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Dueling BlogBacks on Detroit Institute’s Endangered Collection: Michael Rush and James Maroney

The Detroit Institute of Arts' current dire predicament appears to have given Michael Rush, founding director of Michigan State University's Broad Art Museum, traumatic flashbacks to the near-death experience of Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum, which he directed during the period when the Waltham, MA, museum and its collection were endangered by the university's then severe financial difficulties. Here is Rush's response to my CultureGrrl post---From Millage to Pillage? Detroit Institute of Arts Confronts Possible Rape of Its … [Read more...]

From Millage to Pillage? Detroit Institute of Arts Confronts Possible Rape of Its Collection

To artworld observers, the notion that the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) could be forced, if the city declares bankruptcy, to relinquish its greatest masterpieces to satisfy Detroit's creditors is inconceivable. But the "inconceivable" is beginning to look possible: With the city's bankruptcy now looming as a real possibility, liquidating the museum's rich artistic assets, which are owned by the city, could be the easiest way for the city to raise quick cash for a bankruptcy settlement without disrupting other operations of this … [Read more...]

Happy Ending: Detroit Director Graham Beal’s Live Chat on the Millage Passage

Adding a bravura coda to his well orchestrated (and successful) campaign for the tri-county passage a property levy (millage) to support operations at the Detroit Institute of Arts, its director, Graham Beal, has just concluded a live web chat (moderated by the Detroit Free Press' Mark Stryker), in which he answered questions from the community. Lee's question, relayed to Beal by Stryker near the end of the hour, never got a response. So how about it, Graham: "What are your ideas for making the DIA more successful at fundraising for the … [Read more...]

Party Time at Detroit Institute: Champagne Spillage for the Millage

They were celebrating last night at the Detroit Institute of Arts, as voting results indicated success for the museum's millage. Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press reports: A crucial millage for the Detroit Institute of Arts passed easily in Wayne and Oakland counties, but was approved by the slimmest of margins in Macomb County as the final votes were tallied.... The millage passed by just 1,340 votes [in Macomb], with a total of 125,200 votes cast. The margin was 50.5% in favor of the tax, and 49.5% against. The measure was … [Read more...]

Motor-City Woes: Detroit Institute of Arts Seeks Tri-County Property Levy CORRECTED

Detroit Institute of ArtsDesperate times call for desperate measures. I would ordinarily question a museum's trying to circumvent the usual government taxation and appropriation process, as the Detroit Institute of Arts now seems to be doing. DIA has launched a campaign seeking voter approval on Aug. 7 of a three-county (Wayne, Macomb and Oakland, which is the state's wealthiest), 10-year "millage"---essentially a property tax of one-hundredth of one percent (.0001) of a home's assessed valuation per year (i.e., $20 for a $200,000 home). … [Read more...]

Memo to Detroit Detractors: All We Are Saying Is Give Keyes a Chance

Architectural Rendering of the New Detroit Institute of Arts Believe me, I'm as much against "dumbing down" museum installations as the next cultural snob. I rant about this regularly. So when I attended a press lunch last September in New York, presided over by director Graham W.J. Beal, describing plans for the expanded and renovated Detroit Institute of Arts (closing May 27 and reopening Nov. 23), I was duly skeptical about their stated intention to rethink the permanent collection's traditional installation. "Thematic approaches," such as … [Read more...]

Baltimore Museum Gets a Formal Letter Calling for a Halt to Planned Sales; Ex-Director Lehman Piles On

The list of opponents to the Baltimore Museum of Art's (BMA's) deplorable deaccessions keeps growing (now some 150 strong). One particularly notable addition is very well known to CultureGrrl readers---Arnold Lehman, former director of the BMA and, subsequently, of the Brooklyn Museum. Here's his recent photo, as found on the current website for Phillips Auction House, which he joined as a high-ranking official some five years ago: Screenshot from Phillips Our Team webpage Meanwhile, former BMA trustee Laurence Eisenstein, the lawyer … [Read more...]

Diversity Diversion: Plumbing Museums’ “Pipeline” Problem in Hiring Minorities

It's easy to say that art museums ought to be hiring more minority candidates, and it's also easy to get museums to agree that they should do so. Nevertheless, NYC's cultural institutions have been slow to fulfill those good intentions, according to the NY Times' pesky assessment by Sarah Bahr---Is New York’s Arts Diversity Plan Working? It’s Hard to Tell. Bahr examines the progress (or lack thereof) in meeting the goals set in "CreateNYC: A Cultural Plan for New Yorkers"---a 180-page city government report from 2017 that her article … [Read more...]

AAMD Sanctions Berkshire Museum and La Salle University Art Museum (& what it should do next)

We knew this was coming (for what it's worth). The Association of Art Museum Directors today issued this statement: The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) announced today that its Board of Trustees has voted to impose sanctions on the Berkshire Museum and the La Salle University Art Museum. This follows the decision made by each institution to use the proceeds from recent art sales to support operating budgets or expansion initiatives, a decision that violates one of the core principles of art museums. These actions are in … [Read more...]

Deaccession Dejection: Court Allows Berkshire Museum Sales (UPDATED 5Xs)

Justice David Lowy of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has just handed down a lamentable decision that rubber-stamps the devil's bargain between the Attorney General and the trustees of the Berkshire Museum (the details of which I previously reported here). Maybe we'll finally learn the identity of the nonprofit museum that has made an unspecified offer for the star discard, "Shuffleton's Barbershop," with a promise to display it prominently and to lend it to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, for 18-24 months. Here's … [Read more...]

AAMD’s Response to Metropolitan Museum’s Renegade Reorganization: “Guidance to Consider”

In last week's post---Metropolitan Museum as Renegade: Reorganization Defies AAMD’s Professional Standards---I noted that Met President Daniel Weiss' designation as his museum's CEO, with the yet-to-be-named new director as his subordinate, ran contrary to the professional guidelines (P. 5) of the Association of Art Museum Directors. I also predicted that AAMD's reaction to the Met's going rogue would be to ignore it. I was right. Here's the answer that I received today from AAMD's executive director, Christine Anagnos, to my query about … [Read more...]

Out-of-Towner Downer: Metropolitan Museum Considers a Xenophobic Admission Policy

Saul Steinberg's famous New Yorker cover portraying how Manhattanites view the rest of the world came to mind when I read Robin Pogrebin's NY Times article about the Metropolitan Museum's tentative (to my mind, wrongheaded) proposal to discriminate against out-of-towners in charging admission fees. Especially at a time when our President is fueling his supporters' xenophobia, the last thing we need is to make foreigners (let alone fellow citizens) feel less welcome at our country's premier repository for world culture by instituting a … [Read more...]

“Tidal Wave of Change”: The Sudden Turnover of U.S. Art Museum Directors (towards contemporary)

While the annual meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors (in Cleveland through tomorrow) focuses on ways "to increase diversity throughout the field," Kaywin Feldman, director of the Minneapolis Institute of Art and former AAMD president, has noticed a major change among her fellow attendees at the directors' conclave. She tweeted this insight: Majority of directors @MuseumDirectors meeting have been directors for under 5 years. Exciting tidal wave of change in the field! — Kaywin Feldman (@KaywinFeldman) May 23, 2016 To … [Read more...]

Bedford in Baltimore: Christopher is Third Contemporary Expert Recently Tapped to Lead a Major Art Museum

Are we seeing a trend here? Anne Pasternak at the Brooklyn Museum; James Rondeau at the Art Institute of Chicago; now Christopher Bedford at the Baltimore Museum of Art. In all three recent cases, a contemporary art specialist was chosen for the top spot at a museum with distinguished historic collections. (Notably bucking that trend were the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Wadsworth Atheneum.) The impetus for this predilection for the present is undoubtedly the same force driving the Metropolitan Museum (which tapped a tapestry … [Read more...]

A Milwaukee Walk: Photo Companion for My WSJ Review of the Milwaukee Art Museum

As promised in my last post, below is my illustrated companion for In Wisconsin, a Museum Reborn---my review in today's Wall Street Journal of the reinvented Milwaukee Art Museum, which gave me a very warm welcome on a single-digits day: The words in italics, below, are excerpted from my WSJ article. MAM's holdings are not only better preserved, but also shown off to greater advantage, thanks to the reorganization spearheaded by chief curator Brady Roberts: Before guiding me through the museum, Roberts surprisingly subjected me … [Read more...]

Another Erratic Outing: My Live Tweets on the Taubman Old Masters Sale at Sotheby’s

I've asked Sotheby's to explain a puzzling assertion that its spokesperson made to me and also to the NY Times' Robin Pogrebin at the end of tonight's sale of the late A. Alfred Taubman's old masters: "The success of tonight's sale," according to a Sotheby's email, "reduces our estimated auction guarantee shortfall by half, to approximately $3 million [from $6 million]." In addition to that shortfall from the $515 million guaranteed by Sotheby's to the Taubman estate, the auction house is out the $6 million in expenses attributable to the … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Eats Crow from the Taubman Sales: $6-Million Guarantee Loss & $6-Million in Expenses UPDATED

Taubman totals updated here. It's official: Sotheby's assumption of the risk for the consignment of more than 500 works from the estate of its former chairman, A. Alfred Taubman was no coup. It was a flop. In a conference call with securities analysts this morning, Tad Smith, Sotheby's CEO, said his firm expects to lose "approximately 1%, or $6 million of the guaranteed amount, due to a shortfall in sale proceeds." In addition, "approximately $6 million of sale-related expenses were incurred [for Taubman] in the fourth quarter of … [Read more...]

The Year in CultureGrrl, 2015 Edition

2015 was, for me, a high point of my CultureGrrl "career"---the only year when my dogged blogging was generously compensated, thanks to the munificent Art Writers Grant from Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation. This windfall temporarily suspended my internal debate over whether it was time to move on to more sensible activities, like increased mainstream-media work and more energetic grandmothering (which, if all goes well, will become more intense beginning in April). Barring some miraculous benefaction, my internal debate about future … [Read more...]

Taubman’s Revenge? Sotheby’s Gavel-Busting $515-Million Guarantee

My misgivings about how Sotheby's success in winning the A. Alfred Taubman consignment might backfire, which I voiced early last month in an interview with a British reporter, now appear to be on the money. At the end of his Oct. 10 London Times article---Sotheby's Gambles on $500m Art Sale (paywalled)---investigative reporter Alexi Mostrous gave me the last word: The art journalist Lee Rosenbaum said Taubman had always thought it unfair that he was “the only one who went to jail in the [Sotheby's/Christie's price-fixing] scandal....So if … [Read more...]

Trumpeting a Strumpet; Slammer to Glamor: Modigliani & Taubman Faceoff in Auction Wars

I had a did-he-really-say-that moment early last month, when listening to Sotheby's CEO Tad Smith woo stock analysts during the auction house's second-quarter conference call: Smith, new to Sotheby's, glowingly cited the late A. Alfred Taubman, the auction house's criminally convicted former chairman, as a role model. Taubman had done jail time for his role in the darkest period in Sotheby's's recent history---the price-fixing scandal that involved collusion with Christie's in setting the level of commissions. In a related class-action … [Read more...]

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