NEW ORLEANS MUSEUM SETS REOPENING DATE
The New Orleans Museum of Art is making "slow steps" towards reopening its doors to the public, said museum director E. John Bullard in a recent telephone interview. The museum has been closed since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast at the end of September 2005, and in mid-October the city of New Orleans laid off all but its most essential employees, which included 70 of the 87 staffers at the museum. "It was particularly difficult for us," Bullard said, "since so many of our people had been with the museum for many years."
Repairing the damage to the museum will cost about $6 million, Bullard said, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurance expected to pay a good part of that. Conservators are working right now to clean the sculptures in the museum’s five-acre sculpture garden, which was submerged under five feet of water. Most of the sculptures, including works by artists ranging from Aristide Maillol and Henry Moore to Louise Bourgeois, Claes Oldenburg and Joel Shapiro, sustained only modest damage. A 45-foot-tall tensegrity sculpture by Kenneth Snelson was knocked down, but it can be repaired. The water killed the garden’s plants and brought down three of its pine trees, but the stand of 150-year-old oaks seems to have weathered the storm.
The museum has obtained a grant from the Mellon Foundation in New York to allow the rehiring of curatorial staff, beginning Jan. 1, 2006. But the task is not without its difficulties. Many museum employees have moved on. NOMA’s former curator of prints and drawings has moved to the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson to take an assistant director’s post there, and other staffers have settled in Houston. Needless to say, many residents of New Orleans and surrounding areas who have settled in other cities and may have children in school at their new homes will not find it easy to return to the Big Easy. "Everyone has to make painful decisions about their future," Bullard said.
The current plan calls for reopening the museum on March 1, 2006. The museum will have been closed for six months, during which it has had no earned income (NOMA has extended the memberships of its members to make up for the lost time). Bullard noted that NOMA has an annual operating budget of about $5.2 million, of which about $1 million is endowment income and another $250,000 is a city appropriation. "We have to raise about $4 million a year," Bullard said. It won’t be easy. Though the city plans to hold its Mardi Gras celebration on Feb. 28, 2006, tourism in New Orleans is a long way from recovering. "We may open on Mar. 1 and have no visitors," Bullard said. "Hopefully we can provide a place of recreation and refreshment."
Considering the extreme economic dislocation within the New Orleans area, donations will have to come from outside the region, Bullard said. "Local patrons and charities are already stretched to the limit." Several museums and organizations have already pitched in: the American Association of Art Museum Directors made a $25,000 donation, while the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh gave $20,000 and the Tampa Museum of Art contributed $14,000 that it had raised at its annual gala.
The museum has set up a temporary email service; to help or for further inquiries, contact jbullard@NOMAtemp.org.$23.8 MILLION "CUBI" TO ELI BROAD
Los Angeles supercollector Eli Broad was the winning bidder for David Smith’s stainless steel "gate" sculpture, Cubi XXVIII (1965), at Sotheby’s New York on Nov. 9, 2005. Broad often attends art auctions and bids for himself, but this time dealer Larry Gagosian was bidding for him. "It’s putting a little dent in the household accounts," Broad told Los Angeles Times reporter Suzanne Muchnic. Broad was also the buyer of Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Rome) (1961) for $7.9 million, the fourth-highest-priced lot in the sale. Broad is funding a new wing for contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is scheduled to open in 2007. GRANTS FROM ANONYMOUS WAS A WOMAN
Ten artists have received $25,000 "no strings" grants for 2005 from the Anonymous Was A Woman Foundation: Nancy Chunn (New York), Deborah Hoffman (Oakland), Sharon Horvath (Brooklyn), Zoe Leonard (Brooklyn), Judy Linn (New York), Senga Nengudi (Colorado Springs), Carolee Schneeman (New Paltz), Valeska Soares (Brooklyn), Kathryn Spence (San Francisco) and Meg Webster (New York). Now in its tenth year, the annual program is designed to allow women over 35, "at a critical juncture in their lives or careers, to continue to grow, recover from traumatic life events, and pursue their work." To date, 101 women have received the award, which is administered by Philanthropy Advisors, a service of UJA-Federation of New York. For details, contact email@example.com ROCHELLE STEINER TO PUBLIC ART FUND
Rochelle Steiner, chief curator at the Serpentine Gallery in London since 2001, has been appointed director of the Public Art Fund in New York. A Los Angeles Native, Steiner has organized exhibitions of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Gabriel Orozco, Glenn Brown, Hiroshi Sugimoto, John Currin, Cindy Sherman and many other artists. NEW STAFF AT MASS MOCA
The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass., has named Susan Cross as curator. A graduate of the Williams College graduate program in art history, Cross has been a curator for ten years at the Guggenheim Museum, where she most recently organized "The Eye of the Storm: works in situ by Daniel Buren." MASS MoCA has also promoted former associate curator Nato Thompson, a ten-year veteran of the museum, to the position of curator. GAVLAK OPENS WITH GUYTON
Roving curator and art dealer Sarah Gavlak opens her new eponymous space, Gavlak, in West Palm Beach with a show of works by Wade Guyton, Nov. 26-Dec. 31, 2005. Located at 3300 South Dixie Highway, the new gallery is also working with Lisa Anne Auerbach, Bettina Brüning, Laleh Khorramian, Josephine Meckseper, Marilyn Minter, Aleksandra Mir, Alexandra Penney and other artists. For details, see www.gavlakprojects.com
-- contact wrobinson @ artnet.com