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)

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)

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)

Marion Maneker0January 20, 2014

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


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.

Marion Maneker0January 20, 2014

Page Six: MoMA Wants New Trustee to Guide Expansion


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)

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)

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)

Marion Maneker0January 16, 2014

Philippe Vergne Talks His Vision for LA MoCA


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)

Marion Maneker0January 15, 2014

It’s Vergne for LA MoCA

Philippe Vergne

Philippe Vergne

The incomparable Jori Finkel breaks the MoCA appointment news:

After a six-month search that fueled intense speculation, the Museum of Contemporary Art here is expected to announce that Philippe Vergne, director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York, has been chosen as its new director, according to people with knowledge of the decision who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Museum of Contemporary Art Picks Philippe Vergne as Director (NYTimes)

Marion Maneker0January 13, 2014

Nine Foundations Pledge $330m to Advance Detroit Grand Bargain to Save DIA and Fill Pension Gap

The Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Free Press reports that the mediator has gotten a commitment from nine foundations to pay $330 million as part of a larger deal to protect DIA’s art and help cover the city’s $3.5bn pension shortfall:

U.S. Chief District Judge Gerald Rosen’s statement made clear that the pledges do not by themselves mean that pensions and DIA art are now beyond the reach of creditors. Rather, the commitments are intended and expected to play a part in what Rosen’s statement called “an overall balanced settlement of disputes in the bankruptcy.”

In other words, there is no deal until all the various claims in the broader bankruptcy case have been settled. And the foundations’ support is contingent upon all their money going to support the twin goals of helping fill the unfunded gap in Detroit’s municipal pension obligations and protecting the DIA art collection from possible sale to pay the city’s creditors.

$330 million pledged to save pensions, DIA artwork from Detroit bankruptcy (Detroit Free Press)