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The Berlin Saga: A New Proposal Keeps The Old Masters Where They Are

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It has been more than a year since the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage  set off a furor by deciding to mothball, for at least several years and possibly indefinitely, about half of the Old Master paintings now on view at the Berlin Gemaldegalerie. The other half would go to the Bode Museum, necessitating the storage of about half the Old Master sculpture on view there. This was all in the name of making space to display a 20th century art collection of uncertain importance, a condition of the donors, Ulla and Heiner … [Read more...]

Cleveland’s Unprecedented Misfortune

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The euphoria at the Cleveland Museum of Art regarding its new purchase of Henry Bone's enamel-on-copper copy of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne for less than half a million was, alas, overshadowed today by the cancellation of its upcoming exhibition, Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome, which is currently at the Getty. It is, and was to be, a blockbuster. Take a look at the check list -- some 145 antiquities, including the phiale pictured here. Now Cleveland has a huge hole in its schedule, beginning Sept. 29 -- not very far from … [Read more...]

A Visit To The Bridgestone Museum Gets Me Thinking

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The Bridgestone Museum of Art is the only museum I visited in Tokyo with a big Western art collection. You may remember it from its mention in a number of art-world stories in the 1980s, the heydays of Japanese buying here. Among its smart purchases then was Picasso's Saltimbanque Seated with Arms Crossed, from 1923, bought at Sotheby's in 1980 for $3 million, which is about $8.2 million in today's money. Quite a bargain -- it's a wonderful picture. Have a look here. Bridgestone has focused mainly on 19th Century French art, though it … [Read more...]

Why Tanzania And Portland, Maine Suddenly Mix

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In tomorrow's Wall Street Journal, I review an exhibition that opened at the Portland Museum of Art on Saturday: Shangaa: Art of Tanzania. It is, according to its curator, Gary van Wyk, the first exhibition in the United States devoted to Tanzanian art, and one of the few period. This material has been shown in Germany, and that's about it. History is the culprit, as I explain in the article, headlined Objects that Amaze. But what's it doing in Maine? Maine is the whitest state in the country, with 96.9 percent of its population described as … [Read more...]

A Step In The Wrong Direction — Or False Advertising?

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What comes after crowdsourcing and crowdfunding? Crowd-deaccessioning, of course. Yup, the Georgia Museum of Art (at the University of Georgia) has opened an exhibition of five paintings (one at right) from its collection by the French artist Bernard Smol (1897–1969). The museum wants to keep just one of them because of "limited storage space and evolving collecting philosophy." Four, then, will be deaccessioned. But instead of making that curatorial decision itself, the museum wants help. According to the exhibition description, "Visitors … [Read more...]

Chronological Installations: Will The Tate Turn The Tide?

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For some time now, many museums have been reinstalling their permanent collections in new ways, moving away from a chronological progression to more thematic placements. Supposedly, thematic hangings are easier for visitors to understand -- at least that's the usual explanation for them. Now we have the Tate reversing course. Beginning today, ...visitors can experience the national collection of British art in a continuous chronological display - a walk through time from the 1500s to the present day. BP Walk through British Art will … [Read more...]

Peer Review: The Best Exhibitions and Publications of 2012

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Praise from peers is often the most meaningful, as long as it's not politicized; that's why I pay attention to the awards for excellence awarded each year by the Association of Art Museum Curators. The other day, that organization gave the blue ribbon to 11 exhibitions, catalogues and articles from 2012. One exhibition "swept" in that it won two of the 11: Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925: How A Radical Idea Changed Modern Art, which was organized by Leah Dickerman with Masha Chlenova at The Museum of Modern Art, won in the Outstanding … [Read more...]

Is This A Way To Run A Museum? What We Can Learn From Cincinnati

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Yesterday I attended the American Federation of Arts's panel titled "Art Museum Blockbusters: Myths, Facts, and Their Future." But I don't want to talk about blockbusters here, at least not today. I'm going to zero in on some comments made by one of the panelists, Aaron Betsky, director (for now) of the Cincinnati Art Museum (none of them are related to blockbusters, as the session wandered away from its original purpose at various times). I''m singling out Betsky not because of the recent news, or because of what he has done in the past, … [Read more...]

What Color Is That Gallery? The Spring Show As Trailblazer

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The Spring Show at the Park Avenue Armory, which started today, is a new event in the art calendar. This is its third edition, as fair organizers like to term their annual events. It is a mixed offering -- mixed in the goods on offer (paintings, furniture, silver, jewelry, flags, artifacts, etc. etc.), mixed in quality, mixed in the geographical home of the dealers, and so on. At the opening preview reception last night, I found plenty of things to enjoy and admire, as well as some that were easy to bypass. Art snobs who pass it up are … [Read more...]

Teaching Technique In The Galleries

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Having written about the exhibition of John Singer Sargent's watercolors at the Brooklyn Museum before it opened, I was curious to see it in the flesh. I went over the weekend, and am happy to say that it lives up to expectations. One surprise -- the color of the walls behind the artworks, which was melon, verging on orange. But not the neon orange the Brooklyn Museum has used in its American art galleries. Rather, it's a soft orange that you might find in a posh apartment on Park Ave. You can get a sense of it in my picture, at left. You … [Read more...]

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