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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...]

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...]

Pusillanimous Pussyfooters: Museums Object Mildly to the (unattributed) Threats to Iran’s Cultural Sites

Say his name! It was disheartening to realize that almost all of the statements issued yesterday by museums and their professional organizations "condemn[ing] the targeting of cultural sites for destruction" (in the words of the American Alliance of Museums) failed to cast blame for those shameful threats directly where the blame lies---on President Trump. As most of you by now know, he ignited a firestorm by tweeting this: If Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 … [Read more...]

The Year in CultureGrrl, 2019 Edition: Museums Become Easy Targets in Difficult Times

This was the year of our national discontent and contentiousness, as manifested in the artworld by the rallying cry, "Decolonize Museums!" (a euphemism for "Demonize Museums"). The Metropolitan, Whitney and Guggenheim museums and the Museum of Modern Art were all targets of this year's protest demonstrations. For me, as someone who came of age in the '60s and participated in anti-Vietnam War (but not anti-museum) protests, there was a certain sense of déjà vu in this year's turmoil. Also triggering ambivalent memories was my coverage, for a … [Read more...]

Blaming the Victim: The Shocking “Green Vault” Assault at Dresden’s Royal Palace (with video)

How could this have happened? In what seems to have been a "smash-and-grab" theft of major proportions, burglars last week staged a raid, shortly before 5 a.m., on the Historic Green Vault---the repository for treasures of the Dresden Royal Palace---making off with what the Dresden State Art Collections understatedly described as "11 whole items, parts of two others and a group of skirt buttons." Here's one of those "whole items": "Breast Star of the Polish White Eagle Order,"Jean Jacques Pallard, Geneva / Vienna between 1746 & … [Read more...]

Monkman Mischief: How Kent’s “Miss Chief Eagle Testickle” May Prank the Met

Max Hollein "is willing to do bold things; he is willing to disrupt the normative practices of the museum," Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, comments approvingly near the beginning of Robin Pogrebin's NY Times appraisal of the Metropolitan Museum's first year under its new director. The fact that "disrupting normative museum practice" is perceived as a desirably "bold" goal (with Darren Walker as arbiter of taste) shows how far we have strayed from the concept of visual arts institutions as protective custodians and scholarly … [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...]

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