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A triumvirate of directors of the world's best modern art museums -- Glenn Lowry of the Museum of Modern Art, Nicholas Serota of the Tate Gallery and Werner Spies of the Pompidou Center -- took the stage at MoMA's Roy and Niuta Titus Theater on Jan. 25 for a wide-ranging discussion of "the future of the modern art museum." Art devotees in the audience -- seated in the first few rows were Whitney Museum curator Eugenie Tsai and her husband, P.S.1 program director Tom Finkelpearl, New Criterion scribes Hilton Kramer and Roger Kimball, retiring MoMA drawings czar Margit Rowell and former New York State Council on the Arts chair Kitty Carlisle Hart -- may well have expected some fireworks. After 50 years, MoMA's preeminence is under challenge -- the Pompidou, gathering things like mad, may have caught up; the Tate doesn't quite have the collection but has the programming; and the Guggenheim Museum has definitely narrowed the gap (despite the disastrous collapse of its SoHo branch). But Gugg director Thomas Krens was nowhere to be found -- and where, speaking of the 21st century, was the Whitney Museum?

But instead of fireworks, it was a love fest, with the absent Spies -- stranded in France by New York's snowstorm, apparently -- represented by MoMA curator John Elderfield, who read his paper and showed slides of Spies' new installation of the Pompidou collection. "We can rewrite art history using less well-known works," claimed Spies, in what was presumably a reference to MoMA masterpieces like Picasso's Les Demoiselles. The "multidisciplinary, lateral aspect predominates" (Spies) in the new installations of all three directors, who promise to "break the sense of a master narrative" (Serota) and "suggest alternative ways of seeing art" (Lowry).

Similarly, the artful trio promised to privilege the contemporary, giving it "dignity, weight" (Serota), placing "contemporary art at the beginning, rather than at the end [in the new MoMA building]" (Lowry). And in an uncanny echo of MoMA's simplistic "People Places and Things" approach in the current reinstallation of the collection, Serota also promised that the new TateModern -- notice the claustrophobic, space-free orthography, much like MoMA's "ModernStarts" -- would be organized by four "genres" -- still life, figure painting, landscape and history painting.

Elderfield got the last laugh when he opined that "the younger generation is more tolerant of disorder, more willing to be disoriented," and then suggested that museums were enormously popular, led only by cell phones and SUVs.

A former student of Georgia O'Keeffe named Jackie Suazo claims he may have made the so-called "Canyon Suite" watercolors back in the 1940s and '50s, reports the Albuquerque Journal. The now-infamous set of 28 watercolors, thought to be by O'Keeffe, were sold to Kansas City art patron R. Crosby Kemper for $5 million in 1993 by the respected Santa Fe art dealer Gerald Peters -- but have now been proved to be bogus by experts at the National Gallery of Art. Suazo says he left hundreds of paintings at O'Keeffe's compound that he assumed were burned after her death. According to the report, however, Peters asserts that Suazo did not paint the watercolors, and says he plans to send the paintings to a lab for more tests.

Peters has agreed to refund the purchase price for the works, but says that the actual selling price was much lower than the reported amount, as he was paid partly with property in Colorado that was then valued at $1.4 million but was later found to be worth substantially less. Kemper Museum director Dan Keegan maintains the museum is due the full $5 million. The Kemper will not be alone in getting its money back: Keegan says the museum will give refunds on "Canyon Suite" catalogues and memorabilia if the item is accompanied by a receipt, the Kansas City Star reports.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has received $15 million, the largest cash gift in its 115-year history, from Raymond and Ruth Perelman. The gift will go toward the acquisition and renovation of the Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company building, a 1926 Art Deco building on a two-acre site that the museum bought for $17 million in Oct. 1999. The city of Philadelphia contributed the remaining $2 million. Raymond Perelman has been a trustee since 1975 and chairman of the museum's board since 1997.

Philadelphia is not alone in its bounty: the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art has also received the largest gift in its 20 year history, a $10-million donation from Dallas Price, a MOCA founder. The gift will be paid in one-year installments of $1 million for the next ten years beginning this month, and is to be used to support the museum's operating budget and endowment. Price has been a member of the museum's board of trustees since 1993.

New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has said that his budget for the next fiscal year will once again advocate cutting funds for the city's cultural institutions, the New York Times reports. Giuliani has consistently pushed for cuts in spending on cultural institutions and called for them to solicit more private funding, but New York's City Council has repeatedly restored much of the financing, as they did in this year's budget, putting back $24 million for cultural groups that the mayor's office had slashed.

German supermodel Claudia Schiffer has reportedly accepted a marriage proposal from Tim Jeffries, director of Hamilton's Gallery, a photography gallery in London. Brit tabloid the Sun reports that Jeffries was previously married to actress Koo Stark and has been romantically linked to model Elle MacPherson and singer Kylie Minogue. The stunning couple was recently spotted at Hamilton's booth at Paris Photo Fair late Nov. 1999.

Which is the most popular U.S. museum, going by the numbers? As any observer can easily see, people flood into museums, and other people count them. Artnet News called some of the larger U.S. museums to collect the following stats for 1999 attendance. The envelope please:
  • The Metropolitan Museum had 5.2 million visitors in 1999. Its two most popular exhibitions were "The Annenberg Collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterworks" (June 1-Nov. 7, 1999), which drew 429,024 visitors, and "Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids" (Sept. 16, 1999-Jan. 9, 2000), which attracted 473,234 people.

  • The Museum of Modern Art clocked over 1.8 million visitors from July 1, 1998, to June 30, 1999, its most recent counting period. "Jackson Pollock" was visited by 330,000 people during its 81-day run (Nov. 1, 1998-Feb. 2, 1999). Two subsequent shows seem to have been two-thirds as popular -- "The Un-Private House" (July 1-Oct. 5, 1999 ) and "Fame After Photography" (July 8-Oct. 5, 1999) each received 220,000 visitors. As for MoMA's controversial reinstallation of its permanent collection, the final figures have yet to be tallied but an average 3,800 people are visiting the "Modern Starts" exhibition every day.

  • The Los Angeles County Museum of Art attracted 1.3 million visitors in 1999, its biggest draw by far being "Van Gogh's Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam" (Jan. 17-May 16, 1999), which tallied 821,004 visitors, a huge number compared to its next most popular show, "Diego Rivera: Art and Revolution" (May 30-Aug. 16, 1999), which brought in 180,707 viewers.

  • The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., reports 924,616 visitors from Oct. 15, 1998 to Oct. 17, 1999. Its biggest draw was "Julião Sarmento: Fundamental Accuracy" (July 15-Oct. 17, 1999), which brought 334,089 people, followed by "Brice Marden, Work of the 1990s" (May 27-Sept. 6, 1999), with 275,002 visitors.

  • The Guggenheim Museum had nearly 660,000 visitors in the nine-month period from Jan. 1 to Sept. 12, 1999, with the concurrent "Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-1954" and "Picasso and the War Years" (Feb. 4-May 9, 1999) drawing 299,859 visitors, and "Surrealism: Two Private Eyes" (June 4-Sept. 12, 1999) bringing in 288,564 people.

  • The Whitney Museum reports that a total of 628,478 people walked through its doors in 1999, but for some reason declined to break down the numbers on a show-by-show basis. "The American Century Part I, 1900-1950" ran Apr. 23-Aug. 22, 1999, and "Part II, 1950-2000" is up Sept. 26, 1999-Feb. 13, 2000.

  • The Art Institute of Chicago reports over 460,000 visitors for 1999, with its biggest draws being "Yasuri Ishimoto: A Tale of Two Cities" (May 8-Sept. 12, 1999), which attracted 101,629 visitors, and "Land of the Winged Horsemen: Art in Poland 1572-1764" (June 2-Sept. 6, 1999), which brought in 131,193 people.

  • The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art saw 1999 attendance of 310,000. Shows included "Charles Ray" (Nov. 15, 1998-Mar. 14, 1999), "Sam Francis: Paintings 1947-1990," (Mar. 7-July 25, 1999) and "In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O'Hara and American Art" (July 11-Nov. 14, 1999).

    The Museum of Modern Art may open a temporary museum in Long Island City, Queens, near its recently acquired alternative-space outpost P.S. 1, when the construction begins in 2001 on the midtown Manhattan museum's $650-million expansion by Tokyo architect Yoshio Taniguchi. The 140,000-square-foot site, located at 45-20 33rd St. off Queens Blvd., was purchased in 1999 for use as a study and storage center. The admittedly speculative plan calls for the space to do double duty for exhibitions from 2002 to 2004. New York architecture firm Cooper, Robertson and Partners is designing the study and storage center, though MoMA has held preliminary discussions with a number of other firms regarding the possible galleries.

    The Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery at Hunter College presents "Deep Field Painting" Feb. 3-Mar. 18, 2000, an exhibition exploring the relationship between science and art via contemporary abstract painting and a 1996 Deep Field photograph made with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope that is said to be the "deepest-ever" view of the universe (on view at NASA). Curated by artist and Artnet Magazine correspondent Michael Brennan, the show includes works by Eve Aschheim, Linda Francis, Paul Mogensen, Doug Ohlson, Richard Tsao and Joan Waltemath. The gallery is located at 68th St. and Lexington Ave. Call (212) 772-4991 for more information.

    Devotees of Salvador Dalí and the history of Surrealism in America are flocking to Jan Van der Donk Rare Books on the 12th floor of the Starrett Lehigh Building (601 West 26th Street) in New York's Chelsea district. On view is a selection of previously unexhibited vintage press photos by Eric Schaal (1905-1994) of Dalí's bizarre Dream of Venus pavilion for the 1939 New York World's Fair. Dalí's Surrealist gesamtkunstwerk featured a 30-foot-tall glass tank filled with water and containing a piano, huge melting-watch mural, a rubber mermaid and more. The pavilion was closed after one day due to protests over the presence of topless "Living Liquid Ladies" cavorting underwater in the tank. The pavilion was produced by a consortium that included Dalí's dealer Julian Levy, collector Edward James, the William Morris theatrical agency and a theatrical display company from Long Island City. A new book of Schaal's portraits from Weidle Verlag is also available. For more info check out the Van der Donk website at

    Benjamin Weil has been named curator of media arts at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A co-founder of the defunct art website ada'web, Weil has been director of new media at London's Institute of Contemporary Art since 1998. He succeeds Robert R. Tiley, who founded SFMOMA's media arts department in 1987 and has now left to become an independent curator.

    Weil's appointment is part of a number of new-media initiatives at SFMOMA, which include the new $50,000 Webby Prize for Excellence in Online Art, to be awarded on May 11, and an overhaul of the museum website, slated to debut next month.

    Deven Golden Fine Art in Chelsea is closing its doors after three years in business and one year in Chelsea. Its last show, "Touchy Feely," featuring sculptures by Gail Fitzgerald and Jo Hormuth, closes Feb. 5. Golden told Artnet News that he is considering pursuing art-related projects on the Internet.

    Canada's Glenbow Museum is set to voluntarily return 251 sacred objects to the Blackfoot tribes of southern Alberta after more than a decade of negotiations. The items include pipes and special paints, weapons and clothing that are used for religious ceremonies. Many of the objects ended up in museum archives as the Blackfoot were forced to sell or surrender them during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Alberta premier Ralph Klein is credited with helping finalize the deal, and he is poised to introduce legislation next month that would ensure the unconditional return of native sacred objects in museums to all aboriginal peoples of Alberta.

    British Parliament's Common Public Accounts Committee -- a kind of British General Accounting Office -- has accused the Arts Council of England of inadequate oversight in £325 million in lottery grants, saying that of the 15 projects they examined, eight were behind schedule and 13 were over budget. The committee expressed dismay at the council awarding these projects a further £20 million, stating that "the Arts Council must tighten up its act." The council responded that the committee's findings were out of date, but with 11 major lottery buildings like the Tate Bankside and the Lowry Complex in Salford due to open in the next few months, construction industry experts have warned that further overruns are inevitable, the London Guardian reports.

    The American Association of Museum Directors has announced that its guidelines in Professional Practices in Art Museums will be revised to address ethical considerations regarding corporate sponsorship of exhibitions, the Wall Street Journal reports. The guidelines seem to be in response to recent controversies surrounding shows such as the Brooklyn Museum of Art's "Sensation," funded in part by the owner of the works, and the Guggenheim Museum's planned Armani retrospective sponsored by the designer. The guidelines are slated to be issued June 2001.

    Art historian Peter Selz's influence is celebrated at Achim Moeller Fine Art in New York with "Cross-Currents in Modern Art," Feb. 2-Mar. 3, 2000, an exhibition featuring art about which the former curator of painting and sculpture exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art has written extensively. Included in the exhibition are works by figures as diverse as Max Beckman, Agnes Denes, Barbara Chase-Riboud and John McLaughlin. A private reception will be held to benefit the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art, recipient of the Peter Selz Papers.

    -- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech