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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...]

More Dueling On the Corcoran Gallery


All this month, the National Gallery of Art announced on Sept. 5, "NGA Corcoran offers free admission and tours, Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. During the month of September, several exciting exhibitions and special installations are on view at NGA Corcoran before it closes for renovation in October." As a result, the NGA says in a press release, "Free Admission at NGA Corcoran has quadrupled attendance." And to add to the good feelings it is trying to create, the NGA said, "Admission will remain free of charge when NGA … [Read more...]

The Importance Of Having A Watchdog – UPDATED


The Asheville Art Museum seems to have a watchdog on its tail, probably in a good way -- in fact, in a way such that it makes me wonder if, say, the Corcoran Gallery of Art might have survived as it was had it had someone similarly watching its every move. In Asheville, the watchdog is a man named Ken Michalove, the former mayor and city manager.  He says the museum "is headed for bankruptcy unless it ramps up its own fundraising, sticks to its original goals and stops trying to adjust its game plan and financial reports so as to qualify for … [Read more...]

Corcoran Case: Over. “Painful.” But Necessary, Alas?

Corcoran Gallery via AP

Judge rules that mergers can proceed, a headline about the Corcoran Gallery of Art cy pres case would say. But the decision, D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Okun made, he said, was "painful." That's sort of how I have felt from the beginning: it's a bad situation and it's pretty hard to dream up a way to save the Corcoran as it was. The Corcoran's troubles and management/governance, or lack thereof, had simply got too bad, and the Corcoran was damaged goods. I never believed in the plan of Wayne Reynolds to save it; in the long run, I … [Read more...]

Big Questions Re: Museum of African Art’s New Dream


There was alarming news in the article in Wednesday's New York Times about the Museum for African Art here in NYC, and it wasn't ab0ut the shrinking of the building or even the gallery space. It was about the shrinking of the board -- to six people! That is way too small for a non-profit, where aside from choosing the leader/director, raising money -- get or give -- is one of its most important functions. The article said: The number of trustees — who usually are expected to provide an overwhelming majority of contributions — has shrunk … [Read more...]

Timken Mess, Part 3: Hugh Davies Adds Perspective


The Timken Museum of Art in San Diego, as you'll recall, is a governance mess: trustees have caused Executive Director John Wilson, a professional, to resign and have replaced him with a well-known art restorer who will run the museum part time from New York City. See my posts here and here. That's no way to run a museum. The saddest thing, as reported in a piece last week by KPBS, the public radio station, is that locals now see the museum as regressing. Wilson had boosted attendance and raised some money, but apparently also thought the … [Read more...]

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