The art world is parsing every detail of last Sunday's report by ace New York Times scribe Deborah Solomon on the Guggenheim Museum and its visionary and controversial director, Thomas Krens, that appeared with the title, "Is the Go-Go Guggenheim Going, Going. . ." . Among the juicier bits is the news that the Guggenheim has been hemorrhaging money under Krens' leadership, its endowment shrinking by almost a third in the last three years, from $55.6 million in 1999 to $38.9 million in 2001. The much ballyhooed Las Vegas branch has turned out to be a bust, in part because the museum agreed to pay the casino $50,000 a month in rent.
Perhaps worst of all, Krens all but admits to Solomon that money drives his programming; he offered to be the New York venue for Charles Saatchi's "Sensation" for $1 million, for instance, and received $7 million for "Brazil" from a group that wants the museum to build a branch in Rio. Solomon notes that the global Guggenheim is possible thanks to the museum's board of 21 freewheeling mega-millionaires, like Progressive Insurance head Peter B. Lewis, who has pledged $250 million towards the construction of a new super-Gugg in downtown New York.
On a more amusing level, Krens gets in his digs at competing museums, saying the Museum of Modern Art would cash in on loans of its collection to the tune of $20 million during the next three years while its 53rd Street headquarters is closed and calling the Metropolitan Museum necrophiliac for putting on a Gianni Versace fashion show six months after the designer's murder, and mocking the museum for showing "Jackie Kennedy's underwear."
According to a brief item in the Baer Faxt, Krens has already characterized the Times article as inaccurate in an email to museum staff. For its part, Artnet News would like to add two other tidbits that weren't in the Times -- 1) Krens doesn't speak Spanish, despite his Guggenheim Bilbao triumph, and 2) Guggenheim staffers joke that the globetrotting, deal-making Krens is actually at the Fifth Avenue museum only about one day per month.
For more on controversy at the Guggenheim, see Charlie Finch's call for Krens ouster last January in"It's a New Dawn" and Jerry Saltz's indictment in his "GuggEnron" column last Feb. 13.
WHITNEY EYEING MIAMI BRANCH?
The Whitney Museum of American Art is exploring the possibility of a Miami branch, according to a report by Lydia Martin in the Miami Herald. Whitney chief Max Anderson and architect Richard Gluckman visited the Big Orange two weeks ago to check out a 15,000-square-foot warehouse in the city's projected new downtown arts district. The space is owned by Miami real estate developer Avra Jain, whose partners include Whitney Chairman's Council member Dina Reis. A Whitney Miami would need $3 million for renovation and perhaps another $500,000-$700,000 annually from the city. The museum said that it was too early to comment.
CARNEGIE PREVIEW, SORT OF
New Carnegie Museum contemporary art curator Laura Hoptman has unveiled her first exhibition for the museum, and the selection of 11 "emerging international artists" is not only a tip sheet to trends in new art but also something of a preview of the much-anticipated "Carnegie International," which Hoptman is slated to organize for the museum in 2004. Dubbed "Hello, My Name Is. . . ," June 29-Sept. 29, 2002, the exhibition is designed to introduce new contemporary art to Pittsburgh as well as demonstrate that contemporary portraiture can depart from simple likenesses to explore "autobiography, fantasy and ethnic as well as genetic identity." The artists include John Bock, Edgar Bryan, Beth Campbell, Maurizio Cattelan, Trisha Donnelly, Roe Ethridge, Saul Fletcher, Jim Lambie, Nikki S. Lee, Zak Smith and Susan Smith-Pinelo. The show was co-organized by Carnegie assistant curator Elizabeth Thomas.
BALTIC TRIENNIAL SET
The 8th Baltic Triennial of International Art is set for the Contemporary Art Center and other venues in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2002. The theme is "Centre of Attraction," meant to encompass everything from political and social centers to black holes, sources of "enormous gravity . . . with unknown consequences," according to chief organizer Tobias Berger, curator of the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel. Some 60 artists are participating, with the majority producing new works for the exhibition. For more info, check out the website at www.coa.lt or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
TATE MAKES NEWS WITH MANZONI ACQUISITION
London's Tate Gallery made the international news wires recently for its acquisition of Piero Manzoni's Merda d'Artista (1961), for which the museum paid £22,350 (about $32,000) at Sotheby's London on Oct. 25, 2000. Back in '61, Manzoni sold the tins, each of which purportedly contains 30 grams of the artist's feces, for the same price as 30 grams of gold. The London Telegraph kindly pointed out that the price the Tate paid for its single tin, one of an edition of 90, was rather more than the £550 the same quantity of gold would have cost. "The purchase is not the only excreta the Tate has in its collection," says arts correspondent Catherine Milner. "It has also bought three paintings by Chris Ofili featuring elephant dung." Why so late with the announcement of the acquisition? "We buy 500 works a year so we can't talk about every one," sniffed a spokesman, unconvincingly. Manzoni, a hard drinker, died at age 29 of liver failure.
NEW BRITISH CHIEF SLASHES COOPER-HEWITT STAFF
The decorative arts world is up in arms after new Cooper-Hewitt director Paul W. Thompson, a 42-year-old British native who uses phrases like "we need to leverage the brand," has slashed the museum staff, losing more than a dozen curators, administrators and other workers over the last few months, according to a report by Celestine Bohlen in the New York Times. Among the departures: Cornelia Rose, registrar at the museum for more than 20 years; Marilyn Symmes, 11-year curator of drawings and prints; Deborah Shinn, 14-year curator of applied arts; and Linda Dunne, former deputy director, now chief administrative officer at the American Folk Art Museum. Thompson says his new chief curator should be a "world-class scholar who is as comfortable with digital as with regency"; in the meantime, according to the report, Thompson plans to build a gallery of digital art in the basement, curate shows from the permanent collection himself, and have fashion designers organize other exhibitions.
WADSWORTH ATHENEUM UNVEILS EXPANSION PLANS
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn., has announced a two-year, $120-million expansion and renovation of its 160-year-old facility, beginning in 2004. Designed by the UN Studio of Amsterdam and Fox & Fowle Architects, the plan calls for demolition of one of the five Atheneum buildings and its replacement with a new exhibition center, plus a new grand entranceway and glassed-in public concourse. A capital campaign is under way, says museum director Kate M. Sellers, with $50 million in hand so far.
CRAFT MUSEUM TO COLUMBUS CIRCLE?
The art-friendly administration of New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg has settled at least one long-standing issue of art-world politics, announcing the prospective sale to the American Craft Museum of 2 Columbus Circle, the nine-story modernist white marble palazzo designed in 1964 by Edward Durrell Stone as a Gallery of Modern Art for A&P heir Huntington Hartford. But it won't be all easy going for Craft Museum director Holly Hotchner -- preservationists have vowed to fight her $30-million renovation plan, which may include changes to the building's signature exterior. The bid by the Dahesh Museum for the building was obviously unsuccessful.
$1.3 MILLION FOR PLAYBOY ARCHIVE AUCTION
The Los Angeles auction of original art and illustrations from the Playboy magazine archive at Butterfields on June 23, 2002, totaled more than $1.3 million. Top lot was a 1966 watercolor by Alberto Vargas of a Vargas Girl dressed as Batman and captioned, "How do you like my Dynamic Duo?" that sold for $32,000 (est. $30,000-$50,000). Four other Vargas Girl watercolors sold for prices between $26,250 and $32,000. A 1967 Leroy Nieman enamel on paper of surfers sold for $29,125 (est. $3,000-$5,000), while a set of 11 black and white photographs by Helmut Newton from a 1976 pictorial sold for $21,075 (est. $5,000-$7,000). A set of seven Xerox copies with drawing in felt-tip pen by Andy Warhol, done to illustrate a feature titled "What's a Warhol?" sold for $11,750.
NEW ASIAN MUSEUM FOR 2003
The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco unveils its $160.5-million expansion and renovation of its original Beaux Arts home on Jan. 23, 2003. Designed by Gae Aulenti, the overhaul features nearly 40,000 square feet of gallery space, seismic retrofitting to withstand an 8.3 earthquake and a new interior court that serves as lobby and gathering spot -- the building's historic exterior remains largely unchanged. The single largest gift in the museum's capital campaign, $15 million, came from Korean-born Silicon Valley entrepreneur Chong-Moon Lee, and in recognition of his generosity, the new building is officially named the Asian Art Museum -- Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture.
NEW ARMORY PHOTO FAIR
The people who brought you the New York Armory Show -- including art dealers Matthew Marks and Paul Morris, are expanding, launching a new fair that specializes in photography, film and video art. The new Armory Photography Show 2002 opens Oct. 25-28, 2002, in the Javits Center North Pavilion, the exposition's humbler facility -- a tent on a parking lot, as one dealer put it -- that was home to the Armory Show 2000. Some 80 dealers are expected to participate; application forms have only recently gone out. Fair director Katelijne De Backer said that the exposition will bring together vintage photography and photo-based contemporary art. Managing director is Tim Smith; for more contact email@example.com.
DENISE CADE IN CHELSEA Denise Cadé Gallery has moved from 1045 Madison Avenue, its home for 20 years, to a new home on the second floor of 210 11th Avenue in Chelsea. Cadé, who specializes in European modernists from the 1950s like Nicolas de Staël and Pierre Soulages, debuts the new space in September with a 20th-anniversary retrospective exhibition. In the meantime, the gallery is open by appointment at its new location; call (212) 734-3670 for information.
Say good-bye to one of the stalwarts of Minimalist painting -- Stark Gallery, located at 555 W. 25th Street in New York's Chelsea district and before that at several locations in SoHo, closes this month after a group show of gallery artists. Proprietor Eric Stark tells friends that he is going private, not going out of business. Recent shows have included work by Alan Charlton, Ruth Ann Fredenthal, Richard Nonas, Winston Roeth and Alan Uglow.
NEW CURATOR FOR ART INSTITUTE Bruce Boucher has been named curator of European decorative arts and sculpture, and ancient art, at the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently an art historian at the University of London, and organized "Earth and Fire: Italian Terracotta Sculpture from Donatello to Canova," now on view at the Victoria & Albert. Boucher succeeds Ian Wardropper, who became chairman of the department of European sculpture and decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum.
NEW STAFF AT AMERICAN ACADEMY IN ROME Dana Prescott, an American arts educator, painter and writer who has lived and worked in Rome for the last 18 years, has been named director of the American Academy in Rome. Cornelia Lauf, an art historian and curator who is married to the Conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth, has been appointed gallery curator there.