its future existence was in serious doubt? I've wondered about that ever since the time of that problematic, perplexing June 5 disposal, … [Read more...]

Not a Done Deal: Court Approval Still Needed for Just-Signed Corcoran Agreement

Protected in the agreement: One of the Canova lions guarding the Corcoran
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Exactly an hour after the details were published in the Washington Post, this press release from the National Gallery of Art (NGA) hit my inbox, regarding the belated signing of the final agreements (originally slated for Apr. 7) for the planned merger by the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University (GW). I subsequently also received this FAQs document about plans for the merger. Under the terms of the agreement, "the Corcoran building will close to the … [Read more...]

Contemporary Sales: Aside from Sender’s “Ahead of the Curve,” Sotheby’s Remains Behind the Curve

Oliver Barker, auctioneer at tonight's contemporary art sale at Sotheby's

With Sotheby's continuing to lag far behind arch-rival Christie's in the high-profile, high-stakes contemporary art field, I couldn't help but wonder if all the recent turmoil that has embroiled it---including the unceremonious departure of contemporary art head Tobias Meyer and culminating in the costly surrender to activist investor Dan Loeb's unwanted advances---may have further weakened it. With Loeb's shareholder value-oriented agenda, we can expect some changes in the not-so-distant future. But what they will be and whether they will … [Read more...]

Raising the Bar: Christie’s Landmark $744.94-Million Contemporary Sale

Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen at last night's Christie's blowout

In the mercenary world of art auctions, there are two new numbers to beat: $744.94 million, the highest total every achieved at any art auction; $11.9 million, the highest amount paid at auction for any woman artist. (Females are even more undervalued in the artworld than in the corporate world, it would seem.) Who was that record-breaking artist? Read on! Here's my Storify from Christie's landmark evening contemporary sale, which I "attended" tonight via webcast. (For the full results of the sale, go here.) [View the story … [Read more...]

When “a deal in Palermo isn’t a deal in Palermo”: Getty Trust’s Lawyer on Sicily’s Slippery Promises

Stephen Clark, TK, J. Paul Getty Trust, speaking at museum law conference in Philadelphia

Yet another delay in the resolution of the never-ending legal battle over "Victorious Youth" (aka the Getty Bronze) occurred last week in Italy's highest court, the Court of Cassation, which had been expected to rule May 8 on whether Italian law required the return of the statue from the J. Paul Getty Museum. As reported by Mike Boehm of the LA Times, a ruling on the case, which had been expected on May 8 has "now been postponed to June 4." This had been foretold on Mar. 19 by the J. Paul Getty Trust's general counsel, Stephen Clark, at a … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum’s “Charles James” in New Wintour Center: My Storify on Fashion, Tech and the First Lady

Michelle Obama, who came to the Metropolitan Museum "because of Anna"
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

If you can manage to focus on the dresses, the Metropolitan Museum's Charles James: Beyond Fashion, opening today (to Aug. 10), is a delicious visual feast. For me it triggered nostalgic thoughts of my own mother's '50s wardrobe. Not that she flounced around our fifth-floor Bronx walkup looking like Babe Paley. But I could perceive how James's flatteringly cut inventions in sensuous fabrics---an elegant look that was highly influential in the late '40s and early '50s---had filtered down to the low-priced knockoffs that my always-shopping mother … [Read more...]

Impressionist/Modern Fizzle: Painful Sale Caps Sotheby’s Difficult Week UPDATED

David Norman, Sotheby's Impressionist/Modern co-chairman, with Picasso's "Le Sauvetage," 1932, sold for $31.52 million
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

"Do we want to bid?...Any more?...Any advance?...Last chance!...Passed." Variations on that doleful chant occurred again and again during tonight's sale at Sotheby's of Impressionist and modern art. This pulling-of-teeth made an already painful week at Sotheby's even worse. Aside from the dogged competition over Picasso's colorful, action-packed depiction of the seaside rescue of his mistress, Marie-Thérèse (above), which slowly crept past its presale estimate of $14-18 million and finally settled at a strong $28 million ($31.52 million … [Read more...]

Form 10-Q: More on Sotheby’s Loeb-Related Costs, Auction Guarantees, Possible Move


In ending his war on Sotheby's management, Third Point's Daniel Loeb got even more than three board seats and key committee appointments that he had sought (reported by me here). He also extracted a written commitment from Sotheby's to reimburse Third Point for "up to $10 million" in "out-of-pocket, documented expenses," incurred in connection with the battle. That amount, added to Sotheby's own $5.7 million in expenses related to its attempt to ward off Loeb's unwanted advances, brings the potential cost to the auction company for this … [Read more...]

$15.7-Million Cost in Losing Battle with Loeb?!? My Storify on Sotheby’s Earnings Call CLARIFIED

William Ruprecht, Sotheby's CEO

At a time when Sotheby's has been focused on cutting costs and improving its bottom line, it found itself committing what is expected to total as much as $15.7 million for legal and advisory professional services in connection with its losing battle against activist investor Daniel Loeb's Third Point. CLARIFICATION---Not discussed in the conference call, but revealed in the agreement between Third Point and Sotheby's and the Form 10-Q quarterly report filed by the auction firm today: $5.7 million of the possible $15.7 million represents … [Read more...]

The Devil in the Details: More on Sotheby’s-Third Point Agreement

Daniel Loeb

In coming to an agreement with Sotheby's after an acrimonious proxy battle, activist investor Daniel Loeb has gained more from the auction house than three seats on its board. Attached to the Amended General Statement of Beneficial Ownership that Sotheby's filed today with the SEC is the full agreement (starting on p. 12 of the document) between the auction firm and Daniel Loeb's Third Point. Through the creation of a new Business Strategy Committee, it confers on Loeb and his two other board designees more sway over Sotheby's future than … [Read more...]

After Hurling Insults, Sotheby’s and Third Point’s Loeb Try to Kiss & Make Up (with video)


UPDATE: More on this, here. “If Sotheby’s thinks it can lose it, there’s going to be a settlement before the actual vote.” former activist investor Asher Edelman, told Philip Boroff of Artnet (formerly of Bloomberg) back in February, regarding the acrimonious proxy contest between the auction house and Dan Loeb's hedge fund, Third Point. With this morning's announcement, just a day before the scheduled vote on Sotheby's and Loeb's competing board-member slates, Edelman's prediction appears to have come true: Both sides have called a truce, … [Read more...]

Storify of My Top-to-Bottom Wander Through the Metropolitan Museum: Graham’s Rooftop Funhouse

Tom Campbell, the Metropolitan Museum's director, enjoying the sunny debut of Dan Graham's Roof Garden commission
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

One of the unexpected joys of having an 11-month-old grandson is seeing everything afresh through his unjaded eyes. I can't wait to see how he responds to the Metropolitan Museum's new rooftop installation, which I experienced with the scribe tribe on a cooperatively sunny Monday morning. My art critic's reaction to Dan Graham's Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout (enhanced by landscape architect Günther Vogt with trellised ivy) was that the pleasantly disorienting time-space warp inside its curvy walls reminded me of navigating through one of … [Read more...]

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