FROM POUSSIN TO KOONS AT THE MET
Just before the international art world took off in early December for a week of art business in sunny Miami Beach, the Metropolitan Museum of Art held a "soft launch" of its renovated galleries for 19th-century and early 20th-century European art, some 31 galleries spreading over 35,000 square feet. The renovation added 8,000 square feet of exhibition space named after the late Henry J. Heinz II, in honor of a major gift from his widow, Met trustee Drue Heinz (a longtime arts patron, in 1995 the catsup heiress chipped in $1.5 million to open the skylights in the museum’s Tiepolo gallery).
Among the new attractions is the Wisteria Dining Room, a complete and fully furnished Art Nouveau dining room that has been in storage for the past 40 years. Designed by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer in 1910-14 for a house in Paris, the room features pointillist murals of herons and peacocks in wisteria-laden landscapes, as well as walnut wall panels, drawer pulls, a gilded fire screen and bronze-and alabaster standing lamps, all decorated with wisteria motifs.
Overseen by Met curator Gary Tinterow and associate curator Rebecca Rabinow, the new installation features four galleries filled with small plein-air paintings that give a complete survey of the practice in 19th-century Europe. Other highlights include two galleries devoted to Degas and a third to Degas bronzes, a gallery filled with 19 works by Cézanne, a gallery devoted to Corot and a pair of galleries mixing Manet with Degas and Manet with Monet.
For the first time, too, the museum is publishing a book of its 19th- and early-20th-century European paintings, with color illustrations and detailed information on 193 paintings. The 344-page tome, from Yale University Press, is priced at $65.
Meanwhile, the museum has released its exhibition schedule for the first half of 2008, and it’s a doozy. The year begins with a New York-centric "Ramble in Olmsted Parks," Jan. 22-May 11, 2007, featuring 40 photos by Lee Friedlander. Next, it’s New York’s turn to see "Jasper Johns: Gray," Feb. 5-May 4, 2008, the exhibition of more than 120 works, all done in gray, by the intellectual Pop artist. The show, which is supported by United Technologies Corporation, premiered at the Art Institute of Chicago.
For traditionalists, the museum packs a triple-punch in 2008. First up is "Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions," Feb. 12-May 11, 2008, featuring 40 paintings and 60 drawings. Next is "Gustave Courbet," Feb. 27-May 18, 2008, boasting 130 works in the first full retrospective in 30 years, and including some photographs relating to his paintings. Last but not least is "J.M.W. Turner," July 1-Sept. 21, 2008, the first U.S. retrospective of the British artist’s work, and featuring approximately 140 paintings. The show is currently on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Finally, for its celebrated roof garden, the Met has scheduled Jeff Koons, Apr. 29-Oct. 26, 2007, with an installation that includes a new piece made especially for the site, perhaps a balloon dog.
Other shows on the slate are "Radiance from the Rain Forest: Featherwork from Ancient Peru," Feb. 26-Sept. 1, 2008; "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy," May 7-Sept. 1, 2008; "Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum," May 20-Aug. 17, 2008; "Framing a Century: Master Photographers, 1840-1940," June 3-Sept. 1, 2008; and "Art of the Royal Court: Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe," July 1-Sept. 21, 2008.
LORIA CENTER SLATED FOR YALE
New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria may be one of the most hated figures in baseball, but they love him up at Yale University. The owner of the Florida Marlins, who recently traded away two talented if high-priced young players, was called "a thoroughly deplorable character" by Dayn Perry of Fox Sports, and accused of "killing" baseball in Miami by Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune.
Meanwhile, up in New Haven, Loria is to receive naming honors on the Jeffrey Loria Center for the History of Art, a new facility within the $130-million, Charles Gwathmey-designed renovation and expansion of architect Paul Rudolph’s storied Art & Architecture building, finished in 1963. Loria is said to have kicked in $20 million towards the new art history center, and seems likely to contribute some artworks as well, including a totem sculpture by Max Ernst. Completion is scheduled for summer of 2008.
ART FORGERS BUSTED IN BOLTON
Shaun Greenhalgh, the head of a family forgery ring based in Bolton, England, has been sentenced to four years and eight months in prison after being found guilty of masterminding the "biggest and most diverse" business in fakes that Scotland Yard has ever seen. Investigators estimate that the Greenhalgh family -- Shaun worked side-by-side with his wheelchair-bound 84-year-old father George Greenhalgh and his 83-year-old mother, Olive, to convince institutions to buy their fakes -- may be responsible for 120 art forgeries worth as much as £10 million.
The Greenhalghs made replicas of everything from a 2,700-year-old Assyrian stone frieze, which they tried to sell to the British Museum for £500,000, to Goose, a clay sculpture purported to be by Barbara Hepworth, which was sold to a division of the Henry Moore Foundation in Leeds for £3,000. Other forgeries included sketches by American painter Thomas Moran, a Roman silver tray dubbed The Risley Park Lanx that the family forged from melted silver coins, and bronze portrait busts of Thomas Chatterton and John Adams, which were sold for £58,000. After an 18-month investigation, detectives raided the Greenhalgh home, finding it full of copies, "painstakingly forged in original materials from Egyptian glass to Roman silver, along with detailed ‘histories’ culled from obscure archaeological records and historical texts," according to London’s Independent newspaper.
Among the most high-profile victims of the fraud is the Art Institute of Chicago, which purchased an "atypical" Paul Gauguin sculpture of a faun that was a Greenhalgh forgery for $195,000. "What fooled everyone is how it sort of corresponded to a thumbnail sketch in a notebook he used in 1887 to jot down his ideas for pots," Gauguin expert Charles Stuckey commented to Artnet Magazine, adding that "the appeal of the fake was that it could be interpreted as a sort of demonic self-portrait," and noting that Faun was featured in the catalogue to the Art Institute’s 2001 show "Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South" as a counterpart to works by Delacroix and Rodin.
Dramatically, the phony ceramic managed to sucker not only the Art Institute’s "experts," but also the "connoisseurs" at the Wildenstein Institute and the "scholars" at Sotheby’s. The English dealer who sold the ersatz work was Libby Howie, who last year was caught out in some fast dealings involving a portfolio of William Blake watercolors [see "Bomb-a-rama," June 29, 2006].
LAZAROF COLLECTION TO LACMA
Janice and Henri Lazarof have donated some 130 modern works to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as fractional and promised gifts. The trove includes 20 works by Pablo Picasso, as well as significant pieces by Alexander Archipenko, Constantin Brancusi, Georges Braque, Edgar Degas, Lyonel Feininger, Alberto Giacometti, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, Henry Moore and Camille Pissarro. The collection goes on display at LACMA on Jan. 13, 2008. A composer, Henri Lazarof gives the world debut of his Concerto for 2 Pianos at LACMA in January.
ABROMOVIC FOUNDATION IN HUDSON
Performance art seems to be entering into its institutional moment. First, RoseLee Goldberg’s Performa biennial of performance art kicked off in New York, and now 61-year-old performance art legend Marina Abramovic has announced plans to found the permanent Marina Abramovic Foundation for Preservation of Performance Art in in Hudson, N.Y., two hours north of Manhattan. The nonprofit would open in 2008 in a 20,000-square-foot former theater, and house workshops, courses for the public, a library and a grants program. The plan also calls for more inventive programs, such as having curator Hans Ulrich Obrist organize public experiments by scientists, according to the Art Newspaper. Abramovic first considered buying an old factory in Bushwick for the foundation, insiders say, but decided to relocate outside the city when she discovered massive toxic pollution at the site.
ELDERFIELD TO STEP DOWN
Museum of Modern Art painting and sculpture curator John Elderfield is stepping down, effective July 2008. The museum’s longtime specialist in early 20th-century modernism, Elderfield assumes the new title of chief curator emeritus and is continuing to work on projects devoted to Henri Matisse and Willem de Kooning, scheduled for 2010. No word yet on a successor, but the museum has plenty of able hands on staff, not least among them Kathy Halbreich, who is now associate director specializing in contemporary art, and Anne Temkin, a curator in the museum’s painting and sculpture department since 2003.