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The marketeers have taken over the museum, and now they're moving into the foundation world. The Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia has announced what it calls a "landmark national policy initiative" designed "to optimize America's cultural resources." The gassy scheme -- price-tagged at $50-million over five years -- will divert substantial funds from the organization's actual culture programs, which totaled $23 million in 1998. It is described as having three components: a comprehensive centralized database on U.S. culture; a massive media campaign promoting the arts; and extensive marketing research at museums and arts institutions.
"The next Presidential election should be the last one in which the parties are without a cultural policy plank in their platforms," Stephen K. Urice, the Pew official who will direct the initiative, told the New York Times. "But first they need to have smart academics, think tanks and data focusing on this, and that's where we're headed. First up: an 18-month Rand Corp. study of "the current state of the arts" via data on the 18,000 nonprofit cultural institutions that file annually with the Internal Revenue Service.
At least one expert took a dim view of the whole megillah. Former Metropolitan Museum director Thomas Hoving wrote in the Times that "In my 10 years as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1960s and '70s, I found that every time a committee of elitist foundation, 'think tank' or government 'suits' began to cook up some sort of cultural 'organizing framework,' it was a waste of time and money." He suggested the money go to artists instead.
HOVING'S TOP FIVE
Speaking of Thomas Hoving, at a recent press luncheon for his new book, Art for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide), the irrepressible art historian rattled off his "New York top five," a list of art works that are "the tops of their period or artist, the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else on earth." The list: 1) the Lindau Bookcover at the Morgan Library, the 9th-century bookcover with a gold Christ that is arguably the finest figure made in the Carolingian period; 2) the English Tickhill Psalter in the New York Public Library, 42nd Street branch, with its 13th-14th century illuminations in perfect condition -- probably the finest English Gothic manuscript there is; 3) the Euphronios Kalyx Krater (ca. 520 BC) at the Metropolitan Museum, with nothing missing (the tomb robbers knew what they had found), by far the most supreme example of Greek vase painting of the 6th-5th century; 4) Francisco Goya's portrait of the Duchess of Alba, at the Hispanic Society up on Broadway at 158th Street, in which the artist has depicted his supposed lover pointing down to the name "Goya" written in the sand at her feet; and 5) the Monkey Cup of 1360-85 at the Cloisters, enamel on gold unbelievably beautifully wrought inside and out, probably made for that greatest connoisseur of western times, the Duke of Berry. And as a bonus, the former Met director nominated the Whitney Museum as the city's best museum. "Just look at that permanent collection!" he exclaimed.
CHRISTIE'S IN THAILAND
Christie's "Treasure of Siam" auction in Bankok last week, the first sale in Thailand by an international auction house, totaled $1.1 million (39.8 million baht). More than 90 percent of the rare Thai books and photographs assembled by U.S. antiquarian book dealer Justin Schiller were sold, said Christie's expert Philip Ng. Nearly 85 percent of the paintings by 50 Thai artists found buyers. Top lot was a reclining nude by Tawee Nandakwang that sold for 2.5 million baht to Worawit Pokin, a former pavement vendor turned art collector. "She's a Thai Venus," he told the Wall Street Journal. Schiller began assembling the collection in the early '90s when he realized that Bankok residents had plenty of dough but little to buy that reflected their national heritage.
CALDER FOR PHILLY
Alexander Calder's 40-foot-tall mobile, Eagle, has been installed outside the Philadelphia Art Museum for six months, a loan from the Alexander Calder Foundation in Woodstock, N.Y. The museum presently has Calder's 35-foot-long Ghost hanging in its central hall. Installation was overseen by two Calder grandsons, Alexander "Sandy" Rower, director of the foundation, and his brother, artist Holton Rower. The Calder Foundation is considering establishing a Calder museum in Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
FRANK STELLA, ARCHITECT
Baroque abstractionist Frank Stella unveils his first architectural commission, a bandshell in the shape of a Brazilian beach hat, at the new American Airlines Arena in Miami on Dec. 31, 1999. A maquette for the structure goes on view at Sperone Westwater Gallery in New York, Nov. 10-Dec. 18, 1999, as part of the artist's first show since leaving Leo Castelli Gallery. Stella also has a retrospective, "Frank Stella at 2000: Changing the Rules," that opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Dec. 18, 1999-Mar. 12, 2000.
WILD, WILD WESTERN
The global art market is so vigorous that collectors even jet to Idaho to buy western, wildlife and sporting art. The 15th annual Coeur d'Alene Art Auction, held July 31, roped in a total of $8.6 million, with more than 50 percent of the sold lots exceeding their high presale estimates. The Charles M. Russell watercolor Scattering the Riders tethered the high bid of the night, $907,500 (est. $350,000-$550,000).
FOLK ART MOOLAH
The Museum of Folk Art in New York has received $2.5 million from New York City towards its $30-million capital campaign. So far the museum has raised $20.5 million for its new facility on 53rd Street just west of the Museum of Modern Art. Groundbreaking is set for the fall, and the new museum is scheduled to open in the spring of 2001.
WHITNEY SELLS FOLK ART -- TO FOLK ART MUSEUM
The Whitney Museum has sold Samuel A. Robb's Baseball Player (1888-1903) to the Museum of Folk Art for an undisclosed price. Once part of the highly regarded Haffenreffer Collection, the trade figure has only been exhibited twice at the Whitney, in 1978 and 1986.
BECHERS AT DEUTSCHE BANK
Photographs by Bernd and Hilla Becher are on view Aug. 9-Sept. 24, 1999, in the lobby gallery of Deutsche Bank on West 53rd Street in New York. The Lobby Gallery is open daily from 8 am to 8 pm, and admission is free.
WHISTLER AT CARNEGIE
The Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh unveils "Whistler: Impressions of an American Abroad -- Etchings and Lithographs from Carnegie Museum of Art," Aug. 23, 1999-Jan. 23, 2000. The survey of James McNeill Whistler's career as a graphic artist features 30 lithographs and 50 etchings arranged chronologically.
PURYEAR FOR GETTY
The Getty Center in Los Angeles has commissioned Martin Puryear to design a work for its tram station. Puryear's tall, openwork structure of stainless steel is to be installed in late October. Other contemporary works at the center include Robert Irwin's Central Garden and commissions by Ed Ruscha and Alexis Smith. In a separate but related development, the Getty has also commissioned works by 11 contemporary artists for a show scheduled to open on Feb. 29, 2000 (Sadie Hawkins Day?). The artists are John Baldessari, Uta Barth, Sharon Ellis, Judy Fiskin, Martin Kersels, John M. Miller, Ruben Ortiz-Torres, Lari Pittman, Stephen Prina, Alison Saar and Adrian Saxe.
OTTO ENDOWMENT AT PARRISH
The Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, N.Y., recently announced the establishment of the Otto Endowment Fund for the Study of Art of Eastern Long Island. The $750,000 fund was established by Werner and Maren Otto.
RAMIREZ TO EL BARRIO
Yasmin Ramirez, former curator of Taller Boricua in Spanish Harlem, has been named adjunct curator at El Museo del Barrio in New York.
MARTIN WONG, 1946-1999
Martin Wong, 53, East Village painter who received a retrospective exhibition at the New Museum in New York earlier this year, died on Aug. 12 from complications of AIDS at his home in San Francisco. One of the East Village art scene's more colorful characters, Wong affected cowboy garb and a Fu Manchu mustache, dabbled in the secondary market for Asian art and was an enthusiastic patron of graffiti art. He created his poetic images of Lower East Side tenement life with layer after layer of inexpensive Utrecht paint, applied to the canvas while talking on the phone and sitting crosslegged on the floor in his walk-up apartment. He exhibited in New York in the 1980s at Semaphore Gallery and more recently at P.P.O.W.
ALEXANDER GREGORY-HOOD, 1915-1999
Alexander Gregory-Hood, 83, contemporary art dealer who opened the Rowan Gallery with partner Diana Kingsmill in 1962, has died in London. Rowan exhibited works by Michael Craig-Martin, Barry Flanagan, John Golding, Tim Head, Philip King, Mark Lancaster, Keith Milow, Jeremy Moon, Martin Naylor, Sean Scully, Jon Thompson and William Tucker.