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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...]

Covid’s Metamorphoses: How Coronavirus Has Transformed the Artworld (updated)

Everything has changed since I left home (and temporarily paused blogging) two and a half weeks ago for the birth in California of the wonderful CultureGranddaughter---my fourth grandchild. Covid-19 fears had caused both my flights between Newark and San Francisco, usually fully booked, to be almost half empty. The line (or lack thereof) to get through security for our flight home from San Francisco's airportPhoto by Lee Rosenbaum Our hotel, the commodious, well appointed Homewood Suites, Palo Alto, usually packed on weekdays with young … [Read more...]

Mutiny on the Bounty: Marron Estate’s Rich Art Trove to Be Dispersed by Dealers, Not Auction Houses

This could mark the beginning of a sea change in the balance of power between commercial art galleries and auction houses. The late Donald Marron was a class act, so it struck me as fitting (not to mention smart) that his estate's holdings of modern and contemporary art are not going to be hocked on the block at Sotheby's or Christie's---the usual fate of large collections that are put on the market. Relationships with knowledgeable dealers (not to mention curators) played a crucial role in honing Marron's taste and augmenting his … [Read more...]

“Wasteful & Unnecessary” Spending: Trump Dumps Arts & Humanities, IMLS, Public Broadcasting (again)

In what's become a vexing yearly ritual since President Donald Trump took office, the White House, in its proposed federal budget for Fiscal 2021, has again called for the elimination of federal funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities (NEA and NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). In the proposed budget's recommendations for "Stopping Wasteful and Unnecessary Spending" (beginning on p. 16, here), NEA and NEH are among the agencies relegated to … [Read more...]

Singing & Signing: How Christine Sun Kim Brought Her Whitney-Biennial “Rage” to the Super Bowl

After making a powerful impression on me at last year's Whitney Biennial with her six drawings of pie charts plotting Degrees of Deaf Rage, deaf artist Christine Sun Kim on Feb. 2 reached a much wider, more diverse audience---the attendees at the NFL's Super Bowl. Standing mid-field (10 yards from the soloists) during the pregame festivities, she expressively signed "America the Beautiful" (sung by Yolanda Adams) and the National Anthem (Demi Lovato). Sadly, my pregame speculation on Twitter (@CultureGrrl) about Kim's expansively enacted, … [Read more...]

The Obama Portraits: The Book, The Traveling Exhibition, T-Shirts, Coasters, Umbrella…

Speaking of Kehinde Wiley (as I did in my previous post), the celebratory unveiling of the Obama Portraits almost two years ago at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), was one of the most joyous occasions I've ever had the pleasure of covering, even though, as I later wrote, "neither portrait captures what, for me, is the essence of these two warmly compassionate, deeply intelligent, barrier-breaking achievers." Fond memories of that event came flooding back to me a few days ago, when I received a press copy of this new book, published by … [Read more...]

Rally for the Right to Bear (& to scare with) Arms Prompted “Extensive Precautions” at Virginia MFA

I hadn't wanted to write anything about this beforehand (for fear of putting a dangerous idea into someone's head), but I was worried about the welfare of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) during the Jan. 20 gun-rights rally in Richmond. I was concerned that there might be a replay of what had happened in August 2017 in Charlottesville, VA---a white-nationalist rally that devolved into violent confrontations, claiming the life of counter--protester Heather Heyer. Many articles written about the Richmond rally alluded to what happened … [Read more...]

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...]

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