SUCCESSORAMA AT THE MET
Longtime Metropolitan Museum of Art director Philippe de Montebello, 71, has announced his resignation, effective by the end of 2008. The move was big news, reported on news radio and splashed across the pages of the New York Times in three lavishly illustrated stories on Wednesday, including one on the front page and two on the first arts section page. The reaction is a sign of the popularity of both de Montebello and his museum, easily the best-run in the city.
The resignation also kicked off the newest edition of a favorite art-world parlor game -- call it "Successorama" -- asking the question, "Who do you think will succeed Philippe?" Don’t believe anybody who tells you that they don’t want the job. That claim is right up there with "the check is in the mail," "I don’t mind if you date other people" and "I’ll have the article in by the end of the day."
The names on the short list are familiar to regular players of the game, and their qualifications are presented here along with some curmudgeonly objections.
* Neil MacGregor, 61, director of the British Museum since 2002, former head of the National Gallery, London, and editor-in-chief of the Burlington Magazine, is erudite, charming and exceedingly qualified. Though a leftist in the British mold who may not want to take on a third museum bureaucracy, he has a great friendship with Jayne Wrightsman, the unofficial "first lady" of the Met -- and that may be enough.
* James Cuno, 54, director of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2004 and former head of the Harvard University Art Museums, is a whiz at raising money and building wings, typically catnip for trustees -- though the Met hardly needs either at this stage. But Cuno has just lent the AIC Impressionists and Post-Impressionists to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth for the summer, which seems a wrong move if you hope lure tourists and boost your attendance. What’s more, he has a distaste for blockbusters, and why would the Met want that?
* Glenn D. Lowry, 53, director of the Museum of Modern Art, is another specialist in oomphy expansion and building projects. But Lowry is accused of alienating his staff -- both his contemporary and painting-and-sculpture curators quit not long after his appointment -- whereas what made the Met tick under de Montebello was the free hand he gave his curators. Plus, most critics have taken a dim view of the "MoMA miracle." Does the Met need that?
* Michael Govan, 43, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art since 2006, is much-loved in L.A., though his close association with contemporary art may not win him any friends on the Met’s search committee. And, it would be bad form to leave the LACMA post so soon after accepting it.
* Timothy Potts, 49, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and former director of the Kimbell. Though considered a front-runner by many, don’t forget that Potts was the guy who wanted to cover the Louis Kahn concrete walls with green velvet. Plus, is the Met ready for an Australian director?
* Gary Tinterow, 54, curator of 19th-century, modern and contemporary art at the Met, is my bet. His 19th-century exhibitions have been popular, especially among scholars, and his moves in the contemporary field -- notably borrowing Damien Hirst’s shark sculpture from hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen -- hit just the right note for the Met. Though he has a reputation for being imperious (as did de Montebello), he has been "getting nicer," according to one insider. What’s more, he has much experience with the institution, and is a good friend of Wrightsman.
A longer list of possible candidates would have to include Michael Conforti, head of the Clark Art Institute; Ronald de Leeuw, retiring director of Rijksmuseum Amsterdam; former Guggenheim Museum director Lisa Dennison; Anne d’Harnoncourt, director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Jean-Hubert Martin, director of the Museum Kunst Palast Foundation in Düsseldorf (the French play great at the Met); Frick Collection director Anne Poulet; Jock Reynolds, director of Yale University Art Gallery; and Tate head Nick Serota.
Plus, a dark-horse candidate is always a possibility. Mayor Bloomberg, anyone? If he doesn’t make a White House run. . . .
LOS ANGELES GEARS UP FOR BCAM
A few days after Christmas, a package arrived. Inside a black box tied with red ribbon was a cracked red metal egg in the style of Jeff Koons. Inside the egg was a yellow paper strip printed with the announcement of the birth of BCAM, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, the much-anticipated addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Megacollector Eli Broad, who donated $50 million of the $56 million price tag of Renzo Piano’s building, has collected Koons’ work for many years and supports the artist’s proposal to hoist a life-sized facsimile of a working locomotive in front of the museum.
So Koons could hardly object to his broken-egg sculpture serving as an enticing party favor, accompanying as it did an invitation to the BCAM opening gala on Feb. 9, 2008. Chaired by Jane Nathanson, previously known for her support of the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art, the party should be very high key: single tickets for the evening start at $2,500 and tables go for $100,000.
Earlier this week, Broad has announced that he won’t be donating his collection of contemporary art to the building that bears his name. Instead, he plans to keep control of his artworks (some 2,000 in all) and lend them to BCAM (and other museums). With the hot art market convincing so many museums to trade artworks for cash, Broad’s loan scheme just might be the "new model," as he claims. We’ll see if it makes those gala tickets any harder to sell.
The list of contemporary artists included in the 55th installment of the Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, May 3, 2008-Jan. 11, 2009, organized by museum curator Douglas Fogle, is still under wraps. The title, however, has been released -- "Life on Mars," described as a "metaphorical quest to explore what it means to be human in this radically unmoored world" rather than any literal search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
"Many of the younger artists in the exhibition have inherited a legacy that seeks to produce the momentary, the ephemeral and the modest rather than the monumental," Fogel writes in a statement. "One sees in their work not a discredited universal humanism but a real connection to the human condition." One artwork has been released, as part of the promotion for the show -- Paul Thek’s Untitled (Earth Drawing I), ca. 1974, an acrylic painting of the earth seen from space, done on joined sheets of newspaper, from the collection of Robert Wilson.
JOBURG ART FAIR SET
The Joburg Art Fair, dubbed "the first African contemporary art fair," is set for the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, Mar. 13-16, 2008. Participating galleries include David Krut (New York / Johannesburg), Everard Read Gallery (Cape Town and Johannesburg), Galerie Peter Herrmann (Berlin), Gallery Ames D Afrique (Strasbourg-Neudorf, France), Jack Shainman Gallery (New York), KZNSA Gallery (Kwazulu Natal, South Africa), L Appartement 22 (Morocco), October Gallery (London), Perry Rubenstein Gallery (New York), SMAC Art Gallery (Stellenbosch, South Africa), Townhouse Gallery (Cairo). Attending from Capetown are Bell-Roberts Contemporary, Erdman Contemporary Gallery, Joao Ferreira Gallery, Michael Stevenson, and Whatiftheworld Gallery, and from Johannesburg itself, Art Extra, Art on Paper Gallery, Gallery Momo, Goodman Gallery, Rooke Gallery and Warren Siebrits.
Also planned is a large group show of African artists organized by Cameroonian art critic Simon Njami (co-curator "Check List Luanda Pop" at the 2007 Venice Biennale). The fair is produced by Artlogic, a Johannesburg-based communications company, and sponsored by the First National Bank. For details, see www.joburgartfair.co.za
GEISAI MIAMI REPORT
The debut of Geisai Miami, Dec. 5-9, 2007, housed within the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair in Miami’s Wynwood Art District, was a success, according to fair organizer Shino Takagi of Kaikai Kiki. One highlight of the opening party was the Japanese twin techno duo Ryukyudisko, which combined classic Japanese drumming with electronics. Reported sales at the fair included two monolith sculptures by Kristin Posehn to dealer Emmanuel Perrotin, Diana Shpungin and Nicole Engelmann’s multimedia collaboration Ghost Retransportaion, which sold for $2,000, and two graffiti sculptures by Dolla, which went for $2,400 to a New York dealer.
Next up for Kaikai Kiki is Geisai Museum 2, booked into Tokyo’s Big Sight exposition center on May 11, 2008. Prizes at the open-call fair, whose booths are rented for modest fees to artists on a first-come first-serve basis, are selected by a jury consisting solely of museum professionals. For details, see www2.geisai.net
F.E. CHURCH AT ADELSON GALLERIES
Approximately 35 works by 19th-century American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) are featured in "Frederic Edwin Church: Romantic Landscapes and Seascapes," Jan. 18-Mar. 1, 2008, at Adelson Galleries on East 78th Street. A historic and artistic travelogue from New England to Central and South America, the Holy Land and Greece, the show is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with an essay by Gerald L. Carr, head of the Church catalogue raisonné project. For details, see www.adelsongalleries.com
WEDGEWOOD AT UBS
More than 100 works of Wedgwood pottery are featured in a new exhibition devoted to Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95), the English potter and businessman who revolutionized the world of ceramics in the 18th century. "Josiah Wedgwood and His Circle," organized by the Binghamton University Art Museum, opens at the UBS Art Gallery in Manhattan, Jan. 24-Apr. 18, 2008. A technical wizard who wrote his experimental notes in code to foil theft of his ideas, Wedgwood successfully devised cream ware, a rival to porcelain, and jasper ware, whose glass-like surface could be colored in many hues. He hired major artists to decorate his ceramics, John Flaxman and George Stubbs among them. At his death in 1795, his business was worth £600,000, the equivalent of $100 million today. Admission to the gallery is free.
"MIRROR MIRROR" AT THORPE
Edward Thorpe Gallery in New York’s Chelsea art district presents "Mirror Mirror," Jan. 18-Feb. 23, 2008, an exhibition of mirrors and mirror-related artworks. The show includes all manner of mirrors, from Venetian to Deco to Modern, in various sizes, from hand mirrors and vanities to wall mirrors. Artists in the survey include Richard Artschwager, William C. Copley, Wijnanda Deroo, Douglas Gordon, Richard Hamilton, Louise Lawler, Saul Leiter, Roy Lichtenstein, Bruce Nauman, Alfonso Ossorio, Eileen Quinlan, Lucas Samaras, Cindy Sherman, William Stone and H.C. Westermann.
STATUES STOLEN IN BANGLADESH
The theft of two priceless statues at an airport in Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka has led to the cancellation of an important show of early Hindu artifacts at Paris’ Musée Guimet. The sculptures, estimated to be ca. 1,500 years old, depicted two avatars of the god Vishnu, and were scheduled to appear in "Masterpieces of the Ganges Delta," Jan. 9-Mar. 31, 2008. The theft has caused the local government to withdraw support for the long-planned exhibition, and demand return of 43 relics that had already been shipped. Detectives are reported to have found fragments of the missing works in a garbage dump.
Despite the fact that the artifacts were stolen while still in Bangladesh -- authorities have raided the houses of area gangs -- local activists claim that French authorities were legally responsible for transporting the artifacts safely. Officials from the Paris museum have responded to the cancellation with fury, claiming to be the victim of an organized plot to discredit them. "Masterpieces" curator Vincent Lefèvre told the Times of London, "If the plane had taken off on time, then the disappearance would have been discovered in Paris and it would have been very easy to blame France. This is a very well-organized sting."
The unfortunate turn of events comes in the wake of months of heated controversy over the exhibition, including demonstrations, arrests of anti-Guimet protestors and nasty rhetoric on both sides. Complaints about the show have run the gamut, from claims that the works were inadequately catalogued and documented, to gripes about the relatively low insurance put on the culturally important objects (about $7,850,000 for the whole show, according to reports, and $65,000 for the stolen sculptures) and the lack of guarantees that the pieces would be returned. French officials have been relatively undiplomatic, asserting that they are the victims of irrational anti-Gaulic sentiment, stoking the fire.
Banglandeshi artist Naeem Mohaiemen (the recipient of a 2008 Creative Capital grant) analyzes the situation in "Tintin in Bengal", an essay posted online. He speculates that the uproar around the Guimet affair is largely a displacement of deeper issues, growing out of a long history on the part of Bangladeshi art world of having its culture mistreated or disrespected. "This is a symbolic battle more than a real one, and in the main a civil war between two factions of Bangla civil society/culture workers," he writes.
COLIN DE LAND, BETWEEN COVERS
Bahrain-based contemporary artist Dennis Balk, who first showed at Colin De Land’s American Fine Arts gallery in SoHo in 1992, has compiled a 256-page book devoted to the late dealer, celebrated for his charisma as well as for his embrace of "a perennially marginalized discourse that critiqued the status quo of gallery practice." Dubbed "part personal history, part exposé," Colin de Land, American Fine Arts (powerHouse Books, $45), due out in April 2008, features more than 300 color photos and snapshots plus remembrances from more than 50 artists and writers associated with the gallery.
FCA GRANTS FOR ARTISTS
The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the organization launched by Jasper Johns, John Cage and other artists in 1963, has announced the 12 winners of its $25,000 grants to individuals for 2008. Winners in the visual arts are Cameron Jamie, Ohad Meromi and Allison Smith; Tamy Ben-tor and Wang Jianwei won awards in theater and performance art. The $50,000 John Cage Award went to Paul Kaiser.
Grant recipients were selected by the foundation directors, who are Brooke Alexander, Agnes Gund, Frances Fergusson, Jasper Johns, Julian Lethbridge and Kara Walker, with the assistance of dance critic Nancy Dalva, artists Molly Davies and Carroll Dunham, and composer David Lang. For further details, see www.foundationforcontemporaryarts.org
WOLF TO HENRY
Whitney Museum of American Art adjunct photography curator Sylvia Wolf has been selected as the new director of the University of Washington’s cutting-edge Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. Wolf, 50, organized the Whitney’s 2004 "Ed Ruscha and Photography" show, among other things. The appointment follows an eight-month-long search for a new director by the Henry. Wolf assumes her duties in Seattle Apr. 14, 2008.
MICHAEL TETHEROW, 1942-2007
Michael Tetherow, 65, New York painter who became known during the 1970s and ‘80s for gothic-expressionistic monochromes punctured by pairs of Modigliani-like eyes, died from complications of rheumatoid arthritis at his home in Denver on Dec. 15, 2007. He first exhibited his work in New York at the Bykert Gallery in 1974; in the 1980s and ‘90s he showed with Jason McCoy Gallery.
ALLISON ECKARDT LEDES, 1954-2007
Allison Eckardt Ledes, 53, editor in chief of the magazine Antiques since 1990, died of cancer at her home in New York on Jan. 8. A graduate of Vassar College, Ledes started at the magazine in 1975 as an assistant to then-editor Wendell Garrett. She served several terms as president of the American Friends of the Attingham Summer School, and was on the board of the Decorative Arts Trust and the council at Historic New England, among other posts.