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Artnet News
Dec. 5, 2006 

New York Public Library director Paul LeClerc won the contempt of all New Yorkers after he sold off the library’s priceless art treasures for a total of $52 million, including a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington and Asher B. Durand’s emblematic Kindred Spirits, a painting of Thomas Cole and Willam Cullen Bryant in the Catskills. It was bad enough that the library trustees pushed through the sale with no real public review, but now the despicable LeClerc and his cronies on the NYPL board have helped themselves to nice share of the proceeds. According to a report in the New York Times, LeClerc gave himself a $221,000 raise in salary, to a princely compensation level of over $800,000 a year.

The library also hired three new high-level administrators for salaries substantially more than their predecessors, according to the paper. David S. Ferriero, brought on board in 2005 as director of the NYPL research libraries, received $349,066 that year, while Susan Kent, director of the branch libraries, received $302,484, and Catherine Carver Dunn, a library vice-president, received $322,729. A NYPL spokesperson argues that the high rate of pay is necessary to attract top talent -- but if you believe that, we have a bridge you might be interested in. For one thing, the "high pay = top talent" equation ignores the all-important variable of "public service," where the best administrators work for the public good, rather than a giant paycheck.  

What’s more, there’s little evidence that the NYPL is well run. Anyone who uses the NYPL facilities knows that branch libraries are rarely open during hours that working people are actually able to use them and, judging by the sullen attitude of library staff, things are less than good for hard-working NYPL employees.

In our humble opinion, LeClerc doesn’t deserve a raise, he deserves an investigation by the New York State Attorney General. Andrew Cuomo, are you listening?

The news about the generous executive pay at the New York Public Library prompted us to take a look at the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual survey of the salaries of the leaders of top nonprofit organizations in the U.S., which was published in late September. The typical chief executive in the charitable sector took home more than $327,000 in 2005, according to the survey, which looked at information from 241 organizations.

Clearly, the nonprofit sector can be a profitable one for executives, especially if they head national organizations; Roy Williams, the chief scout of the Boy Scouts of America, for instance, earned more than $550,000.

The top earner in the fine arts field was Barry Munitz, former president of the J.Paul Getty Trust, whose compensation totaled $962,526. Munitz has, of course, stepped down from his post. The Getty Trust reported assets of $9.6 billion in 2005, making it the wealthiest operating foundation in the U.S.

Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, topped the field of museum and library leaders for 2006, with compensation of $875,301. Of the total, $283,250 was a bonus in recognition of Lowry’s successful leadership of MoMA’s 10-year-long, $850-million capital campaign.

Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, received $533,462 in 2006, while Peter C. Marzio, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, received $665,731. James Cuno, director of the Art Institute of Chicago, earned $323,531, while Anne d’Harnoncourt, head of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, took home $275,329.

Jonathan Fanton, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago, received total compensation of $439,389, according to the report, while Josef Hefelstein, director of the Menil Foundation in Houston, received $300,000.

For more info, see the Chronicle of Philanthropy at

Not everything is happening in Miami in December. The 10th International Cairo Biennale kicks off Dec. 12–Feb. 9, 2007, with art provocateur Daniel Joseph Martinez representing the U.S. with an installation of a life-sized humanoid robot, which, thanks to computer directions, flails continuously around the pavilion floor. The work is inspired by Blade Runner and pop philosopher Manuel de Landa, according to the artist. The occasion is also marked by the publication of The Fully Enlightened Earth Radiates Disaster Triumphant, a catalogue documenting Martinez’s projects over the last five years, featuring an essay in English and Arabic by Museum of Fine Arts, Houston curator Gilbert Vicario.

What, is fall the art-world’s own awards season? Herewith, a listing of honors and cash prizes for artists announced in the last few days.

* German-born artist Tomma Abts has won the 2006 Turner Prize. The £25,000 award was presented by Yoko Ono in a ceremony at the Tate Britain on Dec. 4, 2006. An exhibition featuring Abts’ geometric abstract paintings, along with works by runners-up Phil Collins, Mark Titchner and Rebecca Warren, remains on view at the Tate through Jan. 14, 2007.

* The new United States Artists organization has given out a total of 50 $50,000 grants -- $2.5 million in all -- to artists working in architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater and the visual arts (categories familiar to those who remember the now-abolished National Endowment for the Arts fellowships for artists). Winners in the visual arts are Laylah Ali, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Sam Durant, Mark Handforth, Anna Sew Hoy, Michael Joo, Michael Lesy, Catherine Opie, William Pope.L, Michael Queenland and Chris Ware.

USA’s formation was prompted by a 2003 Urban Institute study, Investing in Creativity, and launched with a total of $20 million from the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Prudential Foundation and the Rasmuson Foundation. Funders of the 2006 awards are Agnes Gund, Eli and Edythe Broad, Target, the Todd Simon Foundation and Ella Cisneros.

* Painter Elizabeth Peyton won the 2006 Larry Aldrich Award from the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn. Peyton wins $25,000 and an exhibition of her work at the institution in 2008.

* Eungie Joo, director of L.A.’s Redcat art gallery, has won the $15,000 Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement from the Menil Collection in Houston. Joo was chosen by a panel consisting of Thelma Golden, Lawrence Rinder and Philippe Vergne.

* The 26-year-old Swiss artist Luc Mattenberger has won the 2007 Swiss National Insurance Art Prize, an award of 15,000 Swiss francs earmarked for recent graduates of Swiss art colleges, for his work Excavatrice, a funky contraption that the jury liked for its "ironic criticism of civilization." Mattenberger also receives an exhibition at the LISTE 07 fair in Basel.

* Finally, the Barcelona-based Joan Miró Foundation has partnered with Fundació Caixa Girona to create the juried €70,000 Joan Miró Prize for achievement in contemporary art -- making it one of the best-endowed prizes in Europe. The inaugural winner will be announced in March 2007.

Not all public art is installed in parks and public plazas. Puerto Rico-born Luis Berrios Negron traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan, for his latest installation, covering a giant billboard with simple green fabric, a symbol of "rebirth" in Afghanistan, according to the artist. The billboard, formerly used for propaganda, overlooks a huge, now-empty swimming pool that dates from the Russian occupation and which the Taliban used as a site for executions. Berrios Negron, who is represented by Boston’s Space Other, was in Kabul to lead an art workshop at the Center for Contemporary Art Afghanistan (CCAA), and enlisted local volunteers to help with the project. For more info, as well as an interview with the artist and illustrations, see Pingmag.

The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art has launched the first part of a five-year, $3.6-million project to digitize its archives. Personal papers and records of Romare Bearden, Holger Cahill, Alexander Calder, Joseph Cornell, Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, Walt Kuhn, Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Olive Rush are among the documents now now available for perusal online. Highlights include records of the 1913 Armory Show, Cornell’s personal diaries, archival photos of Calder at work in his studio and personal letters sent between Homer and friend Thomas B. Clarke.

Artist Beverly Semmes has organized an amusing new variation on that old Surrealist chestnut, "This Is Not a Pipe" -- an exhibition of works by 24 artists under the title, "The Bong Show," at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects at 535 West 22 Street in New York, Dec. 9, 2006-Jan. 20, 2007. The works are inspired by the titular artifact, including Elaine Reichek’s riff on René Magritte’s famous This Is Not a Pipe -- it now reads "This is Not a Bong." Other participants include Ann Chu, Michael Joo, Byron Kim and Aura Rosenberg.

What could be better to watch on your video iPod on the subway after a long day of work than. . . Danish video art? The Copenhagen-based art foundation Artnode has just launched artPOD, a website that allows art lovers to download art videos directly to their video-enabled iPods. The roster of available works includes pieces by Jesper Just, Pernille With Madsen, Soren Martinsen, Paint Over, Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, Nikolaj Recke and Sondergaard & Aagaard.  

James N. Wood, director of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1980 until his retirement in 2004, has been named as the new CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust in L.A. He is set to take the reigns in February 2007.

Longtime Guggenheim Museum curator of film and media arts John Hanhardt has resigned to pursue several independent projects, some in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art. At the Gugg, Hanhardt organized the museum’s 2000 Nam June Paik show, a film retrospective of Federico Fellini and a survey of early Chinese cinema.

Christian Rattemeyer, who has served as curator at Artists Space for three years, is joining the staff of the Museum of Modern Art as associate curator in the department of drawings. Rattemeyer’s final Artists Space show, "Elephant Cemetery," opens Jan. 18, 2007.

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