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Freer-Sacker Digitization Project: A Modest Suggestion

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The other day, the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian announced that it had digitized its entire collection and was putting it all online for all to see and use--with more than 90 percent of the images in high-definition resolution and without copyright restrictions for noncommercial uses--as of Jan. 1, 2015. This is good news, and I applaud the initiative. But another sentence in the press release stopped me: “The vast majority of the 40,000 artworks have never before been seen by the public…” Now, I know full well that many … [Read more...]

Portland’s Masterworks: Looking Back And Forward

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On Saturday, the Portland Art Museum in Oregon opened a new "Masterworks" exhibition, of El Greco's Holy Family With Saint Mary Magdalen, which is being lent by the Cleveland Museum of Art. It's the fifth show in this series, and I love the idea of borrowing and focusing attention on one artwork. The El Greco "Masterworks" was preceded by Raphael's La Velata, Thomas Moran's Shoshone Falls, Titian's La Bella and Francis Bacon's recording-breaking triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud. I think I've written about all of them here, for one … [Read more...]

More on That Indy Admission Fee

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The reaction in Indianapolis to the museum's decision to go from free general admission to an $18 general admission has been very instructive. I've been watching local comments, and--not statistics, just my impression--the tally is overwhelming against. Again, the opposition is not necessarily against all museum admissions, it's opposed to the gigantic jump and the way it was announced. Some commenters continue to blast Charles Venable for saying nothing since the press release was issued. Again, I have to ask, what board dynamics is he … [Read more...]

Restoration Scandal At Chartres Cathedral

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Who was it that said one look at Chartres Cathedral turned him into an art historian? Or art-lover for life? Henry Adams? Bernard Berenson? I can't remember, but it was probably more than one person. Kenneth Clark called it "one of the two most beautiful covered spaces in the world" (Hagia Sophia in Istanbul being the other). Maybe not anymore. Hear what Martin Filler, writing on the website of The New York Review of Books, has to say after a recent visit: Carried away by the splendors of the moment, I did not initially realize that … [Read more...]

Indianapolis Museum Stirs Up A Hornet’s Nest

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What the Indianapolis Art Museum did Friday has to fall into the category of major PR blunder. In a press release headlined "IMA announces new campus enhancement plan to improve visitor experience and financial sustainability," it sneaked in the fact--in the ninth paragraph, no less--that: To build stronger relationships with guests, ensure quality programming through customer feedback and to guarantee long-term financial sustainability, the IMA will be refining its admission pricing policy. Visitor research has shown that IMA guests do not … [Read more...]

No Other Word For It: Fundraising Failure

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The Phillips Collection crowdsourcing effort, an attempt to raise $45,000 in a month to support a website abut Jacob Lawrence, has failed miserably. When the drive ended on Dec. 10, only $2,988--a mere 7 percent of the goal--had been pledged. And that took 41 supporters, for an average contribution of about $73. All of the background is here, in my previous post on the subject. Why would this campaign fail? I can think of several possibilities, or a combination of some of them: --Not enough visibility for the campaign. I checked the … [Read more...]

Adrien de Vries Sculpture Fetches Record $27.9 Million

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A record was set at Christie's today for an Adrien de Vries sculpture--one that was withdrawn from sale in 2011 because it lacked an export license--and the winning bidder was the Rijksmuseum. The Mannerist sculpture, which is widely recognized as a masterpiece by the 17th century artist known as the “Dutch Michaelangelo”, was won by the museum after a tense three-way phone bidding battle that lasted four minutes and captivated the audience at Christie’s Rockefeller Center saleroom in New York. The final price, including the premium, … [Read more...]

Menil Repurposes Sacred Space For Contemporary Art

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When the Byzantine Fresco Chapel at the Menil Collection in Houston opened in 1997, it displayed a group of 13th-century Greek Orthodox frescoes. But after restoration of the works, which the Menil had rescued from looters for the Church of Cyprus, the museum returned the frescoes to Cyprus as a donation when the agreed loan expired in 2012. So what to do with that chapel (at right), which has now been deconsecrated? The Menil has commissioned a year-long installation from the team of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Cardiff’s Forty … [Read more...]

Boston’s Arts Czar–Real Or Window Dressing?

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This fall, Boston's relatively new (Jan. 2014) mayor, Martin J. Walsh, appointed a cabinet-level arts czar: Julie Burros, who has been director of cultural planning in Chicago for nearly 15 years, where she helped develop a cultural plan for the Windy City. Many in the arts there were thrilled. Talking with the Boston Globe, ArtsBoston executive director Catherine Peterson said: “I think it is a potential game changer for the city. It embeds somebody who reports directly to the mayor, so the arts are not just at the center of what goes on in … [Read more...]

Perelman Vs. Gagosian: A Decision

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Well, it turns out, the court agrees with me on at least one case filed by billionaire Ron Perelman about the art market. As I wrote here in October, in a legal match-up between art dealer Larry Gagosian and financier Ronald Perelman, neither is a sympathetic character. But I thought then, and still do, that Perelman's suit about his purchase of a Cy Twombly painting was probably a frivolous case. Some RCA readers disagreed. Last week, the New York Supreme Court dismissed a Perelman suit against Gagosian filed in 2012 in which he said he had … [Read more...]

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