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By The Numbers, Good Museum News in Virginia

Earlier this week, when I received an email from the American Folk Art Museum, I thought it was doing well--getting back on its feet after a disastrous over-expansion. Anne-Imelda Radice, the director, wrote that: We closed the fiscal year with great news: 150,018 visitors came through our doors, experiencing exhibitions, programs, events, the shop, and more. This represents a 30% increase from the previous year. Then there was even better news in an email from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where the metrics seem to be astounding. The … [Read more...]

What I Learned This Summer: Philadelphia

I've been visiting a lot of museums this summer, on more than my usual share of travels. Sometimes I've picked up ideas worth sharing--for example, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There, Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting--which runs only through Sept. 13, so hurry to see it--has been pulling in crowds. Tickets are timed for crowd control, though, so visitors can actually see the paintings--or could while I was there on a Tuesday in July. It's an excellent show that explicates how a dealer was … [Read more...]

Common Sense From Gary Vikan

Maybe retirement, if that's what Gary Vikan--former head of the Walters Art Museum--had entered, loosens inhibitions. Vikan's editorial in today's Wall Street Journal may not have been written if he still had the job. It's headlined The Case for Buying Antiquities to Save Them.  It's about the unrelenting damage being perpetrated by ISIS, of course. It challenges the "prevailing view among archaeologists, reflected in bills in Congress, [that we should] ....exclude from the U.S. all antiquities thought to originate in those … [Read more...]

Tom Krens: At It Again?

Tom Krens, the museum consultant formerly known as the director of the Guggenheim Foundation and booster of multi-branch museums, has always lived by the philosophy of "Go Big or Go Home." Now, he is at it again. Last week, the Berkshire Eagle reported that Krens--who first proposed the creation of Mass MoCA in North Adams, Mass. nearly three decades ago--wants to start another massive art venue nearby. The new art palace would create 160,000-sq. ft. of gallery space on North Adams's Harriman-West Airport grounds. Said the Eagle: The … [Read more...]

WSJ Masterpiece: The Taj Mahal, As I Saw It

Even if you have never been to the Taj Mahal, you have a picture of it in your mind, right? It's a full frontal view, and it's unquestionably beautiful. But there is more to this marvelous, yes, mausoleum, and after going to India last winter, I wanted to say so and explain why. The result was published in Saturday's Wall Street Journal--in the Masterpiece column (which I have praised  on this blog many times). It was headlined (and decked) The Taj Mahal's Seductive Charms: As a visitor wanders the 42-acre site, this monument to love reveals … [Read more...]

“Softening” The Museum Brand

I couldn't find a press release on the museum website about this, but a couple of newspapers recently reported that the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is changing its name. And I did find, on the website, an item in "Mia Stories"-- its direct to consumer communication. From now on, there will not be an "s" on the end of arts. It is simply the Minneapolis Institute of Art. And from now on, the acronym should no longer be pronounced as M-I-A, as in "missing in action." It should be pronounced "me-ah"--rhyming with DIA, the New York-based art … [Read more...]

Now This, For A Big Museum, Would Be Experimental

You rarely hear about a contemporary watercolorist setting the world ablaze with a traffic-stopped gallery show or museum exhibition. Or, for that matter, setting auction records. And let's face it, in some ways, if something doesn't happen in the contemporary art world, it doesn't happen in the art world. It is that myopic (or blindered, choose your description). So I was very pleased when I received an announcement this spring that the Princeton University Art Museum was presenting Painting on Paper: American Watercolors at Princeton, … [Read more...]

Art Review, In Passing, Reveals A Recurring Museum Problem

Aside from what Roberta Smith said in Friday's New York Times about The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi, now on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (she called it "superb"), she made a very good general point about American art and museums at the moment. And it's a bit of a mysterious point, to me at least. Here is the passage that caught my eye: ...unfortunately, “The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi” will be seen nowhere else — not even at one of the several American museums that have lent to it. In recent decades, much … [Read more...]

A Museum Innovation With Legs–And Twists

Way back in September 2010, I applauded an innovative initiative by the Detroit Institute of Arts, but noted that I thought more could be made of it. Now, I learn these five years later, more has been done with the idea. At the time, the DIA was celebrating its 125th anniversary by putting up 40 framed, life-sized digital reproductions of works in its collection on street locations all around its four-county area. It was a big hit--the DIA has continued it ever since--so big that the Knight Foundation is putting $2 million into helping it … [Read more...]

On The Road: The Maine Art Museum Trail

If you ever have the opportunity, drive the Maine Art Museum Trail. Did you even know there was a MAMT? Or that it includes eight institutions around the state, from the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in the south to the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor? Truth is, it should be better known. This summer, the museums are trying with a special exhibition called "Directors' Cut" at the Portland Museum of Art; for it, each museum director was given a certain amount of space to fill and each chose works for that space. What results is … [Read more...]

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