July 7, 2006

Museums Make Pacts, Promote Curators, and Face Budget Woes

The New York Times' Carol Vogel reports that the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London have reached a five-year agreement to mount exhibitions together, exchange staff for temporary periods, and loan each other works from their collections. In other news, the Whitney has promoted Donna De Salvo from curator of its permanent collection and associate director for programs to the position of chief curator for the museum. And Artnet reports that the Portland Art Museum is facing serious budget problems, as costs for the museum’s renovation of its new home have ballooned from thirty-three million to forty-five million dollars, after the museum had already exhausted a twenty million dollar line of credit.

July 7, 2006

Art Professor Disputes Authenticity of Duccio Painting

Columbia University art history professor James Beck has disputed the authenticity of Duccio's Madonna and Child, a painting that was hailed as a fourteenth-century masterpiece when it was purchased last year by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a reported fifty million dollars, reports Dalya Alberge for The Times. “It is a fake based upon indications found in works by or associated with Duccio,” Beck said. “It is not even a good forgery.” Met curator Keith Christiansen said that leading scholars had confirmed the attribution and that Beck was wrong. “What everyone else sees as a sign of quality and innovation, he sees as weakness. There is no reason to doubt the period and authenticity of the picture.”

July 6, 2006

Chicago Museum and Iran Fight US Court Ruling

The University of Chicago and the government of Iran have come together in a rare alliance against a US court ruling that aims to compensate victims of a 1997 Jerusalem bombing by auctioning off a rare collection of Persian tablets currently held in the collection of the university's Oriental Institute museum, reports Nasser Karimi for the Associated Press. A court previously found Iran responsible for supporting Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the 1997 bombing, and ordered Tehran to pay the victims $423.5 million. The Persian tablets were the only Iranian assets that US authorities could get their hands on. In a letter to Iranian cultural authorities, the museum's director called the tablets “an irreplaceable scholarly data set” that should not be subject to political battles.

July 6, 2006

European Capital of Culture Artistic Director Resigns

The Independent's Ian Herbert reports that singer, actress, and writer Robyn Archer, the artistic director for the Liverpool Capital of Culture celebrations in 2008, has resigned from her post citing personal reasons. Her contribution had come under increased scrutiny as Liverpool struggled to line up events and venues for the capital of culture year, a process some believe was hampered by Archer's decision to work from her native Australia until April. The 2008 European Capital of Culture title was projected to bring in 14,000 new jobs, 1.7 million extra visitors, and £1 billion ($1.8 billion) in investments.

July 5, 2006

Artist Dieter Froese Dies at Sixty-Eight

Dieter Froese, an artist whose work helped define New York's downtown scene in the '70s, died Friday of cancer at the age of sixty-eight at his home in Lower Manhattan, reports Tim Weiner for the New York Times. Froese was a forerunner in the field of video installation, also working in painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, performance, and film. His multimedia works have been shown at the Whitney Museum and MoMA, and as a leading early member of the artist-led independent gallery movement, Froese participated in several notable exhibitions including “Ideas at the Idea Warehouse” in 1975 and the first exhibition ever held at P.S. 1 in 1976.

July 3, 2006

Moderna Museet Takes on Rooseum; MUDAM Opens in Luxembourg; and Hirst's Shark in Troubled Water

MODERNA MUSEET ANNEXES ROOSEUM

Malmö's Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art is to become a branch of Stockholm's Moderna Museet. As Dagens Nyheter's Ole Rothenborg reports, the municipal cultural council made the decision last week after talks with the Stockholm institution. Rooseum's budget and administrative troubles have intensified over the last year, its fate uncertain ever since the 2004 departure of director Charles Esche, who now heads Eindhoven's Van Abbemuseum. For Moderna Museet's director Lars Nittve, annexing the art center in southern Sweden represents a return to his roots—Nittve ran the Rooseum from 1990–1995.

Before an agreement was reached with Moderna Museet, the Rooseum board chose to put up its permanent collection of 250 artworks for auction in Stockholm. Featuring works made predominantly by Nordic artists in the '80s, including works by Max Book, Cecilia Edefalk, Anders Widoff, Ernst Billgren, and Stig Sjölund, a recent inventory revealed that eighteen artworks were missing while some new works had been added to the collection. Now, the scope of the sale has been reduced in order to avoid undercutting the market value of certain artists in the collection. The Rooseum's doors will remain closed over the summer as the institution attempts to account for discrepancies. Its first exhibition under the aegis of the Moderna Museet takes place in January 2007.

MUDAM OPENS IN LUXEMBOURG

Luxembourg's new museum of contemporary art—the Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (aka MUDAM)—opened its doors last weekend. As the Luxemburger Wort reports, the spectacular glass-roofed building—with a budget of €88 milllion ($112.7 million)—was designed by IM Pei. The three-story structure with 4,800 square meters (51,667 square feet) of exhibition space was constructed on top of the foundational wall of an eighteenth-century fortress. “The most important aspect, which intrigued me, is the interplay between the past, the present, and the future,” said the eighty-nine-year-old architect who, this year, will inaugurate another two museums, one in China and one in Qatar.

The inaugural exhibition—titled “Eldorado”—features works by sixty international artists, including Cai Guo Qiang's installation in the central glass hall. MUDAM also possesses a permanent collection of 230 works by one hundred artists. Museum director Marie-Claude Beaud built up the collection over the last six years by working in collaboration with international advisors from other museums, including the Tate Gallery, the Guggenheim Museum, and Vienna's arts academy.

HIRST'S SHARK LOSING ITS BITE

Perhaps the most famous shark in art history—currently preserved in formaldehyde in Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living 1991—is slowly deteriorating in its liquid coffin. Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Rose-Maria Gropp takes this as an opportunity to reflect upon the vanitas vanitatum of the '90s Young British Artists, a loose movement dominated by Hirst and collector Charles Saatchi. As Gropp notes, Hirst had the shark caught off the coast of Australia, killed, and then shipped to England for £6,000 ($11,000). Saatchi commissioned the work for £50,000 ($92,000)—only to sell it back to Hirst and his dealer Jay Jopling in 2004. Later that same year, collector Steven Cohen acquired the shark for £6.5 million ($12 million).

Faced with the work's deterioration, Hirst has proposed replacing the old dead shark with a new dead one. In spite of the conceptual dimension of the installation, Gropp finds the proposal troubling. “If the shark is changed, is the artwork still the same artwork?” she asks. “Hirst's shark is not a readymade, at least not in the way intended by conceptual art founder Marcel Duchamp; rather Hirst produced art through death—through a dead piece of nature, an animal that was killed at his order.” It seems that killing another shark on command does not trouble the artist, the dealer, or the owner of the piece. “That's just a cynical point,” writes Gropp. “The idea's primacy can cost millions. It seems that art in the age of accelerated capitalism has found its most powerful symbol in Hirst's masterpiece.”

Jennifer Allen

June 30, 2006

Getty Paid Trustee's Legal Fees; Changes at Christie's, MoMA

The New York Times' Lawrence van Gelder reports that the Getty Trust paid $64,000 in legal fees last year for Barbara Fleischman, who was then a trustee, when she testified in a deposition on behalf of former Getty curator Marion True. The Getty's board agreed to compensate Fleischman despite warnings from its lawyers in 2003 that covering such an expense could jeopardize the trust's nonprofit status. In other news, Carol Vogel reports that Ben Hall, an expert in old master paintings at Sotheby's, is moving to the auction house's archrival, Christie's, to co-head its old master painting department in New York; and in another move, MoMA has announced that Wendy Woon will succeed Deborah Schwarz as deputy director for education at the museum.

June 29, 2006

Korea Reacts to Kim's Departure; New Open Call in UK

Following news of the resignation of Sunjung Kim from her position as commissioner of Korea's participation at ARCO '07, along with solidarity resignations by curators David Ross and Charles Esche, Artnet reports that the Korean Ministry of Culture has counterattacked, accusing Kim of “attacking the national interest” and stealing public funds. Additionally, the ministry appears to be attempting to continue with the planned programs despite the absence of the curators who organized them. In other news, the Jerwood Charitable Foundation has teamed up with Artangel to present the “The Jerwood Artangel Open,” an open call for artistic projects from UK artists that makes available a total of £1 million ($1.8 million) for the realization of three new commissions. The selection committee includes Jeremy Deller, Shirin Neshat, Emma Rice, James Lingwood, and Michael Morris.

June 29, 2006

Increased Funds for the Arts in New York and LA

The New York State Council on the Arts has received $48.2 million in the final budget approved by the Governor and the legislature for fiscal year 2006-07, a thirteen percent increase from last year's appropriation of $42.7 million, reports the New York Times' Robin Pogrebin. “We have a substantially greater amount of money to work with to help arts organizations all over the state,” said Richard J. Schwartz, chairman of the council. Elsewhere, Mike Boehm reports for the Los Angeles Times that Los Angeles County more than doubled the next fiscal year's budget for arts grants—from $2.2 million to $4.5 million. The county also gave cultural institutions $20 million of a $400-million surplus that built up during the 2005-06 budget year.