SEX MUSEUM REVEALS OBSESSIONS
No surprise that the Museum of Sex, which opens at 233 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Sept. 23, 2002, thinks its programming is probably too kinky for nonprofit and governmental funders (unlike most museums, this one is a commercial undertaking). Just imagine trying to raise funds for the nascent museum's first three acquisitions, which were recently announced and are likely to be included in the debut exhibition, "NYC Sex: How New York City Transformed Sex in America" -- the Ralph Whittington Collection, the Harmony Theater collection and . . . selected artworks from the Lannan Foundation.
The Whittington Collection is a vast trove of heterosexual erotica, from 8-mm films and magazines to blow-up dolls and artificial genitalia, collected over more than 30 years by the now-retired Library of Congress librarian. The Harmony Theater holding consists of signs, decorations, costumes and other artifacts from the notorious "grind palace," where top sex stars performed and male customers received "full contact" lap dances from the 1980s until the theater was shut down in 1998. The Lannan Foundation donation includes 19 more conventional art works whose subjects range from tender nudes to more over-the-top sexual images, by Gerald Gooch, Scott Miller, Milo Riece, Anita Steckel, Louis Renzoni and others.
The Museum of Sex also announced that it would donate a portion of proceeds from the inaugural exhibition to three nonprofit organizations: the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America, the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex Gender and Reproduction, and the Lesbian Herstory Archives.
ACCUSED TAX CROOK ON WHITNEY BOARD
Controversial conglomerate Tyco International quickly cashiered former bigwig Dennis Kozlowski, who pulled down nearly $275 million over three years at the company's helm, after he was indicted by the Manhattan district attorney for evading a measly $1 million in sales tax on several big-ticket art purchases. Not so the Whitney Museum, which still has the disgraced director on its board of trustees. "It's an indictment, not a conviction," said one broad-minded art-world insider.
When Kozlowski snagged the trustee post last year, Tyco pledged $4.5 million to support the Whitney's program of traveling exhibitions, a wide-ranging undertaking that sends shows like "Louise Nevelson" and "Robert Rauschenberg: Synapsis Shuffle" to museums across the country -- but no money has actually changed hands as of yet. In the last year, Tyco's stock has dived from a high of $60 a share to a current value of about $13, though company management says the conglomerate has enough cash to pay its debts through 2003.
CASH CRUNCH AT L.A. MOCA
The economic slump has taken a bite out of the budget for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. MOCA trustee Dallas Price, who pledged $10 million to the museum for operations and endowment back in 2000 -- MOCA's largest donation ever -- has reneged on $6.9 million of the pledge, according to a report by Suzanne Muchnic in the Los Angeles Times. Price, co-owner with her ex-husband, golf course magnate David Price, of the Santa Monica-based American Golf Corp., has reportedly been forced to postpone the gift until the golf company recovers from its slump. The shortfall has forced MOCA to trim $2 million from its $15-million operating budget.
NELSON-ATKINS SNAGS AUCTION PRIZE
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City has announced the acquisition of Fitz Hugh Lane's "Starlight" in Harbor (ca. 1855), a ca. 24 x 36 in. oil of a famed 19th-century clipper ship at anchor, purchased for the museum by Landon and Sarah Rowland. The picture was sold at Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg in its inaugural sale of American art on May 21, 2002, for $772,500 (with premium), somewhat less than its low presale estimate of $800,000.
PAINTING RULES IN HOUSTON
Color photography may be making inroads in the auction rooms and Chelsea art galleries, but painting still rules the cutting edge in Houston. "Pertaining to Painting," June 28-Sept. 28, 2002, features new works by nine artists who "have chosen the medium because of their belief in its ability to convey dense ideas, intense situations and persuasive positions," according to curator Paola Morisani. The artists are Michaël Borremans (Ghent), Mark Bradford (Los Angeles), Inka Essenhigh (New York), Hilary Harnischfeger (Houston-New York), Udomsak Krisanamis (New York), Nader (Berlin), Thomas Nozkowski (New York), Neo Rauch (Leipzig) and Sigrid Sandström (Houston).
BEYELER SETTLES WITH LISSITZKY HEIR
The Fondation Beyeler has settled its legal dispute with Jens Lissitzky over ownership of Wassily Kandinsky's Improvisation No. 10 (1910), one of the prize exhibits of the museum in Basel, Switzerland. The picture was confiscated by the Nazis from the collection of Lissitzky's mother, Sophie Lissitzky-Kueppers, and purchased by Swiss collector Ernst Beyeler in 1951; now it is to remain in the Beyeler collection. Details of the out-of-court settlement weren't disclosed, but presumably involved some form of payment. A 1914 Kandinsky painting measuring over four feet square sold at auction in 1990 for almost $21 million.
PENNY FOR NGA
The British invasion of U.S. museums continues apace, as the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., names Nicholas Penny as senior curator of sculpture, effective Sept. 2, 2002. He will help install more than 800 works in the new West Building sculpture galleries, due to open this fall. Penny has been curator of Renaissance painting at the National Gallery in London since 1990. and has written several books, including Taste and the Antique (Yale, 1981, with Francis Haskell). He joins NGA senior curator of European paintings Philip Conisbee in a kind of one-two British punch at the gallery.
GORDON TO MILWAUKEE?
Another Brit is on tap to head an American museum, according to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.David Gordon, 60, who has previously announced plans to depart his post as secretary of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, is the top candidate for the director's post at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The museum board is reportedly looking for a strong manager rather than an art expert, in light of the institution's struggle to pay for its $122-million Santiago Calatrava-designed expansion. In his six-year tenure at the RA, Gordon proved a defender of artistic freedom as well as an able administrator, going to bat for the controversial 1997 "Sensation" exhibition as well as hauling the venerable museum and school out of the red. The Milwaukee museum is seeking a successor to Russell Bowman, who resigns as director this month.
APPOINTMENTS AT AMERICAN ART MUSEUM Michael Blakeslee, former manager of design and production at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, has been named assistant director at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., in charge of curatorial, exhibitions, publications and registration offices at the museum. Paul Longanbach has been named to the Lander Education Chair at the museum.
NEW CURATOR AT PHILA MUSEUM Kathleen Adair Foster, professor at the Indiana University Art Museum and former curator at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, has been appointed chief curator of the department of American art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She succeeds Darrel Sewell, a 29-year veteran of the museum, who is retiring on Oct. 1, 2002.
HA LEAVES YALE Paul Ha, former director of the venerable New York alternative space White Columns, has resigned as the deputy director at the Yale University Art Gallery. "I missed working with artists too much," Ha said. His future plans remain open.
GRACIE MANSION CLOSES CHELSEA SPACE
Indefatigable East Village art dealer Gracie Mansion, who has operated a gallery in New York's Chelsea district for the last several years, is closing her space at 504 West 22nd Street at the end of her current show of contemporary portraits on July 12, 2002. While looking for a new location, Gracie will be doing business privately from her office at 407 East 6th Street, #2, New York, N.Y. 10009. The gallery can be reached at (212) 505-7055.