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Art First: A New Start in Cincinnati


I've never met Cameron Kitchin, who began his job as director of the Cincinnati Art Museum today. He is making an interesting start: today, in the museum's Great Hall, he met the public from 4 to 6 p.m., over light appetizers and a cash bar. Presumably, he walked the museum and met staff earlier in the day. Those are the right gestures to make. Kitchin, you'll recall, isn't a first-time director (He came from the director's post at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and has other interesting experience, which you can read about here), and it … [Read more...]

“Sculpture Victorious,” Yes, But In What Way?


I was recently at the Yale Center for British Art, where Sculpture Victorious: Art in the Age of Invention, 1837-1901, is on view through Nov. 30. It's a fascinating exhibition in many respects, bringing together a very diverse assemblage of objects from a very diverse group of lenders. Looking at one piece, an idealized, imaginary portrait of the first earl of Winchester borrowed from the House of Lords, Michael Hatt, an art history professor at the University of Warwick who is one of three curators of the show, said to me: “It is a mix of … [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...]

A Question to Nobelist Kandel Reveals A Big Gap At the Met


Last week, I was honored to sit opposite Nobel-prize winner/neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel at a small dinner. Kandel, seeking to understand how memory works, figured it out by studying its physiological basis in the cells of sea slugs. For that, he won the Nobel in 2000. More recently, he has turned some of his attention to art. In 2012, he published The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present. Kandel and his wife, Denise, go to museums a lot. "I would say art is our … [Read more...]

ArtPrize Matures: The People Vs. Experts


In its sixth incarnation, ArtPrize--the open competition in which the public chooses the winners--is trying a new tack. Not only will experts also weigh in separately--as they have in the past--but also their choice will receive a grand award prize of equal size, $200,000, the same as the public. This is good, more about which in a minute. This year, ArtPrize has 1,536 artist entries, drawn from "51 countries and 42 U.S. states and territories, exhibiting work in 174 public venues throughout the city."  (That's down a bit from last year, … [Read more...]

What’s It All About, Jean Nouvel? A Pace-Setting Museum?


Of course he wants it to be one: he's an architect. But the project announced by Jean Nouvel last week, plans for a National Art Museum of China, won't just be innovative in design; it seems--from the announcement and resulting press coverage--that the Chinese, with Nouvel's help, will be out to establish new practices in museums, or at least to confirm what other museums have been trying, as standards. NAMOC, as it has been dubbed, seems to be aiming for upending the museum world a bit. Aside from gallery spaces, a research and education … [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 Triumphs And Woes For Frank Gehry


He's called (by some) the most important architect working today, which is debatable, but there's no question that Frank Gehry is one of the world's most innovative and creative architects. In the U.S., he's still having trouble with the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, despite a revision in his design delivered earlier this month. According to the Associated Press, In the revised design, Gehry's Los Angeles-based team eliminated two large, metal tapestries on the sides of the memorial park, along with some large columns. One long, stainless … [Read more...]

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