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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...]

“Birkenau” Blunder: Metropolitan Museum Says Richter’s Riffs on the Holocaust are “Poignant”

POIGNANT?!? "Horrific," "Profoundly Disturbing," "Jolting"...but surely not "Poignant." That mild adjective was used by the Metropolitan Museum's communications office in its headline (below) for the press release announcing the display (to Jan. 18) of Gerhard Richter's four paintings from his "landmark 'Birkenau' series" of 2014, in which black-and-white photographic images of inmates who had been killed by the Nazis in the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chamber were colorfully overlaid and obliterated, using Richter's signature "squeegee" … [Read more...]

Who’s Leaving the Metropolitan Museum? A Partial List of Retirees

Here we go again... The above headline echos my title for a June 2009 post, reporting on the Metropolitan Museum's staff purge during the Great Recession. So it's with dejected déjà vu that I now regretfully report the imminent departure of some 90 Metropolitan Museum staffers, from departments including security, facilities management, retail, education, conservation, curatorial (and more). They were incentivized to leave by a voluntary retirement program, instituted to help the Met address the economic fallout from the Virus Crisis. A … [Read more...]

Yoko’s Joke: Signs of the Times for the Metropolitan Museum’s Impending Reopening

Either Max Hollein and Daniel Weiss, the director and president of the Metropolitan Museum, were knowing participants in Yoko Ono's mischievous potshot at their august institution, or they fell for her prank. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the only explanation I can come up with for Max's and Dan's absurdly effusive praise for the conceptual/performance artist's "bold and inspiring work" (as described in the Met's press release) for the museum's grand façade: "DREAM TOGETHER," 2020, Yoko OnoPhoto: Metropolitan Museum The stark aspect of … [Read more...]

Consciousness Raised, Budgets Cut: Irreconcilable Imperatives at Metropolitan (& other museums)

I have to hand it to Holland Cotter: For better or worse, the NY Times' co-chief art critic was right. I was wrong. In criticizing as "shockingly tone-deaf" Cotter's 3,000-word think piece published almost five months ago, I had opined that his sweeping plan for reinventing museums during their pandemic-related closures was a non-starter at a time when "museums have to tighten their belts and regain their footing before taking on new risks." Wangechi Mutu, "The Seated III," 2019, one of four sculptures by the female Kenyan artist … [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...]

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...]

Pollock’s Guest Appearance in the Metropolitan Museum’s Subdued 150th-Birthday Video

What if you threw a birthday party and no one could come? That's what happened earlier this month to the most sociable member of my family---CultureGranddaughter, who just turned 4. And that's what happened today to the Metropolitan Museum, which turned 150 on a plague-day when no visitors could enter, let alone celebrate. My invitation to the press preview that never happened If you've already seen the Max-&-Dan video that the Met posted today to mark this unexpectedly somber occasion, you may have wondered about the identity of … [Read more...]

Small Consolation: Museums’ Hit-&-Miss Attempts to Engage Audiences Via “Virtual Exhibitions” UPDATED

When I returned home Mar. 12 from my proud-grandma visit to California (where I had what was probably my last chance for some time to cuddle my newborn granddaughter and her 3-year-old brother), I had to work my way through the announcements of museums' temporary closures that flooded my art-centric inbox. Eerily empty security lines for my half-empty Mar. 12 flight from San Francisco to NewarkPhoto by Lee Rosenbaum As it now stands (four weeks later), no art museum would be so foolhardy as to remain open in defiance of stringent … [Read more...]

More on Shuttered NYC Institutions: A Brief Reprieve for Met’s Endangered Staff; A “Frick Breuer” Update

The Metropolitan Museum's jittery staff members, some of whose livelihoods are likely to be jeopardized due to the virus crisis, have been granted a month-long reprieve, as outlined in a new letter from President Daniel Weiss and Director Max Hollein. Faced with mounting pushback against its plan to consider implementing cutbacks beginning Apr. 5, the Met (as reported in the NY Times) has now postponed any such changes until May 2. Dynamic Duo: Max Hollein speaking (Daniel Weiss listening) at a May 2019 Met press briefing Photo by Lee … [Read more...]

Cotter Fodder: The Met Museum’s Sober Plan for the Virus Crisis vs. A Critic’s Pandemic Polemic

At a moment when museums around the country are shattered, shuttered and bracing for hard times, what could be more shockingly tone-deaf than Holland Cotter's 3,000-word "manifesto," published on the NY Times' website on Wednesday (and appearing in the Sunday hardcopy)? In America’s Big Museums on the Hot Seat (aka, "How to Save America's Biggest Museums: A Manifesto"---the hardcopy headline), the Time's co-chief art critic inopportunely opined that the widespread closures of art institutions due to the coronavirus pandemic provide "an … [Read more...]

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