an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

MoMA & the Nouvel Kid on the Block: Revenge of American Folk Art Museum’s Demolished Building?

It's been 10 years since I published what seems to have been some prescient commentary about the now (belatedly) completed Jean Nouvel-designed 1,050-foot tower (known to CultureGrrl readers as The MoMA Monster). The start of construction for that building, which has just opened for occupancy, had been delayed until late 2014, in part to await improved economic conditions (as David Penick, managing partner for Hines, the project's developer, had told me while the project was awaiting city approval). Here's what I wrote about that situation … [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...]

MoMA’s Accessibility Crunch: Too Many Long Lines, Too Many Stairs, Not Enough Chairs

Whenever I've covered new or expanding museums around the country---more times than I can count over the course of almost five decades as an art writer---I've tried to return after the press previews to see how well the facilities worked for regular visitors, not privileged journalists. I gave the newly expanded Museum of Modern Art a test it was bound to fail by revisiting on the Sunday after Christmas---a tourist-heavy time of year. Below is my report card, along with some pro-tips for navigating the obstacles and minimizing the amount of … [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...]

Cree Decree: Monkman Debunks U.S. Creation Myths in His Metropolitan Museum Commission (video)

In my skeptical post last month about Cree artist Kent Monkman's plan to subvert a national object of veneration in the Metropolitan Museum's collection---Emanuel Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware"---I recklessly ventured some premature commentary: Monkman’s remake may affront devotees [of Leutze's epic painting] as sacrilege. To be fair, we haven’t yet seen his finished product, so squeamish critics [emphasis added] need to keep our counsel until Dec. 19, when the public will be able to see what he’s come up with under the aegis of … [Read more...]

August in December: Uribe Becomes Sotheby’s Ex-Expert of Impressionist/Modern Art (with video)

In yesterday's post, I described my early meeting with the late Donald Marron as one of "several milestones (or millstones) in my career, when something I wrote that was intended as praise had unintended negative consequences." With the news published yesterday in The Art Newspaper regarding "20 to 30 senior executives" at Sotheby's who were laid off "in the past month," (which expanded on artnet's Dec. 4 report about "Top [Sotheby's] Executives Leav[ing] Under New Owner Patrick Drahi"), I can now add another person to the unfortunate list … [Read more...]

The Late Donald Marron & Me: An Affable Collector with a Keen Eye for Contemporary Keepers

Early in my career, when I was learning art journalism under the tutelage of Elizabeth ("Betsy") Baker, the deeply knowledgeable editor of Art in America magazine, I had two contrasting contacts with Donald Marron, the much admired art connoisseur, philanthropist and financial-markets professional, who died on Friday at age 85. Both of those experiences left me impressed with Marron's energy, empathy and acuity, even though I was on the hot seat during our second encounter. The first time I met Don, I had been invited by Betsy to tag … [Read more...]

Geffen Gaffes: My View from Orchestra Row B of the NY Philharmonic’s Planned Makeover

Over many years as a subscriber, I've worked my way to second-row-orchestra seating while the NY Philharmonic engaged in its never-ending quest for the right architect (Norman Foster, Thomas Heatherwick, and now Tod Williams and Billie Tsien) and considered various alternatives for a re-do of its Philharmonic/Avery Fisher/David Geffen concert hall. Now we're in for another go-round, with big changes in the hall and schedule disruptions for subscribers again being proposed. My ticket for this week's performance I have sometimes wished … [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...]

Jayne Wrightsman’s “No Loans” Edict for Gifts & Bequests to the Metropolitan Museum

Today's announcement by the Metropolitan Museum about the "exceptional bequest" by trustee emerita Jayne Wrightsman (who died in April at 99) omits mention of a crucial way in which this windfall of some 375 objects, along with "substantial [but unspecified] additional funding," is indeed "exceptional": Under the conditions imposed by Wrightsman, the Met is hamstrung as to how it can deploy those acquisitions. Jayne Wrightsman, left, at Met’s 2008 loan show from Victoria and Albert Museum of Medieval and Renaissance Treasures (with Dragon … [Read more...]

Big Learning Curve for Sotheby’s New CEO in a Season of Lowered Expectations: My Q&As

With art-market pundits expressing cautious pessimism (here, here and here) about the prospects for this week's underwhelming Impressionist/Modern and Contemporary offerings at the New York auction houses, it's not the most auspicious of times for Sotheby's to be seeking solid footing after a management upheaval---a new owner, Patrick Drahi, and new CEO, Charles Stewart. At last week's very sparsely attended press preview for this week's major auctions, I got a chance to chat about Sotheby's era of uncertainty with four of the company's … [Read more...]

Discriminatingly Nondiscriminatory: MoMA Expands the Canon (but Leaves Out Native Americans)

Although I griped in my previous post about jarring juxtapositions of strange bedfellows in the reinstalled Museum of Modern Art, I also came across new matches made at MoMA that seemed meant-to-be. Those involved works that strongly resonated with each other, but that might not have been previously displayed together because artists from certain demographics---women, minorities, non-Westerners---had not typically been treated as equal partners in MoMA's galleries with white European and North American males. Female artists, in particular, … [Read more...]

Picasso Fiasco: Jarring Juxtapositions & Missed Connections at the New MoMA

The aggressively transgressive new MoMA, trying to combat museum-ennui by shaking up its displays, has aimed its cannon at the canon. Its disruptive installation strategy audaciously breaches traditional geographic, temporal and art-historical boundaries, arranging shotgun marriages among strange (and strained) bedfellows and sundering longtime soulmates. Particularly unsettling is the Museum of Modern Art's new penchant for putting lesser-known, less seminal works on equal footing with the icons, while separating some collection highlights … [Read more...]

“Getty Fire” Update: “Improved but Still Active”

This just in from Lisa Lapin, the Getty Trust’s vice president for communications, who this morning gave me a comprehensive report on the effect of the wildfire that had encroached on the Getty Center's property (but not on the museum itself): Situation improved, but still active. Fire Department estimates 48-72 hours to control and extinguish, according to their last press conference [my link, not hers]. We are going to stay closed tomorrow at both Getty Center and Getty Villa. While we are safe, we want to allow emergency responders space … [Read more...]

Worse Than 2017: The Getty’s Emergency Response to the Fire on Its Property

More on this here. Dubbed #GettyFire on Twitter, the conflagration threatening the Getty Center in LA today is a worse threat that the wildfire that menaced it in 2017. Unlike the previous one (about which I reported here), which was across the 405 freeway from the Getty, this one is "100% on our side of the 405, immediately north and west of us, and on our property [emphasis added]," according to Lisa Lapin, the Getty Trust's vice president for communications, who responded this morning to my query. Lisa Lapin Lapin added: Our … [Read more...]

Where Am I? MoMA’s Impermanent Displays of Its Permanent Collection (with video)

Which Way to Starry Night? That headline for Robin Pogrebin's NY Times report on the recently reopened Museum of Modern Art captures the disorientation of visitors as they attempt to figure out what's where in museum displays that have been expanded and entirely reshuffled. Here's one guidepost that flummoxed me at the press preview, as I tried to find my way to Gallery 516 (Artist's Choice: Amy Sillman), after consulting a guard who couldn't help: Photo by Lee Rosenbaum When I finally did reach my destination, I came upon a lone … [Read more...]

Confronting the MoMA Monster: How Its Rehang Lynches the Collection

How do I not love the Museum of Modern Art's reinstallation of its permanent collection in it expanded, renovated galleries? Let me count the ways. The galleries featuring two of MoMA's most beloved works best exemplify what's wrong with the museum's wayward arrays. As my Twitter followers already know, I managed to get a privileged look at what is arguably the museum's signature masterpiece. Never again am I likely to find myself as blissfully alone with van Gogh’s always mobbed “The Starry Night” as when I saw it at the end of one of … [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...]

Balking at Walker: Darren, Ford Foundation’s President, Becomes National Gallery’s New Trustee

The news that Darren Walker, activist president of the deep-pocketed Ford Foundation, has been named as one of the National Gallery of Art's five "general trustees" (as distinguished from its trustees emeriti and ex officio members) gave me pause. My misgivings arose from what struck me as Walker's astonishingly clueless views on the current state of American museums, as expressed in his July 26 Op-Ed piece for the NY Times. Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation Walker's likely agenda for the NGA (as foretold in his Times piece, … [Read more...]

an ArtsJournal blog