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The Frick’s Little Noticed “Prized Garden” Saved; Vital Expansion Still Planned

Russell Page's 1970s garden at the Frick

The Frick expansion is dead. Long live the Frick expansion. Preservationists who fought the planned destruction of the Frick's 1970s gated "viewing garden," designed by Russell Page, have gotten their way without ever having to make a formal case to government approval bodies. In his reluctantly conciliatory statement released today, Ian Wardropper, the Frick Collection's director, announced: After months of public dialogue and thoughtful consideration and weighing the potential for a protracted approval process against the Frick’s … [Read more...]

House Passes Bill that Could Make U.S. Museums a Temporary Safe Haven for Syrian Antiquities

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)

Reacting to ISIS's horrific plundering of and trafficking in cultural property to fund its operations, the House of Representatives yesterday passed H.R. 1493, a bill "to protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes." As described by its lead sponsor, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), this bill "would impose new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria and would enhance coordination among U.S. government agencies … [Read more...]

Dismissive Missive: Could Peer Pressure Put an End to Guggenheim’s Abu Dhabi Misadventure?

Image of photo of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi model, shown at Philadelphia Museum's recent Frank Gehry show
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation thus far has resisted the demands of rowdy demonstrators decrying its continued involvement in Abu Dhabi, where workers rights violations have persisted, notwithstanding the Guggenheim's efforts to encourage reform. But now the Guggenheim finds itself confronted by critics who it can't so easily dismiss: Major museum officials (including Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, and Sheena Wagstaff, chairman of the Metropolitan Museum's department of modern and contemporary art) have violated … [Read more...]

Bubble Alert: Are Third-Party Guarantors Inflating the Art Market? UPDATE


UPDATE: More on this here. Whenever an artwork sells at auction for more than any previous work has fetched (as with Munch's "The Scream" and Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud"), the pundits pile on, decrying the questionable taste of megabucks buyers and the self-centered values of the 1%. They enjoy a frisson of schadenfreude at the prospect that the art-market bubble may soon burst. Until now, I haven't joined the chorus: Dissenting from the detractors, I admired both of the above-mentioned record-smashing works (particularly … [Read more...]

“Breaking the Brand”: Malcolm Rogers Reflects on Successful, Controversial Directorship at Museum of Fine Arts Boston (with video)

Malcolm Rogers, BMFA director, speaking at last week's NYC press lunch
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Malcolm Rogers, retiring Aug. 3 from his 21-year stint as director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (the longest such tenure in that museum's history), will soon be going the George Goldner route: He plans to advise a wealthy art-collecting couple. In announcing last January's retirement from the Metropolitan Museum, Goldner, who was chairman of its department of drawings and prints since 1993 (and, before that, curator at the Getty Museum), disclosed his plan to "work as an advisor to Leon Black, a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum, in … [Read more...]

Parsing Pasternak: What Were the Brooklyn Museum’s Trustees Thinking?

Anne Pasternak, next director of the Brooklyn Museum

Help Wanted: Direct one of this country's major encyclopedic museums. No museum experience required. If Phillips Oppenheim, the headhunting firm responsible for the Brooklyn Museum's director's search, had put out such a wacky solicitation, an uproar of incredulity would have ensued. More likely, its job description (which I have not seen) for the position now awarded to museum neophyte Anne Pasternak would have included a variation on the requirements in the same search firm's publicly posted job description for the still unannounced new … [Read more...]

Pro Bono Ono: Yoko Sees Her MoMA Show as Encouragement for Those Long Overlooked (with video)

Screenshot from Yoko Ono's and John Lennon's "Bed-In for Peace," 1969
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

For those (like me) who sometimes feel that no one notices the quality of the work they're doing, Yoko Ono's remarks about the significance of her belated close-up at the Museum of Modern Art, Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971, should resonate. Then again, most of us don't have an internationally famous partner to participate in our projects and help boost our public profiles: Coincidentally, Ono's partial retrospective (covering only 11 years of her long career) opened at the same time that the NY Times was publishing a piece, … [Read more...]

Whither the Whitney? Outtakes from My Tour of the New Whitney with Donna De Salvo and Carter Foster

The two Marsden Hartleys that confront visitors coming off the elevator at the beginning of the Whitney's installation
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

"We’re expecting a very detailed review from you now," the indispensable Donna De Salvo warned me, with a slight edge to her voice, when we had reached about the midway point of the very extensive tour she gave me (for my Wall Street Journal article) of the Whitney Museum's expanded, reinterpreted and refreshed installation of its permanent collection. I gulped and said nothing, knowing l that the WSJ's "Arts in Review" page could allow me only about 1,200 words, tops, to evaluate the entire installation (which I greatly admired, with … [Read more...]

Give Yoko Ono a Chance: Pioneering Conceptual Artist Belatedly Gets Her MoMA Show

Yoko Ono at MoMA press preview
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

There are very few museum shows that make me smile from beginning to end. But I suddenly realized that I and several other women I encountered at Tuesday's press preview were walking around with goofy grins at Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971, which opens Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art. One could argue that the trajectory of a show devoted to a living and still working artist should have been a full retrospective, rather than ending in 1971. But as Glenn Lowry, MoMA's director, explained it, this was the show that MoMA could have … [Read more...]

Christie’s Maintains Contemporary-Art Dominance with $658.53-Million Sale


I've attended countless major art auctions, both in person and online, but I've never seen an ending quite like the one at Christie's contemporary sale tonight. The ingratiating and efficient auctioneer, Jussi Pylkkänen, perhaps seeking to avoid an uncomfortably anemic ovation like that received by Oliver Barker the night before at Sotheby's, called upon whoever was still left at the end of the 82-lot sale to applaud the winning bidder on the final lot. "Let's have a round of applause for Larry," he gamely urged the stragglers. That was … [Read more...]

Slinging the Art-Market Lingo: A Crash Course for Confused Journalists

The scene last night at Sotheby's

All of the muddled misinformation and misinterpretations being dispensed this week by well-intentioned but insufficiently informed art-market journalists are beginning to set my teeth on edge. In advance of tonight's numbingly long Christie's contemporary sale (85 lots, unless some are withdrawn), below is a timely corrective. It is intended to be helpful, not accusatory: I will not name the guilty, but for those of you who have been following the sales coverage, some of this may sound familiar: PRESALE ESTIMATE: This is what it says it … [Read more...]

Strong Start, Weak Finish at Sotheby’s $379.68-Million Contemporary Sale


Here's my running Twitter commentary on Sotheby's $379.68-million sale tonight of 63 lots. Eight of those lots didn't sell and another nine, which brought $15.92 million (including buyers premium), were sold to benefit LA MOCA. Even the buyers premium went to the museum, according to Sotheby's recent proxy statement. The statement also revealed that the auction firm would "reimburse the museum for expenses associated with the consignment. The expenses...are expected to exceed $300,000." So that left 46 lots on which Sotheby's could … [Read more...]

$179.37-Million Picasso: My Storify Report on Christie’s Record-Smashing Sale


Here's my running Twitter commentary on "Looking Forward to the Past," Christie's tightly curated, buoyant $705.86-million, 35-lot modern/contemporary sale: [View the story "Christie's Triumph: $179.37-Million Picasso Becomes Most Expensive Artwork at Auction " on Storify] … [Read more...]

Whither the Whitney: Michelle Obama and the Question of Outreach

Michelle Obama addresses attendees at Whitney's ribbon-cutting, while director Adam Weinberg looks on
Photo from the Whitney's Instagram page

During the last of my three visits to the Whitney Museum's new digs in the NYC's Meatpacking District, I was struck by how the location had changed but the ethnically non-diverse demographics of the visitors had stayed the same. This was at variance with First Lady Michelle Obama's remarks (full text here) at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the day before the public opening. Here are excerpts from what she said: There are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they … [Read more...]

Tad Smith, Sotheby’s New CEO, is Silent at Perfunctory Annual Meeting

Workers affixing image of LIchtenstein's TK to exterior of Sotheby's
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Now that I've published my Wall Street Journal Whitney piece, I'm playing catch-up on other stories, including the upcoming contemporary art auctions. I went first to Sotheby's, to cover the 9 a.m. annual shareholders' meeting and to preview the contemporary offerings. While there, I decided to connect my smartphone to the auction house's public wi-fi network. I know that communications over public networks aren't secure, and I've clicked on many disclaimer messages before joining networks. But this one was unusually … [Read more...]

The New Whitney: An Irreverent Companion Essay for My WSJ Review


As I suggested in Old Favorites in Provocative New Company, my piece in today's Wall Street Journal, I loved the new Whitney Museum's inaugural exhibition of its permanent collection, America is Hard to See. But unlike most reviewers, I didn't buy the party line about how terrific its galleries are. The conventional wisdom is exemplified by this tweet from the NY Times' architecture critic: Went to new @whitneymuseum on first day open to public, w crowds: gorgeous, light filled, art looked great. So far, flawless. — Michael Kimmelman … [Read more...]

Coming Tomorrow: My WSJ Review of the New Whitney UPDATED

Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

UPDATE: Here's my review. And here's Julie Iovine's companion piece. With my appraisal of the spacious new downtown digs of Whitney Museum set to appear in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal (online tonight), I will finally be able to break my uncharacteristic (WSJ-mandated) silence about this year's most important, game-changing development on the New York art scene. Unlike the battalion of jump-the-gun reviewers, we tortoises waited until we could see how well the place worked when fully installed and occupied by its intended … [Read more...]

Bailey Bails, Philippe Leaps: Big Surprises At Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Hispanic Society of America

Colin Bailey

I don't know which astonished me more---Colin Bailey's short-notice decision to desert the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in June, after barely two years as its director, or Philippe de Montebello's decision to attach his formidable reputation to the sadly substandard Hispanic Society of America, by becoming its chairman. (Mitchell Codding remains its executive director.) Hobbled with staff turnover and without a permanent director for 16 months after John Buchanan's death, FAMSF desperately needed stability and scholarly ballast when … [Read more...]

Global Guggenheim Updates: Abu Dhabi (workers’ rights), Bilbao (renewal), Helsinki (finalists’ show)

Image of photo of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi model, shown at Philadelphia Museum's recent Frank Gehry show
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Will the Guggenheim's Middle East plans be affected by last week's NY Times revelations about yet another report detailing widespread violations of workers' rights guidelines in Abu Dhabi? (This latest chapter concerns New York University's new campus there.) Although its announced completion date remains 2017, there is still "no construction underway" on the Guggenheim's project, Tina Vaz, its director of communications for global initiatives, told me today. She added: We cannot comment on the specifics of the report. We do note … [Read more...]

“One-Way Ticket’s” Missed Connection: Lawrence’s “Migration” Show at MoMA Bypasses a Crucial Stop

MoMA director Glenn Lowry and curator Leah Dickerman
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

As I suggested near the end of my previous post, my enthusiasm for the Museum of Modern Art's profoundly illuminating, entertaining (thanks to its rich musical component) and deeply researched One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Works was tinged with a drop of disappointment. During her opening remarks at the press preview, curator Leah Dickerman noted that one of the reasons for rehanging Lawrence's epic 60-panel account of the Great Migration of African-Americans from South to North was "to understand how it can … [Read more...]

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