GOLDBLATT RETROSPECTIVE EXPLORES APARTHEID
One solid exhibition to open in New York during the August heat wave was "David Goldblatt: Fifty-One Years," a survey of over 100 photos taken between 1948 and 1999 by the well-known South African documentary photographer. The exhibition, on view at the AXA Gallery in Manhattan, Aug. 16-Oct. 6, 2001, is co-curated by Corinne Diserens and Okwui Enwezor and organized by the Museu d'Art Cotnemporani de Barcelona (MACBA). Goldblatt's photographs constitute a major record of apartheid, and the show includes a series of pictures of the South African gold mining industry of the 1960s (originally done in collaboration with writer Nadine Gordimer) as well as images of life in South Africa's racially separated bantustans and all-white communities. The series "The Transported" from 1983 is a photographic essay on a special kind of commuting -- that of black workers from their isolated homelands under the apartheid system to their work in major cities, while a series documenting South African architecture focuses on the ideological expressions of the "built environment" (subject of Goldblatt's 1998 show at the Museum of Modern Art). The exhibition is accompanied by a thick catalogue with essays by J.M Coetzee, Corinne Diserens, the curators and others.
ROSS QUIT SFMOMA FOR ... EYESTORM
In an interview with San Francisco Chronicle art critic David Bonetti, departing San Francisco Museum of Modern Art director David Ross cheerfully admitted he was giving up his job, which carries an annual salary of ca. $400,000, to go make money in the private sector. "I have to think about myself a bit," he said, adding that he wants to come back after he makes some dough and become a trustee. Ross's outside interests include serving as a director for Eyestorm, the London-based internet contemporary art publisher, and plans to write a book on art and technology for MIT Press. The museum seems content to let Ross go, according to Bonetti's story, apparently because the crash in the tech sector is having an effect on SFMOMA's operations, and Ross is better at spending money than sheltering it.
Curiously, in a follow-up story published a few days later, a museum official claimed that Ross's outside money-making activities had nothing to do with the change. Rather, the official said, SFMOMA needed an administrator that would focus on internal affairs in a time of economic retrenchment.
HOPTMAN TO CARNEGIE
Museum of Modern Art drawings curator Laura Hoptman has been named curator of contemporary art at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. The appointment, which takes effect in November, includes the prestigious job of organizing the 2004 Carnegie International Exhibition. During more than six years at MoMA, Hoptman organized shows of John Currin, Elizabeth Peyton and Luc Tuymans (1997), Yayoi Kusama (1998, with Lynne Zelevansky) and Maurizio Cattelan (1998); she also worked on "Greater New York" at P.S. 1 last year. Hoptman will stay on at MoMA as an adjunct curator to complete work on a Ricci Albenda project slated for the museum in November 2001 and to organize a large show of 250 drawings by 26 artists that opens in October 2002.
KIMBELL SUCKERED IN ANCIENT ART SCAM?
The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth is once again in the news in a series of stories that seem to cast doubt on the capabilities of the museum management. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on Aug. 17, 2001, that the museum had spent $2.7 million to buy "what was advertised as a rare Sumerian statue" -- only to return it to the dealer a few months later, seeking a refund. Though museums may return art loot to its country of origin, it's considered quite unusual for a museum to seek to rescind a purchase, which would be routinely vetted by experts in advance of payment (Kimbell Museum director Timothy Potts is an expert in ancient art and archeology). "Put it in the Guiness Book of World Records for the fastest-ever museum acquisition and deaccession," said one art-world wag.
According to unnamed sources, the statue in question is a 15-inch-tall male figure of white alabaster, with feathered skirt and exaggerated eyes, that supposedly dates from 2600 B.C. It was purchased from Phoenix Soho, a New York dealer that is closed for vacation. The newspaper reported that Phoenix Soho is the U.S. office of international art dealers Ali and Hisham Aboutaam, whose Geneva warehouse was recently raided by Italian and Swiss authorities seeking illegal art exports.
Considering the Kimbell transaction, experts contacted by Star-Telegram reporter Andrew Marton hypothesized that the statue was either fake or illegally obtained. Former Metropolitan Museum director Thomas Hoving noted that many Sumerian antiquities originate in present-day Iraq. "Unless you know for a fact that the Sumerian piece has been in some English lord's collection for years, you can bet you're probably trading with Saddam Hussein and it's probably all stolen stuff with cooked-up, fake provenances," he said. "As a museum director, don't even bother with it, just hands off."
Though the Kimbell wouldn't comment on the return of the statue in the original story, on the following day the Star-Telegram published a lengthy letter from Potts. The Kimbell director called the transaction "entirely amicable" and implied that the refund was sought to free funds for "other outstanding acquisition opportunities." Potts' statement further seems to claim that the statue was in a European collection in the 1960s, but he offers no real proof of the piece's provenance. The work was never put on display at the Kimbell.
Earlier this year, the Kimbell was embarrassed in its attempted acquisition of a $20-million Botticelli from a British collection, after locals used the museum's offer as leverage to raise funds to buy the work for the National Gallery of Scotland. And the museum also gained unfavorable publicity when two boardmembers received retroactive payments totaling $1.5 million. Unfortunately for the museum, this series of events has jokers noting that its classic "pursuit of quality" slogan might be recast as "pursuit of calamity."
DE GRAZIA OUT AT CLEVELAND
Diane De Grazia, chief curator of the Cleveland Museum of Art since 1995, has resigned "to pursue long-time personal and professional goals." At the CMA she reorganized the curatorial division, recruiting nine of its 16 curators, and oversaw the museum's program of international exhibitions. Most recently she organized exhibitions on Nicolas Poussin (1999) and, with the museum's late director, Robert P. Bergman, "Vatican Treasures" (1998). Prior to coming to Cleveland, De Grazia was a curator at the National Gallery of Art from 1974 to '95. While a search goes on for a successor, Cleveland senior curator Henry Hawley is serving as interim curatorial chair.
STATE ART-FUNDING STATS
Buddy, can you spare 11 cents? That's the cumulative effect of legislative appropriations for state arts agencies, which rose to a total of $447.5 million in 2001 from $400 million the previous year, a per capita increase of 11 cents. Overall spending per person by state governments on the arts now totals $1.58 -- more than the cost of a ride on the New York subway! According to a survey from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 38 states gave an increase to their arts agencies in 2001, with 12 getting budget boosts of more than 10 percent.
CALDER AT THE BELLAGIO
While the Guggenheim Las Vegas reports a postponement of its planned September debut till the following month, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art moves ahead with plans to unveil "Alexander Calder: The Art of Invention," Oct. 6, 2001-Feb. 3, 2002. The show features works dating as far back as 1926, on loan from the Calder Foundation. The Bellagio Gallery keeps unusually long hours -- from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Admission is $12 per person; $6 for Nevada residents with valid i.d.
ARMORY SHOW EXPANDS INTO PRINTS
The 2002 Armory Show, scheduled to take place Feb. 21-25, 2002, on Piers 88 and 90 in New York, is to include a new section devoted to prints and multiples, announced fair director Katelijne De Backer. Approximately 150 contemporary art galleries, along with the print publishers, are exhibiting in the fair.
TATE TAPS MIAMI BEACH COLLECTOR
Tate Modern head Nicholas Serota has tapped Miami beach collector Dennis Scholl to head the Tate's American Collector's Forum, which raises funds to buy American art for the museum. A venture capitalist, Scholl told the Miami Herald that he expects the group to include 25 members and raise $100,000 in its first year. Scholl and his wife Debra are also patrons of the Guggenheim Museum, and support local institutions such as the Miami Art Museum, the Miami MoCA and Locust Projects, an alternative art space.