FLOGGING THE COLLECTION AT THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM. . .
New York Citys top museums are increasingly demonstrating failures of vision, according to an article in the Sunday New York Times by Michael Kimmelman. After a rather comic survey of current troubles at the New-York Historical Society (firing experts and betting on expensive blockbusters), the Guggenheim Museum (a façade that is crumbling, literally), Metropolitan Museum (an eye-glazingly irrelevant reshuffling of departments), the Museum of Modern Art (in risk of being a bloated, super-size custodian of its own self-importance, with admission priced at $20 a head) and the Whitney Museum (like Stalins politburo), the Times chief art critic went on to report a pair of curatorial initatives at the Brooklyn Museum of questionable probity.
Museum director Arnold Lehman is scouring the whole museum for art to sell, Kimmelman says, with dire results. One dramatic example: The museum deaccessioned a portrait of Irish tenor John McCormack by the early 20th-century society painter Emil Fuchs at Skinner auctioneers in Boston, obtaining the laughable price of $360 for the picture. Even more alarming, the museum is in talks with the Fashion Institute of Technology to unload part of its costume collection, which ranges from ethnographic material collection from around the world in the 19th century to contemporary dress of Brooklynites in the early and middle 20th century.
In the place of real art -- increasingly, museums no longer trust art to excite people on its own, Kimmelman points out -- is a pandering overhaul featuring cheesy eagles and sunsets painted on the walls in the American Indian gallery and pseudo-Egyptian props in the Egyptian galleries. Museums, Kimmelman writes, need to recognize that one of their functions is to set standards of esthetic quality. . . declaring what we should value about our culture and standing by those convictions.
. . .AND MARILYN-MANIA, TOO
The search for glamour does proceed at the Brooklyn Museum, in any case. This fall, the quest for crowd-pleasers brings to the museum a traveling show of approximately 200 photographs by 39 photographers of screen icon Marilyn Monroe. I Wanna Be Loved by You: Photographs of Marilyn Monroe from the Leon and Michaela Constantiner Collection, Nov. 12, 2004-Mar. 20, 2005, includes Bert Sterns 59-image The Last Sitting series, Tom Kellys Red Marilyn from Playboy magazine, images from the famous Seven Year Itch photo shoot by three separate photographers, and more. The collection has been amassed by Leon Constantiner, who says he selects works that affect him emotionally, and each one of the pieces has a place in his heart. The exhibition is co-organized by Brooklyn photo curator Marilyn L. Kushner and designer Matthew Yokobosky.
MET DIRECTOR LOGROLLS FOR NEW CRITERION AUTHOR
The gang of esthetic goobers over at The New Criterion magazine -- the wingnut art monthly edited by Hilton Kramer whose website currently boasts a defense of religious fundamentalism, a defense of U.S. policy at Abu Ghraib and an attack on affirmative action -- has a new ally in their culture war: Metropolitan Museum director Philippe de Montebello. The august art historian contributes an encominium to an ad for a new book by New Criterion managing editor Roger Kimball with the unfelicitous title of The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art. A brilliant essay aiming to repair the damage wrought on art history by the likes of Derrida and Foucault, opines the Met chief. Roger Kimball discredits todays politically correct art historians whose aim is to impose on works of art their political agenda of sexuality, feminism, race and whatever else is exogenous to them. For those who want to make the ranting tome endogenous to their bookshelf, its listed on Amazon.com for $17.65.
MAJOR ART COMMISSIONS FOR NEW DE YOUNG MUSEUM
When the new De Young Museum opens in San Franciscos Golden State Park in 15 months, it will boast three major site-specific commissions by contemporary artists. Gerhard Richter has designed a ca. 31 x 30 ft. photographic mural of the strontium titanate atom (a keystone of nanotechnology, a speciality of Bay Area high tech industry) for the museums central court. James Turrell is contributing a new skyspace for the museum sculpture garden, a subterranean stupa of black basalt with an oculus opening to the sky. And Andy Goldsworthys Faultline is a continuous crack running from the road in front of the museum to its front door, cleaving in two several boulders that double as seating for museum visitors. The new De Young Museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Fong & Chan Architects, opens in November 2005.
ARTNEWS NAMES TOP COLLECTORS FOR 2004 ARTnews magazine has compiled its annual list of the worlds leading art collectors. Published in the magazines summer issue, the list includes Sheikh Saud Al-Thani of Qatar, who is currently funding the construction of no less than five museums in Qatar and is called the number one spender on art. Others on the list are Las Vegas gambling tycoon Stephen A. Wynn; Chicago hedge fund executive couple Kenneth C. Griffin and Anne Dias; Irish investors and horse breeders Susan and John Magnier; and, in no particular order, Edythe L. and Eli Broad, Steven Cohen, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, Evelyn and Leonard Lauder, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, and Mitchel Rales.
According to the ARTnews survey, New York leads with 55 collectors out of the 200, while London has 17, Paris has 14 and Los Angeles has 10. Contemporary art is the most frequently collected category, making up 67 percent of the list. For more info, see www.artnews.comMATTHIASDOTTIR AT SCANDINAVIA HOUSE
Louisa Matthiasdottir: A Retrospective, an exhibition of 75 works spanning the Iceland-born artists 60-year-long career, opens at Scandinavia House in New York, Sept. 21-Nov. 13, 2004. Matthiasdottir is known for kitchen still lifes, Icelandic landscapes and portraits marked by a sophisticated sense of color and form. The exhibition is organized by the American-Scandinavian Foundation and the artists family. The accompanying catalogue includes essays by Hilton Kramer, Nicholas Fox Weber and Temma Bell, the artists daughter.
FLINTRIDGE FOUNDATION AWARDS Flintridge Foundation has announced its 2003-04 awards for visual artists, $25,000 grants to 10 artists from California, Oregon and Washington state. Recipients are Carl Cheng, Lewis deSoto, Randy Hayes, Robert Helm, Mike Henderson, Oliver Jackson, Robert C. Jones, James Lavadour, Susan Rankaitis and Akio Takamori. Winners must have been working in a mature idiom for at least 20 years and must not be nationally renowned; for more info, see www.flintridgefoundation.org.
BONNI BENRUBI TO FULLER BUILDING Bonni Benrubi Gallery is moving to larger quarters on the 13th floor of the celebrated Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street. The larger space, designed by a + i design corporation, opens in October with a show of new works by Abelardo Morell. In the meantime, an exhibition of photographs by Peter C. Jones titled Sweep Out Cottage, July 22-Sept. 3, 2004, is on view at the gallerys current location at 52 E. 76th Street.
CHAIT GALLERIES TO 724 FIFTH AVENUE
The Ralph M Chait Galleries, premier specialists in porcelain and silver, has moved to a new 5,000-square-foot space on the 10th floor of the 724 Fifth Avenue gallery building in Manhattan. The gallery, which was founded by Ralph M. Chait in 1909, has been located since 1962 at 12 East 56th Street, under the direction of the second and third generations of the Chait family: Allan S. Chait and his sons Andrew and Steven.
RODES RETIRES AT GRUNWALD CENTER David Rodes has retired as director of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the UCLA Hammer Museum after 15 years on the job. He is succeeded by Cynthia Burlingham, associate director at the Grunwald Center and deputy director of collections at the UCLA Hammer Museum. The Grunwald Center holds a collection of more than 45,000 prints, drawings, photographs and artists books dating from the Renaissance to the present, founded in 1956 by a gift from Fred Grunwald.