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Agreeing to Disagree: My Q&A with Panetta & Hockley, Curatorial Odd Couple of the Split Whitney

Professional colleagues with sharp political and philosophical differences would do well to learn about the virtues of civility and respectful disagreement from Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, co-curators of the controversy-plagued Whitney Biennial. They deftly double-teamed me during my brief, probing interview (see below), which occurred during the show's May 13 press preview. As they again did in their June 6 public conversation about their collaboration, they took turns answering questions, in a complicated verbal choreography so … [Read more...]

Kanders Slander: Trustees Resign Amidst Wreckage of Whitney Museum’s “Triple Chaser” Fiasco UPDATED

The persistent resistance got its way: As reported today by Robin Pogrebin and Elizabeth Harris of the NY Times, Warren Kanders, whose weapons-related business activities were attacked by protesters, has resigned (effective immediately) from the Whitney Museum's board. Therein lies a big problem, not just for the Whitney, but for the museum field as a whole. Already another Whitney trustee, mega-donor Kenneth Griffin [CEO of Citadel, the investment firm], has left the board in solidarity with Kanders. [UPDATE: According to an updated story … [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...]

BlogBack: A CultureGrrl Reader on Critic Douglas Crimp, Met Curator Douglas Eklund & “The Pictures Generation”

"We seem to be fighting similar battles," wrote a CultureGrrl reader in response to “That Little Exhibition”: The Late Douglas Crimp on His Show that Anointed “The Pictures Generation”---my appreciation, posted Monday, of the critic/scholar, 74, whose pioneering work defined what became known as “The Pictures Generation.” I had noted that the Metropolitan Museum's press release for its 2009 "Pictures Generation" show (which I had reviewed here) had acknowledged its debt to “the landmark 1977 ‘Pictures’ exhibition at the not-for-profit New … [Read more...]

“That Little Exhibition”: The Late Douglas Crimp on His Show that Anointed “The Pictures Generation”

Ten years ago, I had a chance for a brief but illuminating chat with Douglas Crimp, the influential critic, curator and art historian who died Friday at the age of 74. We were at the press preview for a show at the Metropolitan Museum that had its genesis in Crimp's pioneering work defining what became known as "The Pictures Generation"---artists who "brought both a critical and playful attitude toward the plethora of images that surrounded them," in the words of the Met's press release. Douglas Crimp at the Met's April 2009 press … [Read more...]

Bye-Bye, Rothko; Welcome, Mickalene: SFMOMA’s Diversity Perversity (Continued)

Charles Desmarais, art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, mostly admired what he saw last week when taken on a guided tour of the 11 works recently acquired by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of its effort to diversify its collection. SFMOMA bought them by using an undisclosed portion of the $42.8 million in proceeds gleaned from its $50.1-million sale at Sotheby's of an untitled 1960 Rothko---a disposal that I had criticized. Here's how Desmarais characterized his overall reaction to the acquisitions: We have to start … [Read more...]

Race to the Bottom? What a “Private” Sotheby’s Might Really Mean

Although Sotheby's plan to go private may accomplish its goal of making it more competitive in attracting major consignments, it could also cut into profits: The cutthroat competition between Sotheby's and Christie's may devolve into a race to the bottom, if potentially costly concessions are increasingly made to lure the highest-valued property. If the as-yet-unconsummated sale of Sotheby's to BidFair USA (an entity owned by telecommunications mogul Patrick Drahi) goes through, Sotheby's would no longer be required to file reports to the … [Read more...]

Bravo De Salvo! Unpacking Donna’s Sudden Exit from the Whitney Museum’s Deputy Directorship

With less than two weeks' notice, the Whitney Museum has announced that Donna De Salvo "has decided to leave" the museum where she served with great distinction for the past 15 years, in order to "pursue other interests." Adding to the mystery of why this news was sprung on us so precipitously, Adam Weinberg, the Whitney's director, enigmatically commented: "We wish her the best as she embarks on the next phase of her career." Adam Weinberg & Donna De Salvo at press preview for 2014 Whitney Biennial Photo by Lee Rosenbaum What … [Read more...]

Farewell Transparency? Sotheby’s Plans to Go Private (plus a possible glitch)

It's not over until the shareholders and the regulators sing. But it looks like Sotheby's---publicly traded for the last 31 years---is set to go private, "in a transaction with an enterprise value of $3.7 billion," according to yesterday morning's announcement by Sotheby's. Intended to boost Sotheby's competitiveness for major consignments and other market-related business, this flight from public accountability will deal a knockout blow to whatever transparency remains in "willing buyer-willing seller" auction transactions that have become … [Read more...]

Calder & Noguchi Air Balls: SFMOMA Lobs Some Foul Shots for the Golden State Warriors

Although the Golden State Warriors narrowly lost the NBA Championship to the Toronto Raptors at last night's nip-and-tuck Game 6 of the finals, the California team can count on two consolation prizes: a spiffy new stadium---the Chase Center---set to open this fall in San Francisco (moving the team from Oakland); and some eye-catching artworks to adorn their new digs. Having controversially deaccessioned a classic Rothko (given to it by the artist himself) in order to fund future acquisitions, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is now … [Read more...]

Shifts at Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: Wilsey Steps Down, Controversy Ramps Up

“None of us want her to step away. She is integral to the museum,” Jason Moment, the new president of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), said of his predecessor, Diane ("Dede") Wilsey, in comments reported Monday by the San Francisco Chronicle's art critic, Charles Desmarais. That appraisal anticipated the board's Tuesday vote anointing Moment and giving Wilsey the newly created title of "chair emerita." Jason Moment, FAMSF's new presidentPhoto Courtesy of FAMSF Notwithstanding Wilsey's megadonor status and her 21-year … [Read more...]

Bunch Crunch: How Will Smithsonian Institution’s Secretary-Elect Navigate DC’s Political Minefields?

The elephants-not-in-the-room at this morning's press conference celebrating the appointment of Lonnie Bunch III as the Smithsonian Institution's new secretary (effective June 16) were the man currently occupying the Oval Office and conservative members of Congress---politicians not known to be sympathetic towards federal cultural support in general and politically sensitive exhibitions in particular. Although the questioners at today's press conference didn't probe how Bunch might handle the political controversies that come with the job of … [Read more...]

Lonnie Bunch Named Smithsonian’s New Secretary

More on this here. With three decades of experience at the Smithsonian, leading up to his current post as founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Lonnie Bunch, 66, is an ideal candidate to hit the ground running, on short notice, as the Smithsonian's 14th Secretary (effective June 16). Lonnie Bunch, addressing the press conference where his appointment as Smithsonian Secretary was announcedScreenshot from the live webstream As the driving force of the acclaimed, wildly successful NMAAHC, he was … [Read more...]

Philanthropy Fail: How Museums Got Hammered at the Major Spring Auctions

It's like a museum, only everything's for sale. That visitor's comment, overheard by me at Christie's presale display of its evening-sale offerings earlier this month, isn't usually true nowadays at the auction houses, especially when it comes to Impressionist and modern art: Relatively few major Monets, Manets, Cézannes or van Goghs remain in private hands, making those presale exhibitions a lot less museum-like than they were when I began covering auctions four decades ago. But the evening Impressionist/Modern and Contemporary sales at … [Read more...]

Sackler/Kanders: My 1978 ARTnews Exposé on Met’s Sackler Enclave (plus: my takes on opioids, tear gas)

It's time for me to re-up my September 1978 ARTnews investigation into the Metropolitan Museum's secret Sackler enclave, in the context of the recent news that the Met "will stop accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family linked to the maker of OxyContin" (in the words of today's NY Times report). My piece zeroed in on the "good" Sackler---the oldest brother, Arthur, a major collector of Far Eastern art who had nothing to do with OxyContin, having died before it was born. Arthur Sackler with His CollectionPhoto from Sackler … [Read more...]

Sontagian Revulsion: My Notes on “Camp” at the Metropolitan Museum

The Metropolitan Museum's Camp: Notes on Fashion installation, which opened today (to Sept. 8), begins promisingly with a deep dive into the early history of camp, including the derivation of that designation as an aesthetic category (first known usage: Molière's "The Impostures of Scapin"). But its sprawling, diffuse finale embodies the "camp" worldview at its worst---superficially attention-grabbing and frustratingly unenlightening. The 250-object display ultimately depresses rather than impresses, as it devolves into a parody of a museum … [Read more...]

Bred at the Shed: Three Boundary-Busting Inaugural Commissions (with video)

Audiences and critics were scratching their heads at some of the eclectic opening presentations and commissions at The Shed---New York City's recently opened incubator for unconventional new works in the visual and performing arts (sometimes commingled). As I suggested at the end of my previous post, the offbeat offerings intrigued me, even though (in two instances) I didn't quite know what to make of them. Below is a part of the deliberately dimly lit installation by Trisha Donnelly (to May 30), which I strained to see and struggled to … [Read more...]

Getting It Backwards: The Shed’s Architects Came 1st. Its Artistic Director, a Distant 2nd (with video)

More about this here. When an ambitious new cultural institution chooses its architect six years before appointing an artistic director/CEO, you know its priorities are upside-down and backwards. Such was the case with The Shed, New York's new multipurpose, multi-discipline cultural venue, which gave me a very mixed impression during its opening week. For many reasons, it seemed not quite ready for its close-up during my three recent visits: Late to open: Cedric's bar and eatery, a Danny Meyer establishment (shades of the Whitney … [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...]

Notre-Dame in Flames: What Happened, What’s Next

"We will rebuild it," vowed French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday, after people around the world collectively gasped at the horrific sight of Notre-Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames. The sickening collapse of its spire was captured on video---an image almost as nightmarish as the 9/11 collapse of the World Trade Center towers but, mercifully, without the catastrophic the loss of life: One fireman was reportedly injured yesterday, but there were no reports of fatalities. French corporations and US-based Apple have announced that they … [Read more...]

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