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Extolling Viñoly: Q&A with Bill Griswold on Cleveland’s New Additions & How He’ll Pay for Them

Bill Griswold talking with a staff member about Family Game Night, in which he participated
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

William Griswold came to the Cleveland Museum of Art ready to party. With the museum celebrating its centennial in 2016, "there will be the requisite parties all year long, starting early in the year but certainly reaching a fevered pitch in June [the anniversary month]," he told me over lunch while visiting to work on two articles, including this Wall Street Journal review of the museum's current Senufo show. Looking ahead to more substantive centennial plans, Bill revealed: We hope to bring important loans of individual works of art … [Read more...]

Boffo Senufo: Companion Images for My WSJ Piece on Cleveland Museum’s African Show


As I suggest in my Wall Street Journal review on tomorrow's "Arts in Review" page (online now), the Cleveland Museum's stunning installation of what Westerners (but not the creators themselves) call "Senufo" art produces an immediate "wow" effect. But the museum's African art curator, Constantine Petridis, had a didactic, as well as aesthetic, agenda in how he orchestrated this display. Although he chose the objects for their beauty and power, Petridis kicked off the presentation in a way that struck me, at first, as … [Read more...]

More Metropolitan Museum Good News: Elated Over Ellsworth, Chipper About Chipperfield

Maxwell Hearn
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

While Christie's last week was triumphantly totaling up some $131.6 million in sales from the estate of the consummate Chinese art connoisseur, collector and dealer, Robert Ellsworth, the Metropolitan Museum's Asian Art Department chairman, Maxwell "Mike" Hearn, was quietly anticipating some Ellsworth worth for his own institution. "It's a new golden age," Hearn told me excitedly during our brief chat last week in the museum's Astor Court, just before the Met's press announcement of the public phase of its $70-million fundraising … [Read more...]

Mysterious Disappearance: Michael Taylor’s Unceremonious Departure from Dartmouth’s Hood Museum UPDATED


UPDATE: Michael Taylor promptly replied to my post: This is an ongoing situation and all I can say right now is that: "I have left my position as Director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College to pursue other career opportunities." Under mysterious circumstances, Michael Taylor has abruptly exited Dartmouth's Hood Museum, which he directed since 2011, after having served as curator of modern art at the Philadelphia Museum. So far, no one is saying why he's left the building. I have made no secret of my admiration for … [Read more...]

Weiss’ Wishes: Dan’s Plans for the Metropolitan Museum–Part II

Time to pack up again?
Dan Weiss unpacking cartons in his then new Haverford office, July 2013

Part I is here. During our recent phone conversation, Daniel Weiss, soon-to-be president of the Metropolitan Museum, repeatedly (and understandably) deflected my persistent queries seeking specific details about what he hopes to accomplish at the Met. "I'm not there yet!" he patiently reminded me. What Weiss did convey to me was a deep, sympathetic understanding of the Met's complex operations and activities, as well as a profound respect for what its professionals have accomplished. Although he's "not there yet" physically, he seems … [Read more...]

Bridging the Scholarly/Administrative Divide: My Q&A with Daniel Weiss, Metropolitan Museum’s Next President—Part I

Daniel Weiss, outside his office at Haverford College

Part II is here. In our wide-ranging phone conversation yesterday, Daniel Weiss demonstrated analytic acumen, unforced candor and fluid articulateness that should serve him well as the next president of the Metropolitan Museum. The first thing that impressed me about Dan was his willingness to talk to me at all, in light of yesterday's CultureGrrl post, in which I dredged up controversies that had erupted during his tenure as Haverford College's president. Not only did he tackle these issues head-on, but, as you'll see below, he was … [Read more...]

Hard Times at Haverford: Recent Travails of Daniel Weiss, Metropolitan Museum’s Incoming President

Daniel Weiss, Metropolitan Museum's incoming president

More on this here and here. Daniel Weiss' attractiveness as incoming president of the Metropolitan Museum---a post he is to assume this summer--derives more from his deep knowledge of art history than from his brief, mixed record as Haverford College's president. With an art history PhD from Johns Hopkins and an MBA from Yale, this Medieval Studies specialist has a double-barreled background that is increasingly common among art museums' directors but is not often found among their presidents. Weiss' official bio on Haverford's … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Annual Report: Doubled Cap on Guarantees; Reduced Profits Attributable to Investor Activism


As revealed in its 2014 Annual Report, released on Monday, Sotheby's sustained a 9% drop in its net income (profits), compared to 2013. Its profitability has been under close scrutiny ever since activist investor Dan Loeb launched his attack on management. But this drop in profitability seems less significant after analyzing what caused it: Last year's $12 million decline in net income (from $130 million in 2013 to $118 million in 2014) wouldn't have happened were it not for the $20 million in expenses directly related to shareholder … [Read more...]

ISIS Crisis: Archaeologist Pedro Azara, UNESCO, AAMD & AIA on the Mosul Museum Attack UPDATED

Pedro Azara
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

In light of news reports that some of the objects seen being smashed by members of ISIS in videos widely circulated yesterday may have been replicas, I have sought clarification from the Metropolitan Museum (which yesterday issued a forceful statement decrying the destruction) and from archaeologist Pedro Azara, who had worked on a dig near Mosul and had described unstable conditions there when I chatted with him in New York two weeks ago at a press preview for an exhibition he co-curated at the Institute for the Study for the Ancient … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum Decries “Catastrophic Destruction” of Mosul Museum’s Collection

The Mosul Museum

Tom Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum, was among those sickened by the videos released today by Islamic State (to which I shall not link) showing militants smashing archaeological artifacts (which they regard as forms of idolatry) from Iraq’s Mosul Museum. The museum was also looted during the 2003 Iraq war. Here in full is Campbell's statement, issued this afternoon, regarding this deplorable destruction: Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays … [Read more...]

“Crucifixion” Conservation: Cleveland Museum’s Time-Ravaged Caravaggio (with video)

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

As CultureGrrl readers may remember, the Cleveland Museum's great Caravaggio, "The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew," 1606-1607, was recently used as a bargaining chip by that institution's previous director, David Franklin, to salvage a nearly sabotaged show of antiquities loaned from Sicily. But that proposed loan to Sicily was subsequently scrapped (or at least postponed) when Cleveland suddenly decided, after Franklin's departure, that "Saint Andrew" was not fit to travel and needed extensive conservation work at home. (Nevertheless, the … [Read more...]

From “Griddle Griswold” to “Twister Griswold”: New Outreach by Cleveland Museum’s Playful Director (with video)

William Griswold
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

The ebullient, always welcoming William Griswold is a ubiquitous presence at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where he assumed the directorship in May. After hearing him introduce two scholarly lectures related to the museum's exhibition program... ...I kept seeing Bill popping up around the premises, engaging with visitors and staff at every turn. During the time that he set aside for me, which included a wide-ranging conversation over lunch at a corner table of the museum's public restaurant, he made it a point to address a complaint in my … [Read more...]

Cleaving to Cleveland: Where I’ll Be on My Winter Workation


It's not quite cold and snowy enough here in New Jersey, so I think I'll go on a workation to Cleveland, where the temperature tomorrow night is predicted by the National Weather Service to -11 °F (not counting the wind chill). Here it will be a toasty 0 °F. (Where's global warming when we really need it?) I'll get to catch up with my old friend Bill Griswold, now ensconced as director of the third museum where he plans to stay forever. I guess it's too soon to flit to Boston. But what if the National Gallery directorship eventually becomes … [Read more...]

Cubist Accumulation: How “Unrestricted” Are Leonard Lauder’s Metropolitan Museum Gifts?

Leonard Lauder, speaking about his Cubist collection, Feb. 11 at the Metropolitan Museum
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

I have nothing but admiration for Leonard Lauder's accomplishments as a collector and his beneficence as a museum patron---especially at the Whitney Museum and now at the Metropolitan Museum and Boston Museum of Fine Arts (not to mention our mutual alma mater, the Bronx High School of Science). But I did wonder about Carol Vogel's claim in her April 2013 front-page NY Times report that "Mr. Lauder did not put restrictions on his [promised] gift" to the Metropolitan Museum of 78 Cubist paintings, drawings and sculptures by Picasso, Braque, … [Read more...]

“CultureGrrl is Right”: Crosman, Founding Chief Curator, Posts Comment on Crystal Bridges’ Website

Chris Crosman at Crystal Bridges in 2011
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Chris Crosman, Crystal Bridges Museum's founding chief curator, took up my challenge to my readers to "share your views" on the secrecy surrounding the rollout of news on the museum's stellar new acquisitions. Here's what Crosman fired off in the "comments" section below the museum's bungled blog post yesterday, in which it attempted to explain its misconceived policy on Announcing New Acquisitions: The practice of not disclosing recent acquisitions predates the opening of the museum. It had much to do with the unusually high volume and … [Read more...]

Mauling Malaro: Crystal Bridges on Its Reasons for Keeping Its Acquisitions Secret

Diane Carroll, Crystal Bridges Director of Communications

Two days ago, I asked Crystal Bridges Museum for an explanation as to why it hadn't announced its recent highly important new acquisitions, which it purchased at public auction. Late this afternoon, the answer arrived in the form of an emailed link to a new post on the museum's blog---Announcing New Acquisitions: Process & Recent Highlights, written by Diane Carroll, its director of communications: "I’ve chosen to post this information on our blog," she wrote me, "in the interest of allowing comments and broader perspectives." … [Read more...]

College Art Association’s Guidelines for Appropriation Art


They never actually used the "A" word. But the College Art Association (meeting this week in New York) has just issued some needed guidance for appropriation artists who fear running afoul of copyright laws. CAA's 22-page Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in the Visual Arts, available free online, may help stem the tide of lawsuits targeting artistic appropriation, by providing artists with detailed information regarding the legal limitations on use of other people's copyrighted material. At the risk of infringing on CAA's own … [Read more...]

Arkansas Times Detective Work: Four More Likely Crystal Bridges Acquisitions at Sotheby’s

Mark Rothko, "No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)," signed and dated 1953, executed in 1951
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

More on this here. Artnet was quick to pick up on my Crystal Bridges acquisitions story today, but missed an obvious follow-up about Alice Walton's November shopping spree, which was hiding in plain sight on its own website. It took Arkansas Times journalist Leslie Newell Peacock (whose company I enjoyed during my visit to the then in-construction Crystal Bridges Museum), to put two and two together, remembering today (after seeing my post) that the then unidentified buyer of the Johns "Flag" at Sotheby's on Nov. 11 had been reported by … [Read more...]

$80.4-Million Question: Why Hasn’t Crystal Bridges Disclosed Purchase of Major Works by O’Keeffe & Johns?

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Jimson Weed"
Sold by Georgia O'Keeffe Museum at Sotheby's on Nov. 20 for $44.4 million (presale estimate: $10-15 million)

More on this here and here. Contrary to standard museum practice, Crystal Bridges Museum has yet to announce two highly important purchases that occurred almost three months ago---a Georgia O'Keeffe and a Jasper Johns, acquired for a total of $80.4 million at separate Sotheby's auctions in November. In my earler post about a radio interview last month with Rod Bigelow, executive director of Crystal Bridges, I had speculated as to whether this might have been one of the "fantastic new acquisitions" he then alluded to, without disclosing … [Read more...]

Crystal Bridges’ Great Catch: Margaret Conrads Named Director of Curatorial Affairs

Margaret Conrads at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, with Thomas Hart Benton's "Open Country," 1952, and Henry Varnum Poor's "Footed Dish," 1932
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

After suffering an exodus of its top officials, Crystal Bridges has taken an major step towards rebuilding its ranks with today's announcement that Margaret (Margi) Conrads will become the Bentonville museum's director of curatorial affairs, effective next month. Margi had impressed me with her knowledge and skill in 2009, when she gave me a tour of the new installation she had brilliantly orchestrated of the Nelson-Atkins Museum's superb American art collection, which closely commingled paintings and decorative arts. At that time, I … [Read more...]

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