The Met Needs Your Generosity: and Leonard Lauder’s

Credit: Trees at l'Estaque, 1908 (oil on canvas), Braque, Georges (1882-1963) / Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark / De Agostini Picture Library / The Bridgeman Art Library
Credit: Trees at l’Estaque, 1908 (oil on canvas), Braque, Georges (1882-1963) / Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark / De Agostini Picture Library / The Bridgeman Art Library

On April 4th, Thomas P. Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sent around a Press Release explaining the museum’s “admissions policy” — a policy which many consider misleading at best, fraudulent at worst.

The announcement followed widespread reporting on two lawsuits brought against the museum by members who found the Met’s signage and admissions practices troubling but had failed to effect change from the inside. Responding to a landslide of negative press, Campbell sent out e-mail that linked to a message on the Met’s site expounding upon the legal basis, as well the alleged necessity, for the Met to garner donations from the public in order to finance it’s exhibits and services.

After explaining that the Met relies on “many sources—including Membership, gifts and grants, corporate contributions, merchandise sales, restaurant revenue, and endowment income” to meet its current $250 million a year operating budget, and stating that “admission revenue is critical among” these sources of funding, Campbell makes his pitch:

“Does the Met hope its visitors pay as generously as they can? Of course! Without your generosity, we might still be the quaint little museum in the park that few visited in the 1880s—with none of the glorious new galleries and engaging programs we are now able to provide to the more than six million people who come through our doors each year.”

Was Campbell telling us that the Metropolitan Museum of art, despite sitting rent-free on city property, despite its long lists of corporate contributors, its grants and gifts from wealthy patrons, and its government subsidies, needed to fish for dollars from the pockets of unsuspecting tourists and shy students who took the signs at font-face value and forked out $25 suggested admission when they could have entered for free? Are we to think of the Mighty Met as a poor Dickensian waif, her soot-covered hand extended stealthily toward the pockets of passersby?

Answer: Meet Leonard A Lauder

Well, on Tuesday, right after we’d asked that question, and before we could get our breath, the museum proudly announced that it had been gifted a 1.1 Billion Dollar cash cow in the form of cosmetics tycoon Leonard A Lauder’s entire collection of cubist art. [ ]

The collection of 78 cubist works, meticulously collected over something like 40 years, is comprised of 33 works by Picasso, 17 by Braque, 14 by Gris, and 14 by Leger. Lauder’s collection, which may, he says, continue to grow (and be gifted to the Met) is noted for its clear focus on works of historical significance. Lauder’s curator of 26 years, Emily Braun sites “ ‘The Trees at L’Estaque’ as an example. It “is considered one of the very first Cubist pictures,” she told the New York Times, “It created a new form of pictorial space that Braque arrived at from his close study of Cézanne’s landscapes.”

The collection “will transform the museum” the news release said. And, indeed, the Met’s cubist collection which used to be sorely wanting — art critic Holland Cotter once noted that the Met had been “content with a tasting menu of Blue Period, Rose Period and neo-Classical fare”—now rivals that of the Museum of Modern Art.

“In one fell swoop this puts the Met at the forefront of early-20th-century art. It is an unreproducible collection, something museum directors only dream about,” Campbell told the Times.

Lauder’s generosity puts him at the top of the list of Forbes list of high ranking philanthropists. [Check out their slideshow] On top of the billion dollar collection, his, and other trustees’ and supporters’ money is going to support a revamp of the Mets modern and contemporary galleries, and a 22 million dollar endowment for a new research center for modern art at the Met.

An extraordinary gift to our City?

“This is an extraordinary gift to our Museum and our City, Lauder said. Um. So now, can we change the admissions signs?

LINKS
Cubist works worth $1bn donated to Metropolitan Museum of Art

Leonard Lauder’s $1.1 Billion Cubist Art Gift To Met Is One Of Largest Donations In History

A Billion-Dollar Gift Gives the Met a New Perspective (Cubist)

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OPINION: Let’s Do “The Maybe”

Tilda Swinton performs Cornelia Parker's "The Maybe" at MoMAvia BLOUIN ARTINFO
Tilda Swinton performs Cornelia Parker’s “The Maybe” at MoMA
via BLOUIN ARTINFO

Tilda Swinton’s  narcoleptic performance of Cornelia Parker’s “The Maybe” will happen spontaneously six more times this month at unannounced locations within the MoMA.

Personally, I think this sort of spontaneous napping should become a sort of critique of unimaginative or overly subjective art shows:  I’m thinking of doing “The Maybe” at a few art openings here and there– and whenever I drop in to the New Museum–I’m thinking we need some flash mob maybe’s.

Perhaps we all go out to Dia Beacon and maybe it up in the midst of all that minimalist/conceptual cannonized dry-ass religiously guarded art history.

I’d like to maybe in front of every Rob Pruitt ever made in China.

What makes you maybe?

High on the Richter Scale

Gerhardt at Work
A still from the movie, Gerhardt Richter Painting, by Corinna Belz, A Kino Lorber Release (Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber)

This year, as painter Gerhardt Richter turns 80, we will be treated to a film that allows us to watch the man at work, frustrating the canvas and his voyeurs. On March 14 Kino Lorber will release Corinna Belz’s Gerhardt Richter Painting to the public.

The Filmmaker, Corinna Belz

A student of philosophy, art history, and media sciences, Corinna Belz is no slouch when it comes to fluffing the brand with some very fine artspeak:

“It became clear to me that a film about a painter must focus on painting. It was the actual work in the artist’s studio that interested me most: the authentic and immediate process of putting paint to canvas, and the instruments, gestures, and movements involved, emotionally as well as physically.”

And Kino Lorber’s official GRP site is full of the hot winds of tribute and mysticism to come:

“From our fly-on-the-wall perspective, we watch the 79-year-old create a series of large-scale abstract canvasses, using fat brushes and a massive squeegee to apply (and then scrape off) layer after layer of brightly colored paint. This mesmerizing footage, of a highly charged process of creation and destruction, turns Belz’s portrait of an artist into a work of art itself.”

But despite the hagiographic PR, and the posty- post- postPOST  bandwagon which is sure to follow, I find this film on my absolutely-must-see list.

I’ve always loved Richter for his virtuosity. Before he was making vast gooey abstracts, he went through many techniques (some simultaneously developing), all of them deeply experimental and all of them well executed.

Google Gerhardt Richter to see a vast array of well executed visual experiments.

From his ghostly grey early photographic works, to his super real portraits, to his mixed media installations, and finally to his varied experiments with abstraction, he has shown a level of skill and imagination, and even wit, that is rare and, I must say, beautiful.

That said…

I wonder, though, at the recent glut of what I call ‘richterisms’ in the abstract art arena: are these new paintings that use dragging and blotting and other forms of paint distress simply about trying to find a way to ground abstract art in method again?

I hope not: because that can’t be done by implementing a bag of tricks. And, face it, composition, color, and texture aren’t conceptual any more so most abstract painting will just come off as decorative (and I mean that in the worst way).

Delish as these super frosted cakes can be, they often come off as clones and dramatic accidents.

Best of the Richterites: Jerry Saltz Macs on Jackie Saccoccio;s Lush Mica at the Eleven Rivington Booth at the Armory Show. The paintins is Portrait(Hermetic), 2012 oil and mica on linen. Photo courtesy of Jackie Saccoccio.
Best of the Richterites: Visiting Eleven Rivington's booth at the Armory Show, Jerry Saltz macs on Jackie Saccoccio's lush mica. Portrait(Hermetic), 2012 oil and mica on linen. This photo courtesy of Jackie Saccoccio.

But don’t take this as an out and out judgement on all paintings that use these techniques: some, like Jackie Saccoccio, have added their own virtuosity with luminouse clouds of color and more deliberate compostion.

Let me put it this way, any artists who are inspired by Richter should explore virtuosity: and that means, not simply mastering Richter’s techniques, but finding and mastering your own.

Transformative Use is Useless

‘Transformative use’ is just mucking things up.

That’s what I think.

Providing a pivot for the Cariou v Prince case and the only real point of interest no matter what the pundits say, transformative use, instead of the fog-clearing test that it was supposed to be, has become the main particulate in a legal fog of war that has lasted three years now.

Thus far, the dueling Cariou v Prince briefs have added new certainty to my theory that transformative use is a singularly unhelpful notion.

Read the rest on Hyperallergic

OPINION: Conflicts of Interest Add Color & Texture

K Haring's Andy Mouse:

On Faso’s Brushbuzz, a kind of Reddit for the art market, I discovered a seedling of bothersome art theory: one bsherwrin contemplates whether or not “ad sales play a role in shaping art history in the sense that art publications– both online and in print — tend to end up reviewing exhibits at galleries that also happen to pay for ads in the publication?” Leaping from the question to an assumed ethical issue, the  post asks us to discuss the question:  “Should art magazines– and art blogs that feature an art-focused ad network for that matter– avoid a conflict of interest by not reviewing exhibits at galleries that also purchase ad space in the publication?”

Now people, we LIVE in a well-documented network of “conflicts of interest.” Conflicts of interest are de rigeur in every field. And conflicts of interest have been a part of the playing field in the arts for decades now, and are more and more the norm.

We have artists who are curators, advisors, arts writers and bloggers (just check out the bios on Facebook!). We have museums who have collectors who are artists who are guest curators who place their own works in the show. We have curators and art consultants who collect art themselves (a quickie browse through Linked In should show many of these). We have museum directors who are ex-gallery owners who have a vested art historical interest in the artists they supported in their earlier career. Hell, we’ve even had large corporations put up a pop-up gallery on public property in order to display artists who’s work echoed and celebrated the company’s designs — artwork that the company then had contracted to hold first rights to purchase.

Reading an article about a show at a museum? Well, I suggest grain of salt, my friends. No one’s even trying to be “objective” any more and, honestly, it’s time to move on.

OPINION: What’s The Matter With Kansas?

Some say, Publicly Funded Arts Programs

by guest blogger, David Kaplan

After the bitter brinksmanship that ended with the much-reviled increase in the debt ceiling, talking about the topic of public funding for the arts seems like an act of futile indulgence. The nation is facing potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and you want to talk about government support for miniscule cultural centers in fly-over country?

Next topic!

I hear you. But de-funding  the arts can have a chain of deleterious implications for the personal livelihoods of creative individuals and the economic viability of towns and regions across the country. And it will pit worried cultural institutions — those that nourish interest in the arts in places that can’t afford to put on blockbuster attractions like Alexander McQueen’s show at the Met — against each other for increasingly scarce private funding.

The NYT profiles Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s draconian cuts to the state’s arts programs. Or, I should say, the state’s former arts programs: Brownback has completely eliminated Kansas’ public funding of the arts. That’s right, it’s gone from a proposed budget of $689,000 to zero.

As the article notes, Kansas is a rather extreme example of a growing trend: Texas sliced its arts spending by 50 percent, while New Jersey chopped its arts support by 23 percent and Wisconsin issued a 67 percent decrease. Says Bill Ivey, Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy,

 “The positioning of arts within the public policy arena has always been tenuous. The arts are considered an amenity — nice to fund when you have a bit extra but hard to defend when the going gets tough.”

Money is kind of a dirty word in the arts. That’s part of the reason conservative administrations have been so emboldened about cutting cultural dollars from their budgets. The arts community – including the private marketplace of dealers, galleries and large museums – need to impress upon lawmakers that arts funding promotes education, local commerce and serves as a crucial connection to the regional and national economy by serving as an incubator for new artists and curators.

Every urban area that has dealt with decay has found that if you attract the artists and the galleries with cheap rent and support,  areas that were written off as dead suddenly become vital. And this is true also for rural areas, that can use art as a foundation for creating a sense of community and character that attracts visitors with money to spend, thus lifting up other businesses that may have little connection to culture.

To most people, art is a luxury, the ultimate symbol of elitist extravagance that does nothing to build roads or remove trash. But the people and groups who create it and promote art, know that it provides necessary enrichment that contributes mightily to the lifeblood of American cities, towns and, yes, Gov. Brownback, states.

Go Deep: Jeff Koons’ Made in Heaven at Luxembourg and Dayan

 

Jeff Koons, Ponies, 1991 Oil inks silkscreened on canvas228.6 x 152.4 cm (90 x 60 inches)
Jeff Koons, Ponies, 1991 Oil inks silkscreened on canvas 228.6 x 152.4 cm via Spreadart Culture

 

The thing about the Luxembourg and Dayan gallery is that it’s small. It’s small and the walls are close. And the thing about Jeff KoonsMade in Heaven series, is that the paintings are huge. They are huge and very intimate. The situation makes for an interesting immersive experience.

What grabs you, when you step into this exhibit, is how it lends new meaning to “in your face.”

As I distracted myself with the paint jet dithering, I tried to think about Fragonard. But Ilona’s pale spotted bum, really sat heavily on my I.Q. The people standing nearby carried on a did-you-know patter about the print process, and “eternal virgins” and the Violet Ice (Kama Sutra) glass piece —but honestly, on an intellectual level, it’s mostly “been there, done that” isn’t it?

What I mean to say is, since these works were unveiled at the 1990 Venice Biennale, we’ve had 20 years to talk it over. But I recall none of that here, back to back with strangers and surrounded by more crack than an alphabet dweller in the late 80s. I”m all eyes for the long nails — really? There? — and the bad shave: sorry, that looks raspy.

Now, believe me, I KNOW I’m being childish. I am quite clear on that by now. It’s all supposed to be about the talking points: you make sure to have your Ecstasy of St. Theresa and you discuss Fragonard and you wink at the old dutch with their personal cabinets of pretty portraits, and then you give Koons the big nod of history. That’s how you are supposed to do it.

But I can’t. I know what I’m going to say and it’s not about art history.

Um: I like Ponies.

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