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NY Times Department of Corrections—Hillary Clinton/Maureen Dowd Edition UPDATED

The Twitterati collectively rubbed their eyes and raised their eyebrows yesterday when the NY Times' Opinion page tweeted a hoot that couldn't be blamed on the social-media staff: The mistaken posting accurately reproduced an astonishing error that appeared online yesterday (Saturday) in an Op-Ed column by Maureen Dowd, and was published in the "Sunday Review" section of today's hardcopy of the newspaper: Give Hillary Clinton a break! Where were the NY Times' copy editors when Dowd really needed them? Hillary won the internet yesterday … [Read more...]

Salort-Pons’ Response: Detroit Institute’s Director Tussles with Anonymous Detractors

Showing a courage and candor that’s been in short supply among museum officials who are navigating the choppy waters of racial tensions, political unrest and economic difficulty, Salvador Salort-Pons, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, has publicly engaged with the issues raised in a Change.org petition calling for his removal. Salvador Salort-Pons Photo: Detroit Institute of Arts In their petition, DIA Staff Action—a self-described group of unnamed current and former DIA staffers—decried “years of a hostile work environment.” … [Read more...]

Nyerges on the Purges: Virginia MFA’s Director Defends Bondil, Himself, Other Beleaguered Leaders

Already battered by the economic ills inflicted by the global pandemic, many art museums suddenly find themselves barraged by attacks from aggrieved staffers and former employees accusing the higher-ups of racism, harassment and micro-aggressions. Striving to quell the unrest, art museum officials have pledged to do better and, in some cases (notably at the Metropolitan Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) have promulgated detailed plans for anti-racism training and for initiatives to improve their institutions' equity and … [Read more...]

Bondil Ordeal: Another Face Off Between a Prominent Museum Official & Staff

True to her outspoken nature, Nathalie Bondil, the summarily sacked 13-year director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, is not going quietly. Having gotten a taste of her feistiness and grit during a meeting we had three years ago in New York, I'm not surprised. Bondil, who joined the museum in 1999 as curator of European art, became its chief curator the following year and its director in 2007. She accumulated a profusion of honors for her accomplishments, including the Legion of Honor (France's highest national distinction) and the Order … [Read more...]

Garrels Quarrels: BlogBacks on My Defense of SFMOMA’s Deposed Curator

After posting my contrarian defense on Tuesday of Gary Garrels, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s distinguished (now deposed) senior curator of painting and sculpture, I ducked, anticipating a pile-on of invective. Instead, I got confirmation of what I've always known: I've got a classy readership---intelligent, civil and reasonable...even while contesting my contentious views. Here's one detractor who, from his informed comments about my blog, is clearly a devoted CultureGrrl reader---Peter Kuntz, formerly an official of the … [Read more...]

Garrulous Gary Garrels: The Thought-Police Nab Another Unguarded Curator

In the second of what threatens to become a series of parlous CultureGrrl posts, I'm again risking the wrath of the thought-police by coming to the defense of another consummate museum curator who has had the misfortune of wandering into the cancel-culture crosshairs. Joining Keith Christiansen, the Metropolitan Museum's chairman of European paintings, in this predicament is Gary Garrels, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's senior curator of painting and sculpture, who on July 9 precipitously announced his resignation, effective July … [Read more...]

Trump’s New Sculpture Park for “American Heroes”? Fuhgedaboudit! The Bronx Already Has that Covered

I did a double take at the end of Donald Trump's long-winded July 3 paean to the four Mount Rushmore-enshrined Presidents, which devolved into a diatribe against "the violent mayhem we have seen in the streets of cities that are run by liberal Democrats in every case...the predictable result of years of extreme indoctrination and bias in education, journalism, and other cultural institutions." Trump went on to demonize not only Democrats, journalists and cultural institutions, but also educators who have been teaching children "to hate their … [Read more...]

“Live” But Not Too Lively: Auction Torpor (not Fever) at Sotheby’s Evening Sales

As I had anticipated, government strictures prevented Sotheby's from realizing its tentatively announced plan to hold "live evening and day auctions of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art...in New York the week of 29 June...pending the lifting of certain restrictions and confirmation from the relevant authorities that we can proceed." When it became apparent that this wasn't going to happen, Sotheby's snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by redefining a "LIVE GLOBAL AUCTION EVENT" (the headline of yesterday's post-sale press … [Read more...]

Instagram Slam: Don’t Cancel the Metropolitan Museum’s Embattled Keith Christiansen

The thought-police have come for Keith Christiansen, the Metropolitan Museum's chairman of European paintings. I'm posting (a blog entry, not bond) to bail him out. As reported in yesterday's paper by the NY Times' Robin Pogrebin, Keith's ill-advised (now removed) Juneteenth entry on his personal Instagram feed (also vanished) has ignited a firestorm of indignation for "making a dog whistle of an equation of #BLM [Black Lives Matter] activists with ‘revolutionary zealots,’" in the words of a tweet by Art & Museum Transparency---a group … [Read more...]

BlogBacks: John Ravenal & Alan Wallach (& me) on the Confederate Sculptures Fracas

I knew that my contrarian suggestions about what to do with the controversial sculptures of Confederate leaders on Richmond's Monument Avenue would provoke some pushback, but I hoped for the constructive critiques that I've come to expect from my knowledgeable, insightful readers. That's exactly what I got in two thoughtful responses to Monumental Misdirection: Topple Injustices, Not Lost-Cause Statues. As I wrote in that post, John Ravenal had given me my first look at Monument Avenue when I was on a 2010 Wall Street Journal assignment … [Read more...]

Monumental Misdirection: Topple Injustices, Not Lost-Cause Statues (Some Juneteenth Musings)

Those who prize equality and equity have been rightly horrified and mobilized by videos of the fatal encounters between police and George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks last Friday in Atlanta. But the fierce energy behind violent, destructive expressions of rage that leave ruins in their wake should be applied to battling today's glaring injustices, not to toppling impotent statues from bygone eras. Much time, energy and commentary has been squandered on the defacement, removal and sometimes destruction of monuments that … [Read more...]

“Overhead Premium”: Sotheby’s Invents a New Fee for Buyers

Sotheby's has quietly upped its charges for purchasers of its offerings: An "Overhead Premium" of 1% of the auction hammer price will supplement its buyer's premium, effective Aug. 1. According to its announcement last month, little noticed by the public until Bloomberg's Katya Kazakina recently tweeted about it (more on that below), Sotheby's new charge will be "payable by all auction buyers in our global salesrooms and online sales." It will help to defray "the overhead costs relating to our facilities, property handling and other … [Read more...]

Back to the ’60s (again): Ex-Whitney Trustee Warren Kanders’ Dow Chemical Moment

During this tumultuous time, I keep flashing back to the turmoil of the late '60s---the era when I came of political age as a college student, participating in the landmark 1969 March on Washington against the Vietnam War and attending antiwar "teach-ins" conducted by professors and students at my university, Cornell, which had a strong, politically active Asian Studies department. That same year, Cornell became internationally famous for a march across campus by rifle-toting black students, which I witnessed from my usual studious perch … [Read more...]

The George Floyd Fallout: Art Museums Take a Knee

In a striking departure from their customary reluctance to take strong political stands that would alienate some visitors, art museums around the country, speaking separately but with one voice, responded to the asphyxiation of George Floyd. The Metropolitan Museum arguably had the most startling response, in the form of today's stark banner at the top of its homepage: Here's an excerpt from President Daniel Weiss's and Director Max Hollein's above-cited Letter from the Met's Leadership, addressed to the museum's staff, but made … [Read more...]

Great “Gates”: A Tribute to Christo, 84, Who Made Magic in NYC’s Central Park

Our loss yesterday of Christo, the canny conceptual artist with tangible appeal, is a poignant reminder of more innocent times---16 days in early 2005 when New Yorkers from all walks of life converged on Central Park for one peaceful purpose---to walk together basking in the luminosity of flowing canopies of saffron rip-stop nylon that were hung in a procession of some 7,500 frames. Some 25 years from conception to reality, that improbable project---The Gates---was jointly realized by Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, with a crucial … [Read more...]

Reality Check: Sotheby’s Belatedly Drops Plans for Major Live Auctions in June, Adopts New Format

Facing reality, Sotheby's today officially abandoned what I had correctly characterized in a May 21 post as wishful thinking---its plans for live June auctions of contemporary and Impressionist & modern art. The firm unaccountably promoted that hope at a time when the Pandemic Effect had made the likelihood of actually being allowed to hold in-person sales seemed remote at best. Now, the auction itself will be "remote." As reported by Kelly Crow of the Wall Street Journal: The house said Friday [today] it has decided to transform this … [Read more...]

Going for the Archrival’s Jugular? Christie’s Assures Clients About Its “Continuity of Activity”

A Message from Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti, which hit my inbox late Friday, included a boldfaced passage that struck me (and probably some of his firm's clients) as an implied gibe at archrival Sotheby's. Here's a key excerpt: We [Christie's] have benefited from decades of stable, supportive shareholder ownership, and a financially robust balance sheet. This stability and strength allow us to reassure our clients about the continuity of our activity [their boldface, not mine]. Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti As I reported two … [Read more...]

Mark Rodrick Lauds the Late Tom Sokolowski’s Work to Save the Jersey City Museum’s Collection

My recent tributes to three artworld luminaries whom we recently lost---Alan Shestack, William Gerdts and Thomas Sokolowski---triggered many fond comments from CultureGrrl readers who knew these scholar/curators and valued their work. But the warmest expressions of gratitude were occasioned by my eulogy (linked above) for the youngest of the three, as I tweeted here: My tribute to the late Tom Sokolowski, 70, ex-director @TheWarholMuseum & 2 others https://t.co/Cs8uCdvE2U, struck a chord, eliciting an appreciative outpouring of warm … [Read more...]

Thomas Sokolowski Dies at 70: Incorrigible Warholian, Thrice Museum Director

As I learned when I visited the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, in 2010, the late Thomas Sokolowski, its then director, could do a dead-on impression of the spacey speaking style of his museum's eponymous artist, whom he had known personally and whose work he deeply appreciated. He had enlivened tours of the museum with his personal reminiscences of Warhol's era and its cast of characters. Sokolowski died Wednesday at the age of 70, after suffering an aneurysm (as reported in this obit by Marylynne Pitz in the Pittsburgh … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Reports $71.2m Loss & “Substantial Doubt” About Continuing; Major June Sales Planned

Sotheby's new leaders, who took the publicly traded company private, are understandably eager to reopen their New York saleroom for post-pandemic business. Having disclosed a $71.2-million net loss in its 2019 Annual Report (compared to net income of $108.6 million the previous year), the company could use a life-sustaining income infusion. As revealed on p. 61 of its annual report, Sotheby's expenses related to its merger totaled $132.1 million in 2019. These losses and the one-off costs for the merger were incurred before the Covid-19 … [Read more...]

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