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“Staying Strong” to Get Over the Trump Hump: Whitney Director Adam Weinberg Makes His Stand

Adam Weinberg went all Meryl Streep on us tonight. Like the impassioned actress speaking at the Golden Globes award ceremony last night, Weinberg never mentioned the President-elect by name earlier this evening, when he feelingly addressed the press at a cocktail reception at the museum. But neither speaker left any doubt that Trump was their subject. Weinberg's comments could provide a road map for other museums seeking ways to react swiftly and meaningfully to our fraught political situation, while still allowing room for diverse … [Read more...]

St. Louis Blues: A Bingham for Trump’s Inaugural Lunch Could Have Come from the White House

In my Friday post about the St. Louis Art Museum's (SLAM's) controversial plan to lend Bingham's “The Verdict of the People,” 1854–55, to grace the Jan. 20 Presidential Inauguration Luncheon, I questioned the appropriateness of a museum's allowing one of its treasures to leave the building not for scholarly and/or public purposes, but as decor for a private event. As it happens, there's an available Bingham that's closer at hand---at the White House: In his "Masterpiece" column in the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 4 (before SLAM's … [Read more...]

St. Louis Blues: Art Museum Unfairly Slammed As a Trump Chump

Let's be blunt: Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri understandably turned to his home state's museum when, as chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, he set out to find an appropriate American painting to grace the Jan. 20 Presidential Inauguration Luncheon. Who could slam SLAM (the St. Louis Art Museum) for obliging its Senator with this? As it turns out, a lot of people have cast blame on the museum, most notably some 2,550 (at this writing) signatories to a petition, who want the loan withdrawn … [Read more...]

Weine & Weiss (aka Ken & Dan): Alliterative Communications Partners at Metropolitan Museum

As chance would have it, I was on the premises of the Metropolitan Museum today when it issued its press release about regime change in Communications, the department with which I have the most contact. Kenneth Weine, an attorney, will soon become the Met's chief communications officer, with responsibility for media relations, as well as marketing, audience research, tourism, and internal communications. What the press release didn't say (but what the NY Times' Robin Pogrebin today reported) was that Elyse Topalian, the Met's point … [Read more...]

The Year in CultureGrrl, 2016 Edition

In my 2015 yearly round-up post, I crowed about a high point of my CultureGrrl career—the munificent Art Writers Grant awarded to my blog by Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation. In keeping with the general gloom surrounding 2016, I'll introduce this year's round-up by confessing a low point: The likely end to my freelance gig with the Wall Street Journal, where I've been a proud contributor for several decades. I've been struggling for a while with tighter wordcount restrictions, which forced me to shortchange the many curators and … [Read more...]

“Happy Holidays”: Nimble Bigelow Dances Through Crystal Bridges Museum

Rod is no clod. In one of the most engaging (but also slightly troubling) emailed holiday greetings I've seen this season, Bigelow, executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer (a mouthful) of the Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, gracefully trips the light fantastic through the otherwise visitor-free galleries. His footwork is pegged to the museum's current exhibition, The Art of American Dance. But what if he really did trip while leaping among works by Bingham, Beaux, Sargent, Chase and Nick Cave (three of which are … [Read more...]

“Meditations on Mortality”: Illustrated Companion to My WSJ Review of Jasper Johns/Edvard Munch at VMFA

John Ravenal, curator of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond (and now executive director of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA), set himself two prerequisites for undertaking the scholarly yet easy-to-love show---Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Love, Loss, and the Cycle of Life (to Feb. 20)---that I reviewed for the online version of today's Wall Street Journal: He had to get the Munch Museum in Oslo to part with key loans, and he needed Jasper Johns' support. (I'll say more in a subsequent post about why my review is … [Read more...]

Mission Mishmash: Divided Loyalties in Sotheby’s Plan to Advise Artists, Their Estates & Foundations

Decades ago, before Christie's introduced the buyer's premium to New York, auction houses in the U.S. were clear on who they represented: Their client was the seller. Today's murky waters just got murkier with Sotheby's jaw-dropping announcement yesterday that it hopes to "provide planning services and manage projects for artists, artist estates and foundations." This conjured up one persistent image, and it wasn't the press release's photo of Christy MacLear, currently the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation's inaugural CEO, who next month will … [Read more...]

Brett’s Bet: What Gorvy’s Sudden Exit from Christie’s May Mean for the Art Market

One thing I know about Brett Gorvy, Christie's departing chairman of Post-War and Contemporary art, is that he's very smart---probably the savviest auction-house specialist I've ever encountered. So it's almost impossible not to interpret his decision to change course after 23 years, leaving the frenzied auction world for the sedate sanctum of an old-school gallery, as indicative of art-market climate change. In keeping with the "old school" vibe, the press release issued by Dominique Lévy Gallery, announcing its reinvention next month … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Helsinki Sinks in a 53-32 Council Vote (with video) UPDATED TWICE

After a prolonged debate, ending in the wee hour of 12:03 a.m. Helsinki time, its City Council voted 53 to 32 to reject the Guggenheim's proposed Scandinavian outpost. Applause and cheers ensued. The meeting had been preceded by a demonstration in Senate Square by "a few dozen anti-Guggenheim protesters," according to a YLE News report. "Many argued that investments should instead be made in the city's existing art institutions or in new domestic projects." The report added: The strongest supporters are among councilors from the … [Read more...]

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...]

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