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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...]

Rockin’ at the Met with “Play It Loud”: Guitar Action & My Copyright Infraction (with video)

The Eagles may have booted Don Felder out of the band, but he was the one who enjoyed a star turn at the Metropolitan Museum's memorable press preview for Play it Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll, which opened yesterday (to Oct. 1). Following comments by several rock luminaries (see below), Felder strolled up to the microphone, picked up his trusty double-neck sidekick, and treated us to a bravura performance (backed by a recorded track) from the song that he can put aside any time he likes, but can never leave. Don Felder, poised to … [Read more...]

Hear Here! My BBC Radio Talk on Leonardo’s “Salvator Mundi” Can Now Be Heard on CultureGrrl

My new friends at BBC Radio 5 have given me an embeddable form of the audio from my interview with on Leonardo's "Salvator Mundi" with Rhod Sharp, host of "Up All Night." What's more, unlike the version on BBC's website, this one has no expiration date. So if it was too complicated trying to deal with finding my nine minutes of fame on the audio bar for Wednesday's four-hour live broadcast (which aired on Tuesday evening, New York time), I can now offer you an easier way: Now that you've heard me, who would care to tip me off as to … [Read more...]

Lee on Leonardo (once again): BBC Radio Quizes Me on “Salvator Mundi” Conundrums (Corrected)

I was surprised on Sunday when the NY Times ran a long front-page article about the status (or lack thereof) of the $450.3-million Leonardo da Vinci that has unaccountably fallen off the public's radar screen. The Times piece was merely a detailed summary of all the reporting that has preceded it (including numerous posts that appeared on CultureGrrl), even though it was posted from Abu Dhabi, where the painting was thought to have been destined for display. I assume that Times reporter David Kirkpatrick's hope of getting something new from … [Read more...]

Mauling Sprawling Art Installations: Are Outdoor Works Destined for Desecration?

A family outing last Sunday to the Nassau County Museum of Art with my two Long Island grandchildren began auspiciously but ended on a discordant note: After my little ones cheerfully created fish-themed collages in the Manes Education Center, we went out to explore the sculpture installation on the spacious grounds of the Roslyn Harbor, NY, museum. We were instantly attracted to the dazzling domes of Marko Remec's "Vertebrate Progression (Field Totem)," 2018, sited in close proximity to the museum's main building and "stretch[ing] like a … [Read more...]

Tainted “Tintoretto”: Venice Mayor Mars Kaywin Feldman’s Blockbuster Debut at National Gallery UPDATED

Having heard Luigi Brugnaro, Mayor of Venice, expound on Tintoretto's "values" during yesterday's livestream of the National Gallery of Art's press preview for the Venetian artist's first full-scale retrospective in America (Mar. 24-July 7), I'm convinced that museums need to lay down some content guidelines (especially for non-museum professionals) to discourage pronouncements that are inappropriate for exhibition openings. Screenshot of Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro speaking today at National Gallery of Art (NGA director Kaywin Feldman, on … [Read more...]

Culture Closures: Trump’s FY2020 Budget Proposal Would Ax NEA, NEH, IMLS

Is it mere coincidence that First Lady Melania Trump tweeted a shoutout to the National Endowment for the Arts (@NEAarts) on the same day that her husband released a FY2020 budget proposal (pp. 110 & 111 of the above-linked .pdf) that would eliminate NEA and its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities, because "activities funded by NEA [and NEH] are not considered core Federal responsibilities"? A productive & successful morning at the @WhiteHouse. Thank you to all who take part in the Interagency Working Group on … [Read more...]

Molesworth Speaks! Silenced at LA MOCA, She Vents (about Alice Neel) at Zwirner (with video)

Having been fired a year ago from the prestigious (but precarious) perch of chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Helen Molesworth resurfaced with a splash on Wednesday night at the David Zwirner gallery, New York. Feeling liberated, she flavored her well attended walkthrough of Alice Neel: Freedom (to Apr. 13) with a salty disquisition on "tits," "cocks," "pussies" and "asses" (with a pinch of explicit references to her own anatomy and sexual orientation, thrown in for good measure). Helen Molesworth and David … [Read more...]

Breach of Trust? Rothko Gave SFMOMA Its Soon-to-Be-Auctioned Painting at the Museum’s Request

Dear SFMOMA and Sotheby's: Have you no shame? In my previous post on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's ill-conceived deaccession of an important Rothko, I noted that there were "circumstances specific to this disposal that make it uniquely problematic." Let me elaborate: In its online sales pitch for Rothko's "Untitled," 1960, to be auctioned in New York on May 16, Sotheby's claimed that the painting "is distinguished...by its connection to Peggy Guggenheim, preeminent philanthropist and patron of the 20th century." But SFMOMA … [Read more...]

Wroth Over Rothko: SFMOMA’s Distasteful Disposal

More on this here. What museum director would choose to sell from his institution "an important work completed at the apex of Rothko’s artistic powers, ...one of just 19 paintings completed by the artist in 1960"---a year that marked "a critical juncture in the iconic Abstract Expressionist’s career"? The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Neal Benezra, that's who: Neal Benezra at Bruce Conner preview, Museum of Modern Art, New YorkPhoto by Lee Rosenbaum The hype in this post's first paragraph comes from Sotheby's announcement of … [Read more...]

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. https://t.co/ssuSp2wbSB 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...]

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