REPUBLICAN VP A MUSEUM FOE
Much of the copious news coverage swirling around Sarah Palin, Republican John McCain’s surprise pick for vice president, has focused on the relative inexperience of the freshman governor of Alaska and former mayor of Wasilla, a suburb of less than 10,000 people outside Anchorage. However, the 44-year-old Palin had proven experience with one thing during her brief tenure in government: slashing museum funding. As mayor of Wasilla, Palin quickly moved to cut the budget of the Dorothy G. Page Museum, a city-run institution that teaches Alaskan history and includes exhibits about the Gold Rush and the Iditarod.
According to a 1997 report in the Anchorage Daily News, Palin summarily fired museum director John Cooper (along with many other city officials. Palin, known for injecting her religious beliefs into government, also reportedly pressured town librarian Mary Ellen Baker to ban books, and then tried to fire the woman when she refused). Palin cut $32,000 from the Page Museum’s $200,000 budget, provoking the three 15-year employees of the museum, Ann Meyers, Opal Toomey and Esther West, to resign en masse. "They’d rather quit than continue working for a city that doesn’t want to preserve its history," the Daily News reported. Wasilla was running a $4 million budget surplus at the time.
LIGHT PROJECT AT PULITZER FOUNDATION
The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis has been devoting most of its 2008 exhibition schedule to "Dan Flavin: Constructed Light," Feb. 1-Oct. 4, 2008, a two-part show organized by guest-curator Tiffany Bell and filling the museum’s dramatic, Tadao Ando-designed facility. Now, the museum has organized "The Light Project," a set of four outdoor light installations to complement the Flavin survey. The works include Ann Lislegaard’s Crystal World (by J.G. Ballard), a dual-projection video installation on the back of the Pulitzer building; Rainer Kehres and Sebastian Hungerer’s Chorus, a group of 289 donated lamps illuminated with color lights and placed to represent the missing roof of a burned church on Spring Avenue; Untitled by Jason Peters, a snaking form of 1,000 plastic buckets joined together, placed on scaffolding in the vacant lot across the street from the Pulitzer; and Spencer Finch’s Sunset (St. Louis, July 31, 2008), a group of solar panels on the roof of the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum, which power a soft-serve ice cream machine on the sidewalk. "The Light Project" opens tonight, Sept. 4, 2008. For more info, see lightproject.pulitzerarts.org
PERSONNEL CHANGES AT NEW YORK MUSEUMS
All those vacant jobs at New York City museums are beginning to fill up. Museum of Modern Art curator of painting and sculpture Ann Temkin, who came to MoMA from the Philadelphia Museum in 2003, has been promoted to the plum job of chief curator of painting and sculpture, succeeding the department’s longtime leader, John Elderfield, who retired in July.
Meanwhile, also at MoMA, chief curator at large Kynaston McShine is retiring after 40 years at the museum. During his long tenure, McShine organized "The Museum as Muse" (1999) as well as retrospectives of Andy Warhol (1989), Joseph Cornell (1980), Robert Rauschenberg (1977) and Marcel Duchamp (1973). He put together MoMA’s now-forgotten survey of ‘80s Neo-Expressionism, "An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture" (1984), which was almost universally panned. It seems unlikely, however, that his departure means MoMA is looking for still another contemporary curator.
Perhaps more exciting is the news that Richard Armstrong, who stepped down as director of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh this June, is the new director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The report, which has not been confirmed by the museum, was first published yesterday by Kate Taylor in the New York Sun. Armstrong launched his career at the Whitney Museum, where he organized four biennials, a survey of 1960s sculpture and a show dedicated to Richard Artschwager; he moved to the Carnegie as curator in 1992 and became director in 1996.
Last but not least, Taylor also reports that the list for the job of director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been narrowed to four people, three from the museum staff and one from overseas: 19th-century, modern and contemporary art curator Gary Tinterow; European sculpture and decorative arts curator Ian Wardropper; tapestries curator Thomas Campbell; and Max Hollein, director of the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.
"50 ARTISTS FOR 50 STATES" AT MCA CHICAGO
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago is hosting an event with the Art Dealers Association of America, Sept. 8, 2008, 6-8 pm, designed to draw public attention and support to the "Artist Museum Partnership Act," which is currently languishing in Congress. The cocktail event features remarks from MCA director Madeleine Grynsztejn and ADAA president and Luhring Augustine Gallery co-owner Roland Augustine. The event marks the kick-off of ADAA’s "50 Artists for 50 States" campaign, for which the organization is attempting to arrange donations of works from artists to institutions in all 50 states, as a way to show the public benefits of the proposed law, which would allow artists to write off the "fair market value" of works when donating them to nonprofits (presently, artists are only able to deduct the material cost [for more information on the history of the "Artist Museum Partnership Act," see Artnet News, July 22, 2007].
GUCCI AWARD TO STEVE MCQUEEN
Avant-garde British filmmaker Steve McQueen has won the third annual Gucci Group Award for his feature film Hunger (2008), a prize-winning treatment of Northern Ireland’s Maze prison campaign and the last days of Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands, who died in 1981. The lead was played by actor Michael Fassbender, who starved himself for two months to play the role. The Gucci Award was presented at a ceremony at the Palazzo Grassi on Sept. 1, 2008.
CAREER SECRETS FROM TOP ART WOMEN
POWArts, the Professional Organization of Women in the Arts, is beginning the fall art season with a special panel devoted to "Tips for a Successful and Long Term Career in the Arts." Moderated by Art Newspaper writer Adrian Dannatt, the panel features Christie’s America chair Amy Gold, Center for Curatorial Leadership director Elizabeth Easton, and former CitiGroup Art Advisory Service director Mary Hoeveler. The event takes place at Christie’s in Rockefeller Center, Sept. 8, 2008, 6-8 pm; rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org.