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Does Crowdfunding Work? Not So Far


Back on Nov. 6, the Phillips Collection sent me an email about a worthy effort: it had started a crowd-funding campaign for a micro-website about Jacob Lawrence. It would feature "unpublished interviews between the artist and museum curators in 1992 and 2000, including one conducted just prior to the artist’s death." The point, obviously, was to engage people in learning about Lawrence, particularly because the Phillips plans to present the exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series (one image at left) in fall, 2016, following its presence … [Read more...]

Detroit: Time To Put Artists On The Spot?


Supporters of the Detroit Institute of Arts have been celebrating for almost a week now--it was last Friday that the court ruled in favor of the Grand Bargain, which buys freedom for the DIA. But with a catch: the museum still has to raise more than $10 million to reach its $100 million mandated contribution to the deal. And then it must raise about $300 million over the next eight or so years for its endowment, to replace the money it is receiving from the millage tax--which ends after 10 years from its inception. Plus, it always has to … [Read more...]

Detroit: Someone There Is Listening


Remember the political ruckus over the pay packages in the last years for Graham Beal, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and Annmarie Erickson, his deputy? Local politicians threatened to repeal the millage tax, which is supporting operations at the DIA for the next ten years, because of it. Even though I thought that the pair probably deserved the raises and bonuses as disclosed, I agreed that the optics of them--at the particular time, with the Grand Bargain hanging in the balance--had to be fixed. And I recommended a way … [Read more...]

Detroit Institute Addresses Compensation Complaints


A short time ago, the Detroit Institute of Arts responded to the criticism that has kept it in the news for the wrong reasons this week--and threatened to undermine support for the millage tax that provides $23 million on operating support each year. Board chair Edward Gargaro signed the statement, which said that "unfortunately misunderstandings have occurred." Indeed. In a key paragraph, Gargaro promised to discuss the matter the public officials threatened to repeal the millage: We will continue to provide our community with exceptional … [Read more...]

Mistake at DIA: A Pay-Raise Ruckus And A Solution


In the last two years or so, I've often praised the Detroit Institute of Arts for conducting itself in the right way--with respect to passing the millage and in how it has handled itself during the city's bankruptcy. Now, though, it has made a major mistake--in terms of optics if not substance. And it may cost the museum big, in terms of local support. Some local legislators are threatening to take action. According to several reports, the board handed out big raises to the top two execs in 2012: Director Graham Beal received a 13% raise … [Read more...]

Albright-Knox: Making The Case For Expansion


More than one museum has gotten into big trouble by expanding. But I'd bet the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo has a better case than most of them. And last week, the museum said it plans to go ahead with a major expansion. A little background first: I met Janne Siren, who was hired to replace Louis Grachos as the gallery's director in January, 2013, on a visit he made to New York last week. I had last visited the museum about three years ago--though I wish I had not missed several of its recent exhibitions. And that streak seems to be … [Read more...]

My Verdict On The Met’s New Fountains


I've been hearing a lot of complaints about the new fountains at the Metropolitan Museum of Art*; sadly, most are about their funding--with money from conservative David Koch, whose name, naturally (if belately) enough, is on them. I wish that was the real problem, because that can be batted away as foolish talk. Who cares who paid for them? Koch is a Met trustee. If there was a mistake here, it was the museum's promise at the outset that the plaza was not going to be named. But the real problem is that the fountains are ungainly, at … [Read more...]

A Museum Merger That Seems Sensible


From time to time, especially in times of economic uncertainty, the word "merger" gets bandied about as as solution to museum problems. In reality, art museum mergers are rare. I think (though I don't have statistics on that). And they probably should be rare. But sometimes they make sense, and I was pleased recently to read of a merger that does. Last Tuesday, the Lancaster Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, which has a local-artist focus, and the Demuth Museum, dedicated to Charles Demuth (a native son) and also in Lancaster, said they are … [Read more...]

Mission Accomplished: Another Delaware Deaccessioning

Yesterday, the Delaware Museum of Art said it would retire the debt it acquired imprudently (my word), for an expansion, by the end of this month. In part, that's because it succeeded in deaccessioning its second work of art, Calder's Black Crescent (at right), which it sold privately. The museum did not disclose the purchase price or the purchaser, but the Wilmington News Journal estimated the take at $10.6 million "based on the auction results and [Board chair Gerrit] Copeland's estimate of the investment fund withdrawal." The paper … [Read more...]

DIA Can Play Hardball Too


As the city of Detroit goes through U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking approval of its exit strategy -- which includes the "grand bargain" that will save the Detroit Institute of Arts from having sell any works of art -- some creditors have been obstructing the way. One, so far, bond insurer Syncora, has cut a deal with the city, agreeing to the plan in exchange for a $50 million payoff (to be raised in a bond issue), plus leases on the tunnel linking Detroit and Windsor, Canada, and a parking garage. Another billion-dollar creditor, insurer FGIC, … [Read more...]

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