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A week has passed since the publication of my deaccessioning op-ed in The New York Times: the screams have occurred, the rebuttal letters have been printed, and it's time again for me to weigh in on the objections.
First, it seems I must repeat (because this has been ignored or misconstrued): I am not pro-deaccessioning to raise money for operations or endowments. I merely think that, on occasion, it will be considered, like it or not, and the museum world should have a process for that. I proposed arbitration to make it tough, not easy. I expect proving the need for deaccessions to be onerous in itself, and the hurdle to be set high by arbitrators. But it must be done in the open and in an orderly way, and often it isn't now.
Here are the stated objections, with my responses.
The news broke a few hours ago: President and Michelle Obama are sending a holiday card -- ecumenical, of course -- made by American Greetings and featuring a "foil-embossed presidential seal surrounded by a wreath, and a thin burgundy border around the edges. It contains the message: 'May your family have a joyous holiday season and a new year blessed with hope and happiness.' "
Artists and poets are more original, as two current exhibitions demonstrate, and as I recently mentioned on my ArtsJournal blog in two posts. The first is about a show organized by the Archives of American Art that's on view at its gallery in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in Washington. It includes holiday cards designed and sent by the likes of Philip Guston, Alexander Calder, Dan Flavin, Kay Sage, Ernest Blumenschein and Arnold Newman. You can read the whole post here.
Many are charming -- one by Edward F. Dickerson offers a holiday wine punch recipe. Another parodies van Gogh's famous "Room At Arles" painting. And the Archives allows online visitors to send nine of the cards in the show to friends. (I link to that page, too.)
In New York, meanwhile, Poets House has mounted a special exhibition of the beautiful illustrated chapbooks that Robert Frost sent to his friends between 1934 and 1962. I tell the story here. That's where I also link to a few other blogs or institutions that have, over the years, written about Frost's Christmas missives.
Many museum exhibitions affect individuals; some go further, exerting influence on the collective opinion, or even beyond.
Exactly 100 years ago last night, the Metropolitan Museum of Art closed the doors on one that went further. Part of a statewide celebration, the Hudson-Fulton exhibition marked the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery of the river that bears his name and the centennial of Robert Fulton's steamship. During its 10-week run, nearly 300,000 people thronged the museum's galleries -- 8,000 on opening night alone, which was presided over by J.P. Morgan, the Met's president (left), and a 40-piece orchestra. The show had two sides, and both had impact.
Robert M. Edsel's second book about World War II looting, The Monuments Men, came out in September, and as someone who in years past has written much about the subject myself (here, here, and here, to name a few), I wanted to see what Edsel has to say. Yesterday, as I was about to start reading, I decided to look first at other coverage of the book so far. I found something more interesting than reviews.
Just last week, the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art (Edsel's non-profit), announced that it had "found" another member of the famed art recovery squad -- one of its few women, Mary Regan Quessenberry, now living in Boston.
To hear some people tell it, connoisseurship is a concept that has been lost by much of the art world -- or at the very least, underplayed. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts this week opens an exhibition that instead puts connoisseurship back in the spotlight.
In Pursuit of a Masterpiece, which opened on Sunday, has been designed to help visitors take a closer look at nearly two dozen paintings, prints and other objects in the museum's permanent collection and compare their quality, their form and the techniques used to produced them. They come from seven curatorial departments.
G. Wayne Clough had it pretty easy when he took the job of Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in the summer of 2008. Larry Small, his predecessor, had been run out of town for overspending and undermanaging. The institution could only go up, and Clough had a reputation from his days running Georgia Tech for being a good manager. But so far, it looks as if he's doing just half the job -- managing and expanding the science side. The museums are suffering from what looks like benign neglect.
At their recent annual public meeting, which I wrote about here on my ArtsJournal blog, the Regents approved Clough's plan to create four new "centers" to explore "the universe and climate change on Earth, world cultures and the American experience."
Take a look fall exhibitions schedules, and it's easy to see how the recession has affected museums' offerings: exhibits are staying in place longer and they are less ambitious than they were a few years ago, for a start. In fact, I think some small shows will provide the most excitement -- and I'm not talking about Vermeer's The Milkmaid, which will go on view at the Metropolitan Museum on Sept. 10.
Here's one I'm really eager to see: Icons of The Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings From Papunya, which opened on Sept. 1 at the Grey Art Gallery of NYU. Organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, it has already been on view there and in Los Angeles.
"Early" is a matter of degree: these works were created in the 1970s, after a school teacher gave men from the Central Australian Desert paint, boards and tools and suggested they paint.
Everyone loves a mystery, and this one began when Grant Holcomb, director of the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, purchased a painting called The Printseller's Window at Sotheby's in 1998. Holcomb didn't know much about the artist, Walter Goodman, or the 1883 work, but as he recently told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: "I was struck by the power of it....I thought it could be the finest example of trompe l'oeil art in 19th century America."
Chief curator Majorie Searl continued: "The specificity of every object in the painting suggested a message -- a mystery we had to unravel. Perhaps we should have hired Sherlock Holmes, who lived on Baker Street at the same time as Goodman."
Turns out that wasn't necessary. Researchers, led by a Rochester lawyer named Peter Brown, who is head of the museum's art committee, followed clues to London, and elsewhere, but -- incredibly -- the museum discovered that the best sources, Goodman's descendants, lived in Rochester.
Who are the greatest photographers of the 20th Century?
When you hear a question like that, you know that David W. Galenson, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, is at it again.
Galenson is the guy who takes a statistical approach to such questions. His new list, just published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, provides the answer, based on research that parallels his previous work. In July 2008, he ranked the greatest architects of the 20th Century; in February 2007, he ranked the greatest women artists of the 20th century, and in December 2005, he ranked the greatest artists of the 20th century. (All were also published as working papers by NBER.)