A Quarterly Newsletter for Small and Mid-sized Museums

Museum Views

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What are some of the major events that took place in the museum world in the last quarter? the past 6 months? further back than that? Find some hard facts- and some gossip- here.

Art of Reading People

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Go to  link to October 2021 in "Archives" to see News "Briefs." 

JULY 2021

Go to link to July 2021 in "Archives" to see News "Briefs."


 "The Long and Shorter."


            Where else? Paris of course!

            An Art Treasure Hunt (it took place in Paris in October 2020).  Called “Wanted!”, it was held at the Grand Palais, which was empty while awaiting renovations. “Throughout the course of 48 hours, visitors are invited to search for 20 works by 20 artists [represented by Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin] which are concealed in the empty nave of the Grand Palais. The rules are simple: If you find a work in the Grand Palais, you will leave with the work.”

          “Wanted! Art is Yours” was co-organized by the RMN-Grand Palais cultural body and the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin. Each session lasted 50 minutes maximum; coronavirus precautions were in place—a capacity limited to 500 people per time slot and mandatory facial coverings. Participation was free of charge.


 Bronx Museo Receives Award

          El Museo del Barrio announced the receipt of a $4 million grant from the Ford Foundation and Partners to support the museum’s curatorial and education programs, general operations, and an additional $100,000 for organizational capacity-building including digital strategies and more. The grant comes through the Ford Foundation’s America’s Cultural Treasures initiative—$156 million to be distributed to local museums over the next four years. (See article on p.     .)


Acquisition Advances Surge Toward Diversity

          A series of 15 screen prints, The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture (1986-1997), depicting the legacy of Haitian revolutionary L’Ouverture, was acquired by the Colby College Museum of Art (ME). The prints are based on a series of 41 tempera paintings, also called The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, that Lawrence made between 1936 and 1938.

          The L’Ouverture series was the first of Lawrence’s narrative cycles, which eventually led to his magnum opus, The Migration Series (1941). Through time the various series reveal the mutating practice of an artist whose signature style became a mixture of geometric abstractions and reductive representation.

          Seen in this iteration of the L’Ouverture series are vignettes of the man’s life and events that led to the Haitian Revolution, which toppled French colonial rule in Haiti. Following that, and L’Ouverture’s rise to commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary army, was the campaign to draft Haiti’s first democratic constitution, which went into effect in 1800.


Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Covid-19 Relief Effort

          In response to the catastrophic situation artists and art organizations face in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation has announced a promise of $5 million toward relief funding over the next three years. Building on its commitment to supporting artists and art institutions, this multiyear initiative marks the Foundation’s largest dedication of funding to date in support of a single cause since it became active in 2013.

          The MIT List Visual Arts Center became one of the first of those selected, receiving an unsolicited sum of $50,000 for the purpose of addressing the challenge to creative communities and arts organizations vis-a-vis the pandemic.


A Bucolic Exhibition

          The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown (MA) has opened its first plein-air exhibition, which it calls “Ground Work.” The exhibition will remain on view year-round on its 140-acre campus of rolling hills, pastures, and forestland, all characteristics of the Berkshire landscape. The works on display—site-responsive commissions—were conceived by six contemporary women artists.


Portraits Wanted

          An open call for submissions to the sixth triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, held at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, is continuing until Jan. 29. Artists 18 years of age and over, living and working in the United States, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam are invited to submit one portrait for consideration by a panel of experts. Prize winners and finalists are then featured in a museum exhibition, the aim of which is to broaden the definition of portraiture while highlighting the genre’s widening relevance to society and within the field of contemporary art. The goal: to bring together works that recognize the country’s diversity.

          The first-prize winner will receive $25,000 and a commission to portray a remarkable living American for the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. Additional cash prizes will be awarded. Submissions from each finalist and prizewinner will form “The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today” exhibition, which will be displayed at DC’s Portrait Gallery from April 30, 2022, through Feb. 26, 2023, before traveling to other cities in the U.S.


Closings Proliferate

          On Friday, November 20, 2020, museums began to announce “temporary closing, effective immediately” as a result of the surge in the incidence of Covid-19 across communities. The number of these announcements has grown, starting with the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC, reiterating their caution for both staff and the public as the pandemic covers the country.


It Began in Times Square

          A large LED, digitally activated billboard on the front of number 10 Times Square, located at the corner of 41st Street and 7th Avenue in New York City, is flashing artworks by artists from around the world for the benefit of passers-by. Now, it is no longer necessary to buck the traffic or to push through crowded sidewalks on the way to Times Square in order to see this new-world street gallery. The same images are showcasing online at Zaz Corner Billboard (www. ZAZ10TS.com).     

          “ZAZ Corner” includes works curated by Lightbox Live in NYC, Bezalel Academy’s Screen-Based Art Department in Jerusalem, and the Film Department of San Francisco Art Institute.


Getty Grants Go Global (in Southern California)

            Led by and made possible through grants from the Getty Foundation, a collaboration of arts institutions called Pacific Standard Time has been formed across southern California. The initiative has produced hundreds of linked art exhibitions, scholarly publications, and public programs, the majority of which have relied on grant-supported research and planning. The next program, opening in 2024, “Pacific Standard Time: Art x Science x LA,” explores the intersection of art and science in a global dimension.

            Joan Weinstein, director of the Getty Foundation, has said that in view of the coronavirus outbreak, the Getty has extended the deadline for groups applying for the first round of Pacific Standard Time research grants for the 2024 sequel. For this third iteration of Pacific Standard Time, the trust was moved to support organizations “as they struggle with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
            For information, contact the Getty Foundation.


Gardner Challenge                        

          An anonymous donor has committed a $5 million matching grant to the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum (MA). The challenge is: supporters are asked to raise another $5 million. The money is earmarked for the museum’s endowment fund. It will be part of a $65 million campaign called “Renewing the Promise: For the Public Forever,” which is slated to implement the museum’s Strategic Plan ensuring continuing successes.


Art Teachers Cite Parrish and Others

          The Parrish Art Museum (NY) received a 2020 Special Citation Business/Institution Award from the New York State Art Teachers Association for its outstanding service and commitment to art education. The statewide citations were awarded to four organizations this year for their significant contributions to art education.

          The nominating statement highlighted the museum’s commitment to supporting art teachers by providing free access to enrolled teachers, workshops free of charge, a reception and certificates for professional development hours, an annual student exhibition, weekly studio art classes, summer art camps, and weekend family art workshops, among other programs.


Utah Monolith Mystery Mounts

          The metal monolith, discovered in the Utah desert by a team of biologists from the Utah Division of Wildlife counting bighorn sheep from a helicopter, posed a conundrum. Speculation abounds. Was this a work from outer space á la 2001: A Space Odyssey? Was it a practical joke? Was it a sculpture by artist John McCracken? Where is it now?

          Soon after its discovery, and after other similar objects were discovered in remote areas around the world, it was taken down and hauled away by a group of outdoorsmen who, while respecting works of art and the artists who create them, decried the effect the object had on the pristine surrounding landscape, siting the presence of legal restrictions on public lands and the ethical responsibility to preserve them.

          One of the demolition group wrote to The Art Newspaper, “…the damage caused by the internet sensationalism and subsequent reaction from the world [was enormous.] This land wasn’t physically prepared for the population shift, especially during a pandemic.” The group witnessed hundreds of cars in the area, trash and detritus scattered about, visitors ignoring walking trails, dogs off-leash, a plane parked nearby. The writer went on: “Mother Nature is the artist in the wild, and we should leave her art untouched.”


Dia Expands in Chelsea (NY)

          The Dia Foundation in New York announced the reopening of its Chelsea venue, enlarged and revamped. The April event will follow a two-year $20 million renovation project that reconnects three contiguous buildings with a single façade on West 22nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues.

           The new 32,000 square foot facility will utilize 20,000 square feet for exhibition and public programming space and a bookstore. Admission will be free of charge. An inaugural exhibition will feature two new commissioned installations by Lucy Raven.


Frick Moves to Breuer

            For the time being—for two years—the Frick Collection will be on view at the Breuer building on Madison Avenue in New York City. It will be known as Frick Madison. The landmark Brutalist building, owned and formerly occupied by the Whitney Museum of American Art, and following that, temporarily occupied by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will be the temporary home for the Frick collection, displaced by massive renovations of the 1914 Gilded Age mansion that is its permanent place of residence on Fifth Avenue.

            Director Ian Wardropper says, “We’re taking advantage of a totally different space. “They [the artworks] won’t have the rich bath of the Gilded Age to luxuriate in—they will have to stand on their own more. It’s an opportunity for us to re-examine the collection—how it looks in a fresh context. The main thing is that we are able to continue to present the collection; otherwise during construction we would have gone completely dark….”

            The $160 million renovation will increase exhibition space and improve the museum’s circulation, amenities, and infrastructure. And the installation in the new surroundings will includes all 14 paintings of Fragonard’s Progress of Love series, all of eight van Dycks that belong to the collection, and two 16th-century Mughal carpets that have been in storage. The collection will be shown chronologically and by region, each of three floors focusing on areas of Europe.

            “I hope,” said Deputy Director and Chief Curator Xavier F. Salomon, “it’s going to be a chance for people who know the Frick well to be able to say, ‘Oh, I never noticed that before.’”


Statue of Liberty Solution

            The Statue of Liberty Museum (NY) has devised a solution to today’s long pandemic wait times that is applicable to any partially open museum contending with visitor impatience. To address limited access to the crown and longer wait times at the pedestal, the foundation created the Immersive Theater to give everyone access to visuals of Lady Liberty through 4K projection technology, extending the view from beyond the ground floor. With the projection surface consisting of uniquely curved shapes and folds (Liberty’s robe) the museum worked with Panasonic to install 8 PT-RQ32KU 3DLP 4K projectors and edge blending technology to create accurate, crisp, and undetectable projection blends. These technology solutions will serve the museum and its millions of visitors for years to come.


Big $ Surprise for Museum in PA

          The Wharton Esherick Museum (WEM) in Malvern, Pennsylvania, announced the receipt of a $10 million endowment gift from the Windgate Foundation, a longtime supporter of the museum and a champion of American craft. Returns from the investment of the unexpected gift are projected to provide income that will support the Museum’s annual operating budget at a time when, like every cultural organization, it is grappling with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

          “Windgate’s partnership with the Wharton Esherick Museum began in 1996 and over the years we have been increasingly impressed with the varied programs, tours, and educational opportunities they have offered,” commented Pat Forgy, executive director of the Foundation. “The endowment gift is a culmination of our many years of working together and shows our trust in the staff and board and their future vision….”


Honey Bees—a Sweet Addition to a Museum

          The Parrish Art Museum (NY) announced the arrival of its second season of Parish Honey, which is produced in hives occupied by Carniolan and Italian Bees. Located on a far corner of the many acre grounds, the Parrish bees are a boon to bees, the museum landscape, and the museum itself (through sales).

          The originator of the project is a beekeeper, someone who needed a site for his hives. The museum offered the site, and the partnership began. “The offer to keep them on the museum grounds was a win/win—for me, the museum, the bees, our natural environment, and the community at large. The native meadow and forest surrounding the museum is truly the perfect location for the hives. They are super strong and productive,” said a happy Tony Piazza, the beekeeper and founder of Piazza Horticultural, a firm that designs, builds, and maintains dynamic environments.

          Last year, 180 pounds of honey were produced—an exceptional number for first year hives. The location and types of bees were key to the success. Carniolan bees are preferred by beekeepers particularly for their ability to defend themselves against insects, and their gentle behavior with the beekeepers. Italian bees are favored because they are excellent foragers and show a strong disposition to breeding.

          The four Parrish bee houses were strategically placed along the rarely traversed tree line at the northwest corner of the Terrace Meadow to ensure the safety of the bees and the public. Tree flowers are a substantial source of nectar and pollen, and the flavor profile of Parrish honey, technically wildflower honey, is most likely influenced by the Tupelo trees on the grounds. In addition, the vineyard next door, apple trees across the highway, and a wide array of wildflowers in the meadow provide a multitude of opportunities for pollination.  



Kara Walker, in memory of Toni Morrison who died in New York at age 88 early in August, created a cover for the August 19 issue of The New Yorker magazine. Toni Morrison was the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature (1993). Among her, 11 novels were The Bluest Eye (1970) and Beloved (1987). Walker’s memorial portrait is a cutout silhouette with the title Quiet As It’s Kept, honoring “the shadow that she leaves behind.”

As for creating a cutout, Walker says, “After a number of false starts—pastel, clay, I even considered watercolor—I decided to keep it familiar, to use the cutout. It’s the work I do. I’m no portraitist, but I am a shadow maker.”

Good News about Grants

The National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter has approved more than $80 million in grants as part of the Arts endowment’s second major funding announcement for the fiscal year 2019. The agency received 1,592 Art Works (the Endowment’s principal grantmaking program) applications for the present round of grantmaking and will award 977 grants in this category.

“These awards, reaching every corner of the United States, are a testament to the artistic richness and diversity in our country,” said Carter. ‘Organizations… are giving people their community the opportunity to learn, create, and be inspired.”

Raphael’s Librarian

Although the “Close Up” exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (MA) is all about Raphael, it also celebrates the subject of his portrait of the papal librarian Tommaso Inghirami.

Celebrated by Erasmus as “the Cicero of our era,” Inghirami was a celebrity in the Renaissance, esteemed for his profound erudition and theatrical abilities. His intellectual achievements made him the perfect choice as a papal librarian. In addition, he became famous for his stage performances, playing the lead in revivals of ancient plays. In fact, he acquired the nickname “Fedra” after starring as the lovesick queen in Seneca’s Phaedra. Impressed, his friend Raphael cast him in the role of the philosopher Epicurius in his School of Athens fresco, after which he memorialized him in the portrait now on exhibit at the Gardner Museum.

Citizenship Among the Masters

Inspired by the themes explored in the exhibition “Yinka Shonibare CBE: The American Library,” the Speed Art Museum (KY) hosted a Naturalization Ceremony for approximately 100 Louisville residents in August. The ceremony included the oath of allegiance, signifying the end of the journey to U.S. citizenship, and its attendant privileges—the right to vote and to apply for a U.S. passport.

Requirements to becoming a citizen include five years of permanent residency (three years for spouses of citizens), passing the naturalization test, answering questions on background, submitting to an interview, passing tests on English and civics. Exemptions or waivers are sometimes granted.

Indigenous Installations in the Making

The Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland (OR) announced that it has been awarded a Creative Heights grant of $100,000 by the Oregon Community Foundation to support the commissioning of eight indigenous artists who will create installations to cover “Chieftain” heads carved into the travertine above the eight doorways in the corridor of the main campus building, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design. The building, a former federal post office, which opened in 1919, was designed by American architect Lewis P. Hobart.

New York Birthday

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building opened on Fifth Avenue in New York on October 21, 1959. Millions have of visitors have been inspired and awed by the unique combination of radical art and architecture. Close to its 60th birthday, the landmark building was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and on October 21, 2019, the people came to celebrate with special programs, food, music, tours, workshops, and film screenings.

On Schedule: Building Transformation

The next milestone in the Penn Museum’s Building Transformation project will reveal, on November 16, a reimagined suite of Africa galleries showcasing some 300 objects, half of which have never been on display. These galleries, containing one of the largest collections of African artifacts in the U.S., trace the paths of several key objects from their African origins to the museum in Philadelphia. It is through five themes—Design, Instruments, Spirituality, Benin in the West, and Exchange—and interactive media, first-person video narratives, and unusual objects that the museum conveys the breadth of its collection and the history of the continent through slavery to wealth and international involvement.

Artist-in-Residence in Senegal

Black Rock Senegal is a multi-disciplinary residency program developed by artist Kehinde Wiley, bringing together an international group of visual artists, writers, and filmmakers to join him at his studio on the westernmost point of the coast of Africa.

Residents will be invited to Dakar for between one and three months to live and create works at Black Rock, which seeks to support new multinational artistic creation through intergenerational collaborations and conversations.

Designed by Senegalese architect Abib Djenne, Black Rock Senegal opened in May 2019. The property includes apartments and studio space for Wiley and three artist residents. Each is invited to stay from between one and three months, while the program will run from June 2019 through February 2020. Residents are provided with assistance with language, a modest stipend, and funding for travel within Senegal.

Islam in Boston

The reinstalled, reinterpreted Arts of Islamic Cultures Gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, opened in July 2019. It is designed to enhance understanding of the arts of Islamic communities. Thematically installed, the objects are divided into vignettes that reflect the artistic traditions that evolved over 13 centuries, from Spain to India and beyond.

Arabic calligraphy is explored as an art form; Ottoman Turkey and Mughal India are examined; and the history of singular objects and several contemporary works are included.

California Collaboration

The Wende Museum (CA) and the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum (CA), both in Culver City, have announced a strategic partnership that would allow both to continue to provide and expand access to rare historical collections that are otherwise at risk of neglect or disappearance. The Clayton collection of African American art, media, and literature, one of southern California’s most distinguished, was moved from the founder’s garage to a Culver City building from which it was evicted last this past summer. Preserving the Clayton collection became a community affair, and efforts were poured into forming a partnership between the two organizations, which resulted in an emerging Creative Community Center, housed in an abandoned city-owned building, which would offer cultural and educational programming and social services by multiple community organizations working together.

Board Director of the Clayton Museum and Library commented: “Working together and pooling resources to provide a greater public benefit while also demonstrating the value of arts and cultural collaborations as a model is a win-win.” Wende Museum Executive Director Justin Jampol said, “Whether it’s a museum, a public institute of higher education, or a social-service non-profit, the old ways of operating are obsolete. Strategic partnerships are the only viable model.”

Schiele and Habitat for Humanity

A shopper at a Habitat for Humanity thrift shop in Queens, New York, browsing through second-hand furniture and clothing, came upon and bought a drawing of a girl lying on her back that attracted his attention. He thought it looked like a drawing by Egon Schiele. After consultation with Jane Kallir, the author of Schiele’s catalog raisonné and director of Galerie St. Etienne in New York, he found his suspicion validated. The drawing was authenticated as a work by Egon Schiele, sketched not long before his death in Vienna in 1918 at age 28, a victim of the Spanish flu pandemic—probably one of several studies for his final lithograph Girl.

“It was [a sketch of] a girl who modeled for Schiele frequently, both alone and sometimes with her mother, in 1918,” said Kallir, who could place the work in a sequence of 22 other Schiele drawings of the girl, even pinpointing two that were probably made in the same session.

Today, the drawing is hanging in Kallir’s gallery, priced at from $100,000 to $200,000. If sold, the anonymous purchaser has promised to donate some of the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.

Niagara Center Awarded for Excellence

The Niagara Underground Railroad Heritage Center (NY) received an award of excellence from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) for its permanent exhibition “One More River to Cross,” mounted to reintroduce the forgotten history of the Underground Railroad in Niagara Falls and share the courageous stories of freedom seekers and abolitionists. The exhibition blends historic, re-creations, artifacts, original fine art, music, narration, and multimedia interactive features.

The museum explains that while the Underground Railroad must be set within the context of the system of slavery in the United States, slavery, per se, is not a primary focus at the Heritage Center. Rather, the focus is on the strength and agency of the individuals whose goal was to claim their own freedom: freedom seekers are at the heart of the stories told at the Center. Moreover, the Heritage Center connects their stories to the continued struggle for all people to live free from oppression.

Sara Capen, executive director for the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, writes: “This small, but critically needed museum is a poignant reminder of the work that is before us as people, as neighbors, as leaders, as teachers, as communities. It is a reminder that our “one More River to Cross’ is not a gentle stream…. More so, like the Niagara, it is a mighty river full of obstacles, currents, intensity like few other rivers in the world. This exhibit calls upon each of s to pick up the oars because the crossing is treacherous and there is still so much work to do for s to get to the other side.”

The AASLH was begun in 1945 to encourage excellence in the collection of state and local history throughout the United States. Leadership in History Awards honor not only a significant achievement for the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history, but also recognizes small and large organizations to make contributions.

Touching Allowed

The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum (TX) is developing “Touch Tours,” a program for the blind and visually impaired—a guided tour through the garden and assistance when describing and interacting with the sculptures. The museum’s partnership with the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which provides training for their docents, ensures the best experiences possible.

Great Lakes Native America Reaches Indiana

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art (IN) has acquired the Richard Pohrt, Jr. collection, a major assemblage of historical art from the Native Nations of the Great Lakes region that will prompt significant renovations to its Native galleries. A $2.83 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. made possible the acquisition of the collection as well as its shipment, storage, conservation, tribal consultations, and community accessibility.

Among the objects included in the acquisition are items of all manner of clothing—hand-beaded and hand-stitched, carved wooden bowls, ladles, and war clubs, handwoven bags. Together they tell the story of indigenous peoples who have inhabited the area for centuries.

Painter of Former First Lady Ventures Outdoors

Amy Sherald, whose portrait of Michelle Obama hangs in the National Portrait Gallery (DC) to the great admiration and interest of visitors, has broadened the venues of her portraits to the side of a Target store in Philadelphia—a six-story mural, Untitled, portrays a 19-year-old African American Philadelphia resident named Najee Spencer-Young. Said Sherald, “Given Philadelphia’s cultural landscape, I think it’s important also to have that diversity represented within its visual landscape.”

The piece was commissioned by the non-profit Mural Arts Philadelphia, where Spencer-Young had participated in an education program. Painter and subject met at an “audition” for the portrait. Spencer-Young was shy and hesitant, but “When I asked for volunteers to shoot a few fun photos, she popped up…. After looking at the photos we took, I immediately knew she was the right model for this mural. I saw [the project] as an opportunity to build her self-esteem as well as [that of] the other young girls that look like her.”

The Favorites

In its five-year collaboration with the Smithsonian American Art Museum (DC) and four partner museums across western U.S. communities, the Nevada Museum of Art designated the month of November to vote on selections from SAAM which, if they win the vote, will be included in an exhibition entitled “America’s Art, Nevada’s Choice” (through Dec. 2).

For a month during this past summer at the Nevada Museum, thousands of people cast votes for their favorite painting from SAAM. The vote was to result in the favorite three being installed on the walls of the museum. Works by Hassam, Hockney, Hopper, Inness, Lawrence, O’Keeffe, Rodriguez-Diaz, and Roesen were in contention for the honor.

The final result: Childe Hassam’s, The South Ledges, Appledore, 1913; Edward Hopper’s Ryder’s House, 1933; and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hibiscus with Plumeria, 1939.

Wright Building Sited by World Heritage

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (NY) was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the 20th Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, which includes eight major works spanning 50 years of his career. The sites listed are Unity Temple (1906-09), Oak Park, Illinois; the Frederick C. Robie House (1910), Chicago; Taliesin (1911), Spring Green, Wisconsin; Hollyhock House (1918-21), Los Angeles; Fallingwater (1936-39), Mill Run, Pennsylvania; the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House (1936-37), Madison, Wisconsin; Taliesin West (1938) Scottsdale, Arizona; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1956-59). This group of structures is one of more than 1,000 World Heritage sites around the world and is among only 24 sites in the U.S.—the first modern architecture designation in the country.

New Building for New Museum

The New Museum (NY) plans for its second building complements the integrity of its flagship structure and replaces its 50,000-square-foot adjacent property on the Bowery. The new seven-story building will include three floors of galleries, additional space for public amenities, and improved vertical circulation.

Bridge Morphs to Sculpture

Five years ago, workers began to dismantle the former eastern span of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Artists across California expressed a heated desire to repurpose the emerging steel pieces. The Oakland Museum of California, in its wisdom, expressed interest and partnered with the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee to start the Bay Bridge Steel Program. Ultimately, 15 artists, architects, and design professionals were awarded some of the steel under the condition that they use it to make public art in California.

This past September, one of the winners, Tom Loughlin, unveiled a large, ambitious public art project, the first work to emerge from the program—Signal—a massive public sculpture on the western edge of Treasure Island. It is a steel ring, 25 feet across, made from the former span’s box-shaped and riveted top chords, the uppermost horizontal girders of the truss sections of the bridge — pulses of light shine from a signal lamp and a low vibration that mimics a foghorn.

The sculpture will be free and open to the public through 2022.

April 2019

Renewing the Rothko Chapel

The paintings (commissioned by the de Menils in 1970) are in “great shape,” says David Leslie, executive director of the nonprofit organization that runs the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, which opened in 1971. “It’s the natural Houston light that pours in from the skylight that needs fixing”; because of the constant exposure, Mark Rothko’s 14 monumental paintings could fade drastically.

Various solutions have been tried over the years, some unsightly, some ineffective. Finally, a new solution is being put into place: a new skylight with special glass in the original octagonal shape approved by Rothko himself. Painted aluminum louvers below the glass will filter the light without changing the impression of direct light from the skylight. “My father loved the light in that studio [in New York] and wanted to replicate it in the chapel,” says Christopher Rothko, the artist’s son. And so, he will have it. The restoration of the chapel and the addition of a visitors’ pavilion and an “energy house” that contains mechanical systems will be finished by the end of the year.

Other facets of this grand $30 million overhaul will also be undertaken. A new administrative archival building, a center for public programs, the relocation of a bungalow on the property to serve as a guest house, new landscaping, and a “meditation garden” are all in the offing to be finished by 2021.

Getty Villa Gradually Reopens

Reopening in stages since last summer, the Getty Villa in Malibu (CA) has completed a major overhaul of its collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. The previously thematic presentation has been replaced by chronological displays spanning the years 6000 B.C. to 600 A.D. The revamp carves out some 3,000 square feet of additional exhibition space and brings works out of storage.

International Event: Simultaneous Openings Across the Pond

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (NY) and Cube design museum in Kerkrade, Netherlands, are co-organizing the exhibition “Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial,” (May 10-January 20, 2020) opening simultaneously at both venues. Each museum features innovative projects begun in 2016 and later that highlight the ways designers collaborate with scientists, engineers, farmers, environmentalists, and nature itself to create a more harmonious and regenerative future.

The works on display, ranging across design disciplines such as architecture, urbanism, product design, landscape design, fashion and communication design, are shown to enhance and reimagine humans’ relationship to the natural world. In fact, the dual exhibitions together confront humanity’s biggest challenge yet—climate change—by addressing the ways designers are exploring sustainable production methods, identifying new ways for protecting future generations, and deepening the understanding of, and relationship with nature. Areas of innovation include synthetic biology, data visualization, urban agriculture, and alternative materials research.

Summer Openings

The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach (FL) has received an extensive facelift after 78 years of active life. The new-look includes a sculpture garden that provides a culturally underserved community with an up-to-date center, extra gallery space, and a new building that reorients the main entrance. The Great Hall serves as the museum’s “living room” and community space, while the historic houses on the campus edge house artists-in-residence.

The focus of The Shed, a new interdisciplinary arts center on Manhattan’s West Side, is toward new art. “The original idea was relatively simple: provide a place for artists, working in all disciplines, to make and present work for audiences from all walks of life,” says Alex Pots, chief executive of the center. Thus, The Shed commissions original works of art across all disciplines, for all audiences. It opened in early April with “Soundtrack of America,” a music history concert series. More events follow:

“Reich Richter Part,” a collaboration between painter Gerhard Richter and the composer Steve Reich, and another between Richter and composer Arvo Pärt;
“Trisha Donnelly,” an exhibition of artwork;
“Norma Jeanne Baker of Troy,” a partly spoken, partly sung performance piece;
“Björk’s Cornucopia,” an elaborate staged concert;
“Powerplay,” a multimedia production celebrating radical art;
“Open Call,” a display of new works by New York-based emerging artists;
“Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise.” S futuristic Kung Fu musical;
and more….

It is designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with the Rockwell Group, the building’s outer movable shell coasts on steel tracks, doubling its footprint. It pursues a LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Another summer event in New York is the opening of the expanded Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Having added 30 percent more space for displays, the architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro have also enlarged the entrance and the display areas on the upper floors. New flexible spaces are dedicated to contemporary design, performance, and film. There are also new flexible spaces dedicated to contemporary design, performance, and film.

Native American Fellowship Program Awarded

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem (MA) announced that it had been awarded a $1.3 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support its landmark Native American Fellowship program. In its tenth year, the program ensures that talented Native Americans acquire the experience, knowledge, and skills needed to become cultural leaders with impact. Founded ten years ago in response to the underrepresentation of Native Americans in the museum, cultural, and academic fields, the program is designed to foster a new generation of Native American leaders who will play a role in developing and preserving their art and culture.

The Peabody Essex Museum has the oldest Native American art collection in the hemisphere. It presents and interprets the art and culture of more than 500 Native American tribes and takes on the responsibility of helping support their continued creativity.

Long-Time Partnership Emerges

A multi-year partnership was announced early this year between the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 (NY). The wide-ranging collaboration encompasses exhibitions and programming during the construction of the Studio Museum’s new facility, situated on the site of its former home on West 125th Street.

First, opening at MoMA PS1 is a new work by the current participants in the Studio Museum’s Artist-in-Residence program (June 9-Sept. 8). Then, “Studio Museum at MoMA, The Elaine Dannheisser Project Series” will inaugurate the new MoMA, opening October 21.

Landmark Preservation Underway

For the first time in its 112-year history, the Morgan Library & Museum (NY) will undergo a facelift. The exterior of the McKim, Mead & White Neoclassical building will be restored and conserved, the grounds surrounding the library will be enhanced, and the lighting and public access will be improved. At its conclusion in four years, costing some $12.5 million, the generously spacious new grounds will allow visitors to look closely at the architectural and sculptural details of the library, one of the finest examples of its kind in the United States.

Chicano Art Takes Center Stage

Coming up in California through the efforts of the Riverside Art Museum and the actor and comedian Cheech Marin: a new institution dedicated to Chicano art where the Cheech collection of some 700 works will be housed. One of the largest public displays of Chicano art in the country, the collection is the result of a life-long dedication to art. It began in the 1980s. “When I discovered the Chicano painters, I thought: ‘These guys are really good. I know every painter in the world, how come they’re not getting any shelf space?’ So, that became my collecting process, to make sure they got shelf space.”

What Would You Do?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY) and all the other institutional recipients of the Sackler families’ beneficence are in a quandary. But not the City of New York, which filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and several members of the Sackler family who serve on the board of directors of that company, the pharmaceutical firm that manufactures and markets the highly addictive drug OxyContin, which has been a prime factor in the opioid crisis. The company was purchased and built up by the late brothers Sackler and continued to expand and serve the fortunes of the Sacklers through many years of growth.

Now the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other beneficiaries of the Sackler fortune are re-assessing gift acceptance policies in light of the ongoing controversy. Daniel Weiss, president and chief executive of the Met, explained, “The Sackler family has been connected with the Met for more than a half-century. The family is a large extended group and their support of the Met began decades before the opioid crisis. The Met is currently engaging in a further review of our detailed gift acceptance policies, and we will have more to report in due course.”

Late news:

On March 19, two weeks before our publication date, The Art Newspaper reported on-line that the National Portrait Gallery in London had just announced its decision against accepting a ?1million grant from the Sackler Trust. “The Sackler Trust and the National Portrait Gallery have jointly agreed not to proceed at this time with a ?1m gift from the Sackler Trust to support the gallery’s ‘Inspiring People’ project.”

The Trust’s grant was awarded in 2016 for a ?35.5m project, which includes a building development, a new education center, and a redisplay of the collection. The money remained a pledge and was not paid because a) work had not yet begun, and b) the gallery was still examining the implications of accepting Sackler funding. Issuing a statement, the Trust said that “recent reporting of allegations made against Sackler family members may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work” According to the family, “The allegations against family members are vigorously denied, but to avoid being a distraction for the NPG, we have decided not to proceed at this time with the donation. We continue to believe strongly in the gallery and the wonderful work it does.”

NPG Chairman David Ross commented: “I acknowledge the generosity of the Sackler family and their support of the arts over the years. We understand and support their decision not to proceed at this time with the donation to the Gallery.”

Eureka! A Fingerprint!

A thumbprint of Leonardo da Vinci was spotted on one of his works that resides in Britain’s Royal Collection.) It is from his left thumb (he was left-handed) and appears on a medical drawing. Ahead paper conservator found that the reddish-brown ink of the print is the same as that on the drawing, so Leonardo presumably “picked up the sheet with inky fingers”—a theory confirmed by the fact that there is also a smudged mark of his left index finger on the reverse.

The drawing in question is entitled The Cardiovascular System and Principal Organs of a Woman (c1509-10). Head paper conservator explains that although fingerprints have been found on other Leonardo drawings, the one on the Organs of a Woman is “the most convincing candidate for an authentic Leonardo fingerprint” among the Queen’s 550 Leonardos.

Multi-Institutional Partnerships and How They Work

Launched in 2017 with the goal of generating nationwide collection-sharing networks, the Art Bridges + Terra Foundation Initiative is a joint grant program of Art Bridges and the Terra Foundation for American Art. This initiative supports multi-year, multi-institutional partnerships, pairing a large metropolitan museum with smaller museums that traditionally lack the opportunity or resources to work together. The purpose of these partnerships is to engage local communities with outstanding works of American art. Partners collaborate by sharing collections and resources to create a series of content-rich exhibitions of art combined with in-depth educational and interpretive materials to reach a broad spectrum of audience interests. In addition, the initiative fosters professional development and exchanges among partners.


For Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Museum of Art serves as the catalyst museum partnering with a consortium of eight museums across the Commonwealth. The Westmoreland was invited to be a part of this initiative in 2017. The other partners are Allentown Art Museum, The Demuth Museum, Erie Art Museum, James A. Michener Art Museum, Palmer Art Museum, Reading Public Museum, and The Trout Gallery. Comming together as a consortium offers the exceptional opportunity to share collections, exhibitions, ideas and professional expertise with our audiences.

Museo Censures Artist

El Museum del Barrio (NY) canceled an exhibition of work by Chilean-born film-maker and artist Alejandro Jodorowsky after reflecting on remarks he made decades ago about raping an actress while filming a movie. The museum statement read: “The cancellation was made following an assessment of remarks made by the artist regarding an act of sexual violence he perpetrated [against an actress] in the making of his film El Topo,” which was filmed in 1970. Executive Director Patrick Charpenel said, “We are committed to addressing complex and challenging issues but have a responsibility to do so in a way that generates productive dialogues and debate. However, while the issues raised by Jodorowsky’s practice should be examined, we have come to the conclusion that an exhibition is not the right platform for doing so at this time.”

News Shorts

Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY) delivers 1st-century gilded Egyptian coffin to Manhattan district attorney for return to Egypt. Museum discovered the coffin had been looted in 2011. It was acquired only two years ago from a Paris-based dealer who is said to have given fraudulent ownership history.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art I (CA) announces the sale of Mar Rothko color-bloc painting (Untitled, 1960) to raise money for diversification and for the acquisitions that fill “historical gaps” in its holdings. The May auction is estimated to bring $35-50 million.

University of Notre Dame (IN), following student protests, will cover 12 murals (1882-84) on the walls of the main building in response to a student protest. Although these Christopher Columbus images reflect 19th-century thinking about his discovery, his arrival “was nothing short of a catastrophe” for indigenous peoples,” said University President Rev. John Jenkins.

Activist/photographer Nan Goldin continues to protest against Sackler-family donations to museums for their contributions derived from proceeds from the sale of opioid OxyContin, which fueled the opioid epidemic. Goldin and followers deposited thousands of fake prescriptions in the atrium of the Guggenheim Museum (NY) and then moved on to the entrance of the Met.

Copy of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa garners near-largest auction price ever for a copy. The estimated sale price of $80,000-100,000 is passed by an actual sale of $1.69 million. Leonardo mania continues.’

Museum of Modern Art (NY) and Hermitage Museum (Moscow) heads seek to end U.S.-Russian loan freeze at the February art diplomacy conference held at the Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas (TX). Glen Lowry (MoMA) and Mikhail Piotrovsky (Hermitage) agreed on difficulty, but not on the solution. Currently, the freeze stems from a 2010 decision by a Federal court directing Russia to return a library in its possession to a U.S. Jewish organization, Chabad. Russia’s failure to participate in the court hearings resulted in fines of $50,000 a day for contempt. As a result, Russia refuses to loan art to the U.S. for fear that it will be seized as collateral to satisfy the judgment. Lowry commented: “You have a strange moment where relationships [between curators and museum staffs] at a personal level have probably never been better,” yet at an institutional level, exchanging exhibitions, “it’s never been more difficult.”

Shutdown Fallout

For more than a month, from December 22, 2019, to January 25, 2019, federally funded museums suffered the dire consequences of disappointed visitors, furloughed staff, disrupted exhibitions, and lost revenue. The fallout continues.

Federal museums were able to stay open for 11 days during the shutdown due to leftover funds from the previous fiscal year. For 27 days thereafter, they went dark. Altogether, the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, including the Cooper Hewitt in New York, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Zoo, lost an estimated one million visitors. School groups were canceled, exhibitions were cut short, or schedules revised.

The Smithsonian lost an estimated $3.4 million in gross revenue from its gift shops, concessions and IMAX film screenings, which can never be regained. The National Portrait Gallery lost some $1.2 million in gross revenue from its shops, restaurants, and ice rink.

Some 2,000 trust-funded Smithsonian staff members were able to work during the shutdown. The NGA staff is 84 percent federally funded. Another Smithsonian staff is only 2/3 funded, with the balances coming from trusts and private sources. Of the 4,000 Smithsonian Federal workers, all but 800were furloughed; the majority of the staff who continued working were those concerned with operations of the zoo.

Outside contractors—security guards, food service workers—were not guaranteed backpay as were all federal workers.

Researchers were unable to use the libraries and collections.

Furloughed employees were forbidden to check their government email; they had no sense of purpose or mission; morale bottomed out.