OFILI ACQUISITION FUSS ROILS TATE
The Tate in London has been accused of cronyism after spending an estimated £750,000 to acquire the work of one of its own trustees -- the 38-year-old artist Chris Ofili. The work in question is Ofili’s impressive The Upper Room (1999-2002), a 13-panel pseudo-religious work depicting a monkey version of the Last Supper, which was exhibited in 2002 at the Victoria Miro Gallery in a custom-designed room by architect David Adjaye. The Tate wouldn’t reveal the exact purchase price, though it kicked in £100,000 of its own funds and received another £70,000 from the National Art Collections Fund.
Making the affair all the more embarrassing is the fact that Ofili, in an interview last year, urged artists to donate their works to the Tate as a gift to the nation. Charles Thomson, founder of the Stuckist Group and an outspoken critic of the contemporary art world, called on Ofili to resign his trustee post. A Tate spokesman said that works by trustees were acquired only in exceptional circumstances, and that Ofili himself wasn’t involved in the purchase of The Upper Room.
Despite the press brouhaha, most observers agree that the Ofili installation is exceptional, and deserves its place in the Tate collection. And Ofili has himself pledged a work to the collection campaign just as he lobbied other artists to do. The Upper Room is slated to go on view as part of the "BP British Art Displays" survey of British art at Tate Britain on Sept. 13, 2005.AUSTRALIAN TO GETTY MUSEUM
Michael Brand, the director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, has been appointed director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Brand, 47, was born in Australia and received his PhD in Asian art from Harvard in 1987. He has been the founding curator of Asian art at the National Gallery of Australia (1988-96) and assistant director of the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane (1996-2000) before joining the Virginia MFA staff in 2000. The Getty Museum has no Asian art collection. "If I get homesick for Indian art," Brand told the Los Angeles Times, "I can always go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art." In 2003, the director’s job paid $350,000 plus benefits.
News of the appointment overshadows a recent Los Angeles Times report that the Getty has paid $250,000 in the past two years to Sitrick and Co., a high-powered "crisis-management" PR firm that was dubbed by Forbes as "the flack for when you're under attack." Sitrick has reportedly received $650 an hour to help Getty director Barry Munitz deal with the press concerning recent allegations that he has misused tax-exempt funds -- a practice that may itself be an improper use of tax-exempt funds. The Times notes that the Getty already spends handsomely on public relations, budgeting more than $4 million for PR in 2003 and paying Pamela Johnson, its vice president for communications and corporate relations, more than $318,000 in 2003-04. Johnson has recently resigned for personal reasons.MAYNARD DIXON ANNUAL IN UTAH
The New York art world may be in the depths of its August art snooze, but it’s all happening this month in the southwest art scene. Take, for instance, the "Maynard Dixon Country 2005," the annual invitational art show sponsored by the Thunderbird Foundation for the Arts in Mt. Carmel, Utah, Aug. 24-28, 2005. The 39 artists in the show are Kenn Backhaus, John Budicin, G. Russell Case, Len Chmiel, Glenn Dean, Walt Gonske, Albert Handell, Colleen K. Howe, Kraig Kiedrowski, Peggi Kroll-Roberts, T. Allen Lawson, Jean LeGassick, Bob Lemler, Calvin Liang, Gaell Lindstrom, Carolyn Lord, Denise LaRue Mahlke, Terry Masters, Joseph Mendez, J. Chris Morel, Jim Morgan, Charles Muench, Ralph Oberg, Dan Pinkham, Bonnie Posselli, Gerald Rahm, Ron Rencher, Glenn Renell, Ray Roberts, Dan Robinson, Jason Situ, Matt Smith, Tim Solliday, Kate Starling, Kathryn Stats, George Strickland, Kathy Wipfler, Skip Whitcomb and Dan Young.
The Thunderbird Foundation, established on the former Utah property of western modernist Maynard Dixon (1875-1946), is planning a museum dedicated to the artist, and also operates an "artist retreat" program for watercolorists and other artists. What’s more, the foundation has established an online catalog raisonné for Dixon (who was married to the famed photographer Dorothea Lange from 1920 to ’35); for details, see www.maynarddixon.comKOOLHAAS MUSEUM IN KENTUCKY
The Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the firm led by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Price-Ramus in New York, has been retained to design a new $70-million "museum plaza" near the riverfront in downtown Louisville, Ky. The planned facility combines an art museum and residential condominiums with office space and even a farmer’s market. HERZOG & DE MEURON FOR PARRISH ART MUSEUM
The Parrish Art Museum in Southampton has selected Swiss architectural team of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron to design the new home for the museum, slated for a 14-acre site in the hamlet of Water Mill on eastern Long Island. The celebrated architects designed the new Tate Modern, which opened in London in 2000, and the expansion of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which opened earlier this year, and are at work on the new de Young Museum, scheduled to open in San Francisco this October. PUNK ROCK PIONEER AT SANTA MONICA MUSEUM
The Santa Monica Museum of Art is welcoming the fall season with a show of journals and collages by Exene Cervenka, a founding member of X, the pioneering Los Angeles punk-rock group. "Exene Cervenka: America the Beautiful," Sept. 17-Nov. 26, 2005, features nine journals and a series of 20 collages made between 1974 and 2005 in a show that is guest-curated by Michael Duncan and Kristine McKenna. Cervenka has scheduled a free performance at the Bergamot Café at Bergamot Station on Nov. 3, 2005. EBERLE PHOTOS AT SFMOMA
Move over Struthsky! Longtime art photographer Todd Eberle, who is well known for his photographs of Donald Judd’s works in Marfa, Tx., is having a major museum exhibition of his photos of details from buildings by major 20th century architects. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art opens "Todd Eberle: Architectural Abstractions," Dec 16, 2005-Mar. 7, 2006, featuring 15 large-format photographs. The show is organized by Joseph Rosa and Ruth Keffer. SCHNABEL DOES ILLY CUPS
New York Neo-Expressionist Julian Schnabel is the latest artist to design a set of espresso cups and saucers, plus a pair of coffee mugs, for the art program of the Illy coffee company. The design features portraits of "Chuck," Schnabel’s blonde surfer character, pictured inside life-saver-like rings and packed in a case designed to resemble a life saver. The set is scheduled to be unveiled at a birthday celebration for Schnabel at Galleria Illy, a temporary space at 382 West Broadway in New York, on Oct. 26, 2005. The set of five cups and saucers are $160, including a can of coffee; the mugs are $60. GEORGE ADAMS GALLERY TO CHELSEA
After 46 years on 57th Street, the George Adams Gallery is moving to Chelsea. Located at 535 West 26th Street on the ground floor, the new space opens on Oct. 1, 2005, with a show of large-scale paintings and drawings by James Valerio, the veteran Chicago realist who is a professor at Northwestern University. Coming up in November is a show of new paintings by Roy DeForest. For more details, see the gallery website on Artnet or www.georgeadamsgallery.com THIRD GALLERY FOR RUBENSTEIN
New York art dealer Perry Rubenstein, who opened a pair of galleries in Manhattan’s Chelsea art district a year ago, is going for three -- he unveils a third space for historical exhibitions at 534 West 24th Street on Sept. 15 with "Dialogue: Baldessari, Prince, Ruscha, Wool." Rubenstein’s main gallery at 527 West 23rd Street hosts the first major New York solo show of Milwaukee artist and 2004 Whitney Biennial vet Santiago Cucullu, Sept. 17-Oct. 29, 2005, while the 526 West 24th Street space presents "Cerealart: Feed Your Head," Sept. 6-Oct. 22, 2005, a show of 25 artist-designed objects and toys. NEW SPACE FOR FREDERICKS & FREISER
Fredericks & Freiser, the gallery opened on West 22nd Street in 1996 by dealer Jessica Fredericks and husband Andrew Freiser, is moving to a larger space on the ground floor of 536 West 24th Street designed by architect Andrew Ong. Inaugurating the new gallery is a solo show of new work by Zak Smith, opening Sept. 28, 2005; subsequent shows present works from the 1960s by John Wesley (coinciding with a traveling retrospective opening at the Krefeld Kunstmuseen) and new works by Lamar Peterson. ANKER SUCCEEDS SIEGEL AT SVA
The School of Visual Arts has appointed "sci-art" artist Suzanne Anker as chair of its BFA fine arts department, succeeding Jeanne Siegel, who has held the position for 29 years and continues with the school as chair emeritus. Anker had been chair of SVA’s art history department; that post goes to writer and philosopher Tom Huhn, author of The Cambridge Companion to Adorno (2004), among other books. STEPHEN WEIL, 1928-2005
Stephen Weil, 77, respected arts lawyer and museum administrator who was a top scholar on the philosophy and ethics of museums, died of liver failure at the Washington Home Hospice on Aug. 9. A man who combined a wicked sense of irony with true warmth, Weil was something of a guru of museum management, and mentored legions of museum people. After receiving his law degree from Columbia University and serving in the Korean War, Weil became general manager of Marlborough Gallery (1963-67) and administrator of the Whitney Museum, (1967-74). He moved to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden as deputy director in 1974, a post he held until his retirement in 1995. Weil was the founding chair of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Museum Loan Network, launched in 1995 to enable small museums borrow from large public collections.
Weil was emeritus senior scholar at the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Museum Studies, and after his retirement, Weil completed academic residencies at Columbia University's Teachers College, Bates College in Maine and Ionian University in Greece. For many years he was a popular faculty member of the Museum Management Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. An expert in copyrights, deaccessioning and museum ethics, he was co-author of the award-winning Art Law: Rights and Liabilities of Creators and Collectors (1986). His collected essays appeared in Beauty and the Beasts (1983), Rethinking the Museum and Other Meditations (1990), A Cabinet of Curiosities (1995), A Deaccession Reader (as editor, 1997) and Making Museums Matter (2002).
Contact wrobinson @ artnet.com