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Clyfford Still Museum Revisited

PH-613, 1942

Life is constricted, to some extent, for all single-artist museums--and more than most at the Clyfford Still Museum. As decreed by the artist, it can never exhibit works by any other artist and it can't have a restaurant or auditorium, among other things. Yet almost about three years ago, in November, 2011, it opened in Denver. When I received a press release a while back announcing its tenth special exhibition, opening this coming Friday--The War Begins: Clyfford Still's Paths to Abstraction--I thought it was time to check in and see how it … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum Rescues Egyptian Antiquities


Last week, as Bonhams in London was preparing to auction a lot of second millennium B.C. Egyptian antiquities consigned by the St. Louis Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, the Metropolitan Museum of Art* stepped in. Bonhams withdrew the lot, estimated at £80,000 - 120,000 (US$ 130,000 - 190,000), and the Met purchased the Treasure of Harageh items (one pictured at left). There's no word on what the Met paid. I tell the whole tale, tipped off by an item by the Associated Press, in an item on Art-Antiques-Design. That's a … [Read more...]

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...]

Another Corcoran Outrage: The Archives

Grieving Canova lion by David Mordini

If you thought everything about the future of the Corcoran Art Gallery was parsed and settled, much to the dismay of its students, faculty, curators and various formers in all three categories, think again. There's another outrage. The Corcoran's archives, which relate its entire 145-year history, are slated to be broken up. Any archivist will tell you that, more important than the possibly wonderful individual items, it's the whole of an archive that matters most to the historical record. Indeed, the Corcoran archives contain "all … [Read more...]

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...]

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