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Nov. 24, 2009 

Unsought promises of a bright future are sure to raise suspicion in the minds of the cynics among us, and so it was at the Metropolitan Museum of Artís press briefing on Nov. 23, 2009, during which museum director Thomas Campbell ably mapped out the coming 2010 exhibitions as well as a bit of other news. Attendance has been strong, Campbell said, and despite the economic downturn, the museum looked to the future with a "spirit of excitement."

Unspoken was the Metís current operating deficit of $8.4 million, pointed out earlier in the week by CultureGrrl blogger Lee Rosenbaum, not to mention the long list of "early retirements" chronicled in the Metís online annual report for 2009. About 90 senior staffers are now gone -- adding a level of uncertainty to the day-to-day work at the museum, according to one top curator -- including European paintings curator Everett Fahey (a 22-year veteran), prints and drawings curator Colta Ives (43 years), Egyptology curator Christine Lilyquist (38 years), and a range of associate curators, including Kevin Avery (20 years), Barbara Ford (28 years), Johanna Hecht (39 years), Elizabeth Milleker (24 years) and Virginia-Lee Webb (34 years).

Other cuts came in the editorial, research and education departments. A host of conservators left, including senior Egyptian art restorer William Barrette (33 years) and conservators† Lucy Belloli (27 years), Sondra Castile (31 years) , Rudolph Colban (40 years), Tina Kane (27 years), Margaret Lawson (33 years), Takemitsu Oba (31 years), Midori Sato (23 years) and Richard Stone (35 years). The museum also lost four nurses as well as the manager from its health services department. And last but not least, the museum finally got rid of archeologist Oscar Muscarella, who famously declared that the Met had been "supporting theft and plunder for years"; he retired after 44 years at the museum, some of them spent protesting his employerís collecting policy.

In place of dwelling on personnel losses, Campbell reiterated some new staff appointments that had been announced several months ago: Keith Christiansen succeeding Fahey as chair of the European paintings department; Sheila R. Canby coming from the British Museum to head the Metís Islamic art department; and Peggy Fogelman coming from the Peabody Essex Museum to take over the Metís educational programs.

He also noted plans for 30,000 square feet of new exhibition space in the American Wing, scheduled to open in 2011-12, and a suite of new Art of the Arab Lands galleries for the museumís collection of 10,000 Islamic artworks, due to open in 2011.

But enough housekeeping. What about the 2010 exhibitions? Despite several scholarly blockbusters, the line-up seems rather modest, reflecting the current economic reality, with many shows drawn from the museumís own collection. †A sampling:

* The Drawings of Bronzino, Jan. 20-Apr. 18, 2010, the first show ever devoted to Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572) features nearly all of the 61 known drawings of the Florentine court artist to Duke Cosimo Medici. A major loan show, "Bronzino" is organized with the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

* Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage, Feb. 2-May 9, 2010, presents nearly 50 collages made in the 1860s and 1870s, largely by women, in an exhibition organized by (and currently on view at) the Art Institute of Chicago.

* Celebration: The Birthday in Chinese Art, Feb. 27-Aug. 15, 2010, a festive look at 50 works from the museum collection, one of several spring installations in the museumís Asian art galleries.

* The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, Mar. 2-June 13, 2010, is a once-in-a-lifetime display of the 172 sumptuous illuminations from the medieval prayer book, one of the Cloistersí great treasures, while it is temporarily unbound for conservation (and the preparation of a facsimile edition).

* The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy, Mar. 2-May 23, 2009, features 40 alabaster mourning figures from the tomb of John the Fearless (1371-1419), on loan from the Musťe des Beaux-Arts in Dijon while the museum undergoes renovation. The exhibition, organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and the Dijon museum, travels to seven other U.S. museums.

* Paintings from the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Mar. 16-Aug. 8, 2010, presents 20 artworks from the Ohio museum while it is being renovated; the show subsequently appears at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

* Epic India: Scenes from the Ramayana, Mar. 31-Sept. 19, 2010, another show from the museumís collection, presents scenes from the classic of early Indian literature.

* Vienna Circa 1780: An Imperial Silver Service Rediscovered, Apr. 13-Nov. 7, 2010, features more than 350 tureens, candelabra, serving implements and 24 dozen place settings originally made for Duke Albert Casimir of Sachsen-Teschen (1738-1822) and his consort, Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria (1742-1798) and now held -- with the exception of two items acquired by the Met -- in a French private collection.

* Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Apr. 27-Aug. 1, 2010, probably the one sure-fire winner on the schedule, is a "landmark exhibition" of the museumís complete holdings of 150 works by Pablo Picasso -- including Yo Picasso (1900), At the Lapin Agile (1905), Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906), Woman in White (1923), The Dreamer (1932) and the artistís controversial Self-Portrait Making Love (1903), which shows the artist in the pose of Goyaís Maya, but with a nude woman (his then-mistress, Fernande Olivier?) bent over the cocky artistís lap.

* An Italian Journey: Drawings from the Tobey Collection, Correggio to Tiepolo, May 12-Aug. 15, 2010, presenting 70 works from the 16th through the 18th centuries, on loan from private collectors Julie and David Tobey.

* American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity, May 5-Aug. 15, 2010, is the Costume Instituteís spring exhibition, featuring 80 costumes arrayed in theme galleries (the "Heiress," the "Gibson Girl," the "Bohemian," the Suffragist," "Flappers" and the "Screen Siren"), recently transferred to the Met by the Brooklyn Museum. The show is the occasion for the museumís annual spring gala, which is co-chaired this year by Oprah Winfrey and funded by Gap.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And so it is next week, when art lovers flock to Miami for nine or ten art fairs. The recession has brought on a few changes, but most expect the same lovable excess as ever.

At the center of it all is Art Basel Miami Beach, Dec. 3-6, 2009, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Although 60 regular exhibitors have decided to sit this edition out, according to the Art Newspaper, the line to replace them stretches around the block, as 65 new galleries have filled the gaps, for a total of 266 dealers in all.

The big change is the demise of those shipping-container galleries at the beach, otherwise known as "Art Positions." The newer galleries are now housed in the convention center (under the same moniker), and the beachfront area is retained as an open-air theater for real-time goings on, cosponsored by Creative Time and designed by artist Pae White.

Ancillary events include open houses at the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection, the Margulies Collection and the Rubell Family Collection, as well as receptions at MoCA Miami, the Bass Museum of Art, the Miami Art Museum and the Wolfsonian.

Another big change is the move of the hip New Art Dealers Alliance fair, aka NADA, from the Ice Palace Studios over the causeway in Miami to the Deauville Beach Resort way up at 67th Street in Miami Beach. About 80 dealers are listed as taking part.

This year, then, the Ice Palace hosts Helen Allenís Pulse fair, which promises daily concerts, including spoken word from former X bandmember Exene Cervenka, and an extensive program of sculptural commissions, including a walk-in structure from Iranian-American artist David Abir meant to "emulate the anatomical structure of the human ear." The lineup of 90 galleries includes an "Impulse" section of 15 newer galleries.

Meanwhile, the Scope Art Fair, always a gas, presents 69 dealers at Soho Studios Miami, a new location, at 2136 NW 1st Avenue in Wynwood, which it is sharing with the 22 exhibitors of Art Asia. Highlights include a "fully robotic Gamelan Orchestra" and an "off-site" performance by Marya Kazoun in the plaza in front of "Miami’s new landmark building Marquis," involving a variety of stuffed "creatures."

INK Miami 2009, Dec. 2-6, 2009, the print fair operated at the International Fine Print Dealers Association, takes place as usual at the very pleasant Suites of Dorchester motel at 1850 Collins Ave. Ten dealers are making the trip.

The venerable Art Miami, meanwhile, sets up shop in an "Art Miami Pavilion," on Midtown Boulevard, between NE 32nd & NE 31st Street. About 84 exhibitors will be on hand. A VIP preview on Dec. 1 benefits the Lotus House Women’s Shelter, while special programming includes "Mapping the Blank Spots," a show featuring video art from Romania, Afghanistan, China, South Africa and Chile, curated by Julia Draganovic and Asher Remy-Toledo.

Photo Miami 2009, Dec. 1-6, 2009, returns for its fourth year in a new 30,000 square foot venue at NW 34th Street and North Miami Avenue in Wynwood. Almost 30 dealers are participating.

The typographically difficult but nevertheless glamorous Design Miami/ also returns in partnership with ABMB, presenting 14 design galleries. This yearís "Designer of the Year" award goes to Maarten Baas, who is making a "theatrical environment" for the fair. The fair is located in a temporary structure at NE 39th Street & 1st Court, in the Design District.

Aqua Art Fair, the much-liked fair that began at South Beachís Aqua Hotel, ditches its namesake this year, "consolidating" to the space that it opened last year as Aqua Wynwood. Close to 50 galleries are expected. Aqua has also teamed up with Gen Art Vanguard, "the leading arts & entertainment organization" that last year tried to launch its own Vanguard art fair during Art Basel week, failed, and is now doing some consolidating of its own.

One art fair that will definitely not be around this year is the Bridge Art Fair. But never fear, in probably the maximum expression of the "more things change" feeling of it all, it lives on in the Verge Art Fair, which sets up shop at Miami Beachís Catalina Hotel at 1732 Collins Ave. ("Verge" was the name of a subsection of Bridge, and the man behind Verge is Bridge mastermind Michael Workman). About 25 galleries are advertised, including Max Protetch Gallery and a number of Brooklyn spaces.

Speaking of Brooklyn galleries, if things ever get dull, donít be afraid to head on over to the Fountain art fair. The always lively guerrilla fair founded by Williamsburgers brings 13 dealers to a space at 2505 North Miami Ave. Its cool music program is organized by Filter magazine.

Thereís more, more, more, of course. For our money, however, if you stray from the big fairs, your best get is to head on down to the Art Burn at sunset on Dec. 3, 2009. Located in Miamiís Wynwood Art District, the event is described as "the most combustible art show in the world" and promises to "combine an international selection of original art with fire." The exhibition is curated by New York artist El Celso. An artist list and more exact details are available online. See you there!

The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is taking a look at the relationship between painting and video, courtesy of guest-curator Paco BarragŠn, who has organized "When a painting moves. . . something must be rotten! Moving Painting or the Dialectics of Techno-Referentiality," Nov. 17, 2009-Feb. 14, 2010. Despite the mouthful of a title, the show features "all video that recreates the pictorial, in a literal, formal or conceptual manner," BarragŠn says. Artists in the show are Alexey Buldakov, Myritza Castillo, Raķl Cordero, Raphael DiLuzio, Chus GarcŪa-Fraile, Ori Gersht, Josť MaÁ„s de Carvalho, FabiŠn Marcaccio, Enrique Marty, Krisdy Shindler, Sam Taylor-Wood, Mariana Vassileva and Tim White-Sobieski.

The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh has reopened its renovated Ailsa Mellon Bruce Galleries, featuring approximately 500 examples of American and European decorative arts and design dating from the mid-18th century to the present day. The four galleries, spreading over nearly 8,500 square feet, takes visitors "on a journey through two-and-a-half centuries of American and European creativity and ingenuity," according to museum director Lynn Zelevansky.

In conjunction with the new installation, the Carnegie is presenting "Gods, Love and War: Tapestries and Prints from the Collection," opening Dec. 19, 2009, and "The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs," opening Jan. 30, 2010. The museum has also published a 224-page handbook to the collection, featuring 150 works of decorative arts and design.

The Arsenal Gallery in Manhattanís Central Park at Fifth Avenue and 64th Street is celebrating the holidays with "The Wreath: Interpretations," Dec. 11, 2009-Jan. 6, 2010, the 27th annual show of over two dozen unconventional wreaths -- each "enlivened with found materials" -- made by an assortment of artists, metal workers, horticulturalists and graphic designers. Admission is free.

A new gallery has opened on the Sunset Strip. 23-year-old PC Valmorbida and L.A. collector Jared Najjar show in Manhattan, and L.A. collector Jared Najjar have teamed up to open Prism at 8746 West Sunset Boulevard. The first exhibition is "MindtheGap," Nov. 20, 2009-Feb. 20, 2010, an exhibition of works by Barry McGee and Philip Frost, organized by P.M. Tenore, founder of RVCA and the publication ANP Quarterly. For more info, see

One hot ticket for early December -- thank god all the hated art-world insiders will be in Miami, so you can actually get a seat-- is the Pratt Instituteís "presidentís lecture" by Eric Fischl, titled "How Painting Died" and scheduled for Dec. 3 at 6 pm at Memorial Hall at Prattís Brooklyn Campus. Admission is free, but you should rsvp immediately to

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