I’m plenty used to the Philly Inky’s sloppy arts reporting. (They’ve substantially ignored the Barnes story for years, and they’ve pinched stories from MAN without giving credit.) But how is it that no one at the major metro paper in Philadelphia has read the Friends of the Barnes court filing and then written a story about it? There’s significant stuff in there. (Start here and link-surf.)
Tyler Green Modern Art Notes
Archive for August, 2007
Having spent months watching FAMSF director John Buchanan find new ways to sully the reputation of one of America’s most reputable museums (don’t miss this from late yesterday), it’s a delight to share with you what his successor at the Portland Art Museum told DK Row in yesterday’s Portland Oregonian.
The new director in Portland is Brian Ferriso, who happens to be a dead-ringer for the “My Two Dads”-era Paul Reiser, only younger. Yesterday Ferriso announced his exhibition lineup through 2010 and the Oregonian — and obviously relieved local arts leaders — note that it’s a marked departure from Buchanan’s lineup of Big Name Baubles, the same kind of mistakes he’s programmed in San Francisco. So here’s our beer-swilling lad Ferriso on whether Portland needs Buchanan-style buffoonery-as-exhibitions:
Ferriso concedes that the big-top Asian and European shows of the past boosted the museum’s profile and produced excitement. Will they be missed?
“If there aren’t enough people visiting the museum to satisfy the board and others, then maybe I’m the wrong guy,” he says of his leadership.
Either he won’t last the month or I’m ready to deify him now. Every museum director in America who programs splashy, big-dollar shows in an effort to bring in the crowds needs to have lunch with Ferriso. As I’ve documented on MAN before, big-dollar, low-quality shows are not worth the financial risks (ask the Corcoran).
But Ferriso isn’t done. This is as much an indictment of Buchanan as it is praise of Ferriso:
The contract of Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, the museum’s consulting curator of European art, will not be renewed when it runs out in February 2008, but she will continue to consult on a project basis until a full-time curator is hired. Hunter-Stiebel, who was hired by Buchanan and lives and works in New York for the Portland museum, has been consulting for the museum since the late ’90s. Ferriso said he wanted a full-time curator who would be based in Portland.
Hunter-Stiebel’s husband runs a New York art gallery that specializes in Hunter-Stiebel’s specialty, Old Master and European paintings. That’s a relationship that Ferriso regards as problematic for the museum.
“It’s a conflict of interest,” he says.
FAMSF hired Buchanan knowing that?! (With a hint of things to come) maybe that’s part of why so many board members have fled Buchanan’s FAMSF…
Overheard: Expect the Ess Eff Chronicle to run a substantial story about the evolving train wreck that is John Buchanan’s Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Perhaps as soon as this Sunday.
I don’t have the foggiest idea why this is in the NYT arts section. That is a business story. The headline makes clear it’s a business story: “Volatile Markets? Art World Takes Stock” (If only the headline had been: “Art market beginning to live within its means.“) The NYT does not run stories about the sales of major mid-century modern houses, to name one example, in its arts section.
In a related story, the only writer I enjoy reading about the business of art is Edward Winkleman. Portfolio mag should have hired him to blog instead of unleashing this upon us. And the best piece on the art market I’ve read in the last week or so is on Gawker, yes Gawker: Elizabeth Currid on the conflicts between street artists who do and don’t have market success.
(In an unrelated story, I’m loving the NYT’s US Open blog again this year, even sans Kimmelman who I hear will next be blogging on the WTA Tour’s German Open, in Berlin. Why can’t the NYT visual arts people come up with something equally good?! Heck, if Time can do it…)
The Friends of the Barnes petition cites the August, 2007 Bulletin of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in a rather damning passage that demonstrates this item isn’t mere paranoia: Private tours of the Barnes will be available this fall for members and guests of the PMA on a day when the Barnes Foundation is usually closed to the public.
Related: Parts one, two, three.
The Tennessean’s Jonathan Marx has the story.
Continued (scroll down for previous posts)…
The Friends of the Barnes petition notes that the Barnes movers are behind on their own timeline for moving the Barnes — and that there is no end to delays in sight. In 2004 the Barnes’ moving crew received permission to expand the Barnes’ board to 15 members as a way of professionalizing it and expanding its fundraising capability. Today the Barnes does not have 15 board members. Nearly five years after the initial agreement between the movers and the Barnes and nearly three years after Judge Ott OK’d the move: The Barnes has no Benjamin Franklin Parkway land, no architect, no nothing. (In fact the city is now planning to merely lease land to the Barnes.)
The petition suggests that the movers’ ultimate Barnes “endgame” may include housing the Barnes Foundation collection in a place of last resort, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (The petition notes that this is similar to how the PMA acquired the John E. Johnson collection 65 years ago.)
“My feeling was that the petitioners then told the court whatever it wanted to hear so they’d get out and get the release,” Bryn Mawr-based FoB attorney Mark D. Schwartz told me. “Here we are years later and they went to great ends to say we need a modern board and they don’t have a modern board yet.”
Continuing from this morning’s perusal of the Friend of the Barnes’ court filing…
The Friends of the Barnes petition’s biggest bombshell is its suggestion that Pew president & CEO Rebecca Rimel may have given misleading testimony before Montgomery County Orphans’ Court Judge Stanley Ott. It is one of several claims that Pew and its allies played fast-and-loose with the court.
In December, 2003 Rimel testified before Ott that Pew’s application to the IRS for a change from a private to public charity status was “not based on anything that may or may not happen with the Barnes… It has no implications whatsoever.”
However, according to the petition, Pew’s application to the IRS for public charity status, filed in December, 2002, suggests quite a different story. The petition quotes from Pew’s IRS submission:
“If [Pew] receives recognition of its public charity status, it will assume the Pew Charitable Trust Division’s role in the Barnes Foundation project. As a public charity, [Pew] will be in a position not only to continue the Pew Charitable Trust Division’s role in planning and coordinating the project, but also to receive grants and contributions from the Trusts and from other donors, and to hold and administer those funds until the Barnes project is completed. Putting [Pew] in this position presents a significant advantage because it allows [Pew] not only to develop a plan and a vision for the project, but also to raise the funds and then administer the project to ensure that the plan and the shared vision are realized.”
Pew did not immediately respond to a request for comment. UPDATE, Wednesday, 9am: Still no response from Pew.
Jim McCaffrey of The Evening Bulletin got his hands on the filing and has written about it. (Note: I’ve been having some trouble with their website, so that link might not work…)
Yesterday a group hoping to keep the Barnes in Montgomery County filed a petition before the Orphans’ Court arguing why Judge Stanley Ott should revisit the case. MAN is the first news outlet to report on the petition. The filing makes a strong argument that the case should be re-examined and that the Philly foundations who want to move the Barnes are behind their self-mandated schedule to move the Barnes, suggest a reason why, and note that Pew in particular may not have been completely honest with the public — or the court.
Throughout the day I’ll post about four of the key portions of the filing. First:
The petition points out that subsequent to the 2004 hearings before Judge Ott it was revealed that Pennsylvania allocated $107 million in state aid in 2002 for use to build a new Barnes facility in Philadelphia. (The bill was introduced in 2001.) Remarkably, that was just about the exact amount that the Philly foundations said it would take to build a new Barnes.
The petition argues that if any of the parties to the Barnes move knew of the $107 million state appropriation that it may have an issue with the court. “The question was raised whether anyone associated with the Barnes or the foundations knew about that information and if they did, if any party had that information and didn’t come forward, it would have grave implications,” Barnes Friends attorney Mark D. Schwartz told me today. The petition suggests that the court should specifically examine this point.
As Friends of the Barnes noted earlier this year, Pew chief Rebecca Rimel has been asked if she knew about the appropriation and failed to respond.
Related: The Philly Inky’s story and AP’s version. Apparently neither had the filing.