MOMA SELLS AT SOTHEBY'S
For most of its 70-odd years, the illustrious Museum of Modern Art remained aloof from the art market, on the surface at least, always deaccessioning works quietly, privately through dealers rather than on the far more public auction block. All that changed during the 1980s art boom, when the museum began to use sales at Sotheby's and Christie's to cull select works from its collection. Now, the floodgates have truly opened.
Sotheby's has announced that it will sell some 350 photographs from MoMA's collection in a special single-owner sale on Apr. 25, 2001. The auction focuses on photos from the first half of the 20th century and is expected to bring in approximately $3 million. Most of the works are duplicates, says MoMA photo curator Peter Galassi in the Sotheby's press release, but it is unclear whether they are vintage prints or later editions. A MoMA spokesperson referred a reporter to the Sotheby's release and said, "We have nothing more to add."
Among the top lots are Edward Steichen's Self-Portrait (1898) and Heavy Roses, Voulangis, France (1914); Walker Evans' Penny Picture Display, Savannah (1936); Alfred Stieglitz' Dorothy Norman's Hands (1932); Eugène Atget's Notre Dame (1932); and Man Ray's Rayograph with String and the Shadow of a Hand (1928). These photos are estimated to sell at prices ranging from $40,000 to $250,000.
Though Galassi is quoted as saying that the sale includes prints that "no longer have an active role to play at the museum," they come from illustrious collections all the same. The 11 duplicate Atget photos going on the block were acquired in the purchase of the entire Atget archive from Berenice Abbott and Julien Levy in 1968. The Walker Evans print was originally in the artist's own collection. And 13 of the 14 Man Ray works being sold were given to the museum by pioneering curator James Thrall Soby in 1941. Other donors include Lincoln Kirstein, Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Dorothy Norman.
Proceeds from the sale "will enable the museum to further strengthen the collection," said Galassi, who is currently working on a show of photos by Andreas Gursky. As it happens, a Gursky photo of a painting by Jackson Pollock sold at Sotheby's London yesterday, Jan. 7, for something over $310,000.
The collection of MoMA photos makes a quick tour of Sotheby's offices in Los Angeles (Mar. 22-24) and San Francisco (Mar. 28-29) before going on view at the auctioneer's York Avenue headquarters in New York, Apr. 18-24.
KRENS: IT'S NOT McGUGGENHEIM!
Guggenheim Museum chief Thomas Krens is responding to criticism lobbed at him for the forthcoming collaboration among the Gugg, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas. In its January issue, Forbes magazine uses the term "McGuggenheim" to refer to Krens' global museum expansion strategy. The article, titled "Museums, Inc.," features comments from Metropolitan Museum of Art director Philippe de Montebello, who asserts "they're after the money," and Whitney Museum director Maxwell Anderson, who calls the move "a compromising sponsorship to clean up the bottom line."
On Feb. 5, Krens fired back in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun. "Give me a break!" he said. "Look at the Met -- it has three million square feet, 3,000 employees and does a retail turnover of about $120 million a year. Who's the business here?" Krens claims that the move to the Vegas strip is a response to an expected decline in government assistance and adds that the criticism "will all disappear the day we open. And it will be replaced by jealousy."
Krens also revealed he is busily negotiating with the Shanghai Museum in China to add a fourth partner to his global art alliance, which in addition to the Hermitage includes the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
MAN TRIPS ON GLOVE, THEN SUES
A Long Island man is suing New York City and the Public Art Fund after breaking his hand when he tripped and fell over Ilya Kabakov's Monument to the Lost Glove, installed on a pedestrian island on 23rd Street at the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue, reports the New York Law Journal. Israel Fleiss tripped over the sculpture -- a real glove covered in plastic resin and bolted to the sidewalk, surrounded by nine music stands -- in December 1997, suffering abrasions and a broken right hand. He seeks damages for his injuries and his suit includes a claim of loss of consortium by his wife, Loretta. A spokesperson tells Artnet News the Public Art Fund has no comment while the case is still in court.
PHILLIPS BUYS BERGGRUEN'S POST-IMPRESSIONIST COLLECTION
The recently renamed Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg auction house is not letting up in its fight to rise from its number three spot in the auction-house hierarchy. The auctioneers have just bought a collection of Post-Impressionist paintings and drawings from Berlin dealer Heinz Berggruen, reports Carol Vogel in the New York Times. The seven works consist of five paintings and watercolors by Cézanne, including the iconic Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1888-1890), and a painting and one drawing by Vincent van Gogh, all until recently exhibited in the Berggruen Museum in Berlin. The works are going on sale in New York on May 7, 2001, and are expected to fetch a total of more than $80 million. The German government would have liked to have bought the 19th-century collection when it acquired Berggruen's 20th-century collection in December but was not able to raise the money.
JACKIE AT THE MET
What to do when you lose Coco Chanel? Turn to Jackie Kennedy! The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute opens "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years," May 1-July 29, 2001, a presentation of some 80 costumes and accessories selected from the collection of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston by Vogue European editor-at-large Hamish Bowles. The show, which is underwritten by L'Oréal and Condé Nast, features the fawn coat and pillbox hat Jackie wore at her husband's inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961, as well as a selection of formal gowns worn at White House functions and state visits abroad.
Met director Philippe de Montebello said, "It is appropriate indeed that the Metropolitan, an institution with which Jacqueline Kennedy enjoyed profoundly close ties, should celebrate the timeless impact of her extraordinary, unforgettable grace and style. It was Mrs. Kennedy who personally chose the Temple of Dendur, now a centerpiece of the Met's collections, as Egypt's gift to the United States."
Celebrities and socialites will preview the exhibition at the Costume Institute annual gala on Apr. 23. The benefit, which is to be chaired by Caroline Kennedy and her husband Edwin S. Schlossberg, was moved from its traditional December date after the cancellation last year of the retrospective devoted to French fashionista Coco Chanel, reportedly due to the controversy surrounding Chanel's estimated $1.5 million sponsorship of the show and objections from museum staffers to attempts by the fashion house's chief designer, Karl Lagerfeld, to dictate the exhibition's contents. After its New York premiere, the Jackie show travels to the Kennedy Library in Boston, Sept. 12, 2001-Feb. 28, 2002.
-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
can be reached by email at