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Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Campbell Gamble: Tom & Max Hollein Improbably Trade Places

My first reaction when this press release from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco hit my inbox today at 6:51 p.m. was: This has gotta be a hoax! Reading the first sentence of FAMSF's announcement made me even more incredulous: The Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) and the Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums (COFAM) today appointed Thomas P. Campbell as the new director and CEO of the largest public arts institution in Northern California, effective November 1, 2018 [emphasis added]. A two-day … [Read more...]

Remember the Members: Parsing Max Hollein’s Letter to Metropolitan Museum’s Most Devoted Fans

Smart is the adjective that always crops up when people describe Max Hollein, the Metropolitan Museum's new director. Yesterday, he made one of his first smart moves by issuing a detailed letter to Met members, appending an email address through which they can share "any thoughts about the museum." To convey some idea of who Max is and what he plans to do, here are extensive excerpts from his members' missive (emphases added; my commentary in brackets): I write to introduce myself and hope that we will meet in the coming months at one … [Read more...]

What Obstacles Will Max Hollein Need to Surmount as Metropolitan Museum’s New Director?

Max Hollein will have two strikes against him---one insignificant, one potentially serious---when he walks in the door this summer as the Metropolitan Museum's new director. The first liability is irremediable, unless he's planning a sex-change: He is not a woman. In this identity-politics era, that's a lamentable deficiency for some, notably Lisa Oliver, an assistant professor of art history at Wellesley College and former Met fellow (2014 to 2015). The NY Times saw fit to give this minor player a major platform, with two op-ed … [Read more...]

BlogBack: Max Hollein on the Städel Museum’s Nazi-Era History

The Städel Museum, Frankfurt Photo: Norbert Miguletz Max Hollein, director of the Städel Museum, Frankfurt, responds to Städel Museum's Expansion, Nazi-Era History: I understand that you might have gotten the impression of my being too hesitant answering your question about "What's next?" during our discussion about the research on the Städel's history during the Nazi era. However, just to clarify, there are obviously two aspects of this whole issue (which naturally are intertwined). One is the question of provenance research and … [Read more...]

Fine with Hollein: Max to Be Metropolitan Museum’s New Director

Okay, I knew this. Last week, I contacted Max Hollein, who this afternoon has just been named (by Robin Pogrebin, at the above link) as the Metropolitan Museum's next director, effective this summer. (Press release from the Met came shortly after the NY Times piece, and perhaps others that I didn't see, went online.) I had asked Max last Wednesday if he could send me his private (non-museum) email, which he promptly did, using that opportunity to hype his current museum's (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco's) just opened "major and … [Read more...]

Max Facts: How Hollein Straddles the Divides Between Contemporary/Historic, Tech/Traditional

When I interviewed him more than a year ago over lunch in New York, Frankfurt museum director Max Hollein and I were obsessed with technology. I was then working on this Wall Street Journal article about how museums use technology to improve the gallery experience (or not). He was promoting the new Digital Extension initiative at the Städel Museum, one of the three Frankfurt museums that he currently directs. Now poised to lead the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in the Tech Capital of the World, after having helped celebrate the … [Read more...]

Holistic Hollein: A Halting Conversation with the Metropolitan Museum’s New Director

Max Hollein, the Met's new director, who spoke confidently and compellingly during our informal NYC lunches while he was directing three Frankfurt museums, twice surprised me in the space of one week with his uneasy, hesitant delivery during introductory remarks at two recent press previews (Jack Whitten last Wednesday; Delacroix today). He even seemed tense during a 25-minute, one-on-one with the not-very-formidable CultureGrrl this morning. (He was sequentially speed-dating a series of journalists: As I was walking in, MetMuseum-ologist … [Read more...]

Fine with Hollein: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Snare an International Standout as Director

The last time I interviewed Max Hollein, 46, who has just been named to become the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco's new director (effective June 1), he was in New York for the November 2014 annual meeting of the Bizot Group (aka the International Group of Organizers of Large Scale Exhibitions), for which he then was (and still is) chairman. Bizot consists of the heads of about 60 of the world's leading museums, who convene to compare notes and grapple with hot-button issues affecting their institutions. The first time I met Max, we … [Read more...]

Holing Up with Hollein: Städel’s Current Expansion, Nazi-Era History (plus Whitney’s David Smith show)

Max Hollein, director of Frankfurt's Städel Museum, Schirn Kunsthalle and Sculpture Collection of the Liebieghaus Photo: Gaby Gerster © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt/Gabi Gerster I'm always peskily pointing a finger at other peoples' mistakes, so I guess I should own up to one of my own. As CultureGrrl readers may remember (although I probably shouldn't remind you), I posted, back in August 2008, that an "informed" source had told me that the four-person shortlist for the directorship of the Metropolitan Museum of Art was believed to … [Read more...]

More on Hollein: Another U.S. Museum Connection; “Too American”?

A CultureGrrl reader helpfully alerted me to the fact that Max Hollein, possibly to be named the next Metropolitan Museum director, is also on the board of trustees of the Neue Galerie, New York. And I've also discovered that a documentary film has recently been made about him by Avanti Media.According to the description of "Max Hollein---My Life":Hollein's museum policies have raised a lot of attention in the last years. Some are envious of his success and blame him for being too commercial and American. Hollein prefers to play his cards … [Read more...]

“The Frick Breuer”? Metropolitan Museum May Hand Over the Keys for the Whitney’s Rental in July…

...or maybe not. The Metropolitan Museum last year had agreed to let the Frick Collection take over the Met's lease next summer on the Whitney Museum's Marcel Breuer-designed former home, conveniently located just a few blocks north of the Frick. But whether this bit of musical chairs will actually happen remains uncertain. The Frick still hopes to mount displays next year in the 1966 Brutalist building, while its own 1914 Beaux Arts home is being renovated and expanded. That elegant facility was designed as Henry Clay Frick's residence … [Read more...]

The “Times Change” Excuse for Past Antiquities Misdeeds: Kapoor/Metropolitan Museum Edition

"Times Change" is a time-dishonored argument for justifying moral lapses, whether they're #MeToo transgressions (Plácido Domingo version) or retention of antiquities that were likely looted (Philippe de Montebello version). Those accustomed to the old rules need to get with the new program: The operative slogan has changed from "Times Change" to "Time's Up!" Speaking of which, here are a couple of the Metropolitan Museum's recent givebacks of dicey acquisitions: Two cross-armed sentinels, residing at the Met for 20 years, seen here … [Read more...]

“Unfinished” (again) at the Met: A Lone Loan of “Jerome” for Leonardo’s 500th Anniversary (video)

Having previously shown a fondness for the non finito in old master paintings, the Metropolitan Museum has made a virtue of necessity by doing it again---relying on a repeat loan (to Oct. 6) from the Vatican Museums of a single unfinished painting by Leonardo da Vinci---"Saint Jerome Praying in the Wilderness"---to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the artist's death: Leonardo da Vinci, "Saint Jerome Praying in the Wilderness," begun ca. 1483, Vatican MuseumsPhoto © Governatorato of the Vatican City State--Vatican Museums. All rights … [Read more...]

To Be Returned? Met’s Own Notre-Dame Sculpture Figures in Museum’s Program on the Cathedral

In yesterday's post, I had suggested that the Metropolitan Museum could show its support for the fire-ravaged Notre-Dame Cathedral by returning to it the Head of King David now in the Met's collection, for eventual installation at the building for from which it had been removed during the French Revolution. Head of King David, ca. 1145, Metropolitan Museum Today, the Met announced that it would offer a free "informal program" on Monday at 4 p.m., "where Met experts who are familiar with Notre-Dame Cathedral will speak briefly about its … [Read more...]

Rockin’ at the Met with “Play It Loud”: Guitar Action & My Copyright Infraction (with video)

The Eagles may have booted Don Felder out of the band, but he was the one who enjoyed a star turn at the Metropolitan Museum's memorable press preview for Play it Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll, which opened yesterday (to Oct. 1). Following comments by several rock luminaries (see below), Felder strolled up to the microphone, picked up his trusty double-neck sidekick, and treated us to a bravura performance (backed by a recorded track) from the song that he can put aside any time he likes, but can never leave. Don Felder, poised to … [Read more...]

Fool’s Gold at Metropolitan Museum: Tom Campbell’s Golden Coffin & Golden Parachute

The hits to the Metropolitan Museum's finances attributable to its previous director, Tom Campbell, just keep on coming. In a contrite press release, the museum reported on Feb. 15 that it had recently surrendered to the Manhattan District Attorney's office (for return to Egypt) the gilded Coffin of Nedjemankh. Evidence had emerged that the late Ptolemaic cartonnage, "gilded with bright but incredibly thin gold" (according to the Met's label), had been looted in 2011. The Met had shelled out some $3.95 million to buy it in 2017, according … [Read more...]

Abstraction Dejection: Riffing with Griffey at the Metropolitan Museum

It's always dangerous for a critic to bring preconceptions to an exhibition she hasn't seen yet. But it's a pitfall that I sometimes fall into, against my better judgment. I went out on a limb in October when I optimistically touted an exhibition that wasn't opening at the Metropolitan Museum until mid-December---Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera, organized by Randall Griffey, the museum's curator of modern and contemporary art. Hailing Randy as "an up-and-comer" at the Met, I expressed my admiration for his Reimagining Modernism, History … [Read more...]

The Year in CultureGrrl: Impolitic About Art & Politics

In this Era of Bad Feelings, when so many of our fractious political and cultural conversations have been driven by the dangerously erratic course of a President lacking a GPS, I savored a feel-good moment last February when I covered the high spirited friends-and-family reunion of the Obama Administration (linked below)---the high point of my 2018 professional adventures. We had gathered to witness the unveiling of the newest, convention-flouting addition to the America's Presidents display in National Portrait Gallery, after which I … [Read more...]

Syson Siphoned: Met’s Departing Department Chair to Direct Fitzwilliam; 2 Future Stars Emerge (video)

Luke Syson, who in 2012 came to the Metropolitan Museum from the National Gallery, London, becoming the Met's chairman of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts in 2014, is now poised to join the wave of high-level departures from our country's preeminent museum. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, recently announced that Syson, who most recently co-curated the Met's provocative "Like Life" exhibition, will step up to its directorship on Feb. 4. (It had previously lured away Timothy Potts, then director of the Kimbell Art Museum, for a short … [Read more...]

Jack Whitten’s Sculpture Show Uncovers his Secret Strengths (& the Met Breuer’s Hidden Weakness) CORRECTED

As an admirer of the late Jack Whitten's paintings, I welcomed the chance to see his little-known, previously unexhibited wood sculptures and mixed-media assemblages now on view in the Met Breuer's Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture, 1963–2017. But the considerable pleasures to be derived from this admirable show were partly undermined by its subtle but substantive commercial overtones. My previous happy encounters with Whitten's work included this Richter-esque painting, acquired by the Whitney Museum in 2015, in time for the opening of its … [Read more...]

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