Museums
Marion Maneker0January 31, 2014

A Few Writers Owe Peter Schjeldahl an Apology

Peter Schjeldahl

Last July, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl had the temerity to take a humanist stand on the issue of Detroit’s art in the context of its bankruptcy. He was excoriated by arts writers for saying the pensioners should be put in a superior position to the city’s holding on to it’s art:

Art will survive. The pensioner will not. I do not view the impending decision as a close call.

Of course, Schjeldahl wasn’t saying that the art should be sold or that it would a good thing to sell it. What he said was that the commitment to the pensioners super-ceded the city’s pride in owning cultural treasures. A bankruptcy is all about creating a hierarchy among the creditors.

For all the dudgeon expressed by those on the “side of the art,” their hysterics did nothing to advance the negotiations. Luckily, two Federal judges acted to guide the negotiating process in a manner that has achieved the best possible outcome.

Pensions for the city workers have been put at the top of the list of priorities. The art has been made a close second and now we see that financial creditors are being made to wait last in line (as it should be.) Dealbook explains this morning:

Detroit is preparing to resolve its bankruptcy case by splitting its unsecured creditors into two groups and treating them differently, according to people briefed on the city’s plan.
One group, composed of retired city workers, would get cash for their claims, while others, holders and insurers of certain city debts, would get a series of notes of uncertain but lesser value. One person, who asked not to be identified because of a confidentiality order, called the plan “massively discriminatory.”

Now that’s the kind of discrimination few but philistines would object to. However, this outcome required a credible threat to monetize the art. That is precisely what Schjeldahl was trying to say before he was shouted down.

Detroit Plan Is Said to Split Creditors Into 2 Groups (Dealbook/NYTimes)

General, Museums
Marion Maneker0January 29, 2014

Is This the Final Piece of the Detroit Puzzle?

The Detroit Institute of Arts 

In what may be the keystone to the entire Detroit Institute of Arts bailout, the museum itself announced its own contribution to the fund-raising plan which would transfer ownership of the museum out of the City’s hands:

DIA leaders said today that its board of directors approved a $100 million fund-raising campaign over 20 years and would look to corporate and individual donors for the money. As part of the deal, the City of Detroit would transfer legal title to the museum building, the art collection and related assets, ending nearly a century of city control and shielding the museum forever from whims of city finances and politics.

The DIA’s $100 million commitment marks a potential turning point in Detroit’s historic Chapter 9 bankruptcy, helping clear a path to a less painful and faster resolution to the bankruptcy.

DIA pledges to raise $100 million for art, Detroit pension rescue fund (Detroit Free Press)

Museums
Marion Maneker0January 28, 2014

Don’t Blame the Market, Good Museums Built the Public’s Taste for Contemporary Art

Top Ten Art Museum Attendance 2013

Last month, The Economist ran the above chart and commented, “The rise of contemporary art is closely related to the growth in the art market.” The statement could be true. It could also be that the rise of art market in the past decade and a half tracks the growth of Contemporary art institutions. The Frieze Art Fair started in 2003 a few years after the opening of the Tate Modern in 2000.

Art Basel Miami Beach chose Miami for the number of private collectors with large, almost institutional collections. And later many of those collectors opened their own museums which have the freedom to take risks that larger institutions cannot.

Contemporary art seems to be what the public wants—and artists, their dealers and museums are happy to supply it. […]  “The interest in contemporary art is much broader, much richer and much deeper than it was when I started out 30 years ago,” says Paul Schimmel, a Los Angeles curator-turned-dealer.

Among museums, grand institutions like the Museum of Modern Art in New York are seen as stuffier than the Kunsthallen, the not-for-profit municipal art galleries found in many German cities. Earlier this year the Ludwig Museum in Cologne opened a retrospective by Andrea Fraser with a video of the artist having sex with one of her collectors. Los Angeles-based Ms Fraser is well represented in public collections in Britain, France and Germany, but considered too daring for an American retrospective.

Contemporary art: On a wing and a prayer (The Economist)

Museums
Marion Maneker0January 25, 2014

Denver vs. Dallas: Measuring the Art Museums

Denver Museum

Denver Museum

It’s a regional thing here in the US but Colorado and Texas have a lot of animosity towards each other. Denver recently received a $100m gift of 22 landscapes, including works by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Eugène Boudin and Edouard Manet. That might stir things up a little but as the Dallas News’s art critic explains, it turns out they have somewhat similar histories when it comes to establishing art museums:

Dallas and Denver aren’t known primarily for their cultural tourism. Tourists to Denver generally head to the mountains. Visitors to Dallas tend to be conventioneers, sports fans or shoppers.

Both cities were founded at roughly the same time, in the mid-19th century, but Denver was wealthier in the 19th century, while Dallas surpassed it in both wealth and population in the second half of the 20th century. The cities founded their downtown art museums 10 years apart — in 1893 for Denver and 1903 for Dallas — but Denver’s grew more quickly and now has a collection of about 70,000 artworks, compared to the DMA’s roughly 25,000.

The Denver Art Museum has harnessed attention-getting architecture. The campus boasts two buildings by major figures: the only building in the U.S. from midcentury-modern Italian master Gio Ponti, which opened in 1971, and a boastful geometric explosion of metal-clad forms by New York-based Daniel Libeskind, which opened in 2006.

By contrast, the DMA’s discreet limestone boxes by Edward Larrabee Barnes seem almost unassuming.

How does Denver’s art scene compare to Dallas’? (Dallas Morning News)

Denver Art Museum to acquire its first van Gogh, Cézanne, four by Monet (The Denver Post)

Museums
Marion Maneker0January 21, 2014

Philippe Vergne LA MoCA’s Artist-Enabler

Philippe Vergne

Philippe Vergne

Alana Semuels profiles Philippe Vergne for the Los Angeles Times. Vergne is no stranger to the city having in-laws who live there and relationships with some of the local artists. In fact, it is his artist-centric focus that seems to have gotten him the job:

“This is the artist’s institution,” said Vergne, 47, paraphrasing the founding principle of MOCA: “The Artist’s Museum.” “For me, it has to be the most innovative institution in this country.” […]

Catherine Opie, one of the artist trustees who resigned from MOCA’s board in protest over Deitch’s direction of the museum, knows Vergne from a residency at the Walker Art Center more than a decade ago. His personality and sense of humor puts artists at ease, said Opie by phone.

“He is incredibly gifted with being social, and his sense of humor, and he can talk to pretty much anybody,” said Opie, who was on MOCA’s search committee. Vergne will “be an artist-centric director,” she said, and “restore the confidence of artists in L.A. that MOCA is a place to be excited about.”

A first step in making MOCA more artist-centric would be to invite the four artists who resigned from the institution’s board to rejoin it, said Cindy Bernard, a Los Angeles artist who co-founded MOCA Mobilization in 2008, when the museum came close to shutting down, as a MOCA watchdog of sorts.

Vergne hopes to strike a balance, enhancing MOCA’s presence on the international scene while keeping in mind local artists and visitors.

New MOCA director Philippe Vergne plans an artist-enabling museum (Los Angeles Times)

Museums
Marion Maneker0January 20, 2014

Critics Complain but Saving Detroit’s Art Has Been High Priority in Bankruptcy Debate

Detroit_Institute_of_Arts_-_Rivera_Court_detail

We’re told that art needs to be more engaged with politics and yet our most sophisticated art critics seem to have no ear for politics, no ability to see their own victory. The situation in Detroit is a perfect example. Over the last several months we’ve heard repeated wails of outrage that Detroit’s art should become mixed up in the city’s bankruptcy. This latest example comes from the New Republic’s Jed Perl:

The hue and cry about the DIA, loud as it has been, is not loud enough. Detroit would be a much smaller place without its Bruegel—or its great Poussin or its great Matisse. If the future of the auto industry is a matter of national concern, then why isn’t the threat to the DIA regarded as a national scandal? For years our elected officials have been backing away from any serious engagement with the arts.

Michigan Governor Snyder is an elected official and as soon as a Federal Judge ruled Detroit’s bankruptcy could go through, thus putting DIA’s art in real jeopardy, Governor Snyder started floating the potential for a grand bargain. County officials—also elected—raised operating funds for DIA by taxing their residents. Both acts are “serious engagement with the arts.”

Detroit’s art should not be sold. But politics, as they say, isn’t beanbag. The process by which that city, state and region came to recognize the value of its art collection was not pretty nor was it dignified. But it did unequivocally make preserving DIA a paramount issue. That’s a victory for the arts and a victory for the people. Shouldn’t an art critic celebrate that?

Detroit Art Institute’s Masterworks Should Be Saved | New Republic.

Museums
Marion Maneker0January 20, 2014

Page Six: MoMA Wants New Trustee to Guide Expansion

08-moma-rendering-2.jpg.r.nocrop.w610.h610

Page Six stirs the pot on the controversy surrounding MoMA’s proposed expansion. After the ruckus caused by the unveiling of the museum’s new plans, the New York Post’s gossip page suggests there’s a new heavy-hitter joining the board:

According to sources close to the museum, MoMA’s board — which already includes heavy hitters Ronald S. Lauder, Agnes Gund, Ron Perelman, Michael Ovitz, Richard Parsons and Sid Bass — will name at the meeting a new trustee to help guide them through the controversy.

Sources told us the possible new addition could be Michael Bloomberg, but a MoMA rep said, “The information you heard is incorrect.”

Is MOMA naming new trustee to board? (Page Six)

Museums
Marion Maneker0January 17, 2014

Met Curator Buys Painting from Swiss Bank Foyer

Ferdinand Hodler, The Dream of the ShepherdCarol Vogel reports on the Met’s acquisition at auction of Swiss Symbolist Ferdinand Hodler’s The Dream of the Shepherd which fulfills curator Keith Christiansen’s ambition of filling a hole in the encyclopedic museum’s European paintings collection:

When Mr. Christiansen heard that one was being offered last month by Christie’s in Zurich, he dispatched Sabine Rewald, a modern-art curator at the Met, to Switzerland to see the painting. As soon as she had, Ms. Rewald sent Mr. Christiansen an email: “Just spent 20 minutes with the dreaming shepherd. The picture hangs alone in the large marble foyer of Credit Suisse on Bahnhofstrasse 32. It is magnificent!”

That’s all it took to convince Mr. Christiansen that the museum had to buy “Der Traum des Hirten” (“The Dream of the Shepherd”), an 1896 painting of a young man seated in a rocky landscape dreaming of eight nude women dancing in the sky. It was estimated to sell for $1.7 million to $2.25 million, but the Met ended up paying $3.25 million.

Dutch Bonanza for the Frick (NYTimes)

Museums
Marion Maneker0January 16, 2014

Michigan’s Gov. Snyder Holds “Closed-Door” Meetings on Detroit’s Art & Pensions

Detail of Vincent van Gogh Self Portrait at DIA

Michigan’s Governor inches toward a solution on pensions and the DIA:

Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican who is expected to seek re-election this fall, raised the prospect of state financing with legislators in closed-door meetings this week. Details of the proposal, including the precise source of the money, are in flux. But one option would be for Michigan to provide $300 million to $400 million over several decades, according to people with knowledge of the meetings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of privacy rules surrounding mediation talks in Detroit’s bankruptcy case. […]

Under the plan arranged quietly in recent months with the private foundations and now aimed at including state money as well, the art museum would be transferred to the control of a nonprofit group, and the additional money would be turned over to the city’s pension system.

Lawmakers Weigh Aid For Detroit On Pensions (NY Times)

Museums
Marion Maneker0January 16, 2014

Philippe Vergne Talks His Vision for LA MoCA

vergne080714_560

Philippe Vergne speaks to the LA Times about his new appointment:

“My vision is to commit to the most experimental artists of our time, but also to contextualize their work within a broader context,” Vergne said in an interview. “And I think Moca’s collection is one of the best to contextualize that kind of experimentation.”

In addition to his five years at Dia, Vergne, 47, has served as chief curator and deputy director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, director of the Francois Pinault Foundation in Paris and director of the Musee d’art Contemporain in Marseille, France. He was born and educated in France.

He has organized exhibitions devoted to individual artists, group shows and shows organized by theme, and Vergne co-curated the 2006 Whitney Biennial. […]

“He’s charming, yet he’s strong and independent. I think he has the independence to say ‘no’ at times, and I think that’s a very strong quality to look for in a director,” Wachs said of Vergne. “We started with a list of over 50, and he really emerged as a person who was perfect for this job…as having the qualities the museum really needs at this time.”

MOCA names Philippe Vergne as new director (LA Times)