Tyler Green Modern Art Notes
Archive for December, 2008
As we wind down 2008 I want to say thanks for making MAN’s seventh year the biggest year yet.
This December, for the second straight year, I’ve asked MAN readers to show their appreciation for this site by giving to the MAN-DonorsChoose.org challenge to support arts education projects in public schools. With this news out of Los Angeles yesterday, it’s increasingly clear that arts education in America’s schools is in trouble.
This is the last week of the challenge and three projects remain unfunded. (So far MAN readers have donated
$2,418, $2,468, $2,592, $2,692, $2,792, $2,887 to help over 1,000 kids learn about the visual arts in their classrooms.) We have until Friday to fund them. Please take a look at the project page here. (If you fund them today, I’ll add another one or two over the holiday.)
I’ve we’ve all been celebrating solstice (and other holidays), the LAT has been demonstrating that it still has the best visual arts coverage of any American newspaper — and that second-place is far back. (Just try to imagine any other paper flooding the zone on a major art story like this.) The last week’s unlinked-to-yet highlights:
- Christopher Knight: The bullet points of the MOCA/Broad agreement.
- Knight: MOCA still faces substantial leadership issues.
- Diane Haithman: Yup.
- Knight: MOCA’s path to recovery starts with getting its collection out of storage. Knight has been talking about MOCA’s unfortunate tendency to hide its light under a crate since 1995. (It’s been a regular topic on MAN since 2004.)
- Dissent: At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Laurie Fendrich shrugs at the MOCA mess.
- Meanwhile, the LAT has managed to walk and chew gum at the same time: Suzanne Muchnic says that the Orange County Museum of Art has postponed its much-anticipated Diebenkorn Ocean Park show until 2010.
- More Muchnic: The Norton Simon’s glorious Francisco de Zurbaran still-life gets a cleaning and much is revealed.
- More Knight: An Eakins deaccessioned by the National Academy went to LACMA.
- (Disclosure note: Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs is one of four people appointed to an advisory group that will help steer MOCA into its next phase. I’m working on a paper for the Warhol Foundation.)
It’s about time that the Sunday NYT ran a topical and newsy arts story instead of forcing the usual saccharine yawn on us. Jori Finkel’s story about deaccessioning is solid.
Still: The story discusses a number of deaccessionings without fully explaining the context of each case. It ignores deaccessionings at major museums, such as MoMA, LACMA and the Getty (they’ve all sold in recent years). Incomprehensibly, it leaves out one of the stickiest examples: this donor-benefitting sale in Denver. Finally, there is a big difference between art museum deaccessioning, and non-art-museum institutions that sell art, and that’s somewhat lost in Finkel’s story. (Oddly, she or someone else at the NYT seems to have ‘created’ a museum at Thomas Jefferson.)
But here’s the real head-scratcher: Finkel lets National Academy director Carmine Branagan skate with this shamelessly, preposterously, unbelievably ridiculous claim:
“I remember saying: Unless you believe you can support
sweeping change, then do not vote for deaccessioning. The tragedy isn’t
that we’re going to sell these four pieces. That’s not a tragedy. The
tragedy would be if in 10 or 15 years we were back here having the same
Uh er, uh… except that’s exactly what has happened: The NAD has deaccessioned three times in 30 years. Finkel should have called Branagan on that.
- At the Seattle P-I, Regina Hackett has a fun spin on year-end top ten lists: Top ten art ‘events.’
- George Will on an NEH program that gets art (posters) into schools. (A half-measure, if that.)
- RIP Robert Graham, say Suzanne Muchnic and Cara Mia DiMassa in the LAT.
- In the DMN, Michael Granberry reports that the AEG not-really-King-Tut show is suffering from an attendance problem. Unknown: If the AEG-Tut problems will spill over onto the DMA’s balance sheets. That’s going to be one fascinating tax return in a year or two. (Unless the contract leaks out…)
- Posting sked this week: Later today I’ll have another links post, mostly to the fantastic LAT MOCA coverage. Expect posts Tuesday. But after that, probably not much until next week.
I’m sorry to report that the Museum of Contemporary Art has taken about a $30,000,000 to $2,343 lead over MAN readers in the DonorsChoose.org-MOCA trustees challenge.
Fire up folks! Come roaring back! You do not have to take Eli Broad’s/MOCA’s splashy move sitting down. I’ve added three new projects here. Please give. (Update: Code-garble fixed.)
The LAT’s Diane Haithman reports that MOCA has accepted Eli Broad’s lifeline and that former UCLA chancellor Charles Young will take over as the museum’s CEO. Jeremy Strick is out of a job. Some thoughts:
- Charles Young was Andrea Rich’s boss at UCLA. The last non-artsy administrator to run a major museum was Rich, at LACMA. That didn’t go so well. The rash of non-arts people running museums was a 1990s management fad, and one that worked so poorly that it’s almost-completely gone away. Here’s hoping that Young is a mere transitional figure. This should go without saying: The nation’s best contemporary art museum deserves art-smart leadership.
- Inexplicably, so far none of the MOCA trustees who put the museum in
dire straits have resigned. Is there no responsibility ethic? (As I’ve said before, Tom Unterman
apparently does not understand enough about museums to serve as a board chairman. He should be the first to go.)
- LACMA made a big, loud, splashy public bid to try to deprive Los Angeles of the nation’s top contemporary art museum. It was bold move, it was ill-advised, and it was predatory. LACMA lost. It looked bad in the process. Call it LACMA boss Michael Govan’s most public failure. In the last couple years Govan has been involved in two high-stakes gambits: His departure from Dia and subsequent move to LA, and the MOCA bid. He left Dia a bit of a mess, its most important board member feeling betrayed and disillusioned. And now this.
- What does MOCA do next? It needs more money than has been discussed so far in order to be stable. It needs an endowment drive, a permanent collection-display plan, and a director who can transition the museum away from a two-headed leadership structure.
MAN readers have given
$2,063 $2,343 to the MAN-DonorsChoose.org effort to help out arts education programs in America’s public schools. With about 10 days to go, you’re 35 percent ahead of last year’s entire haul. Thanks.
Catherine Opie at the Guggenheim: Spot-on title, fantastic catalogue, mind-numbingly stupid installation. Even when the Gugg gets one right, it can’t get one just right.
Sarah Oppenheimer at the Mattress Factory: The Carnegie International-concurrent show in which Oppenheimer was featured had its ups-and-downs, but the New York artist’s nearby installation stole the show. (Part one, two.)
Dialogue Among Giants at the Getty: This show should have been titled “He’s Carleton Watkins and No One Else Was.” The exhibition has a simple, straightforward concept: Carleton Watkins was a mega-stud, a photographer to whom composition was paramount. His peers, notably Eadweard Muybridge, were wanna-bes. I don’t know if this was the best show of the year — no catalogue?!!? — but it sure was the most thrilling.
The Year of Mark Bradford: For me, his roof-top installation at the Carnegie International is the work of art that best sums up America in the Bush years. (Did he know a financial meltdown was ahead?) He had a breakout year. (With Vija Celmins.)
Steve Roden at Suzanne Vielmetter: Usually when painters pack about 20 influences into their paintings, they end up looking like they’re trying really hard. Roden’s paintings at Vielmetter looked so easy and so natural it hurt.
Chris Burden’s Urban Light at LACMA: A populist metaphor + destination.
Cottage Industry at the Baltimore Contemporary: In hindsight, it’s amazing that no one else has done this show (and that they left out Filip Noterdaeme, but oh well). (Part one, two, three, four, five.)
Robert Irwin at the Indianapolis Museum of Art: The artist’s only permanent indoor installation at a U.S. museum. (Irwin rises above.)
Remodeling the Huntington, Cleveland: The Huntington’s Portrait Gallery is now one of the best, most elegant rooms of art in America. The Cleveland Museum of Art re-opened its 1916 building, to superb effect.
Vik Muniz, Rebus at MoMA: A clever marriage of concept, collection.
Honorable mention: Morandi at the Met, Miro at MoMA, Francis Alys’ Fabiola at LACMA, Franz West at Baltimore, the Carnegie International, Dargerism at the American Folk Art Museum, Oranges and Sardines at the Hammer.
- Kenneth Baker: Wayne Thiebaud picks up stuff on Franz Kline’s floor, aids in teaching career, results in exhibit.
- Christopher Knight’s 2008 best-of list. Nary a mention of the market.
- Meanwhile, read the NYT’s best-ofs and it’s market, market, market. And then there’s Holland Cotter, who displays the now-familiar NYT cluelessness about Los Angeles: “[MOCA is] a funny place, with its internationalist sheen and market-driven
program occasionally interrupted by inspired, could-only-happen-here
shows.” Uh, really? Here are MOCA’s three 2008 Geffen Contemporary shows: California conceptualism, Lawrence Wiener and Allan Kaprow. The Grand Ave. lineup featured two collection shows in four exhibits. Cotter goes oops.) UPDATE: A reader points out I didn’t point out ongoing shows: Bourgeois and Kippenberger. True. At the time I wrote the post I figured that everyone had MOCA on-the-brain as much as I do. I don’t think that their inclusion changes my point.
- In LA Weekly, Christopher Miles has a best-of list as well. My list will have one show in common with his… (Come back this afternoon!)
- Jerry Saltz does a list too.
- Jen Graves discovers that Bob Irwin has not read Ren Weschler’s definitive work on him.
- Peter Plagens picks his perfect work of art for the Bush era.
- This week on MAN: Posting will be normal today and tomorrow. Wednesday is TBD and expect no posts on Thursday and Friday. I’m traveling, so when MOCA news breaks I’ll probably be a bit slow to post here. (I’ll probably post pretty quickly on Twitter though.)
Well, at least officially. And while the MAN DonorsChoose.org challenge to help support arts education projects in America’s school will continue through Jan. 1, we’re running out of time to run-up the score on MOCA’s trustees. (Current tally: MAN readers
$1,255 $1,380, $1,461, $2,018, $2,038 MOCA trustees $0.) Please take a look at the projects page and give. Here’s what some donors have said about the projects they’ve helped fund:
I gave to this project because art class was always my favorite.
I gave to this project because…
Art Books are one of my favorite things..they bring the Museum into the readers hands. I love to share them with friends.
I gave to this project because…I’m a
college student at a university where there are thousands upon
thousands of art books; the sheer number and quality is an
embarrassment, a glory of riches.
I don’t make much at my part-time library job, but I believe strongly
that everyone should have access to art and the stories behind them.