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Detroit Free Press Takes Strong Stance


"Buzzards"..."Hands off our stuff, you soulless, greedy, scavenging vultures"...."bald stupidity involved in selling off the DIA"..."The whole idea of municipal bankruptcy is to prevent this kind of shortsighted destruction"..."would destroy the state’s most important cultural asset"..."Chopping up the collection at the DIA would be a brutal and culturally ignorant extension of that very dynamic"... Those are some of the strong words contained in an editorial in today's Detroit Free Press, from a writer named Stephen Henderson, the Freep's … [Read more...]

12th Century Manuscript Mystery


Twenty-three years after it disappeared -- a theft that was never reported publicly -- an 1133 Byzantine illuminated New Testament arrived at the Getty Museum "as part of a large, well-documented collection." Now it's going home to the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou on Mount Athos in Greece. Mount Athos is a special place, off-limits to women, actually, but I've read enough about it to know that. Way back in 1998, when the web was new and The New York Times had a section called Circuits that published articles about interesting websites, I … [Read more...]

Breaking News: Disgusting Developments In Detroit

DIA-Wedding Dance

Detroit's creditors are getting out of hand. Today, news came that they have solicited bids for the art owned by the Detroit Institute of Arts -- getting billion-dollar bids for the collection or key parts of it. According to both Detroit newspapers, the Financial Insurance Guaranty Co. (FGIC) has four tentative bids of up to $2 billion. Said the Detroit Free Press: The prospective investors include a coalition of Catalyst Acquisitions and Bell Capital Partners that tentatively offered $1.75 billion for all of the DIA’s property. The … [Read more...]

Mikwaukee Expanding Again?


I'm often skeptical of museum expansions; often, they're really not needed, and they're not paid for in advance. Boards often overestimate the expected visitorship (which often falls to pre-expansion levels after the first year) and underestimate the additional costs of maintaining a larger space. So when I heard some months ago that the Milwaukee Art Museum planned to expand -- it seems like only a few years ago that it opened its signature Quadracci Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava (which doesn't leak, management there tells me; … [Read more...]

Is That A Rembrandt In The Closet? Yes.


More discoveries in the storeroom, and this time it's a Rembrandt. Yes, the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha has been told that a painting in its collection for 72 years, acquired as a Rembrandt but downgraded to School of Rembrandt -- and relegated to storage -- is in fact by the master after all. At least in the view of Rembrandt scholar Ernst van de Wetering, who says the work is “Portrait of Dirck van Os." No date was given in the Omaha World-Herald, which published the news today. Here's the backstory: In 1942 the museum purchased “Portrait … [Read more...]

The Allure Of The New


The Miami art museum, now known as the Perez Art Museum Miami, released attendance figures for its first four months of existence the other day -- they're great. But they raise two questions. First the numbers: Since its December opening, the museum has welcomed 150,000 visitors. Massachusetts-based ConsultEcon had estimated 200,000 visitors for the entire first full year, according to Miami Today. One caveat: the projection was made in 2008, partly based on attendance in the old building. Nonetheless, congratulations are in order, and I … [Read more...]

Oddly, Bush’s Art Gives Reason To Cheer


I'm sure you all saw coverage of the exhibit showing portraits painted by former president George W. Bush. The show at the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University was front page news, pictorially, in New York -- here in The New York Times and here in The Wall Street Journal -- and probably elsewhere too. It was criticized as amateurish by some -- most? -- and I don't disagree. So was Winston Churchill's art, but it was still interesting that he could as well as he did, given all the other things Churchill did so … [Read more...]

How Do We Feel About Killer Heels?


As the subject of an art exhibition, that is -- not on what to wear. That's the question I've been mulling since yesterday, when the Brooklyn Museum* sent out a press release announcing Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe, which opens there in September. Fashion exhibits are popular these days, and many are fine considerations of costumes old and new. I've lauded some here, and panned others. With a name like Killer Heels, you know the marketing folks have been involved. That's not a bad thing, depending on how deep it goes. … [Read more...]

San Francisco Museums Land A Great Gift


There are at least three notable aspects of the gift announced the other day by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: the Thomas W. Weisel Family has donated about 200 objects of Native American art to the museum. They were amassed over three decades by Weisel, an investment banker who profited mightily as a pioneer of the tech industry in Silicon Valley. It's a good match for the FAMSF. The gift includes works that span nearly a thousand years, "from 11th century Mimbres ceramics to 19th century works," according to the press release … [Read more...]

Betsky Asked To Leave Early?


The situation at the Cincinnati Art Museums gets stranger and stranger. Director Aaron Betsky, who was pretty much forced out at the beginning of the year, will leave on May 1 -- instead of his earlier plans to stay until his successor was named. This move, my sources suggest, reflects deep turmoil within the museum caused by Betsky, who is a polarizing figure, if nothing else. His tenture there has been marked by turmoil. In a statement sent by board president Martha Ragland to employees yesterday, she said: "The Director has asked us to … [Read more...]

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