May 17, 2009

Mildred Schiff Lee (1920–2009)

Philanthropist, art dealer, and noted collector of contemporary art Mildred Schiff “Micki” Lee, of Palm Beach and Boston, died on Thursday, May 7, in Boston, according to the Palm Beach Daily News. Lee and her husband, Herbert, contributed to the Norton Museum of Art, the Kravis Center, the Society of the Four Arts, and other art institutions. In 2003, the Palm Beach couple gave the one-million-dollar naming gift for a gallery in the Norton's new Gail and Melvin Nessel Wing. In 2001, the couple gave the Norton five Clyde Butcher photographs.

In the early 1950s, Mildred Lee helped popularize the New York School by organizing exhibitions in the Boston area and other parts of New England. She was a fellow at Brandeis University and began the Friends of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, where she worked to assemble an acclaimed collection of contemporary art, paralleling the university's own history. She donated more than five hundred artworks.

She was also a major supporter and honorary curator at the Fogg Museum at Harvard, a lifetime overseer at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and a supporter of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, where a gallery is named in her honor. In the 1970s, she lectured in art history at Radcliffe and Wellesley colleges and taught courses in art history at the Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Massachusetts.

May 15, 2009

Pew Exhibition Grants Announced; Clark Foundation Grants to New York Arts Groups

The Pew Exhibitions Initiative will dole out about $1 million this year to support eight exhibitions, including a major retrospective by the Philadelphia Museum of Art that will explore the career of the painter Arshile Gorky, reports Stephan Salisbury for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Pew is also providing funds for early planning of two exhibitions. The museum will receive $250,000 from the grant-making organization, a unit of the Pew Charitable Trusts, to help fund the 180-work Gorky exhibition, which is scheduled to start in October and run to January 2010. The Gorky retrospective will then travel to Tate Modern in London and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

Paula Marincola, director of the exhibitions initiative, noted that two grants this year would go to first-time recipients, which she said reflected the “growing scope of our program and the emerging talents in our community.” Those first-time grants are $5,000 to Aaron Igler/LURE Projects for planning a multidisciplinary exhibition of ten sound artists, and $30,000 to Vox Populi, an artist collective, for “Dead Flowers,” a two-part exhibition exploring the historical notion of the underground and its legacies. The show will open in Philadelphia in February 2010 and then travel to Participant Inc., an alternative space in New York City run by Lia Gangitano, who is curating “Dead Flowers.” Andrew Suggs, executive director of Vox Populi, said the show would explore the work of artists who have “mostly refused traditional venues,” such as commercial galleries. Other grants include Arcadia University, $89,500 for “Ai Weiwei: Dropping the Urn”; Basekamp, $19,850 for “Plausible Artworlds”; Eastern State Penitentiary, $47,090 for “Release”; Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, $188,000 for “Sheila Hicks: Fifty Years”; and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, $160,000 for “Barkley Hendricks: Birth of the Cool.” The Philadelphia Art Alliance will also receive $17,000 for planning an exhibition with the Miss Rockaway Armada, an artist collective.

In other news, several New York City arts organizations have been selected to receive $50,000 grants from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, reports Robin Pogrebin for the New York Times. The effort represents the foundation’s response to the economic downturn’s impact on individual artists and small arts institutions. To distribute the grants geographically, the foundation chose three organizations that assist small arts groups in their boroughs—the Bronx Council on the Arts, the Brooklyn Arts Council, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. The foundation also selected two organizations that serve artists from specific disciplines throughout the city: ART/NY and the Joyce Theater Company. In addition, the foundation selected a financial services provider, the Nonprofit Finance Fund, which helps small arts organizations citywide.

May 15, 2009

Another Controversy for Brandeis

Five months after Brandeis University faced a firestorm of criticism for its plan to close the Rose Art Museum and sell off its collection, the school is in the midst of another controversy with a donor’s family, reports Thomas Grillo for the Boston Herald. Sumner Kalman, the great-nephew of a 1950s Brandeis benefactor, has filed suit to prevent the school from demolishing the Kalman Science Center. The building was named for Julius Kalman, who left nearly two million dollars to the school when he died in the ’50s. The suit, filed in Suffolk County probate court, alleges that the planned demolition violates the terms of his great-uncle’s will. In a statement e-mailed to the Herald, Judith Sizer, the school’s attorney, said Brandeis intends to work with the family to resolve the matter. “Brandeis is engaged in a science-complex-renewal project. In the course of that project, new facilities have been constructed, and the oldest ones are scheduled for removal,” the statement said. “The Kalman Science Center is one of the oldest, most heavily used buildings on campus, and must be replaced. The Kalman family was assured that the university has every intention of continuing its memorial to Julius Kalman, a generous early donor to Brandeis.” Brandeis recently retreated from its controversial decision to close the Rose Art Museum and sell its $350 million collection, following a public outcry.

May 15, 2009

RISD Faces Layoffs, Benefit Cuts, and Reduced Museum Hours

Faced with a steep drop in its endowment, the Rhode Island School of Design will rely on a combination of layoffs, benefit cuts, and reduced museum hours to make up the shortfall, according to the Providence Journal.

The measures, which include plans to trim as many as twenty full- and part-time staff positions––as much as 3 percent of the payroll––and close the school’s museum of art during the month of August, were announced on Wednesday in an e-mail to faculty and students.

In a statement, RISD president John Maeda said the value of the school’s endowment has plunged more than 30 percent over the past eighteen months. The endowment currently stands at $250 million, down from a peak of $375 million at the end of 2007, according to school officials.

“Like many other colleges and universities, RISD has been affected by the downturn of the financial markets,” Maeda wrote. “We have had to make some difficult decisions, but I am fortunate to lead an organization with such clear guiding principles. Above all, we must do everything we can to ensure the excellence of our academic programs and to create the best possible experience for our students.”

May 15, 2009

Phillips Contemporary Auction Totals $7.7 Million

The New York Times’s Carol Vogel reports that Phillips de Pury & Company’s sale of contemporary art Thursday night brought in $7.7 million, well below its $12.1 million low estimate. Of the forty-three lots offered, twelve works—by artists like Donald Judd, Ed Ruscha, and Martin Kippenberger—failed to sell. It was a far cry from the $93.7 million fetched by Christie’s on Wednesday night, or the $47 million at Sotheby’s the evening before.

After the sale, Michael McGinnis, worldwide director of Phillips’s contemporary art department, discussed the challenges he was facing. “People are holding on to their art,” he said. “And in some cases, we had buyers who simply weren’t ready to meet the seller’s requirements.” While it was hard for all the auction houses to cobble together sales in this economy, it was especially tough for Phillips, a small operation that had to rely in part on its relationship with Charles Saatchi. The British collector, gallery owner, and advertising magnate had struck a deal with the auction house last year when he was opening his new gallery in London. Phillips agreed to help subsidize the gallery’s free admission, but in exchange, Saatchi agreed to conduct most of his buying and selling through Phillips.

An estimated ten of the works were from Saatchi’s collection, and the rest were a mixed bag of items, many of which had been for sale privately. Thursday’s buyers had a firm grip on their wallets, refusing to bid for almost anything approaching $1 million. The evening’s top seller, at $900,000, or $1 million with fees, was Philip Guston’s Anxiety, a 1975 canvas of a telephone and an egg sandwich; it was expected to sell for $1 million to $1.5 million. Another respectable price was made for Suddenly Last Summer, a 1999 painting by Cecily Brown. Two telephone bidders tried to buy the canvas, estimated to bring $600,000 to $800,000, which eventually sold for $550,000, or $662,500 with fees.

May 14, 2009

Jordan Wolfson Wins 2009 Cartier Award; Céleste Boursier-Mougenot Wins 2009 Golden David Award

The American conceptual artist Jordan Wolfson is the winner of the 2009 Cartier Award, reports e-flux. Wolfson’s winning proposal was selected from over 450 applications. At the 2009 Frieze Art Fair, sponsored for the sixth year by Deutsche Bank, Wolfson will present a new site-specific work. The Cartier Award is supported by Cartier UK. It allows an emerging artist from outside the UK to realize a major project at Frieze Art Fair as part of the Frieze Projects program, curated by Neville Wakefield. The award provides production costs of up to fifteen thousand dollars, an artist’s fee of fifteen hundred dollars dollars, and a three-month residency at Gasworks, an arts organization in South London which houses twelve artists’ studios. The award is open to non-UK-based artists within five years of graduating from an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, or under thirty years of age.

In other news, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot is the laureate of the 2009 Golden David Award, the second edition of the French contemporary art prize that honors an artist on the basis of their career. The award is given by the David Contemporary Art Academy, which was created in 2007 by an initiative of collectors, art professionals, artists, and art students. The academy aims to contribute to the development of public interest in contemporary art, as well as the promotion of artists from different disciplines. The laureate of the Golden David is awarded with a prize of sixty-eight thousand dollars. An exhibition will be on view until May 11 at the Espace Pierre Cardin and the Galeries d’art Pierre Cardin.

May 14, 2009

Christie's Postwar and Contemporary Sale Totals $93.7 Million

Unlike Sotheby’s sale on Tuesday, where bidding was thin and buyers reluctant, Christie’s auction of postwar and contemporary art on Wednesday showed a different face altogether, reports Carol Vogel for the New York Times. The sale totaled $93.7 million, just under its high $104.5 million estimate. Of the fifty-four works up for sale, only five failed to find buyers.

The evening, while a victory for the auction house, still illustrated how contracted the market has become; a comparable auction exactly a year ago brought $348.2 million. Among the stars from the Betty Freeman estate, which kicked off the auction, was David Hockney’s Beverly Hills Housewife, 1966–67. The double canvas brought in a record $7.9 million, within the $6 million to $10 million estimate. Another popular painting from Freeman’s collection was Roy Lichtenstein’s Frolic, 1977. Larry Gagosian beat out two other bidders for the painting, paying $6 million, a record price for the artist.

After the sale, the audience seemed amazed at how collectors were still eager to buy art in this economy. “Things were more reasonable,” said Peter Brant, the newsprint magnate, as he was leaving Christie’s. “The market has found its level.”

May 14, 2009

Two Departures Diminish Las Vegas Art Scene

Naomi Arin Contemporary Art is shutting its doors on June 30 and heading for Laguna Beach, California, reports Artinfo via the Las Vegas Sun. Arin cites a lack of attendance at her exhibitions as the primary reason. Polly Apfelbaum’s show “Black Vegas and Fool’s Gold” will be the last. Meanwhile, Beate Kirmse, the executive director of Las Vegas’s Contemporary Arts Center, has announced plans to resign on May 31 in order to head to California and start her own gallery. Both these departures come on the heels of the recent closing of the Las Vegas Art Museum, as well as the withdrawal of a proposal to build a museum on East Fremont Street by the Finnish businessman and art collector Poju Zabludowicz.

May 14, 2009

CAA Announces Operating Budget Reductions

At its May meeting, the College Art Association board of directors made difficult decisions on behalf of the esteemed organization, including strategic budget reductions and other measures. These have been instituted throughout the association to balance the budget and keep core programs, publications, and services in operation. The annual conference in Chicago in 2010 will be reduced by one day. CAA News will only be distributed online in a new design. The Art Bulletin and Art Journal will continue to be published. Illustrations, however, will be limited to black-and-white for 2009–2010, except where editorial and budget decisions may allow the insertion of color. Two programs in CAA’s grant-making arm will be suspended for 2009–2010: the professional-development fellowship program for graduate students and the Millard Meiss publication fund. However, the annual conference-travel grants and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art publication grant will both continue, and the CAA annual exhibitions, also funded by a grant, will take place at the Chicago and New York conferences.