LEHMAN’S ART-COLLECTING UNIT TO BE SOLD
The 158-year-old investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday, Sept. 15, 2008, sending shockwaves through Wall Street and international financial markets. Its assets are now set to be liquidated. Exempted from the bankruptcy filing, however, is Neuberger Berman, Lehman’s giant asset management unit and one of its few profit-making divisions in recent months. The company is now taking bids for Neuberger, with five private equity firms reported as possible buyers: Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Hellman & Friedman, Clayton Dubilier & Rice, Bain Capital and CVC Capital Partners. Whoever wins it will walk away, along with the business, with one of the most distinguished corporate art collections.
Indeed, within the art world, Neuberger Berman principal Roy Neuberger (b. 1903), who cofounded the firm in 1939, is known as much for his taste in art as for his investment savvy -- the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, N.Y. is named after him, established with the help of Nelson Rockefeller in 1974 to let the financial titan show off his collection. Since 1990, his namesake company has had a fund to purchase "emerging to mid-career artists, with an emphasis on the former," according to the press release for a show of the firm’s collection that toured U.S venues in 2004 -- making Neuberger Berman one of the harbingers of the finance industry’s recent infatuation with emerging art.
That touring show, "Crosscurrents at Century's End: Selections from the Neuberger Berman Art Collection," included works by top contemporary artists such as Laylah Ali, Marlene Dumas, Andreas Gursky, Mike Kelley, Vik Muniz, Takashi Murakami, Neo Rauch, Thomas Struth and Sam Taylor-Wood, illustrating just what kind of player the company has been in the market. Selections from the approximately 600 works in the collection are extensively displayed in the Neuberger Berman offices around the globe. Whether the new owner keeps the art collection or would consider auctioning it off into the hot contemporary art market remains to be seen. Stay tuned.
MUSEUMS LOSE BIG IN LEHMAN COLLAPSE
Whatever the fate of Neuberger Berman, however, the collapse of Lehman Brothers is destined to pass like a cold wind through the museum world, which has leaned on the investment firm for untold millions of dollars in arts patronage (charitable giving at Lehman Brothers totaled $39 million in 2007, according to a story by Bloomberg reporter Philip Boroff). In recent years, Lehman has been the lead sponsor for a range of museum initiatives, from the Brice Marden retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and the Jackson Pollock show "No Limits, Just Edges" at the Guggenheim Museum to the "Young Friends of the Norton" program at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., and a show about the pleasures of collecting contemporary art at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn.
John F. Akers, a senior board member at Lehman -- he chairs the firm’s "compensation and benefits committee," which now sounds like a misnomer -- has served as a trustee at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has received support from the investment bank. Other Big Apple institutions that have received Lehman Brothers funding are the American Folk Art Museum, the Asia Society, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Dahesh Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, the International Center of Photography, the Japan Society, the Jewish Museum, the Morgan Library & Museum, the Museum of Arts & Design, the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In New York, that’s what you call a "royal flush."
Elsewhere in the United States, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Miami Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, N.Y., the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are all listed by Lehman Brothers as having been beneficiaries of the firm’s giving in 2007.
Nor is the damage limited to the U.S. In the UK, Lehman is partnered with the National Gallery, the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the Royal Academy of Arts and the Victoria & Albert Museum. In Germany, Lehman has given to Frankfurt’s Städel Museum. In France, it supports the Musée du Louvre. And in Japan, Lehman is listed as a "Diamond"-level supporter of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum (in fact, Lehman shares a headquarters with the Mori in the Mori Tower).
Beyond all this, the now-defunct company also had a notable philanthropic focus on supporting "excellence in the arts for children." Its 2007 philanthropy report boasts of giving grants to New York organizations like the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers ($25,000), ArtsConnection ($25,000) and DreamYard ($20,000) -- all of which focus on arts education for school children -- as well as $30,000 to the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. In the UK, Lehman gave £21,400 to support activities for disadvantaged young people at London’s Design Museum, and £10,000 to do outreach to hospital schools at the National Portrait Gallery.
DEMOCRACY PROJECT AT THE PARK AVENUE ARMORY
Creative Time’s year-long program "Democracy in America: The National Campaign" culminates in the "Convergence Center," an exhibition-cum-public-meeting at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan, Sept. 21-27, 2008. The show features works by over 40 artists, including Sharon Hayes, Jon Kessler, Pia Lindman, Ligorano/Reese, Trevor Paglen, Cornelia Parker, Steve Power, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Duke Riley, Dread Scott and Alison Smith. Also on the agenda is a schedule of daily speeches, performances and "rants" from artists including Steve Kurtz, Reverend Billy, Karen Finley and the Guerrilla Girls Broad Band. Events run from 11 am to 11 pm, and admission is free. For more details, see www.armoryonpark.org
TRIGANO GALLERY OPENS IN LOS ANGELES
Add another stop to your Los Angeles gallery tour. The Benjamin Trigano Gallery at 612 North Almont Drive premieres with a site-specific installation and an exhibition of drawings by the Berlin artist Brigitte Waldach, Sept. 13-Oct. 18, 2008. Coming up are shows of work by the Paris-based Lebanese artist Lamia Ziade and the German artist Martin Denker. Trigano -- who also runs the L.A. photography gallery, M+B -- says that his new enterprise is focusing on "cutting-edge contemporary art in all mediums from across the globe." For more info, see www.benjamintrigano.com
ARTISTS LINE UP FOR ISSUE PROJECT ROOM BENEFIT
Issue Project Room, the five-year-old Brooklyn-based alternative space for performance and music, holds its special art benefit at Phillips, de Pury & Co. on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008. Chaired by Issue board member Robert Longo -- who has donated a $250,000 charcoal drawing of an ocean wave to the benefit -- the event features cocktails, performances and an auction of donated works by 70 artists ranging from Yoko Ono and Carolee Schneeman to Sue de Beer and Assume Vivid Astro Focus.
Issue Project Room is in the midst of a $1.5-million capital campaign to raise funds to renovate its future home at 110 Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn, a facility that includes a 4,800-square-foot performance space. Admission to the benefit starts at $50. For more info, see www.issueprojectroom.org
NEW MOVE IN BANKSY AUTHENTICATIONS
You have to hand it to the masked British graffiti art star Banksy -- recently identified as Bristol native Robin Gunningham -- he retains his sardonic sense of humor in the face of his art-market success. Last month, a controversial new organization, a group named Vermin, was established to authenticate Banksy’s Street Art works for the art market -- without the artist’s approval -- in competition with Pest Control, the authentication body headed by Holly Cushing and operating with Bansky’s okay [see "Vermin on the Loose," Sept. 3, 2008].
One complaint about Pest Control was that it offered next to no information on its website, www.pestcontroloffice.co.uk. Well, that has changed. A new information page points out that Pest Control "does not authenticate street pieces because Banksy prefers street work to remain in situ and building owners tend to become irate when their doors go missing because of a stencil." Pest Control drolly warns collectors that the authentication process can be difficult, "due to the fact many Banksy pieces are created in an advanced state of intoxication." What’s more, Pest Control advises that though "many copies are superior in quality to the originals," since the beginning of 2008 the authentication group has identified 89 street pieces and 137 screen prints as falsely attributed to Banksy. Banksy encourages "anyone wanting to purchase one of his images to do so with extreme caution."
LAZARIDES COMES TO NEW YORK, BRIEFLY
Speaking of Banksy, one of the artist’s primary dealers -- Lazarides Gallery, which opened in 2004 and now has four spaces in Britain -- is opening a special "hit-and-run" show at 282 Bowery at Houston Street in New York City. Called "The Outsiders," Sept. 26-Oct. 12, 2008, the exhibition includes works by Faile, Paul Insect, JR, Antony Micallef, Jonathan Yeo, Miranda Donovan, Invader, David Choe, Mark Jenkins, Todd James, Vhils, Polly Morgan, Mode 2, BAST, Conor Harrington and Zevs. For more info, see www.lazinc.com.
DEBORAH HARRIS TO ARMORY SHOW
Deborah Harris, who has served as publisher of Modern Painters magazine and was advertising director of both Art in America and ARTnews, has been named managing director of the Armory Show -- Modern, the new section of the ten-year-old fair devoted to modernist art (and debuting on Pier 92, Mar. 5-8, 2009). She reports to Armory Show executive director Katelijne De Backer.
NEW CURATOR AT BOSTON MFA
Jane Portal, head of Chinese and Korean art at the British Museum, has been named chair of the Art of Asia, Oceania and Africa department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She succeeds Joe Earle.
APPOINTMENT AT YERBA BUENA
Betti-Sue Hertz, curator of contemporary art at the San Diego Museum of Art, has been appointed director of visual arts at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. She succeeds René de Guzman, who was named senior curator of art at the Oakland Museum last year. Prior to her job in San Diego, Hertz was director of the Longwood Arts Project in the Bronx, where she co-organized (with Lydia Yee) "Urban Mythologies: The Bronx Represented since the 1960s" for the Bronx Museum.
NEW CURATOR FOR HUNTINGTON LIBRARY
Catherine Hess, associate curator of sculpture and decorative arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum since 1984, has been appointed curator of European art at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Ca. She succeeds Shelley Bennett, who is currently a senior research associate at the Huntington.