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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...]

J.P. Morgan’s Fixer-Upper: Conserving His Library, “A Building Unlike Any Other in New York” (video)

Having reviewed (here, here and here) the Morgan Library & Museum's extensive 2010 renovation, I didn't expect to be writing about another major Morgan re-do any time soon. But while the interior was repaired, re-lit and restored under the directorship of William Griswold (now director of the Cleveland Museum), the exterior deterioration had yet to be dealt with. Issues to now be addressed include: masonry deterioration, masonry joint failure, metal corrosion, roof deterioration. Here's how the actual library of the Morgan Library … [Read more...]

“Telegraph” Gaffe: Louvre Affirms Its Hope to Display the Elusive Leonardo “Salvator Mundi”

Contrary to what the Telegraph pretends, the Musée du Louvre did ask for the loan of the "Salvator Mundi" and wishes to present it in its October exhibition. So wrote Sophie Grange, the Louvre's press spokesperson (with the link added by me), in response to my queries this morning regarding a widely disseminated report---Paris Louvre 'will not show' world's most expensive painting amid doubts over authenticity---a piece about the controversial Leonardo by veteran cultural journalist Dalya Alberge, published online by the Telegraph on … [Read more...]

New Conservation Center & Stellar Van Gogh Show: David Bomford’s Last Hurrahs at MFA, Houston

Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has a knack for attracting distinguished staff, perhaps capitalizing on contacts he made during his tenure as former chairman of 19th-Century, Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum. Gary Tinterow at a NYC presentation about the expansion of Museum of Fine Arts, HoustonPhoto by Lee Rosenbaum After Gary's homecoming to Houston (where he grew up), to assume the MFAH's directorship in 2012, one of his first and best hires was David Bomford, who became chairman of … [Read more...]

Ballsy Bezos: How His Midlife Crisis “Complexifies” His Relationship with the Washington Post

My intimation that the unseemly story of Jeff Bezos' steamy, seamy midlife crisis could be problematic for the Washington Post, which he owns (and which is exemplary for not only its political coverage, but also its cultural coverage), was truer than I knew when I tweeted this on Friday:  Self-centered @JeffBezos has it backwards in stating that his role as @WashingtonPost’s owner is a “complexifier” in his life. It’s the other way around: I think having an owner clouded by scandal creates complications for … [Read more...]

Meet the “New MoMA,” Same as the Old “New MoMA”

It was déjà-vu-all-over-again when I returned yesterday from a California sojourn to the "news" about how permanent-collection installations in the new MegaMoMA (my sobriquet, not theirs) will contrast with those in the current iteration of the ever-expanding Museum of Modern Art. Below is a rendering of the new 53rd Street façade, as reconceived by the project's expansion-and-renovation architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro. On the left is the new Jean Nouvel-designed apartment tower (with its signature diagrids). Extending into its lower … [Read more...]

How Good is the Hood? Dartmouth’s Expanded Art Museum Reopens CLARIFIED and UPDATED

After a much delayed $50-million renovation and expansion, Dartmouth College's 65,000-object Hood Museum of Art at last reopened on Jan. 26 with six new art galleries, three new study galleries and three classrooms equipped with "the latest object-study technology." The museum's total area of 62,400 square feet represents an increase of over 50 percent and provides a 42% increase in gallery space (for a total of 16,350 square feet). Below is the museum's photo of its new contemporary art gallery, anchored by the Rothko that I had admired … [Read more...]

“Woke” Museums: Metropolitan’s Diker Display Fuels a Growing Debate on “Identity Politics”

In his Wall Street Journal review last week of the Metropolitan Museum's provocative new installation, Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection, veteran cultural journalist Edward Rothstein once again demonstrated a lack of tolerance for exhibitions of American Indian art that explore the societies' injustices and hardships, rather than sticking with dispassionate scholarly analysis. I, too, was disappointed by the Met's installation, but for entirely different reasons. (More on that later.) I had first clashed with … [Read more...]

For MLK Day: Recap of My Visit to the National Museum of African American History & Culture

Visitors who had scored timed entry passes for a Martin Luther King Day pilgrimage to the deeply engrossing, profoundly moving National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in DC were out of luck: Its doors remained locked today, due to the federal government shutdown. (Pass holders will eventually be sent instructions on how to reschedule.) Entrance to NMAAHCPhoto by Lee Rosenbaum, Feb. 11, 2018 I tweeted about (but never got around to posting on) the NMAAHC while I was in Washington last February for an event at … [Read more...]

“Exciting Future”? Monitoring the Uncertain Condition of the Embattled National Academy

Without no permanent director and no home in which to display highlights from its 7,700-object collection of American art, the shuttered National Academy of Design (NAD), New York, is extricating some 100 key works from long-term storage to send them on a three-year, eight-venue national tour, beginning next month, under the auspices of the American Federation of Arts. "Get updates about our exciting new future," proclaims the homepage of the long-dormant NAD, which closed its doors to the public on June 1, 2016, at the age of 190, with the … [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...]

Smithsonian Pandemonium: Skorton Leaves, Museums Shuttered

It's been a bad-news month for the Smithsonian: On Dec. 20, Secretary David Skorton, a cardiologist-turned-administrator, announced he'd be leaving his Smithsonian post on June 15 to become president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC---initials that mean something else to art aficionados). He has arguably been the most successful, least embattled Smithsonian leader in recent memory, but has served, to date, a mere three and a half years in that post. David SkortonPhoto from AAMC's announcement Just two days … [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...]

Warring with Warhol: What I Most (& Least) Appreciated About the Whitney’s Retrospective

Although I gave Andy Warhol---From A to B and Back Again (to Mar. 31) a mixed review last week, one focus of the Whitney Museum's widely praised extravaganza particularly interested me. It's an aspect that general audiences, who usually pay more attention to the art than the writing on the walls, could easily miss. What engaged my wonky attention and engendered my appreciation was the Whitney's pinpointing when, how and why groundbreaking changes occurred in the work of Warhol---an artist with a Picasso-esque penchant for radical shifts in … [Read more...]

Warhol’s Warhorses at the Whitney: Insert Your Own Meanings Here

In my Dec. 8 post analyzing the plans for what turned out to be a (literally) incendiary protest demonstration at the Whitney Museum, I pinpointed the artwork that "for me was the most haunting work" in that museum's current Andy Warhol retrospective (to Mar. 31): Andy Warhol, “Mustard Race Riot,” 1963, Museum Brandhorst, MunichPhoto by Lee Rosenbaum Little did I know when I saw it at the Election-Day press preview that this painting would gain more relevance in the context of the confrontation at the Whitney on Dec. 9 between protesters … [Read more...]

Kaywin’s Win: Feldman to Direct the National Gallery UPDATED

When museum trustees set out to hire a new director, they tend to seek someone very different from the current one, a prominent art museum director once told me. They want change. That certainly seems to be the case with the National Gallery of Art's (NGA's) choice of Kaywin Feldman, director since 2008 of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), to lead the most prominent art museum in our nation's capital. As announced today, she will on Mar. 11 succeed Earl "Rusty" Powell III, the NGA's director for 25 years. Kaywin Feldman, National … [Read more...]

Litmus Fracas at the Whitney: Should Museum Board Members Be Politically Vetted?

Having provocatively displayed an anti-MoMA poster in its last Biennial, the Whitney Museum probably had this coming: A protest demonstration at the museum is being planned by Decolonize This Place [DTP], an ad hoc political action group, for noon tomorrow (Sunday). It will target Whitney vice president Warren Kanders, who (as reported on Nov. 27 by Jasmine Weber in Hyperallergic) leads a company that manufactures the tear gas recently used against migrants at the Mexican border. Here's the scene outside the Whitney on a busy but peaceful … [Read more...]

Vision Transfusion? Berkshire Museum Stops Hemorrhaging Art

Closing the barn door after its finest steeds have vanished, the Berkshire Museum today announced that "there will be no further sales" from its collection beyond the 22 works already sold through Sotheby's: In his Berkshire Eagle report, Larry Parnass today suggested that the museum's woefully belated decision to curtail its widely condemned deaccessioning spree was influenced by advice from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey's office. The AGO, according to Parnass, recently opined that the beleaguered museum should now … [Read more...]

Hopping with Hopper, Hocking a Hockney: My Irreverent Takeaways from the Major Fall Sales

The big fall evening auctions of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary works at Sotheby's and Christie's were a mixed bag, yielding generally solid but unspectacular results. The sweet spot for the typical offering fell slightly short of or just grazed the low estimate, with some very notable exceptions on both the upside and the downside. In other words, the auction houses' presale estimates of the prices that their offerings would fetch were often aspirational, but the reserves (prearranged, confidential prices below which works … [Read more...]

$91.88-Million Hopper Sale Makes “Chop Suey”of Ebsworth’s Vow to Seattle Art Museum (with video) CORRECTED & UPDATED

In my Wall Street Journal review of the 2007 opening of the expanded Seattle Art Museum, I noted that SAM's campaign to "augment its permanent collection, in time for its 75th anniversary next year," had been "successful beyond the wildest curatorial dreams, adding nearly 1,000 owned, pledged and promised works to the collection"... ...or maybe not. Billed as a major catch from that cache were 65 works promised from the collection of Barney Ebsworth (who died last April). Ebsworth selections had been highlights of SAM's inaugural … [Read more...]

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