Christopher Knight: “Today, about a week later, we still have no answer as to why MOCA Director Philippe Vergne fired chief curator Helen Molesworth — and we likely won’t. I have a few speculations, which I’ll get to. But the action represents larger stresses vexing the museum world in our New Gilded Age.”
The oldest of these programs is that of the Louvre, which began during the French Revolution in 1793, reportedly just a month after radical Parisians converted the royal palace into a museum. Back then, it was a rule that any artist who wished to enter the museum and copy from the work of the masters would be given an easel to do so—it’s not surprising, then, that among its alumni are familiar names, like Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí.
“The investigation was named Operation Al Zuni after Al Zuni Global Jewelry, a well-known business in Gallup, New Mexico, owned by Nashat Khalaf, a Palestinian immigrant and prominent Indian arts dealer. … The Indian Arts and Crafts Board estimated in 2016 that the retail value of the 350,000 pieces of jewelry seized during [a large 2015] raid exceeded $35 million.”
That’s a worry some people have since the museum – now firmly ensconced in Center City Philadelphia rather than at Alfred Barnes’s old home in an inner suburb – has hired a collections assessor. But the Barnes’s CEO insists that nothing is for sale, and that the assessor is examining items that were never at the museum.
“French schoolteacher Frédéric Durand-Baïssas … says the social media giant closed his account in 2011 because he posted L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World, 1866), [the history-making] explicit full-frontal female nude.” The French judge did rule that French users could sue Facebook in France rather than California, but was less than sympathetic to Durand-Baïssas’s claims for damages.
Behind the scenes, according to several sources close to the museum who were interviewed by artnet News, Molesworth’s personal priorities, progressive politics, and constitutional aversion to flattering donors put her on a collision course with the museum’s director and board. Ultimately, they said, the competing agendas and approaches proved irreconcilable, and the situation became untenable.
This is part of what it’s like: “By day, a steady stream of tourists came, posing for pictures (and peeking in the windows) dressed in the free costumes provided by the visitor center — calico smocks with cameos, overalls and black jackets, even the spectacles — and wielding pitchforks of all sizes. They brought their own props, which included a prized Harley Davidson, a fleet of Stanley steam cars, and a herd of llamas. It was the centerpiece of a Klingon calendar shoot, a bare-chested rock band’s album cover, a marriage proposal, a family reunion — a gamut of creativity daily.”
Rasquache is the art of making do with very little – something that might lead to, well, black velvet paintings. “For generations, these pieces have been placed on the mantles of Chicano households from L.A. to Texas, Oklahoma to Michigan, and yet, have never really gotten the recognition they deserve as a legitimate art form” – until now.
A group called Factum Arte is using high-quality 3D scanners to bring works of art that have been damaged or partially lost back to life. And it has some intense results: “It’s absolutely breathtaking. … I think Monet would believe it was his painting.” Um, time for an update to the classic Walter Benjamin essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”?
Amid the emergence of a far-right, anti-refugee coalition government in the country, “the Scottish artist Susan Philipsz is using the eerie sound of fingers rubbed on water-filled glasses to remind visitors of Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria 80 years ago. On March 12, 1938, Austrians cheered German troops as they marched into the country, and three days later, tens of thousands on the Heldenplatz saluted Hitler as he addressed them from the palace balcony.”
The status to be moved is of songwriter Stephen Foster – and, in words written at the time the status was created in 1900, “an old darkey reclining at his feet strumming negro airs upon an old banjo.” Pittsburgh residents now get to vote about, or at least give an opinion on, which of seven candidates should get a statue in its place.
While dealers say the majority of sales are still consummated in person, often in the framework of long-term relationships, the seeds of those relationships are increasingly being sown online, rather than through traditional routes like art fairs and referrals. The stakes are high: Galleries’ long-term survival may ultimately depend on building up a robust digital presence.
Some observers see Molesworth’s ouster as symptomatic of a struggle between her progressive ideals and the status quo, epitomized by Vergne who curated three shows of white male artists — Carl Andre, Matthew Barney, and Doug Aitken — since arriving.
The question arose (again) with the $450 million sale of da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi after former Met Museum director Thomas Campbell posted an image of the painting pre-conservation on Instagram. Ben Luke looks at the issues – and at four Old Master paintings said to have suffered conservation “indignities” in the past.
“The anonymous British artist’s 70-foot-long mural was unveiled on Thursday, and it protests the imprisonment of the Turkish artist and journalist Zehra Dogan, who was sentenced last March for painting the destruction of a Turkish [Kurdish] town, with the country’s flag flying over rubble.”
Francois Prost’s photograph of the Eiffel Tower looks like it was taken on any given day in Paris. But just outside the frame are clues that the structure in his picture is nowhere near the Champ de Mars: Chinese script adorns all the shop signs, and there is no shortage of canteens serving up fried rice. That’s because Prost didn’t capture that image in France—he captured it 6,000 miles away in a facsimile of the City of Light.
The project, to be announced Wednesday by Colburn President and CEO Sel Kardan, also includes a 700-seat studio theater for dance and vocal performance, a 100-seat theater for smaller-scale and experimental work, as well as classrooms, dance studios, an outdoor performance area and housing for students and guest artists.
It’s even more fitting than you think: not only has the world’s only celebrity guerrilla artist tagged the Big Apple with an image of its emblematic mammal, he’s made it represent the city’s emblematic metaphor for work and career. (Sorry, there’s no pizza.)
“The Musée des Arts Décoratifs has long had an identity crisis. It is in a 19th-century wing of the Louvre building … but it does not belong to the Louvre. It gets confused with the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, the elite national school for art and design on the other side of the Seine River, even though there is no connection between the two institutions. And it is not a museum dedicated to the early 20th-century Art Deco movement, even though ‘Art Deco’ is shorthand for ‘Arts Décoratifs.’ So in January, in an effort to reinvent itself, the museum changed its name.”
Nonprofits generally don’t create their own elaborate art to rally more community support. Most have limited budgets, which necessitates putting time, money, and effort into programming first, in order to impact the communities they’re serving. Still, more funders are thinking up creative ways to use the medium.
Shaped like an enormous, flattened pyramid, it will challenge the Eiffel Tower for dominance of the skyline. Neighborhood residents violently oppose it. The project’s Swiss architects, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, are thrilled.
“Santiago Ramón y Cajal …, whose work in his field can be compared to Charles Darwin and Louis Pasteur in theirs, is also among the best draftsmen of the 20th century. If his penciled linear, fractalizing networks and abstract webs were inserted into any art museum’s early-20th-century permanent collection they would stop people in their tracks and vie with the best the museum has to offer.”
“Sexual harassment, various instances of discrimination and retaliation are among the top complaints, according to these employees. They describe supervisors who are inept at scheduling, a workforce that is chronically understaffed and managers who are not held accountable for their actions.”
“Helen Molesworth, the chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art whose exhibitions have included the critically acclaimed 2017 Kerry James Marshall retrospective that was also a rare popular hit, has been fired, according to sources close to the museum. … [MOCA board member Catherine] Opie said she called [director Philippe] Vergne after receiving the surprise [news] and was told that Molesworth had not written a letter of resignation but was terminated for ‘undermining the museum.'”
“María Inés Rodríguez, the director of the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, was called into a town hall meeting last Tuesday, March 6, during which she was informed that her artistic program was ‘too demanding’ and she was being let go. … But a group of more than 50 art world luminaries … have now signed an open letter condemning Rodriguez’s forthcoming dismissal.”
“The Civil War memorial secretary was widely embraced as a folk art treasure. Fashioned from walnut, maple and oak, it was said to have been created circa 1876 to honor John Bingham, a Union infantryman who had fallen at Antietam. … The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford purchased the work and gave it prominent display.” Until last year, that is. And now the forger has (proudly) confessed.
Martin Gammon explains why the estimates some people use of the money that could be gained from deaccessioning are likely way, way off and couldn’t raise enough money to do any good.
“Previously, valuable works of art created fewer than 50 years ago were officially treated as ‘luxury goods’ and subject to 30% import dues. This changed on 29 January with the passing of a new law that is part of a radical revision of Russian art import-export regulations aimed at opening up the Russian art scene to the world.”
The NRA’s visual logic suggests a new twist in the culture wars. Cities, today, are thriving, and the old rhetoric of the city as a kind of cancer spreading into the heartland no longer works. So the NRA has adopted a new narrative: The city, no matter how successful, is a pernicious collective endeavor that will ultimately decay into violence and oppression. The video in which “Cloud Gate” appears is succinct in this prediction: From its opening images of public sculpture and architecture it moves directly into images of protest and violence and finally an urgent exhortation from the narrator