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Something Good To Say About MoMA

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You hear so much about museums seeking out young audiences, the audiences of the future. It's tiresome, actually, and that quest ignores another giant portion of the country's population--seniors. Seniors make up nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population and that's nothing to ignore. So I was glad to learn recently of a new program at, of all places, the Museum of Modern Art, which has been a big target of criticism of late, mostly because of the Bjork exhibit and the tear-down of the folk art museum building, but also just in general. On May … [Read more...]

What If Britain Hadn’t Taken the “Lion Hunt Reliefs”?

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Hard as it is to believe, many people visit the British Museum and entirely miss the great seventh-century B.C. Assyrian lion hunt reliefs. I know, not only because some people have written that to me but also because I was one of them. On my first several visits to the BM, I didn't know they were there. Once I discovered them, I was awestruck. So when earlier this year the so-called Islamic State began destroying what remains at Nineveh, where the lion hunt reliefs came from, I proposed them as a "Masterpiece" for the column of that name in … [Read more...]

The Shocking Cooper Hewitt, Part Two

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Aside from the maltreatment of its beautiful historic building, which I wrote about here nearly three weeks ago, something else is deeply wrong with the new incarnation of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum: the display and the contextualization of the objects in the displays simply don't measure up to minimal standards. To be sure, visually they are often attractive. But frequently they are very dumbed down, witless and perhaps even misleading. I think the museum's leadership meant well; I really do. But I think they misjudged their … [Read more...]

The Dangers Of Audience Gimmicks

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What was that song from Gypsy--"You gotta have a gimmick," right? Sadly some museums are trying gimmicks to lure people into their galleries and I fear this will all end badly. Let's take a look at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which does have a visitorship problem, apparently, considering that it has a splendid permanent collection. In January, The Independent said that the permanent collection there draws just 200 visitors a week (compared with 2,000 per week when there is a temporary exhibition). On Apr. 29, the same paper said it … [Read more...]

Bravo: Even the Whimsy At A Few Museums Is About Art

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I love it when that's so. I was reminded of this at the new Whitney last week. I had been meaning to return to the subject since I visited the New Britain Museum of American Art several weeks ago to review the Otis Kaye exhibition for The Wall Street Journal. There, the museum seating is not just any seating; it's a collection of benches bought by the museum from contemporary artists. At the Whitney, as you may have read, the elevators are design by Richard Artschwager (one pictured below, at bottom_. All of this signals that art is not … [Read more...]

First Thoughts On the New Whitney

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After visiting the new Whitney Museum twice, for a total of about five hours, I've come to some tentative conclusions--first and foremost, that it's a successful building for art, which always be the prime goal of an art museum. I went into this blog's archives to see what I thought when I first saw the plans--in 2011, at the groundbreaking ceremony. I recall a lot of negativity at the time, but I disagreed: ...I may rue this day, but I’m going out on a limb regarding the architecture: Piano’s design, based on the drawings and sketches I’ve … [Read more...]

The Shocking Cooper Hewitt

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Many curtain-raisers for and reviews of the newly renovated and reconceived Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum have focused on its use of technology to make the museum interactive, participatory and therefore supposedly of more interest to young generations who are not satisfied with just looking. One recent Saturday, I finally made it to this new incarnation to see for myself. I didn't mind the interactive technology. I liked much of it. Some of it was fun to play with. At one station, I designed a lovely outdoor sculpture. I did not get … [Read more...]

International Pop, World Pop, And Don’t Forget German Pop

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In today's Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times,  the Walker Art Center's new International Pop exhibit gets a good curtain-raiser. Randy Kennedy makes its case "not only that Pop was sprouting in countless homegrown versions around the world but also that the term itself has become too narrow to encompass the revolution in thinking it represented for a generation of artists." Pop was not, in other words, just an American invention with "a British offshoot." And this is the year, it seems, for that subject--the article also … [Read more...]

Another Opening, Another…

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I'm not talking about "Kiss Me, Kate" or another show. I'm talking about art museum directorships. Doreen Bolger, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art (pictured at right), just announced that she is retiring, effective June 15. That's not much notice. On March 19, Michael Conforti (at left) announced that he'd be retiring on Aug. 31 after 20 years as director of the Clark Art Institute. Up and down the East coast, at least, major directorships are open: the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Morgan Library and Museum, the Brooklyn … [Read more...]

A Giant Step Forward At The Met

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When I visited The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky at the Metropolitan Museum on Saturday afternoon, I was prepared to be delighted--and I was, in more ways than one. The Nelson-Atkins Museum, which co-curated the show with the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, had primed me for how beautiful it was going to be, sending along the catalogue as evidence when the show opened in Kansas City last fall. At the Met, the exhibit lived up to my great expectations. So many of these objects are stunningly beautiful. But from the very first … [Read more...]

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