NEW NEA CHAIRMAN DEAD
New National Endowment for the Arts chairman Michael Hammond was found dead at his temporary home in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29. The 69-year-old conductor and composer, who had been named to the NEA post a month ago, had complained of feeling ill, and his death was apparently of natural causes. "He was a remarkable man," said an NEA spokesperson. "He really wanted to make the arts a lively force in American life." NEA deputy chair Eileen Mason will serve as acting head of the agency until President George Bush makes a new nomination.
CHOPPING CHERRY TREES AT BROOKLYN MUSEUM...
Brooklynites were dismayed last week to see that the Brooklyn Museum had chopped down 42 cherry trees that lined the front of the building as part of the construction for its new $55-million modernist glass entrance designed by James Stewart Polshek. The decision to eliminate the trees, whose pink blossoms are a spring trademark of the adjacent Brooklyn Botanic Garden, only adds to fears that the museum administration has severely lost its way in the entrance renovation. The bizarre design sets the museum's imposing colonnaded façade atop an ugly glass portico that looks like it belongs at an airport. "If this thing turns out okay," said one observer, "it will be a miracle."
...AND STEEL FACETS AND PANELS AT THE MORGAN
Another venerable arts institution is taking the plunge into expansion-land. The Pierpont Morgan Library on Madison Avenue in New York has unveiled plans for a $75 million makeover by architect Renzo Piano, whose proposal includes a new glass-enclosed piazza on 36th Street, a four-story building on 37th Street and a four-level vault excavated from the bedrock. The scheme would add over 69,000 square feet of space, 43,300 of it underground.
"It's more about rebalancing, rethinking the institution," said Piano, quoted in the New York Times. On their face, his thoughts sound nightmarish: a new entryway designed as "a windowless façade of recessed steel panels in a large-scale grid," plus a "faceted steel cube" inserted between the 1906 McKim, Mead & White building and the 1928 library annex. At least the new construction would replace the ill-advised, glass-roofed garden annex built in 1991.
MODIGLIANI, DICKINSON SHOWS TO BOW IN BUFFALO
It's a good year for art-lovers in frosty Buffalo, N.Y., as a pair of major exhibitions opens at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery there in the coming months. First up is "Edwin Dickinson: Dreams and Realities," Apr. 27-July 14, 2002, a retrospective survey of landscapes, self-portraits, nudes and still-lifes by the mysterious proto-Minimalist painter's painter. The show is organized by Albright-Knox curator Douglas Dreishpoon and subsequently travels to the Pennsylvania Academy, Sept. 14-Nov. 24, 2002; the National Academy of Design, Jan. 29-Apr. 13, 2003; the Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, May 9-July 20, 2003; and the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, Aug. 29-Nov. 9, 2003.
Next up is "Modigliani and the Artists of Montparnasse," the first major U.S. survey of work by the celebrated bohemian painter Amedeo Modigliani in more than 40 years, which debuts in Buffalo, Oct. 19, 2002-Jan. 19, 2003. Organized by Albright-Knox curator Kenneth Wayne, the show includes works by Brancusi, de Chirico, Matisse, Picasso and Soutine, and travels to the Kimbell Art Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum.
WATTEAU IS HOT AT MUMMERY
Andrew Mummery Gallery in London has organized a show dedicated to Antoine Watteau's 1717 masterpiece, The Embarkation for Cythera, inviting 12 artists to make works in response to the fabled allegory of love fulfilled. Invited artists include Philip Akkerman, R. Nick Evans, Michael Fullerton, John Gotto, Iain Hetherington, Louise Hopkins, Saron Hughes, Merlin James, Alex Pollard, Christopher Stevens, Stuart Taylor and Graeme Todd. The show is on view Jan. 30-Mar. 2, 2002, and images of the works are being posted at www.andrewmummery.com.
ALICE STAYS IN LONDON, FOR NOW
England's National Portrait Gallery is trying to raise £660,000 to purchase a dozen rare photographs taken by Lewis Carroll of Alice Liddell and her sisters, and thus keep the pictures in the country. The group of works was sold to an anonymous U.S. buyer at Sotheby's London June 6, 2001, sale of the personal effects of the Liddell family, but British arts minister Tessa Blackstone wants to make them part of a new Carroll center at the Museum of Oxford (where Carroll, otherwise known as Charles Dodgson, was a don). Only about 30 images of the Liddell family are known; neither the Portrait Gallery nor its partner in this effort, the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television in Bradford, have any of Alice herself. Top lot in the auction, an 1858 albumen print of Alice posing as "the beggar maid," sold for £179,500 (about $253,400).
ARCHITECTS CITE FUNDACIO MIRO
The Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, completed by Catalan architect Josep Lluís Sert in 1975, is the 2002 winner of the 25 Year Award, honoring designs of enduring significance, from the American Institute of Architects.
VIRGINIA MUSEUM BUYS REDDY SCULPTURE
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has acquired a six-foot-tall, gilded portrait bust by one of India's best-known contemporary artists. Ravinder Reddy's Krishnaveni I (1997) could depict anyone from a local teenager or movie star to Radha, the legendary consort of the Hindu god Krishna, according to Virginia curator John Ravenal. The work, purchased for an undisclosed sum through Deitch Projects in New York, is currently on view in the museum lobby. The museum also announced the acquisition of a rare Jain "Kalpasutra" (scripture of right conduct) manuscript dated 1416 and an ivory-clad drop-front secretary made in about 1780 for export from India to Philadelphia (where it was acquired by Anne Willing Bingham (1764-1802)).
CLIMBER SCALES WALTERS FACADE
For almost three months now, since Nov. 4, 2001, the 1974 Brutalist addition of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore has been pocked with ugly, neon-orange nodules that turn out to be an installation of facsimile casts of objects from the museum collection by Dennis Adams, designed to create a rock-climbing wall. Now, Adams has had a climber actually scale the piece, dubbed Seize, wearing mini-cameras on his ankles and wrists. The resulting video is currently on view on four monitors at the Baltimore Contemporary Museum across the street. Adams' elaborate trampling of the Walters' collection stays on view till Mar. 9, 2002.
CORPORATE COLLECTING AT NEW RITZ-CARLTON
The new Ritz-Carlton Hotel that opened this week in Battery Park in downtown Manhattan includes nearly 1,500 artworks as part of the décor, thanks to art-loving Millennium Partners developer Phil Aarons. The $1.3-million collection includes works by some 50 artists, including Ross Bleckner, Adam Fuss, James Nares, April Gornik, Roger Newton, Ned Smyth and Peter Wegner. Millennium also put up $250,000 to have Creative Time organize sculpture shows in the plaza; the first opens Feb. 22. Aarons was advised by San Diego art consultant Joan Warren-Grady and New York consultant Edsel Williams.
FASANELLA RETRO AT N-Y HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The New-York Historical Society is mounting a retrospective of the work of beloved New York folk artist and labor activist Ralph Fasanella (1914-97). "Ralph Fasanella's America," Mar. 1-July 14, 2001, includes 50 works by the second generation Italian-American immigrant known for his colorful, lively images of urban life and working-class politics. The show is organized by Fenimore Art Museum curator Paul S. D'Ambrosio, and is accompanied by a 176-page catalogue.
FIRST LOOK AT ARMORY
Art lovers hankering for a look at the Seventh Regiment Armory at Park Avenue and 67th Street get their first chance with the opening of the Wendy New York Armory Antiques Show, Feb. 6-10, 2002. Approximately 100 dealers are to be on hand; admission is $10.
RUSCHA, MET ON EGG
Does anyone in the art world watch TV? If so, they can tune in to EGG, the PBS arts show, on Friday, Feb. 15, and catch a segment on Oklahoma City native Ed Ruscha and his retrospective at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth as part of a show on "The Road." The next week, on Feb. 22, EGG goes to the Metropolitan Museum with lots of celebrity docents, including Tony Bennett, Bill T. Jones, Julie Taymor, a sixth grader, artist Faith Ringgold and New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman. Check your local listings.
LAIB SYMPOSIUM IN N.Y.
A one-day symposium on "Materials, Methods, Meanings: The Art of Wolfgang Laib," organized by the American Federation of Arts (AFA), convenes at 6:30 p.m. tonight, Jan. 31, 2002, at the Goethe Institut in New York. Speakers include AFA director Julia Brown, followed by art-critic/author Amei Wallach and Klaus Offmann, curator of "Wolfgang Laib: A Retrospective," currently on view at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art.
BRAQUE IN MADRID
Heading off for the ARCO art fair in Madrid, Feb. 14-19? Then you can also take in a Georges Braque retrospective at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Feb. 5-May 19, 2002. Museum curator Tomàs Llorens, Centre Georges Pompidou associate director Isabelle Monod-Fomtaine and Maeght Foundation director Jean-Louis Prat arranged the show.
DOLLARS FOR DOWNTOWN ART
The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts has made $650,000 in emergency grants to downtown arts organizations in New York City suffering post-Sept. 11 financial difficulties. Awards ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 go to a range of groups, including Artists Space, the Drawing Center, Exit Art, Franklin Furnace, the Museum for African Art, the New Museum, P.S.1/ Clocktower, P.S. 122, Storefront for Art and Architecture and White Columns.
CAPITAL! FRENCH MASTERS VISIT LONDON
Londoners are flocking to the new show "Paris: Capital of the Arts" at the Royal Academy of the Arts, Jan. 26-Apr. 19, 2002. The show ranges from Picasso and Matisse to Ellsworth Kelly, and is organized in terms of four Parisian neighborhoods -- Montmartre, Montparnasse, Saint-Germain-des-Près and the Latin Quartier.