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Freer-Sacker Digitization Project: A Modest Suggestion


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...]

More on That Indy Admission Fee


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...]

Adrien de Vries Sculpture Fetches Record $27.9 Million


A record was set at Christie's today for an Adrien de Vries sculpture--one that was withdrawn from sale in 2011 because it lacked an export license--and the winning bidder was the Rijksmuseum.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


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...]

Barron’s Strange Report On Art Museums


Last weekend, Barron's--the financial weekly--published a cover story on art museums. It's a crazy salad of a piece, full of supposedly new thoughts that are actually old, composed with a strange tone that shifts throughout the piece, exaggerating in parts, and so on. It frequently cited net assets as a sign of wealth, which includes items like land, when it should have used endowment figures. It has a few non sequiturs (notice the paragraph below on the Met). And it bore what I think is a misleading headline, Billionaire Art Museums. (see … [Read more...]

Guggenheim Helsinki Finalists Announced


The word from Helsinki is, I think, good. After reviewing 1,715 submissions, the architecture jury for the proposed Gugggenheim Helsinki museum has chosen six finalists--and even they don't know whose design goes with which name. The names are not the usual suspects (hooray!): AGPS Architecture Ltd. (Zurich, Switzerland and Los Angeles, United States of America) Asif Khan Ltd. (London, United Kingdom) Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (New York, United States of America; Barcelona, Spain; and Sydney, Australia) Haas Cook Zemmrich … [Read more...]

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve (Day)?

Manchester, New Hampshire, Currier Museum of Art,

Many museums schedule plenty of holiday events in December, but probably not for New Year's Eve. So the message from the Currier Museum (pictures) in Manchester, NH, caught my eye. It was for something called "Noon Year's Eve" on Dec. 31, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. I think that's a grand idea--the association between museums and holidays is a good one, in my mind. Here is the description of the Currier event: Northern New England’s biggest family-friendly New Year’s Eve event gets better every year. Ring in 2015 a few hours early at the Currier … [Read more...]

Breaking News: Don Bacigalupi Leaving Crystal Bridges


Don Bacigalupi has been president of Crystal Bridges only since February, 2013, but now he is leaving to become the Founding President of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which George Lucas intend to erect in Chicago. It is not without controversy. The recently released design concept, put forward by MAD Architects, has been criticized. People don't approve of its "space-mountain-like design." Still it has a proposed opening date of 2018. Previously, Bacigalupi was director of Crystal Bridges, and I'm not sure anyone ever understood … [Read more...]

Mass MoCA Closes In On Its Original Promise


"It's really exciting to see a lot of the promise of that project being realized," Michael Govan told me the other day. I was telling him that, tomorrow, the Massachusetts Museum of Contempory Art plans to announce six new partnerships with artists and artists' foundations that will fill 90,000 square feet. That's a huge chunk of the new space being renovated in the expansion that I wrote about in August for The New York Times. Mass MoCA's new partners are big names: James Turrell, Laurie Anderson, Jenny Holzer, plus the Robert Rauschenberg … [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...]

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