April 5, 2009

New Board Members for LACMA

According to the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Boehm, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has appointed Jamie McCourt to its board, a development that was announced late on Friday. With husband Frank, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, McCourt controls Dodger Stadium, along with the team that plays on it. According to Boehm, she is the chief executive officer of the team.

Also joining LACMA’s board is Rebecka Belldegrun, president and chief executive of BellCo Capital, a management consulting and investment company. Belldegrun’s resume is an eye-opener: Born in Finland, she’s a medical doctor as well as a financier, having earned her MD from Tel Aviv University in Israel, after which she did her postdoctoral fellowship in corneal surgery at Harvard. In a statement, Govan said the women's appointment “underscores the ongoing dedication of the city’s philanthropic leaders to art, even during these trying times.” LACMA board members are expected to donate at least one hundred thousand dollars a year to the museum.

April 5, 2009

Boston Museum of Fine Arts Announces Layoffs

Reeling from the recession, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts laid off thirty-three workers on Thursday, about 4 percent of its staff, and said it will freeze salaries in next year's budget, reports the Boston Globe. The cuts are meant to contain costs as the museum readies for a massive building project set to be completed in 2010. In addition to eliminating the jobs, the MFA will no longer fill twenty-one vacant positions. After the reductions, the MFA will employ 756 workers, 577 of them full-time. Along with the frozen salaries, museum director Malcolm Rogers, his four deputy directors, and the dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts have taken voluntary pay cuts. In addition, the MFA said it is working to reduce costs by cutting back on staff travel, reducing printed newsletters, and considering ways to spend less on exhibitions.

Together, the cuts will save $6 million in the 2010 fiscal year, the museum said. The MFA budget for the museum's most recent fiscal year, 2008, was $54.9 million. The museum did not disclose savings for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. “We've known for several months that we had to look at cost cutting in all possible ways, but we thought very seriously about taking our time,” said Rogers. “One of the critical things is not to overreact in difficult circumstances.”

The MFA's endowment has declined about 30 percent since June, to about $359 million. Rogers said the MFA has been particularly hard hit in its retail shop and fund-raising. Twenty of the thirty-three laid-off workers came from those two departments. Retail revenue dropped from $7.6 million in fiscal year 2007 to $7.36 million in 2008. No figures were available for the current fiscal year, but the numbers are expected to fall. Membership at the MFA is also down, from seventy-six thousand in 2008 to its current seventy thousand. Still, the museum is on track to open a dramatic expansion next year. “This allows the museum to remain stable through the rest of this year and the rest of next year,” said Rogers.

April 5, 2009

Rocco Morabito (1920–2009)

Rocco Morabito, whose “Kiss of Life” photograph of a utility worker saving the life of a fellow lineman won a Pulitzer Prize for the Jacksonville Journal in 1968 died Sunday, reports the Florida Times-Union. His dramatic 1967 photo of an apprentice lineman dangling from a pole while being given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation appeared in newspapers around the world and won the Pulitzer for spot-news photography. “He was a brilliant, instinctive photographer,” said Charlie Patton, a Times-Union staff writer who worked with Morabito at the Journal in the late 1970s. Another noteworthy Morabito photograph in 1958 showed children in an elementary school reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Standing with those children, head erect, eyes forward, paws over heart, was a pet rabbit. Life Magazine devoted a full page to that now-iconic photograph.

April 3, 2009

Controversy over Parsons Faculty Dismissals

On Thursday, Artinfo, via Artcritical.com, reported that “roughly one-third of the adjunct, part-time faculty of the fine arts department in the School of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons the New School for Design has been abruptly laid off in a mass firing done just before the school adjourned for spring break.” The article notes: “Twelve teachers were fired through an e-mail telling them that there are no classes for them to teach in the upcoming academic year.”

In an e-mail to Artforum.com Friday, Deborah Kirschner, the associate director of arts communications, wrote: “On March 10, all part-time faculty in the Parsons Fine Arts program (there are thirty-nine total) received letters indicating their preliminary assignments for the fall. Three part-time faculty received letters indicating they would not be teaching in the fine arts program in the fall, but that they would be found courses elsewhere in the university. These are ‘annual’ or ‘grand-parented’ part-time faculty whose union contract guarantees them a base-load of credits each semester. We are currently seeking courses for these three faculty members.” Kirschner also wrote that six other part-time faculty who are “probationary” or “post-probationary” in status––meaning they are only guaranteed a base-load of credits for one semester or one academic year––“received letters indicating they would not be teaching in the fall and that while they were not assigned courses for the fall, they may be assigned courses in the future depending on need.” According to Kirschner, three other part-time faculty who are “probationary” or “post-probationary” received letters indicating that would not be teaching in the fall, though these faculty had already discussed with Parsons not returning. “Changes in the part-time faculty in our various programs occur as part of the normal academic planning process.”

Late Friday, the New York Times’s Robin Pogrebin followed up on the story, reporting that faculty members at Parsons and at other area universities are protesting the action. “If they can get away with doing it to these people, they’ll do it to us,” said Laurence Hegarty, a part-time professor at Parsons. “It is wrong to fire people, for no good reason, who have excellent track records as teachers, excellent track records as artists.”

In an e-mail message sent to New School officials on Tuesday, faculty members from Columbia University’s visual arts division called the move “anti-artist, anti-arts education and frankly anti-culture.” The message was signed by Gregory Amenoff, Tomas Vu-Daniel, Blake Rayne, Kara Walker, Jon Kessler, and Thomas Roma.

April 3, 2009

Philadelphia’s Calder Sculpture Garden Removed

Peter Mucha of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the sculptures in the Calder Sculpture Garden, a two-acre plot once eyed for an Alexander Calder Museum near the Ben Franklin Parkway, have been removed as of this week. The plot will now be just a park maintained by the city. The sculpture garden’s funding by the Pew Charitable Trusts, announced as five million dollars in 2001, simply expired, officials explained. “No one ended the arrangement,” said Aviva Kievsky, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office. “It was just an eight-year term that ran itself out.” The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art issued a statement late yesterday afternoon on the Calder sculptures: “The project has concluded after a successful display of sculptures over the last eight years. However, we are delighted that the city-owned Calder sculpture, Three Discs, One Lacking, will remain at a nearby location along the Parkway, providing a further reminder of the significance of the Calder family of sculptors both for the Parkway and the city itself.”

April 3, 2009

SF MoMA to Expand

Carol Vogel reports in the New York Times that despite the economy, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is going ahead with plans to double its gallery space and consolidate its offices, 60 percent of which are now housed off-site. Plans for the museum’s expansion call for a new wing on a site to the southwest of its existing 1995 building, which was designed by the Swiss architect Mario Botta. The location is on a dead-end street that incorporates a small building the museum bought two years ago. Although Arthur Gensler, founder of the architectural firm that bears his name and vice chairman of the museum’s board, has created an initial plan, museum officials refuse to say how much they estimate the project will cost to build and operate. “It’s essential we take things one step at a time,” said Neal Benezra, the museum’s director. “We want to define our plans to the city and get our ducks in a row.”

April 2, 2009

UBS Closes Advising Unit in Basel

Carolyn Bandel reports for Bloomberg that UBS AG, the world’s largest wealth manager, will close a division that advises Swiss clients on investing in art. UBS will try to offer the unit’s eleven employees other jobs within the bank, spokeswoman Tatiana Togni said in a telephone interview yesterday. The company started the Basel-based team in 1998 as part of its wealth-management division. “Art banking does not belong to our core activities, so we will discontinue the operation,” Togni said. UBS will refer clients to external advisers in future, she added. Led by Karl Schweizer, the unit offered research on art-market prices, provenance verification, and advice on buying artworks to clients and visitors at the annual Art Basel art fair. UBS’s decision to shut the division won’t affect its sponsorship of the event, which will only expire in 2011, according to the bank. “We have recently signed a sponsorship agreement for several years,” said Maike Cruse, a spokeswoman for Art Basel. “There won’t be any impact from this on us.”

April 2, 2009

Gehry to Design Eisenhower Memorial

Deborah K. Dietsch reports for the Washington Times that Frank Gehry has been selected to design the national memorial to President Eisenhower on a site off the Mall in Washington, DC. The memorial will be built on a four-acre parcel between fourth and sixth streets southwest of Independence Avenue and near the National Air and Space Museum. “We were looking for creativity and an understanding of the president and his times, and Gehry gave us that,” said Rocco C. Siciliano, who heads the ten-year-old Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission with Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii. Siciliano said the commission’s decision on Tuesday to choose Gehry was unanimous. Dwight David Eisenhower II, the president’s grandson, serves on the commission and was one of eleven judges who made the selection. The other finalists were Krueck & Sexton Architects of Chicago, landscape architect Peter Walker of Berkeley, California, and New York’s Rogers Marvel Architects PLLC. Each received fifty thousand dollars to develop a design concept.

April 1, 2009

Tate Modern Wins Planning Approval for Herzog & de Meuron Wing

Tate Modern, London’s riverside art museum, won planning approval for the new wing that Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron are building, reports Bloomberg’s Mark Beech. The revised project was backed by Southwark Council, the Tate said in an e-mailed statement last night. The project is set to be completed in 2012 at an estimated cost of $309 million, at 2012 prices. According to the museum, it has raised about $106 million to date. Tate director Nicholas Serota and architect Jacques Herzog said in July 2008 that the new building will now be a brick polygon growing out of, and resembling, the existing Tate. It was originally designed in 2006 as a jagged cast-glass pile. They denied that budgetary reasons were behind the change.