BROOKLYN MUSEUM OFFS CURATORIAL DEPTS.
Curatorial departments? Who needs them! Brooklyn Museum director Arnold L. Lehman, certainly no stranger to controversy, now plans to do away with traditional curatorial departments at his museum, and replace them with two teams of staffers, one for collections and the other for exhibitions. The move comes as two department heads are retiring -- Amy G. Poster, chair of Asian art, and Richard A. Fazzini, head of the department of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Middle Eastern art -- and as other top curators are being encouraged to resign, according to a report in the New York Times.
Typically, exhibitions are developed by specialized curators. But now, believe it or not, the museum's reorganization plan envisions ideas for exhibitions coming to Lehman during conversations at dinner parties. Such shows would then be organized by the museum's 18-person curatorial staff working as a team -- an arragement the plan describes, in a notable bit of jargon, as "porosity."
Unlike its Manhattan counterparts, the Brooklyn Museum is frequently half empty, which has prompted all manner of bizarre efforts to increase attendance, ranging from serving popcorn in the Egyptian gallery and painting the walls bright colors to mounting shows of Star Wars memorabilia and photos of Marilyn Monroe. Even the museum's more respectable curatorial efforts, such as the recent retrospective of photos by William Wegman and the forthcoming show of graffiti art, are clearly designed to please a broad public.
The move to jettison traditional museum practices, based in scholarship and study, in favor of commercial marketing, has gained a foothold in the museum world, notably at the Smithsonian Institution. With its new curatorial reorganization, the Brooklyn Museum would seem to be putting itself in the forefront of this particular art revolution.
SMITHSONIAN GETS $75 MILLION TO RENAME MUSEUMS
Speaking of the Smithsonian Institution, its new Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture opens on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on July 1, 2006. And just what the hell is that? It's the Smithsonian's new moniker for the beloved National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The naming rights were sold for $75 million to the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, a Las Vegas-based charity founded by the hard-boiled businessman Donald W. Reynolds (1906-93), who made his fortune buying up small media properties and conglomerating them into the Donrey Media Group. The two Smithsonian museums even have a new website -- www.reynoldscenter.org.
So far, the renaming has prompted little comment from the local press -- hello, Blake Gopnik of the Washington Post, can you please pay attention? (Cultural conservatives fondly remember the days before the marketeers seized control of the Smithsonian and renamed the National Collection of Fine Arts as the syntactically awkward "Smithsonian American Art Museum.") In any case, the two museums are reopening after a seven-year-long, $300-million overhaul with "America's Presidents," an extended display of multiple images of 42 U.S. presidents at the National Portrait Gallery, alongside "William H. Johnson's World on Paper" and "Passing Time: The Art of William Christenbertry" at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The renovation has been kept tightly under wraps, until the evening of June 21, 2006, when a select group of patrons was let in for a gala party, with tickets beginning at $250 each. Come July 1, admission for ordinary mortals is free.
CURATORS FOR MOSCOW BIENNALE
Details of the Second Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Feb. 22-Mar. 22, 2007, have been announced. Overseen as in the first go-round by Joseph Backstein and sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communication, the biennial includes a major exhibition, 25 special projects and many additional shows, and features works by more than 80 artists. The overall theme of the biennial is "Footnotes about Geopolitics, Markets and Amnesia."
The primary exhibition is sited in three spaces totaling approximately 10,000 square meters: the former Lenin Museum, the Schusev State Museum of Architecture, and a new space at the TSUM Shopping Center (before it is put into operation). Special projects are to be mounted throughout Moscow, at the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the National Center for Contemporary Art, the Ekaterina Foundation, the Proekt Fabrika exhibition center, the ArtStrelka cultural center and other spaces.
Among the special exhibitions on tap is a show of Russian and Chinese Sotsart organized by Tretyakov contemporary art curator Andrey Yerofeyev, and "Urbanist Formalism," a show organized by Yevgenia Kikodze at the Contemporary City foundation. Guest exhibitions are to spotlight works by Darren Almond, Valie Export, Yoko Ono, Pipilotti Rist, Jeff Wall and Robert Wilson.
Backstein has also enlisted a group of curators with substantial international credentials: Daniel Birnbaum, Iara Boubnova, Nicolas Bourriaud, Fulya Erdemci, Gunnar B. Kvaran, Rosa Martínez and Hans Ulrich Obrist. The biennial advisory board includes Ljubljana's Galerija Moderna director Zdenka Badovinac, Cooper Union dean Saskia Bos, Museum Ludwig director Kasper König, Museum Kunst Palast director Jean-Hubert Martin and Mori Art Museum deputy director Fumio Nanjo.
Needless to say, the Moscow Biennale takes place during Moscow's famous winter -- a situation that Backstein made light of. "Despite the risks," he said at a press conference held during Art 37 Basel, "we decided to have the biennale in the winter as a kind of 'brand' -- the Moscow Biennale would be branded as 'the cold biennial'."
KMART ART GOES FOR BROKE
Kmart has begun to liquidate its corporate art collection, selling its artworks at low, low prices this summer at its former corporate headquarters in Troy, Mich. Overseen by Michael Weissman, a curator working for National Retail Equipment Liquidators, the sale takes place on the fourth floor of the former Kmart headquarters in 3100 W. Big Beaver Road in Troy, featuring a different type of artwork each month (oil paintings and watercolors in June, for instance). Buyers must be present in person to bid on the items.
"High-end" works in the sale include items like a 15th-Century Chinese Ming Dynasty watercolor on silk, a 1972 Pablo Picasso tapestry featuring a green and black swirl pattern and a signed Andy Warhol poster of Apache leader Geronimo. Other items for sale include a photo by artist and astronaut Alan Bean, autographed by more than 20 other ex-astronauts, and the large oak board table where Martha Stewart inked her deal with Kmart in 1987. The art sale also features a "Blue Light Special Room" where oil paintings can be purchased for $10-$200.
The sale comes as part of Kmart's move to Illinois, having merged with Sears, Roebuck and Co. in 2005, a development that came on the heels of its 2002 bankruptcy -- the largest retail bankruptcy in U.S. history. For additional information, contact National Retail Equipment Liquidators at (248) 463-5898.
21ST-CENTURY FEMINISM FROM "WILD GIRLS"
Exit Art, the pioneering Chelsea alternative space, promises to speak "the language of feminism for the 21st century" in "Wild Girls," June 24-Aug. 26, 2006. The "bold international group of fearless, transgressive, provocative, challenging, pioneering, astute, fabulous, strong and obsessive women artists" includes Alia Farid Abdal, Jaishri Abichandani, Francisca Benitez, Katia Damianova, Taylor Davis, Georganne Deen, Jenny Dubnau, Chitra Ganesh, Alla Georgieva, Kate Gilmore, Vlatka Horvat, Katalina Iturralde, Emily Keown, Saeri Kiritani, Tamara Kostianovsky, Katarzyna Kozyra, Simone Leigh, Jennifer Levonian, Wanda Ortiz, nicoykatiushka, Maria Pińeres, Ana Rosa Rivera, Monica Rodríguez, Boryana Rossa, Kristine Servia, Anne Spurgeon, Rosalin Suero, Mickalene Thomas, Traci Tullius and Pinar Yolacan. Special musical acts and performances are scheduled for July 22 and 29, 2006.
BARONESS' ART BARGE ARRIVES IN VIENNA
At the beginning of May, Baroness Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza launched her latest art project -- and we mean "launched" literally, since the project is a converted, 70-meter-long industrial barge that has traveled up the Danube from Rousse in Bulgaria to Vienna, where it docked on June 21, 2006. Designed to "foster important connections in an historically disconnected part of the world," the project is called "Küba: Journey against the Current."
Carrying Turkish artist Kutlug Ataman's 40-channel video piece, Küba, the barge stopped on the way to pick up new artworks commissioned from artists along the route: Matei Bejenaru (Romania), Nedko Solakov (Bulgaria), Zelimir Zilnik (Serbia), Renata Poljak (Croatia), Lászlo Csáki & Szabolcs Pálfi (Hungary), Anetta Mona Chisa & Lucia Tkácová (Slovakia) and Emanuel Danesch & David Rych (Austria). All these works go on view at the city's historic Jewish theater, June 24-Sept. 9, 2006.
BOTERO'S ABU GHRAIB PAINTINGS TO NEW YORK
Fernando Botero's notorious paintings of the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 are coming to Marlborough Gallery in Manhattan, Oct. 18-Nov. 18, 2006. The group of 45 paintings and drawings [see "Report from Madrid," Apr. 18, 2005], have already been exhibited in Europe. The exhibition in New York is accompanied by a book published by Prestel and including a text by Art in America editor David Ebony.
BARRY BERGDOLL TO MOMA
Columbia University art historian Barry Bergdoll has been appointed architecture curator at the Museum of Modern Art, filling a position that has been vacant since Mar. 30, 2006, when long-time head Terence Riley left his post to become director of the Miami Art Museum. Bergdoll has authored monographs on Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Léon Vaudoyer, and can also be considered a MoMA insider, having co-curated "Mies in Berlin" at the museum in 2001 and served for three years on the museum's art and design committee.
Bergdoll can perhaps anticipate harsh treatment from one important quarter -- new New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, who seems to take special relish in attacking MoMA's architecture and design offerings. Ouroussoff began his tenure at the Times with an unseemly attack on Riley, and just yesterday dismissed "Safe: Design Takes on Risk," the museum's pioneering examination of "paranoid products," as well as its wide-ranging survey of Spanish architecture as "largely forgettable" (while creaming over Renzo Piano's Morgan Library expansion, following an advance look at the design, which gave him a "scoop"). Hmmm.SIRMANS TO MENIL COLLECTION
Franklin Sirmans has been named curator of modern and contemporary art, a new position, at the Menil Collection in Houston. A former U.S. editor of Flash Art and an independent curator, Sirmans co-organized "Basquiat" and was recently appointed curatorial advisor at P.S.1 Art Center. Sirmans' appointment fills out an otherwise depleted curatorial staff at the Menil: chief curator Matthew Drutt is officially on sabbatical and may not return; adjunct curator Mark Rosenthal has fulfilled his contract and left; and, of course, Menil Collection founding director and curator of 20th-century art Walter Hopps died last year.
PATRICK MCMULLAN DEBUTS AT NEW MIDTOWN SPACE
Manhattan has a major new exhibition space, and famed people photog Patrick McMullan is the subject of the first exhibition there. Called The Gallery @ New World Stages, the two-floor space is located in the New World Stages building, the two-year-old complex of five Off-Broadway theaters located on West 50th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. The debut exhibition, "Patrick McMullan -- All the World's a Stage," May 27-Sept. 2, 2006, features about 150 photographs -- which are for sale, with prices starting at $500. The space is curated by Martian Arts Services, an organization managed by famed arts attorney Peter R. Stern.
PORN STAR OPENS BROOKLYN GALLERY
Celebrated porn actress Heather Hunter is opening her own art gallery, named Artcore-NYC, located at 111 Front Street in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood, with an exhibition of her own acrylic paintings, on June 28, 2006. The Bronx native (b. 1969), who soared to fame in films like Hot Talk Radio (1989) and Screw the Right Thing (1990), has recently put out a rap music CD titled The Unexpected and announced plans to publish an "erotic fiction novel" titled Simone Insatiable Desires. For further details, see www.heatherhunter.com