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Capitol Offense: Metropolitan Museum Blasts “Domestic Terrorism” by “Treasonous Rioters”

Throwing caution to the winds, the Metropolitan Museum today went beyond the more measured words of a few other museums in its angry call to "bring to justice those responsible" for the "criminal actions" at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The Met's official Statement on Capitol Desecration, signed by Daniel Weiss, president and CEO, and Max Hollein, director, began with this no-holds-barred barrage: The attack on the United States Capitol was an act of domestic terrorism that violated our nation’s highest values. The actions of these treasonous … [Read more...]

The Architect of the Capitol Assesses the Damage: Our Nation’s Art & Architecture (if we can keep it)

This was a week when blogging-as-usual struck me as irredeemably frivolous. Trying to promulgate commentary about art and the artworld seemed fatuous, at a time when our nation's adherence to the rule of law, reason and humane values (and even its very existence) seemed at stake. Image from CNN's coverage of the Capitol takeover, with John Trumbull's Surrender of General Burgoyne, 1826, in the backgroundScreenshot by Lee Rosenbaum Shell shocked and blocked, I found unexpected inspiration to continue my life as CultureGrrl from a spiritual … [Read more...]

The Year in CultureGrrl, 2020 Edition: It’s not over until the Deaccession Diva sings

This was the year when I had to solve this conundrum: How do you sustain an art blog when the only art you've seen since early February is what's in your own apartment? As someone in a virus-vulnerable category (seniors), I've been ultra-cautious and led a mostly boring life since the pandemic hit: Not only did I eschew museums; I haven't even ventured into Manhattan since I flew home to New Jersey after visiting Mountain View for the birth of our healthy, happy granddaughter. Before being allowed to visit her at the hospital, my husband … [Read more...]

New York Chauvinism? “Groundbreaking” Show at the Whitney Builds on Dartmouth College’s Lead

I didn't disclose my contrarian reaction to the Whitney Museum’s ambitious, widely acclaimed Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945 at the time when it opened last February. But with it now in the last stretch of its run (extended to Jan. 31, due to the Covid pause), I feel less compunction about tempering the praise lavished by art critics on this ambitious exploration of how U.S. modernists were inspired by Mexican painters (and not just by the “muralists” of the title). It’s not that "Vida Americana" doesn’t … [Read more...]

“No Duty to Police Clients”? The Continuing Saga of NY Attorney General’s Sales-Tax Suit vs. Sotheby’s

Artnet's art-market reporter Eileen Kinsella beat me to the punch today in reporting on Sotheby's rebuttal of the NY Attorney General's complaint that accused the auction house of complicity in a client's allegedly "fraudulent avoidance of sales tax." Eileen cited but didn't link to Sotheby's 27-page Memorandum of Law, which seeks the court's dismissal of the AG's complaint. (You're welcome.) By perusing the new Sotheby's filing, you will discover that its arguments boil down to three contentions that the AG's office will likely … [Read more...]

Frick Tricks: Reinvention to Convention, as Peripatetic Displays Move from Brutalist to Beaux Arts (with cocktails)

While many museums are experimenting with quirky new ways of organizing (or disorganizing) their permanent-collection displays, the Frick Collection, currently closed, is going in the opposite direction: It will use its planned temporary occupation of the Whitney Museum-owned Breuer building (the eventual fate of which is still undetermined) as an opportunity to unveil a more conventionally coherent presentation of its holdings than was seen in its flagship building. The relocated, rethought display, to open in early 2021, will be … [Read more...]

Deaccession Dejection: Whither the Embattled Baltimore Museum of Art? (plus: Brooklyn’s castoffs)

The sorry tale of of the Baltimore Museum of Art's (BMA's) deaccession debacle, chronicled on this blog in real time in successive posts (six links), got a comprehensive recap on Sunday from the indispensable Sebastian Smee and Peggy McGlone of the Washington Post. Their main takeaway from this saga is that "the still-reverberating controversy didn’t just leave [Christopher] Bedford [the BMA's director] licking his wounds and the BMA with a crisis of governance. It has left American museums in the dark about how to interpret the rules … [Read more...]

A Role Fit for Me: Who Will Play Alice Walton in Upcoming Netflix Series? (& other dubious plans)

An expression that I've always liked has particular resonance in these times when nothing seems certain about whether or when we can resume life as we once knew it. Derived from a Yiddish proverb, this saying was popularized by Woody Allen: If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.[Yiddish Proverb: “Der mentsh trakht un got lakht."---Man thinks. God laughs.] Since the Virus Crisis struck, I've made very few plans for outside activities, other than taking regular walks with my husband and embarking on masked visits to our … [Read more...]

A U.S. “Ministry of Culture” Under Biden? Just Say No, Joe! UPDATED

Already anticipating a more culture-friendly president than the one who tried to eliminate federal appropriations for the National Endowments of the Arts and for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, some arts advocates are making noises about the creation of a federal Ministry of Culture, or if not that, at least a "culture czar," as reported by Helen Stoilas in The Art Newspaper. We've had this conversation before, art-lings: As I commented almost 12 years ago, when music … [Read more...]

Obama’s Return Engagement at the National Portrait Gallery: His “60 Minutes” Close-Up

Watching Barack Obama being interviewed at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) by Scott Pelley of CBS's "60 Minutes" brought back memories last Sunday of one of my two Best Press Previews Ever---the NPG's unveiling of Obama's portrait by Kehinde Wiley. (My other most memorable press preview was here.) Revisiting those galleries for a conversation pegged to the publication of the former President's blockbuster memoir must have caused Obama also to reflect on that celebratory event of February 2018, which had occasioned the reunion of key … [Read more...]

“Fraudulent Avoidance of Sales Tax”: NY Attorney General’s Lawsuit vs. Sotheby’s UPDATED

NY State Attorney General Letitia James has sued Sotheby's for its alleged role in helping a client (unnamed in the AG's complaint) to "pose as an art dealer so he could illegally qualify for sales-tax exemptions reserved for the art trade" when purchasing art (in the words of Kelly Crow's recent report in the Wall Street Journal). NY State Attorney General Letitia James According to the AG's 42-page complaint, the suspect activity began in November 2010, when the client, described by the AG as a contemporary art collector, asked a … [Read more...]

The Late Joseph Rishel, 80: Witty, Erudite Curator Extraordinaire

Joseph Rishel, the brilliant, resourceful Philly-based curator of memorable exhibitions including Cézanne and Beyond, has left us for the Great Beyond. He was "brilliant" in making evocative connections and sharing deep insights regarding major works that we had thought we already knew; "resourceful" because he knew where all the hidden pictures were buried, and he had the charm and diplomatic skills to induce their private owners to unearth them for his worthy purposes. Joseph Rishel, speaking at a 2008 New York press lunch Photo by Lee … [Read more...]

Bronx Cheer! Hall of Fame for Great Americans (Championed Here) Gets an NEH Chairman’s Grant CORRECTED

As an mild antidote to severe post-election anxiety, let's savor a morsel of good news from the federal government: Although it falls short of what I'd hoped for, I'd like to think I may have had something to do with this announcement last week from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): In New York, New York, an NEH Chairman’s Grant [of $30,000] to Bronx Community College (BCC) will support the digitization of archival photographs and materials documenting the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, featuring 96 busts of notable … [Read more...]

Deaccession Deactivation: Fallout from Baltimore Museum’s Pullout from Sotheby’s (& other pratfalls) UPDATED

UPDATE: Darrell Rocha, Sotheby's estimable senior VP, director of Press Office, Americas, revealed that "my time at Sotheby’s [13 years] is coming to a close at the end of this year." Karina Sokolovsky had assumed his title as Worldwide Head of Communications in early October. (He and Mitzi Mina had been co-heads of communications.) The misadventures of Sotheby's David Galperin, hyping four anticipated highlights of Sotheby's Oct. 28 Contemporary Art sale, would be ripe for parody if the underlying issues weren't serious. None of the … [Read more...]

15 Past Presidents of AAMD Sign Letter Calling for Baltimore Museum to “Reconsider” Planned Sales–2 UPDATES

Can you stop a speeding freight train before it crashes? UPDATE: The "speeding freight train" has just screeched to a halt! The Baltimore Museum of Art has just issued a statement that the board and leadership "decided to pause on the upcoming sale of works by Brice Marden, Clyfford Still and Andy Warhol."Here's a link to the Baltimore Museum's full statement on its withdrawal (or sale "pause") of 3 works consigned to Sothebys's. Some 15 (and counting?) former presidents of the Association of Art Museum Directors are giving it a try: In … [Read more...]

AAMD’s Failed Oversight: Murky “Clarification” of Its “Financial Flexibility” Resolutions

Better late that never (but not soon enough), Brent Benjamin, current president of the Association of Art Museum Directors, is attempting to backpedal from the precarious position he championed just six month ago, when AAMD temporarily loosened its tight strictures against the use of proceeds from art sales for anything other than acquisitions. Brent Benjamin, director of the Saint Louis Art Museum Undoubtedly prompted by uproar over the Baltimore Museum of Art's (BMA's) reliance on the more permissive standards as a cover for three … [Read more...]

Alarming Preview: Sotheby’s Hawks Baltimore Museum’s Clyfford Still & Brice Marden

Sirens (coming from the street) were heard wailing at the beginning of Sotheby's Virtual Preview of Highlights from Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art---a fleeting but thematically appropriate soundtrack for the alarming disposals set to occur at the auction house's Contemporary Art auction on Wednesday evening in New York. That startling prelude may have been edited out of the video by the time you click the link to replay the online auction preview. (The sirens began at 5 seconds into the video.) But the danger this sale poses to … [Read more...]

“Central to the Museum’s Collection”: Arnold Lehman Blasts the Baltimore Deaccessions

This is the full text of a letter that was sent today by Arnold Lehman, former director of the Baltimore Museum, to Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh and Secretary of State John Wobensmith [emphasis is his]. It speaks (eloquently) for itself: Dear General Frosh and Secretary Wobensmith: My name is Arnold Lehman and I was the director of the Baltimore Museum of Art from 1979 through 1997. I am writing to oppose the deaccession and sale of three of the most significant and outstanding paintings in the collection of the Baltimore … [Read more...]

Baltimore Museum Gets a Formal Letter Calling for a Halt to Planned Sales; Ex-Director Lehman Piles On

The list of opponents to the Baltimore Museum of Art's (BMA's) deplorable deaccessions keeps growing (now some 150 strong). One particularly notable addition is very well known to CultureGrrl readers---Arnold Lehman, former director of the BMA and, subsequently, of the Brooklyn Museum. Here's his recent photo, as found on the current website for Phillips Auction House, which he joined as a high-ranking official some five years ago: Screenshot from Phillips Our Team webpage Meanwhile, former BMA trustee Laurence Eisenstein, the lawyer … [Read more...]

The Battle of Baltimore: Former Museum Trustees Strike Back in the Deaccession Wars

Any museum official tempted to exploit the (so-called) permanent collection as a fungible commodity for bankrolling pet projects (however worthy) and bolstering the payroll should read and take heed of this six-page letter deploring the Baltimore Museum of Art's (BMA's) planned disposals. Signed and dispatched yesterday by former trustees and advisory committee members of the BMA, as well as by various local artworld luminaries, the letter calls upon Maryland's Attorney General and its Secretary of State to investigate the museum as a … [Read more...]

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