D'ARCY OUT AT NPR AFTER MOMA COMPLAINS
Veteran art-news reporter David D'Arcy has been taken off the air by National Public Radio (NPR) after the Museum of Modern Art complained about his report on the long-running controversy over the ownership of Egon Schiele's painting, Portrait of Wally. Though the painting was stolen by the Nazis from Viennese dealer Lea Bondi in 1939, its present owner, the Leopold Foundation in Vienna, refuses to return it to Bondi's heirs, and a contentious court battle has raged ever since the painting turned up in a 1997 MoMA exhibition.
A casual NPR listener (or reader of the transcript, which can be found online) would probably see nothing unusual in D'Arcy's story, which aired on Dec. 27, 2004. According to the transcript, none of the principals in the case, including MoMA's attorney, would be interviewed for the report. More than one source, however, was willing to criticize -- harshly -- the museum's position in the case. Former museum director Tom Freudenheim expressed puzzlement that MoMA, despite being directed and chaired by Jews, allowed its "greed" to overcome its "sense of responsibility." Two lawyers active in cases involving Nazi art loot were also quoted with similarly unflattering remarks, one suggesting that museums can resort to a "war of attrition" in such lawsuits, which often involve aged claimants.
Apparently, someone at MoMA contacted someone at NPR and demanded a correction, which NPR currently has posted on its website: "The government, not the museum, has custody of the artwork. The museum says it took no position on the question of the painting's ownership. NPR failed to give the museum a chance to answer allegations about its motivations and actions."
But D'Arcy's report doesn't address the custody of the artwork, and in regard to ownership says only that when "MoMA has discussed the case over the past seven years, the museum has said it's bound by its loan contract to return the painting." As for the claim that he failed to give the museum a chance to present its point of view, D'Arcy says he has a fax in which the museum declines to participate in the story.
NPR, where D'Arcy has been a freelance contributor for 20 years, gave D'Arcy a two-paragraph "termination" memo accusing him of overlooking "basic standards of journalism" in the report. D'Arcy says adamantly that "MoMA was not able to find any inaccuracies in the report, and the correction aired and posted by NPR does not address any inaccuracies."
High-profile reporters and experts in Nazi-era art resitution have rallied to D'Arcy's cause. In a letter to the NPR board, Morley Safer suggests that the broadcaster "has caved in to intimidation by a large, wealthy and powerful cultural institution." The lawyer and art historian Lucille Roussin disputes MoMA's claim that it has never taken a position on the question of the painting's ownership. "MoMA is on record, under oath, in court documents systematically crediting the ownership claims of the Leopold Foundation and questioning the legal foundation for the Bondi claims," she writes. "MoMA's position in the current case also asks the court to prevent the Bondis' ownership claim from ever coming before a US judge."
What happens now? "It's been an awful experience for him, being undermined as a journalist by both MoMA and NPR," D'Arcy's attorney, David S. Korzenik, told Artnet News, "and we are now deciding what action to take." D'Arcy remains a correspondent for the Art Newspaper, a contributing editor at Art & Auction and a regular critic on the "Front Row" program on BBC Radio.
CLASSIC MINIMALIST WORK OUT AT P.S.1
The P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens has permanently removed artist Lucio Pozzi's seminal site-specific installation, 10 Color Combinations (1979), in order to make way for the young-art survey "Greater New York 2005," which opens Mar. 13. A series of 10 small painted panels placed in the stairwells of the former public school, Pozzi's work was designed to preserve as well as interact with the "layer upon layer of paint applied over the decades by generations of superintendents" in the face of P.S.1's renovation in the mid-1990s, according to the artist.
The founder and director of P.S.1, Alanna Heiss, sent Pozzi what he called a "blunt" email, explaining that she was removing his work "because I must put up new work in the hall." 10 Color Combinations was an emblem of the site-specific art movement, Pozzi says, that was cited both in an essay on "the index and photography" by art theorist Rosalind Krauss and in an article in Artforum reviewing P.S.1.'s history as a premier alternative space. P.S.1 "could have at least kept a couple of parts," Pozzi wrote to Artnet News. "I consider it a vindictive erasure of history."
PRANK EMAIL HITS "GREATER NEW YORK"
Needless to say, "Greater New York 2005" at P.S1 has also generated a certain amount of anxious anticipation among younger artists in the city, a fate already parodied by Artnet Magazine contributor Elliott Arkin with his most recent comic sculpture. But a new, anonymous prankster has now gotten into the act, sending out an official-looking press release for the show that is notable for its subtle humor.
For one thing, each of the several mentions of the "Greater New York" title is followed by a supershift "TM" sign. Another tip-off is the reference to the curatorial review of works by over 2,000 artists, who are billed as ranging "from promising high school students to seasoned recent graduates of MFA programs to the artists of persistent dealers." Also promised are free lunches in the P.S.1 cafeteria and an initiative to form an artists' union. For the complete text, click here.
"GATES" NEITHER GONE NOR FORGOTTEN
Christo and Jeanne-Claude's momentous The Gates, Central Park, New York officially came to an end last month, though the saffron-hued hangings linger on in Central Park in curiously lifeless form (they are all due to be removed by mid-March). The project lingers on in the press as well, with the New York Times publishing a lengthy pseudo-investigative piece on Saturday, Mar. 5, questioning whether the Gates actually cost $21 million, as proclaimed by the artists. The story cites a long analysis provided by art gadfly Greg Allen on his blog, greg.org, who guesses that the "Maybach-driving Frenchies" must valuing their own time "at a rather imperial rate of $800-$1,000 or so per hour each." Christo and Jeanne-Claude "steadfastly refuse to explain" the $21 million figure, according to the Times.
A few days later on Monday, Mar. 7, Page Six of the New York Post reported that financier Steven Greenberg has offered the artists $50 million for the entire project -- an offer that Christo and Jeanne-Claude have reportedly declined. "I thought collectors might pay $250,000 for four of them, to keep on their lawn or to add to their art collection," Greenberg told the paper. "My idea was to remarket them. You could perhaps end up realizing $375 million for all of them."
SAATCHI TO SELL MUECK COLLECTION
Meanwhile, an over-zealous policeman arrested a 25-year-old Italian tourist for putting a sticker advertising a website on one of the gates near Columbus Circle. The woman was charged with vandalism and spent the night in The Tombs, the notorious jail in Lower Manhattan. "It was an ugly experience," she said. "In America, there seems to be no distinction between big crimes and small crimes."
British megacollector Charles Saatchi is selling his holdings of hyper-realist sculptures by Ron Mueck, according to a report by Colin Gleadell in the London Telegraph. The move is particularly ironic, since Saatchi is credited with discovering the artist, who was then working as a model-maker, and getting him a show at Anthony d'Offay Gallery in 1998. (Saatchi isn't Mueck's only connection to the professional art world; he's also the son-in-law of painter Paula Rego.) The miniature sculpture of his father, Dead Dad, a prize piece of the 1997 "Sensation" exhibition, is priced at more than £1 million.
ART BENEFIT FOR SPECIAL SCHOOL
Artists Ken Price, Charles Arnoldi, Michael C. McMillen, Gwynn Murrill and Sarah Perry have produced a series of limited edition bronzes to help support the Frostig Center in Pasadena, a school for learning-disabled children. The small-scale bronzes are produced in editions of 200 each and priced at $5,000 apiece. The project is spearheaded by Chris Piazza, a sculptor who owns the Pour House foundry in Vernon, Ca., and whose son attends Frostig. Viewings are scheduled for the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Mar. 11, 6-8 pm, and the Pasadena Museum of California Art, Mar. 13, 2-5 pm. The works can also be seen on the school website at www.frostig.org (go to the bottom of the page and click on "Frostig Collection 2005"). For more info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
CLEVELAND EXPANSION A "GO"
With $116.5 million raised so far, the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) trustee board has voted to move forward with the museum's ambitious $258-million renovation and expansion project, designed by Manhattan architect Rafael Violy. The project, which is expected to be completed by 2011, includes the construction of a new East wing and renovation of the museum's landmark 1916 Beaux Arts and 1971 Marcel Breuer buildings. Construction requires that the museum's permanent collection be put into storage, starting this month, and the entire facility to be closed for construction for six months in 12006.
WAREHOUSE SALE AT PRINTED MATTER
The hip artists' bookstore Printed Matter in Manhattan's Chelsea art district is clearing its shelves with a special warehouse sale, Mar. 9-12, 2005, promising discounts of up to 80 percent on almost 30 years of "hidden treasures." Dubbed "Tom Banjo's Warehouse Sale," the clearance spills Printed Matter's "great bounty" out of storage boxes and onto tables on the empty fifth floor of the 22nd Street gallery building where the organization finds its home. The epochal event also includes an opening night benefit boasting a special performance by Vermont banjo player Tom Banjo and his hand-cranked "Anti-TV" machine. Tickets to the gala are $10 each; a $75 ticket includes a signed, limited edition multiple by Ryan McGinness (first come, first serve!). For more info, see www.printedmatter.com
DONNA KARAN OPENS MUSEUM
Designer Donna Karan has decided to convert her late husband's imposing Greenwich Village studio into an art museum. Known as the Steven Weiss Studio, the former waste recycling building at 711 Greenwich Street at Charles Street was converted to a glass-brick-windowed sculpture studio by Weiss in the early 1990s. Now, the facility is hosting "Skin Tight: The Sensibility of the Flesh," Mar. 4-31, 2005, an exhibition of works by several avant-garde designers that was originally organized for the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art by Sylvia Chivaratanond (now director of Perry Rubenstein Gallery in New York). New director of the space is Graham Graham, a Seattle-based curator who met Karan at a William Morris exhibition he put together at the Palm Springs Desert Museum. Graham says that a mission statement, as well as info on the next exhibition, is forthcoming. The space is open by appointment; for info, call (212) 604-0487.
KIDMAN TO STAR IN ARBUS BIOPIC?
Nicole Kidman is now in the running to play the title role in the Diane Arbus biopic spearheaded by director Steven Shainberg, who hit it big with his kinky 2002 Maggie Gyllenhaal starrer, Secretary. Five months ago, the lead was reported to be in the hands of British actress Samantha Morton, who made a splash as the empath in the Tom Cruise's Minority Report. Now, Robert Downey Jr. is said to be in negotiations to join the film as well. The script is being adapted from Patricia Bosworth's 1984 Diane Arbus: A Biography.
WHITNEY APPOINTS PERFORMANCE CURATOR
The Whitney Museum has appointed Limor Tomer as adjunct curator of performing arts, effective in July 2005. Tomer is overseeing the museum's "SoundCheck" program of musical and written-word performances, which relauncheds in mid-April, as well as inaugurating a new performing arts series at the museum in the fall; she has been programming the BAMcaf since 1998.
Contact wrobinson @ artnet.com