January 7, 2011

San Francisco Guarantees $99 Million Loan to Asian Art Museum Foundation

In an unprecedented move to shore up a private nonprofit, the city of San Francisco will guarantee a ninety-nine-million-dollar loan to keep the Asian Art Museum Foundation afloat, writes Katie Worth in the San Francisco Examiner.

The museum, which lays claim to one of the largest collections of Asian art outside the Far East, had been in jeopardy of shutting down because of the foundation’s troubles.

At a news conference announcing the deal yesterday, mayor Gavin Newsom described the foundation’s financial problems as “a bump in the road in terms of the fate and the future” of the museum, a future that he said “is now significantly secured.”

The world-renowned museum is owned by the city but operated by the foundation, which borrowed $120 million in 2000 to renovate its building. The loan was backed by JPMorgan Chase. Last year, the foundation was in technical default on its loan, and JPMorgan Chase threatened to force it into bankruptcy.

City leaders stepped in to help negotiate, a role that city controller Ben Rosenfield said was appropriate because the city owns the museum and its collections and had a stake in the foundation’s solvency. The final result was a deal in which the bank will forgive twenty-one million dollars of the foundation’s $120 million debt, and renegotiate the rate and term of the loan. Also, the city will sign an “assurance agreement” that requires the controller to seek general funds to pay the loan if the foundation cannot.

“The deal comes with some risk to the city, and my point to that is that that risk needs to be weighed against the much more real and immediate risk that the foundation could cease to exist,” Rosenfield said.

January 7, 2011

Record Number of Visitors to the Louvre in 2010

According to the Associated Press, the Louvre Museum says it had 8.5 million visitors in 2010, a record number for a third straight year.

Temporary exhibits—including shows about Russian art and the archaeology and history of Saudi Arabia—were among those that kept the crowds coming. A total of 7.8 million people visited the Louvre’s permanent collections last year. The Louvre released its annual figures on visitors yesterday.

January 7, 2011

George Washington University Creates Residency for Iraqi Museum Workers

The museum studies program at George Washington University is creating a residency program for museum workers in Iraq, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The program, announced Thursday, will bring museum professionals to Washington for a five-month residency. The residents will also visit museums in Virginia, New York City, and Philadelphia.

Kym Rice, the university’s museum studies director, says participants will learn new techniques to conserve ancient objects of Iraqi culture and new ways to educate their constituents.

Rice says the Iraq war has prevented professional development for the country’s cultural workers. Many museums had to close because of looting and conflict and are only recently reopening.

The US State Department is funding the program.

January 6, 2011

Eli Broad Unveils Design for New Museum

The architectural design that Eli Broad revealed in a news conference today at Walt Disney Concert Hall wraps the museum in a porous honeycomb, reports Mike Boehm for the Los Angeles Times. The billionaire collector and philanthropist hopes the $130-million building will help bring about his vision of downtown LA as a bustling urban hive of culture and street life.

The three-story museum will be known simply as the Broad, although the Broad Art Foundation is its formal name. The wraparound bonnet of interconnecting concrete trapezoids is courtesy of New York architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

Lead architect Elizabeth Diller’s term for it is “the veil,” because it enables the museum to relate to its surroundings by providing slots through which visitors can look out on Grand Avenue, and passersby outside the museum can get glimpses of what’s inside. Visitors will enter the museum at ground level, take an escalator bathed in natural light to the top-floor galleries, and return via a staircase from which they’ll have views into what she has dubbed “the vault”––the storage facility on the first and second floor that will house all the art from the 2,000-work collection that’s not on display or on loan to other museums.

“This is forty years in the making,” Broad said in an interview today at the Westwood offices of the Broad Foundations, alluding to the time when he and his wife, Edythe, began collecting art.

January 6, 2011

Art Sales from Fresno Metropolitan Not Paying Off for City

Owed four million dollars after the Fresno Metropolitan Museum collapsed last year, City Hall had hoped to recover something from sales of its art. But the Met’s collection has brought in less than expected, and the city likely will get nothing, writes George Hostetter in the Fresno Bee.

Riley Walter, a Fresno attorney overseeing the museum's liquidation, said art sales may be done by March, and he expects the remaining proceeds to be divided among other creditors by summer.

City Hall holds the biggest claim, but Walter and city officials said it's almost certain the city won't receive a penny. Before the museum closed its doors a year ago this week, officials agreed with the museum that the city would get nothing until everyone else had been paid in full.

Deputy city manager Nicole Zieba said City Hall isn't surprised. The Met “owed a lot of money to a lot of people,” she said.

Burdened by the cost of a botched building renovation and a severe recession that dried up donations, the museum made plans late in 2009 to shut down. The city repaid a fifteen-million-dollar bank loan on which the museum had defaulted, along with some liens, and then took title to The Met's main building and surrounding museum property. The four-million-dollar claim is for the difference between what the city paid and what the property is worth.

To read more, click here.

January 6, 2011

Allegedly Fake Warhol May Get Its Day in Court

A bitter art-world legal battle that has been making its way through the New York courts for five years might finally be going to trial, according to Randy Kennedy in the New York Times. The poet, photographer, and one-time Andy Warhol acolyte Gerard Malanga filed suit in 2005 against the artist John Chamberlain, contending that Chamberlain sold a 1967 Warhol silkscreen painting that did not belong to him and that he knew was not a real Warhol.

Chamberlain has denied both claims and the Andy Warhol Art Authentication board ruled in 2000 that the piece—315 Johns, a series of images of Chamberlain arranged in a large grid—was genuine. But Malanga, who is asking for the return of the canvases or more than $250,000 in damages, contends that Warhol never knew about the work. He said he and two friends cranked it out themselves in 1971 in a studio in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, as an homage to Warhol a year after Malanga left Warhol’s Factory in Manhattan. Over the years, Malanga said, he lost track of the painting and it ended up ended up in Chamberlain’s TriBeCa loft.

Chamberlain’s request to have the case dismissed was denied by a New York State Supreme Court judge in 2008 and an appeal of that decision was rejected by the state’s Appellate Division in 2010. A second request for dismissal was denied in December and Malanga’s lawyer, Peter R. Stern, said that he now expects the court to set a date for a trial to begin sometime within the next two months.

January 6, 2011

Marion True Speaks Out

Marion True, the former antiquities curator of the Getty Museum (which for many years has been one of the leading collectors of world-class antiquities), was put on trial beginning in 2005 for conspiring to receive antiquities that had been illegally excavated and exported from Italy. Now, in the Art Newspaper, she speaks out on why it is hard to accept the lack of verdict after her five-year trial.

True writes, “A headline in the Art Newspaper in June 2010 announced that the trial in Rome against me had “collapsed” after five years, the statutes of limitations for all crimes of which I was accused by the Italian state having expired.... My five-year long trial ended without judgment—neither condemnation nor vindication, a reality hard to accept, given the distorted and slanderous allegations against me. Throughout, my lawyers advised me not to speak out, not to undermine my defense.”

True adds, “I could have chosen to waive the statute of limitations and to continue for another few years, but to what end? This politically motivated process accomplished its goals long ago. It made headlines with groundless accusations that destroyed my reputation and career, while intimidating other American museums into returning objects without question.”

For True’s entire statement, click here.

January 6, 2011

New Director for Concord Museum

Peggy Burke will be the next director of the Concord Museum, according to the Boston Globe. Burke happens to be a familiar face, as the wife of the director who presided over the museum’s expansion into its current quarters.

Burke is finishing up a three-year tenure as the director of foundation development at WGBH. Her husband Dennis Fiori directed the museum from 1982–1994. Burke will begin her new job January 10. When the couple began their family, she served as a consultant and grant writer to the museum.

Burke holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Delaware and has served as a curator of the Bowdoin Museum of Art, director of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now called Historic New England), and executive director of the Maryland Humanities Council. She said she hopes her tenure as director of the Concord Museum will include new joint ventures with local arts and historic organizations, as well as expanded opportunities for education for area schoolchildren.

January 6, 2011

Director of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts to Step Down

The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts director Matthias Waschek is stepping down. Waschek arrived at the Pulitzer in 2003, two years after the museum opened, and helped shape its identity, developed community programs, and staged innovative exhibits.

“With the start of a new year, I think the time has come to begin planning for the next phase of my career and to make my intentions known,” said Waschek in a statement.

Pulitzer Foundation founder Emily Rauh Pulitzer said the museum will conduct a national search for a replacement. Waschek will stay on for a transition period of up to six months.