TONS OF DRAWINGS AT MOMA
About five years ago, the word quickly spread around New York art galleries that a guy was putting together a collection of contemporary drawings, buying things with the abandon of a drunken sailor. His name was Harvey Shipley Miller, sole trustee of the Judith Rothschild Foundation, and with the assistance of the young German dealer André Schlechtriem he eventually acquired 2,500 works by 650 artists. According to tax records, Miller spent $18 million on the collection, which was valued at $60 million when it was eventually donated to the Museum of Modern Art.
Miller’s buying spree raised some eyebrows -- one calculation had him buying seven drawings a day, hardly the considered pace of connoisseurship -- especially since the works were destined for MoMA, where Miller was on the drawings committee. Adding to the scent of scandal was the charge, leveled by Works on Paper magazine, that the drawing collection fell outside the boundaries of the Rothschild Foundation’s stated mission to promote under-recognized artists.
Rothschild, by the way, was an abstract painter who was the daughter of a successful furniture manufacturer. When she died in 1993 at age 71, she left a $40-million estate that included more than 30 modernist works. Though she had limited success during her lifetime, the Metropolitan Museum assembled a monographic show of her paintings in 1998, prompting some to accuse the museum of using its exhibition schedule to encourage the donation of artworks.
But time heals all wounds. MoMA has now opened "Compass in Hand: Selections from the Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection," Apr. 22-July 27, 2009, featuring 300 works by 150 artists from Miller’s trove [see "Drawn and Quartered," Apr. 23, 2009]. Billed as the largest drawing survey ever mounted by the museum, the show is organized by drawings curator Christian Rattemeyer with Connie Butler, who deserve credit for making sense of the mass of material (though one does wonder about the works by the other 500 artists). "It’s a sprawling, messy group show," Rattemeyer said at the press preview. The installation is designed to make its argument with a "light touch," he said, as an almost "nonchalant unfolding of influence and correspondence."
Though the works in "Compass at Hand" date to the 1950s, the central galleries feature drawings that use what Rattemeyer called the dominant artistic language of the last three years -- appropriation, citation, collage and montage. In this regard, one amusing work to look out for is Jeff Koons Untitled (Winnie the Pooh Series) (1997), which distinctly resembles a page from a coloring book with scribbles by a small child. Could Koons have sold a drawing by one of his sons to the Rothschild Foundation? It wouldn’t be the first time that he employed assistants to realize his works!
Rattemeyer noted that the connection adds 330 new artists to MoMA’s collection, a fact that the curator said had helped establish a new, stronger connection between the museum and the community of contemporary artists. MoMA has been more aggressive in acquiring contemporary art since setting up the Fund for the 21st Century earlier this decade, and the "contemporary art working group," which brings together curators from various MoMA departments for weekly meetings.
CHARADE AT ROSE ART MUSEUM?
Claims by Brandeis University that it might reconsider its plan to close the Rose Art Museum are "an elaborate charade," according to an open letter issued by the museum’s board of overseers on Apr. 23, 2009 [see "Artnet News," Jan. 27, 2009]. What’s more, the board reports, donations to the museum have completely dried up, a loss of more than $2.5 million, and the university plans to eliminate the post of museum director -- held by Michael Rush -- on June 30, 2009. "Without a director or curator, the Rose cannot continue to function as a museum under any meaningful definition," noted boardmember Jon Lee.
Less than a week ago, Brandeis provost Marty Krauss assured the public that the "Rose Art Museum will remain a museum." But the overseers’ board isn’t buying it, claiming that the Brandeis plan to form a "Committee for the Future of the Rose" is an empty gesture. "The Rose already had an active board," the overseers’ statement notes, while the new "committee" is made up of members "hand-picked by the administration, and the Rose was not allowed to choose its own representative."
Rose director Michael Rush also denounced the panel as "window dressing" at a town hall meeting on Apr. 20, which was attended by about 70 members of the public and the 10-member "committee," according to the Daily News Herald. "I do not recognize you as a legitimate committee [because] this supposed attempt at openness and dialogue is only happening because of the disaster that was Jan. 26 and the international outcry that followed," Rush said, going on to complain that the museum staff is still being kept in the dark about the future of the institution. Things look grim indeed in Waltham.
ARTIST’S PRANK TARGETS ROSE DEACCESSION PLAN
In still other Rose Art Museum-related news, New York artist Steve Miller took to the Brandeis campus recently for "ATM: Art Trumps Money," a project that involved the posting of 40 ATM signs all over the grounds, including in the museum’s own window. The gag suggests, of course, that the Brandeis trustees are treating the museum collection as a source of ready money. Brandeis professor Mark Auslander has a long commentary on Miller’s piece on YouTube, complete with footage of students making the signs. Auslander frames "ATM" both as a topical intervention and a larger point about the "a hyper-intensification of the art-capitalist nexus."
Miller’s project coincided with Geoff Hargadon’s "Cash for Your Warhol" project, a guerrilla art prank that also involved signs posted outside the embattled museum [see Artnet News, Apr. 16, 2009].
DAMIEN HIRST FUNDS NEONATAL CENTER
The esthetic interest of yBa Damien Hirst in the sculptural qualities of exotic medical equipment is well established. Now, he has teamed up with the Victor Pinchuk Foundation to provide the equipment for a new neonatal center in Kyiv, Ukraine. Dubbed "Cradles of Hope," the center is based at Okhmatdyt Hospital, and includes almost 60 pieces of equipment necessary for intensive care for low-birthweight babies. The more than $320,000 in funds to establish the center came from the sale of Hirst’s painting Dark Days -- a heart-shaped canvas painted with black gloss and impressed with butterflies and manufactured diamonds -- at Sotheby’s London on Feb. 5, 2009, where it was bought for a total of £362,250 (with premium). "I love great art, it can make you feel great," Hirst said, "but life is always infinitely more important."
KOKOSCHKA AT NEUE GALERIE NEW YORK
Like many museums in this recessionary time, the Neue Galerie in New York is turning to its own collection to fill gaps in its exhibition schedule. But there are worse things. For its summer exhibition, the gallery presents "Focus: Oskar Kokoschka," a group of portraits and drawings by the celebrated Expressionist, as well as a selection of paintings by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Both shows are on view July 16-Oct. 5, 2009.
"TALK SHOW" AT LONDON ICA
Art is all about "heated exchange," according to the ICA, London, which puts its money where its mouth is with "Talk Show," May 6-31, 2009, billed as "a season of speech-based artworks and events." Organized by artist, writer and designer Will Holder, with ICA staffers Richard Birkett and Jennifer Thatcher, the show includes works by Robert Ashley, Pierre Bismuth, Ryan Gander, Beatrice Gibson with Jamie McCarthy, Robert Filliou, Adam Pendleton, Falke Pisano, Seth Price, Manuel Saiz, Frances Stark and Mark Wilsher. The program also involves a range of residencies and performances, as well as a screening of My Dinner with André and The Aristocrats.
GETTING SITE-SPECIFIC IN DENVER
The Denver Art Museum is further activating its already highly activated (no vertical walls) Daniel Libeskind-designed facility with "Embrace!", Nov. 14, 2009-Apr. 4, 2010, an exhibition of 17 unique site-specific commissions by an international group of artists, including a four-story-tall spray painting in the museum atrium by Katharina Grosse. Other participating artists are El Anatsui, Kristin Baker, Matthew Brannon, Rick Dula, Christian Hahn, Nicola López, John McEnroe, Rupprecht Matthies, Tobias Rehberger, Charles Sandison, Dasha Shishkin, Shinique Smith, Jessica Stockholder, Timothy Weaver + eMAD, Lawrence Weiner and Zhong Biao.
LAZARIDES OPENS NEW LONDON GALLERY
Visionary British "Street Art" dealer Steve Lazarides has turned his Greek Street space into SHOP, a store specializing in posters, prints, books and other collectibles, and launched a major new venue for his art shows proper: The Rathbone, located in a five-story Georgian building at 11 Rathbone Place, previously a brothel and drinking den. The Rathbone premieres on May 15, 2009, with an exhibition of works by JR, Invader, Anthony Micallef, David Choe and Jonathan Yeo; the building also houses a studio for artists with a screen-printing table and "blank walls for last-minute experimentation." For more info, see www.lazinc.com
JOSH LILLEY GALLERY BOWS IN LONDON
Josh Lilley Gallery opens its first permanent gallery space at 44-46 Riding House Street in London’s Fitzrovia district with "Daily Miracles," May 15-June 12, 2009, a show of works by ten British painters. Participants include Vicky Wright, Ryan Mosley, Peter Linde Busk, Sarah Dwyer, Matthew Burrows, Carla Busuttil, Matthew Musgrave, Nick Goss, Ian Whitfield and Valerie May. For more info, see www.joshlilleygallery.com
NEW GALLERY IN CALLICOON
The art market isn’t completely in recession. A new gallery is opening in Callicoon, N.Y, about three hours northwest of New York City in the Upper Delaware Valley. Callicoon Fine Arts (at 27 Lower Main Street, second floor), opens May 16-Aug. 15, 2009, with "All Suffering Soon to End!" featuring art by almost 20 artists, including Susan Bee, Paul McMahon, Forrest Myers, Hunter Reynolds, David Scher and Carolee Schneemann. The gallery is operated by Photios Giovanis; for more info, see www.callicoonfinearts.com
NEW SPACE FOR MICHEL ALLEN GALLERY
Memphis-born New York art dealer Michel Allen moves her operation, Allen Projects, from its current address at 547 West 27th, where it opened in 2006, to a new space in the Chelsea gallery building at 526 West 26th Street. The new gallery debuts on June 3, 2009, with a group show of gallery artists, including Helen Brough, Pinckney Herbert, Steve Joy and Jim Napierala. For more info, see www.allengalleryonline.com
AN INVITATION TO SICILY
Visitors to the 53rd Venice Biennale, June 7-Nov. 22, 2009, are invited to hop down to Sicily for a few days and stay in the Atelier sul Mare, a "museum-hotel" built on a pebbly bay in Castel di Tusa, a village on the coast between Messina and Palermo. Built by art-lover Antonio Presti, 20 of the hotel’s 40 rooms were designed by artists. According to one eyewitness report, these include Sislej Xhafa’s "Hammam" room, featuring a Star of David-shaped bathtub, stained glass and an open dome ceiling; Danielle Mitterand’s "Water Bearers" room, decorated in aluminum, copper and white opaque glass, and containing a stone fountain; and the "Prophet" room, dedicated to the memory of Pier Paolo Pasolini and featuring walls of mud and straw. "Airfares down to Sicily are extremely cheap," says hotel manager Ivana Markovic. Mention our name and get "30 percent discount on already low list prices." For more info, see www.ateliersulmare.it