Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Weekend roundup

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  • Further reason to be concerned?: The Indianapolis Business Journal’s Dan Human reports that Charles Venable, the new director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, thinks that increasing attendance and cutting staff is the key to the future of the museum’s finances. (Sounds like the board isn’t interested in increasing charitable giving, typically the largest source of revenue for a non-profit.) This is an idea with little (or no) demonstration of success: Outside big tourist cities such as New York and San Francisco, admission fees are typically an extremely small piece of a museum’s revenue. (For example: Philadelphia is the non-tourist-town high-end at about seven percent. Indy’s number has hovered around five percent for several years.) Many museums have tried to blockbuster their way to financial health, but I don’t know of a single study that has found that to be a successful strategy. Furthermore, the IBJ reports that it’s costing the IMA $1 million to present the Baltimore Museum of Art collection-rental show. Temporality is expensive.
  • Troubling tidbit in the IBJ piece: Venable wants the IMA to be more like director Alex Nyerges’ Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The VMFA’s exhibition program was once characterized by thoughtful, scholarly, collection-driven exhibitions. Traditionally art museum exhibitions have been motivated by the work done by an institution’s scholars, researchers, curators and conservators. However, some art museum directors don’t believe in the art museum as a knowledge-generator, and instead view exhibitions as spectacle requiring neither substance, nor institutional relevance. To them, the goal is to make the cash registers sing; what is on view is less important than why or how many people come to see it. In recent years, Malcolm Rogers’ MFA Boston and the VMFA have become leaders in using their exhibition programs as a pandering mechanism, featuring such prattle as Dale Chihuly exhibitions, a Mario Testino show that Boston Globe critics and letter-writers lined up to pan (pawyall, sorry!), and perhaps most embarrassing of all, an upcoming Planet Holywood-style VMFA show of movie costumes. (Yes, really.) A mission-driven art museum is not a theme park; mere attendance is not a meaningful end.
  • Holland Cotter loves El Anatsui at the Brooklyn Museum.
  • RIP Richard Artschwager.
  • Christopher Knight thinks the Hammer’s Llyn Foulkes show overfloweth, but finds much to admire.
  • In the LAT, Jeffrey Fleishman reports that it’s a tough time to be an artist in Egypt.
  • Paging NYT ombudsman Margaret Sullivan: Carol Vogel has stolen another story. A few weeks ago she stole this from the New York Observer, acknowledging the source of her item only as a “rumor.” Vogel did it again Friday. The outlet from which she stole this time: Die Welt.
  • Money line on the Hirshhorn bubble from Kriston Capps in the Washington CityPaper: “What [Hirshhorn director Richard] Koshalek still may have to do is articulate exactly what the Bubble is for.” Um, the project was announced 38 months ago. The salient details in the WCP cover story on the state of the project: The Hirshhorn has delayed the opening of the thing for at least the third time. The project has been so long-hamstrung by poor fundraising that the naming rights Bloomberg, LP has paid for expire (May 2014) before the bubble is now scheduled to open (fall 2014, if the museum is able to raise the money for it and so far…). And Koshalek has raised only $4 million in outside funds for the project in the three-plus years since roll-out. Still, Capps, who came out against the Hirshhorn’s bubble plan back in November, has changed his mind and is now for it. (Capps did not address or acknowledge his about-face in the WCP piece, but he explained a bit on the Twitter.) Sources tell MAN to expect the Hirshhorn board to vote the project up-or-down as early as May.
  • I’m hoping that the Washington Post and the CityPaper do much more reporting on last Thursday’s Hirshhorn board meeting. There’s plenty there.
  • On this week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast: An extended look at what seems to be the first American exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe’s X, Y and Z Portfolios in over 30 years. LACMA curator Britt Salvesen and artist Catherine Opie discuss the portfolios and their impact on art and artists. Download the show, subscribe on iTunesSoundCloudStitcherRSS. See images of works discussed on the program.
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  1. […] Capps’ tone and new-found enthusiasm for the project with what his reporting has uncovered. To recap: Capps reported over the weekend that the Hirshhorn has officially delayed the opening of the bubble […]

  2. Alex Nyerges says:


    I consider it as high praise that you include me in the same category as my dear friend Malcolm Rogers – we both hold our audiences with the same reverence as our collections. As for the exhibit this fall of Hollywood costumes, I am sure you haven’t visited it at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is both a serious and entertaining exhibIt. We’re proud to be the only east coast venue for this important exhibit. Substance and popularity are not mutually exclusive.

    It is high brow, condescending attitudes, such as the one you continually exhibit with venomous and ill informed opinions that helps to perpetuate the myth of art museums as bastions for the privileged few. I do agree, wholeheartedly, that mere attendance Is not a meaningful end. However, I’ve never seen a crowd at an art museum that I didn’t like. May the future of all art museums and cities be as bright as we enjoy in Virginia and Boston.

    Many thanks for your continued attention.


  3. Tyler Green says:

    I think art museums should exhibit art. That seems less high-brow than self-evident.

  4. […] before you do is among the most basic journalistic practices. But this is at least the third time this year (!) that Vogel has stolen a story from another outlet. (It’s the second time that she has […]

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