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                       What are the some of the major events that took place in the museum world in the past 3 months? 6 months?

                      Find some hard facts- and some gossip- here. 


January 2016

Speed Receives Gift

            The Speed Art Museum (KY) has received a gift of 35 contemporary artworks from Los Angeles-based collector Gordon W. Bailey. The gift focuses on  works created by African-American artists from the South. All the artists are making their debuts in the museum’s permanent collection.

 New Galleries in D.C.

            The Smithsonian American Art Museum has reimagined its permanent collection: refurbished galleries, featuring recent acquisitions, an expanded presentation of the much loved Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly by James Hampton, traditional pieces such as quilts, and works that reveal a more personal vision.

            “The Smithsonian American Art Museum has long recognized folk and self-taught art as integral to the greater story of American art,” said Betsy Broun, museum director. “The museum’s mission to tell the story of America through the art of its people is particularly relevant at a time when museums everywhere are realizing that an expanded narrative of American art is necessary for engaging and satisfying contemporary audiences and accurately portraying the scope of creativity in this country.”

             In other news, the Smithsonian American Art Museum reports that it has surpassed its campaign goals for both financial and significant gifts, a combined total of $105 million with more than a year remaining in the campaign. A portion of the funds are earmarked for renovation of the historic building, the addition of an education center in the National Historic Landmark Renwick Gallery, and enhancing the endowments. Most recently the museum was gifted with four multichannel video installations by David Hockney, several works by Bill Traylor and William Edmondson, a Grandma Moses painting, 100 photographs by Irving Penn, a steel sculpture by David Smith, works by Mel Bochner, Louise Bourgeois, Eric Fischl, Richard Prince, Richard Estes, Harriet Frishmuth, Nicholas Nixon, Dale Chihuly, and Roy Lichtenstein.

 2016 Hugo Boss Prize Awarded

            Announced by Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation (NY), and Mark Langer, chairman and CEO of Hugo Boss AG: Anicka Yi has been awarded the Hugo Boss Prize of 2016. Yi is the 11th artist to receive the biennial prize which was established in 1996 to recognize significant achievement in contemporary art. The winner receives $100,000, and a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim in April 2017.

 Latin America Art Comes to NYC

            The Museum of Modern Art (NY) has received a gift from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, adding more than 100 works of modern art by major artists from Latin America to the collection, and establishing the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Research Institute for the Study of Art from Latin America. The institute will offer opportunities for curatorial research and travel, host visiting scholars and artists, convene an annual international conference, and produce research publications on art from Latin America—becoming a preeminent research center in the field.

            The Cisneros gift includes 102 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, made between the 1940s and 1990s by 37 artists working in Brazil, Venezuela, and the Rio de la Plata region of Argentina and Uruguay.

 Writers Museum Opens

            “The first and only museum of its kind in the nation” crows the announcement of the opening   in March 2017 of the American Writers Museum on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The museum will showcase the personal stories and literary works of diverse American writers, from Mark Twain to Dr. Seuss, through its themed galleries, interactive exhibits, educational programs, and special events.

 Myth Makers in Maryland

            Artists Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein (aka Myth Makers) are the builders of a sapling sculpture, constructed on the grounds of the Academy Art Museum (MD)—a 25-foot high bird sculpture, made from natural materials with the help of scavenging volunteers. The figure is based on the Hooded Merganser, a bird that is common in Maryland; figuratively it represents independence and bravery, referencing favorite Eastern Shore native Frederick Douglass.

            Although monumental in scale, the artists’ works are temporary, site specific, and responsive to weather conditions. They last up to a year, appearing, fading, and disappearing. Similar works have been shown in Peru, Switzerland, Canada, China, on Broadway (NY), in Muskegon (MI), New Orleans (LA), and all around New England.

            The goal of the museum is to engage the neighboring counties, a wider audience. To that end programs include links to the surrounding flora, history, visual arts, and language arts.

 African Art Gallery Redesigned

            The reinstallation of the Cincinnati Art Museum’s (OH) permanent collection of African art was unveiled in December 2016. Many of the artifacts are on view for the first time, the new design and layout placing artworks in thematic groupings—a cultural and historical context. Some objects are on view in visible storage drawers.

 WWII Drawings at the Morgan

            An artist named Philip Pearlstein found his métier while serving in the army: assigned to the visual-aids shop charged with producing charts, map keys, and manuals, he learned silk screening and printing techniques, and used his spare time, both in the U.S. and overseas to make sketches and watercolors of everyday army life. This cache of works survived the war and found its way to a New York Gallery and thence to the Morgan Library and Museum (NY) through a small group of generous donors.

            After recording the realities of life as a G.I in basic training, the crossing of the Atlantic in a ship convoy, and landscapes and civilians he encountered, Pearlstein came home to graduate from the Carnegie Institute and move to New York to begin a career as a graphic artist. His companion on his move was a younger friend named Andy Warhola with whom he roomed and began work on catalogs and magazine illustrations. Both blossomed during the 1950s and 60s, Pearlstein becoming a major representative of the figurative tradition in postwar American art.

 Architectural Masterpiece Preserved

            Construction has begun on the West Mount Vernon Place, one of five historic buildings that make up the Walters Art Museum’s (MD) campus in Baltimore. When it reopens in spring 2018, the Walters will have completed a major revitalization that will preserve the architecture and history of the building while creating a space to present a new approach to the collection. The goal: to energize audiences, broaden the museum’s appeal, and extend the museum’s connection to the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood.

            The project carries with it a $10.4 million price tag. Support has come from the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, Baltimore County, and other sources. $6 million has already been procured; the museum is working t raise the balance. Included in the project is the Hackerman House mansion, scheduled to reopen in spring 2018, the John and Berthe Ford Gallery, and the Carriage House, both to reopen in fall 2017.

            The Walters’ strategic plan encompasses a set of multi-year goals and initiatives that envision the museum as a transformative force in the region. The completion of One West Mount Vernon Place is the spark that will ignite and inspire the community.

 Fellowships Awarded by USA

            The United States Artists has awarded 2016 USA Fellowship Awards of $50,000 each to 46 artists across nine creative disciplines—architecture and design, crafts, dance, literature, media, music, theater and performance, traditional arts, and visual arts. The 2016 Fellows were selected from over 500 artists nominated by their peers and judged by panels of experts in each discipline.

Founded in 2006 by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson, and Prudential Foundations, USA has provided almost $25 million in the form of unrestricted $50,000 awards to nearly 500 artists.

This year’s group of Fellows will be celebrated in Chicago at USA’s annual Artist Assembly in March 27-29 2017.

 Building Boom

            Museums spent some $5 billion on construction between 2007 and 2014. Astounding, considering that at the same time the country was in a deep economic recession. The conclusion: It’s easier to raise funds for new buildings than for art.

 Gender Equality??

            A meager 27 percent of 590 major solo shows in 70 museums  between 2007 and 2013 were devoted to women. This phenomenon is improving, particularly in the U.S. and Western Europe, but it’s not yet what it should be.

 $ for Clinton

            Millions were raised by artists for Hillary Clinton to no avail. Artists remain unbelieving at the unbelievable result of the election.

 Monuments Men

            The awe-inspiring group of men who were at work discovering lost and stolen artworks after WWII are poised to go back in action for the British Army, depending on the ratification of the Hague Convention that protects cultural property during war. Different men, same objective.

 Late news

            Picasso’s electrician Pierre Le Guennec—the one who stole 271 works, made between 1900 and 1930, from the maestro and hid them for 40 years—was given a suspended prison sentence, recently upheld by the court of appeals in Aix-en-Provence. The electrician’s wife received the same penalty. The artworks, including portraits of family and friends, two sketchbooks, and rare Cubist collages, none catalogued or signed, will be returned to the Picasso family.

            Turns out that Le Guennec and his wife were buddies of Picasso’s late chauffeur Maurice Bresnu, who stole and ultimately sold some 600 of Picasso’s drawings.

 Later news

            A double-sided drawing by Leonardo da Vinci—Saint Sebastian bound to a tree on the front, optical studies and text on the reverse—was discovered in Paris at the auction house Tajan. The discovery, authenticated by a bevy of important experts, is thought to be among the drawings referred to in da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus, a tome of his drawings, sketches and scientific studies. To now, only three have been located.

            A temporary export ban will apply if the work is declared a “national treasure” by French authorities, in which case France will be given 30 months to buy it at market value.


 October 2016

Did You Know….

            Charleston, South Carolina, was home to the first formal exhibition of Solomon R. Guggenheim’s modern art collection. The exhibition was presented at the Gibbes Museum of Art (SC) in 1936 and again in 1938, 21 years before Guggenheim’s collection found a permanent home in today’s museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

            After purchasing a home along the Charleston Battery and a property in nearby Yemassee in the 1920s, Solomon and Irene Guggenheim quickly became prominent figures in the Charleston community. Before becoming the first director of the Guggenheim Museum, art advisor Hilla Rebay curated the 1936 and 1938 exhibitions, bringing international attention to Charleston and record attendance levels for the Gibbes Museum of Art. Presently on exhibit once again, the character of the exhibitions has been preserved, occupying the exact building of the original showing, and adopting the specified original arrangement: the works are separated into sections, one for non-objective works and another for objective paintings.

Kahlo Portrait Holds Message

            Less than a week before the U.S. presidential election in November, a powerful self-portrait by Frida Kahlo standing astride the U.S.-Mexico border will go on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PA). Painted in 1932, Self-Portrait on the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States seems to defy time: It comes on view as a timely witness to the anti-immigration rhetoric of politicians who vow to force Mexico to build a wall on the border between the two countries.     

            Just 25 years old, Kahlo was in the United States with her husband Diego Rivera, who was working on various commissions across the country. Unhappy with life in the U.S., she wanted to return to Mexico. Her self-portrait shows a defiant Kahlo in a pink dress holding a Mexican flag in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She stands on the pedestal between an industrial American landscape of skyscrapers and factory smokestacks (marked “Ford” and obscuring the U.S. flag in a haze), and a Mexican desert of ancient ruins, Mesoamerican objects, native plants, and a skull. The two countries’ shared roots are treated with similar irony, with plants reaching deep into the soil on the Mexican side and electric wires dangling into the dirt north of the border.

Buddha Restored in Public

            For six months, visitors to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MA) can either follow on line or watch conservators as they publicly restores Hanabusa Itch?’s rare masterpiece Death of Buddha (1773), one of the most important Buddhist paintings of its time.

            The elaborate process proceeds through several steps: the dismantling of the scroll, and its reassembling; the installation of a new mounting, one that uses custom-woven silk (a reproduction of the original), which is made for the MFA by traditional weavers in Kyoto; the replacement of the gilt metal fittings carved with mythical lions, which was created and signed in the 18th century. Time, skill, and patience all represented in the course of art conservation.

Asian Art Initiative

            A $6 million bequest from Alfred P. Gale has enabled the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) to launch the Gale Asian Art Initiative, a multi-year program dedicated to enhancing visitor’s appreciation of and engagement with Asian art. In its first year, the initiative will focus on Chinese art and includes a number of programs and an exhibition of new and commissioned work by Chinese contemporary artist Liu Dan.

            Each year the Gale Asian Art Initiative will highlight a different Asian culture accompanied by a robust roster of public programming and events.

Haring Mural in Danger

            [A report from the August 2016 issue of The Art Newspaper]

            Tenants due to be evicted from a building in the Morningside Heights area of Manhattan say they are worried about the fate of a mural that Keith Haring painted in 1983 or 84 across three floors of a stairwell. At that time the building was leased by the Catholic youth organization Grace House, which provided a home for young people. Having visited many times, Haring convinced the director, with help from the young residents, that he should decorate the walls.

            The building was in jeopardy. The church cited its financial problems and no one knew the fate of the building. The tenants who remained filed a joint lawsuit against the church, alleging the eviction to be illegal. They also claimed that the mural is “part of our identities” as well as being a valuable example of Haring’s work. Julia Gruen, executive director of the Keith Haring Foundation had said in 2007, “In terms of imagery, it’s like a lexicon of [Haring’s] vocabulary.” The line of dancing figures moving up the stairwell begins with a Radiant Baby figure and includes other recurring icons like the barking dog.

            The New York gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, who represented Haring’s estate after his death says, “The West 108th Street mural is an example of Keith’s generous character and his commitment to art as social engagement. Keith often spent more time creating public murals in children’s centers, hospitals, and playgrounds than he did in the studio.” Many of these locations have been torn down since his death in 1990, and in several cases sections of wall have been sold to help benefit charities.

            Happily, new digital technology now allows mural works to be documented so that they can be recreated in another venue.

African American Collection Expands

            In an effort to better reflect Detroit’s population, the Detroit Institute of Art’s new director Salvador Salort-Pons announced the launching of a three-year initiative of $3.7 million to expand its collection of works by African-American artists. The museum expects to hire a curator of contemporary African-American art to oversee acquisitions, exhibitions, and public programs. In addition the initiative will allow the introduction of paid internships designed to “pipeline African-Americans into museum fields where they are significantyly under-represented,” says the director.

African American Collection Expands

            In an effort to better reflect Detroit’s population, the Detroit Institute of Art’s new director Salvador Salort-Pons announced the launching of a three-year initiative of $3.7 million to expand its collection of works by African-American artists. The museum expects to hire a curator of contemporary African-American art to oversee acquisitions, exhibitions, and public programs. In addition the initiative will allow the introduction of paid internships designed to “pipeline African-Americans into museum fields where they are significantyly under-represented,” says the director.