Steven Henry Madoff

  • Tate Modern’s new director

    LATE LAST MAY, a full eleven months after Lars Nittve, Tate Modern’s first director, announced his resignation, the Spaniard Vicente Todolí was named as his replacement. The London press, having had ample time to prepare, welcomed him in typically raucous fashion. STOOGE OR VISIONARY? TATE MODERN’S NEW BOSS, read the Times of London headline. In the Guardian, culture correspondent Maev Kennedy added her own acid commentary: “Everyone in the art world knew the job description should have read “wanted, candidate to run Tate Modern and stand up to Sir Nicholas Serota.’” Serota, often called the

  • Venetian Brass: Steven Henry Madoff on the Biennale Brouhaha

    When it was announced in March that Francesco Bonami had been appointed director of visual arts for the 2003 Venice Biennale, one imagined relieved silence falling over the roofs of the city. But of course in the great comic opera of Italian civic affairs, nothing ends in silence or, for that matter, ever seems to end at all.

    Bonami, 47, a Florence native and senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, received word of his election amid a melee of mad political drama—Punch and Judy, Italian style. On one side of the stage, Franco Bernabè, newly named by the Italian culture ministry

  • the Kunsthalle Zürich’s new director

    The game of musical chairs among Switzerland's museum directors and curators continues: First Christoph Becker took on the Kunsthaus Zürich's directorship, beating out Bernhard “Mendes” Bürgi in a controversial appointment that caused critics to cry that turnstile clicks had beat out Kunsthalle cred. Then Bürgi, founding director of the Kunsthalle Zürich, reversed his fortunes, landing the director’s chair at the Kunstmuseum Basel in another fraught changing of the guard that pitted longtime board member and Basel philanthropist Maja Oeri against city officials. Passed over for the post, Oeri’s

  • Basel’s new director

    IN THE LAST TWO turbulent seasons, the Swiss art world has shown a remarkable, if unenviable, penchant for the kind of intrigue and treachery more fitting for miniseries than museums. First came the Kunsthaus Zürich’s decision in January 2000 to appoint Christoph Becker as director—a politically safe choice in the face of the more adventuresome and prominent favorite, Bernhard “Mendes” Bürgi, the founding director and curator at the Kunsthalle Zürich. Now Bürgi, forty-seven, is the upset victor at the Kunstmuseum Basel, the oldest public art showcase in Switzerland, and with his appointment

  • the New Swiss Guard

    IT WILL COME AS REASSURANCE that Switzerland, the national cliché of clockwork orderliness, is awhir with all the messy passions that make the rest of us tick. So it turns out from the recent affair at the Kunsthaus Zürich, one of two prominent Swiss institutions facing a changeover in directors, where there was sufficient intrigue, spite, and stifled ambition to pack a tawdry novel—minus, unfortunately, the sex.

    In the spring of ’99, the announced retirement of Felix Baumann, the twenty-three-year director of the Kunsthaus, spurred an executive search committee into sputtering action. The

  • TOWERS OF LONDON: LOUISE BOURGEOIS

    HOW VERY APPROPRIATE that the new Tate Modern, with its towering smokestack on the Thames, debuted in May with a work to match its equally towering ambitions. In the museum’s coldly vast Turbine Hall, all metal and brick with braced skylights above, sit three towers in raw steel by Louise Bourgeois and, on a bridge neatly crossing the 115-foot-high, 500-foot-long space, one of her signature spindly spiders (Maman, 1999), now sized up to compete with the clamorous hall.

    Frances Morris, senior curator at Tate Modern, oversaw the immense, down-to-the-last-second creation of the works entitled I Do

  • Dream Houses

    Lest you think that all is Sturm und Drang in the Swiss scene, two building projects—one coming to completion this summer, the other just breaking ground—are happy occasions, replete with star international architects and promising programs.

    The Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, long a partner with the Kunstmuseum Basel, recently established the Laurenz Foundation to support a curious hybrid building there called the Viewing Warehouse. “The project came to me out of a bad dream I’ve been having about poodles,” Maja Oeri says mischievously. Oeri is the president of the Hoffmann Foundation—actually

  • Tate Curators

    With the opening next month of the Tate’s Herzog & de Meuron–designed megabranch, Tate Modern, just down the Thames from the museum’s Millbank base, the exhibition space accorded modern and contemporary art at the institution will double. As the museum assumes its newly central role in the contemporary arena, Artforum looks in on the team that will shape the museum’s view of the present in the century to come.

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    LARS NITTVE

    In the early ’90s, I asked the astute British critic Stuart Morgan what he thought of the work of Lars Nittve, then director of the

  • Gary Garrels

    THERE WERE A HANDFUL of small surprises wrapped inside the recent announcement that Gary Garrels, the forty-eight-year-old Elise S. Haas Chief Curator of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, had been named chief curator in the department of drawings at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. First, of course, was that Margit Rowell was giving up the post after six successful years, deciding to move back to Paris where curators are not so obliged to spend massive amounts of time hunting up funding for their shows. In fact, Garrels had distinguished himself in San Francisco as a stellar fund-raiser,

  • SINK OR SWIM: 48th VENICE BIENNALE

    During the exhibition’s twenty-one-week run, the 48th Venice Biennale will be viewed by tens of thousands of visitors. In the following pages, five of them—Robert Storr, Katy Siegel, David Elliott, Rachel Withers, and Daniel Birnbaum—offer focused snapshots. Steven Henry Madoff serves as tour guide.

  • Steven Henry Madoff

    IN THE MIDDAY HEAT, the crowds are jeering under the big tent. In the front rows, the police officials in blue, the military brass in dress whites turn toward the sound and stare. The committee members are seated on the dais. They’ve come before us, knowing what we want: the small selection of names, the winners of the awards called Golden Lions.

    It is June 12, a Saturday, the last day of press previews for the 48th Venice Biennale. At first, the applause is polite as the runners-up—Georges Adéagbo, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Lee Bul—are announced. They are bowing; the cameras whir. Then the small

  • LA MoCA

    WHEN THE NEWS BROKE this March that Jeremy Strick had been named the new director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, hardly a ripple was felt in art-world waters, although there was a strong undercurrent of curiosity. After more than fifteen years of high-energy leadership under Richard Koshalek, during which the museum went from a startup with $50,000 in the bank to an international venue with a $50 million endowment, why Strick, a comparative unknown? But word spread quickly: This curator of twentieth-century painting and sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago (formerly of the

  • millennium shows

    BY THE TIME 2001 ROLLS AROUND, the sigh of relief will be universal. We’ll have survived the glut of exhibitions fluttering around the all-too-marketable flame of the millennium. And what, besides the likely desire never to hear the M-word again, will we have come away with? If the curators are to be believed, we may be left with a very different sense of what art is about. In all the march-of-the-century surveys coming to a museum near you, there seems to be a common curatorial gambit: shuffling the way art’s story gets told.

    One prominent example is Robert Rosenblum’s “1900: Art at the Crossroads,”

  • “Pop Surrealism”

    Sprawling through Ridgefield, Connecticut’s Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, “Pop Surrealism” proves one point above all else: at the end of the century in the visual arts, invention is a form of debt. The mutant sensibility at work in this droll, smartly curated exhibition proposes the marriage of Surrealism’s dream-laden fetish for the body eroticized and grotesque and Pop art’s celebration of the shallower, corrosively bright world given over to the packaged good.

    The smartness of “Pop Surrealism” is in its adept nose for sniffing out a sensibility that has taken root so widely that probably

  • SF MoMA’s new director David Ross

    WHEN DAVID A. ROSS first arrived as director of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1991, there was intense skepticism among art-world denizens. The museum’s board had said publicly it wanted a more scholarly balance after Tom Armstrong’s contentious reign, remembered as a lovefest of contemporary solo shows by the gallery establishment’s most fashionable names. But hire Ross, the bad-boy director from Boston’s ICA? It wasn’t too long into his new directorship, following the blistering reviews that greeted his Richard Avedon show, that rumors of the board’s fury started flying. Ross’ days, it

  • Olle Kåks

    Halfway through his catalogue essay for this exhibition Swedish critic Lars Nittve states his quest: “To try to find an unchanging component, a constant, in Olle Kåks’ oeuvre from his first show in 1966 to these paintings of 1984. . . . ” Anyone who wandered through Kåks’ retrospective would surely agree with Nittve’s assessment that this is “no easy task.” The difficulty lies in defining Kåks’ stylistic identity—even in identifying his prominent mode of expression—as he moves with insouciance between abstraction and figuration. Henri Matisse is a domineering father in this work. Ernst Ludwig