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LACMA's Classy Redesign Puts Focus on Modern Art

Posted By Administration, Saturday, January 12, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

The contrast couldn't be starker.

Earlier this week came disappointing news that prominent collectors Eli and Edythe Broad had reversed gear, deciding against giving any of their contemporary art to the building bearing their name that will open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next month. Meanwhile, on Sunday, LACMA will unveil a smashing new installation of its permanent collection of Modern art, including the extraordinarily munificent gift of 130 works from Janice and Henri Lazarof, hitherto virtually anonymous Los Angeles collectors.


Talk about night and day. A perusal of the new installation is a clear demonstration that a new building is nice, and it can have beneficial effects for art, but a transformative art collection is infinitely superior.

LACMA's Modern collection doesn't have a new building, but it does have 22,000 square feet of expansive, handsomely redesigned galleries that take up the entire plaza level of the Ahmanson Building. (The collection was formerly in the awkward Anderson Building, which is becoming the new home to art of the Americas.) An airily uncluttered entry, dark wood floors, pale gray walls and high ceilings painted jet black yield a pleasant surprise.

These rooms, sober but not somber, possess an unexpected degree of elegant stateliness. Interior architectural design has been marshaled to say, "This matters." The design privileges art, not itself. Neatly done.

And soon, the atrium that pierces the Ahmanson Building's heart will reopen with a new grand staircase, running the width of the space. It leads from the plaza entrance down to ground level and the pathway to a fresh entry pavilion next door; beyond is the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, opening next month. Marvelously rethought by architect Renzo Piano, who is rearranging LACMA's master plan, this historically awkward atrium -- a volume of nothingness, slicing through the museum's core -- has become a sleek, modern processional space.

The plaza level galleries used to hold a jumble of ancient and American art, and before that a hodgepodge of English silver and Italian decorative art. The Modern collection streamlines things. It begins with 20th century European art and continues into postwar American abstraction, through the early 1970s.

Curator Stephanie Barron has arranged the collection in a predictable but nonetheless atypical way. As a rule, Modern art history is told from a French perspective. But LACMA has an enviable track record with presentations that look east toward avant-garde developments in Germany, Austria and Russia. Two entrances flanking the atrium direct visitors into the suite of galleries, one beginning with Paris, the other with Berlin, Vienna and Moscow. Parity is asserted -- and it certainly holds up.

The natural circulation path goes left -- which is where the German Expressionist galleries are, thus smartly italicizing LACMA's difference from other large museums. The first room is the first prominent, dedicated space for the impressive graphics collection of the museum's Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies. (Don't miss the clips and surprising vintage photographs from the classic film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," shown in a former utility closet.) The holdings are so extensive that the greatest-hits installation of prints, drawings and posters by Emil Nolde, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Beckmann and many others constitutes the proverbial iceberg's tip.

In the main German Expressionist gallery, announced by a magnificent Schmidt-Rottluff painting of a banshee dance, is the museum's remarkable lineup of four paintings by Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner. A condensed history of the movement between 1910 and 1922 is told through the work of its great Berlin master.

An exceptional Kirchner carved-wood figure, on extended loan from a private collection, adds significantly to the group. It underscores the power of the museum's own sculptural masterpiece, Hermann Scherer's "Sleeping Woman With Boy" (1926), in which a traditional Christian Madonna and Child is reconfigured as a moving totem of pagan urbanity.

There's also the monumental Kurt Schwitters collage "Constellation for Noble Ladies," which looks as if it could date from 1959 rather than 1919. It's perhaps the finest Schwitters in America. The work's incorporation of manufactured objects -- a wheel, a light fixture -- connects to the period furniture and other decorative arts incorporated into the display of painting and sculpture.

The early French Modern art claims some familiar gems, including fine examples by "the big three." A brooding Blue Period Picasso and Matisse's five bronze heads of Jeannette (1910-13), plus his great 1919 garden painting, "Tea," are well known. But it's easy to forget that five years ago, LACMA acquired the artist's proof of Marcel Duchamp's clever Dada edition "With Hidden Noise" (1916/64).

A ball of twine is held between brass plates, with an unknown object concealed inside. It's like a child's rattle, mocking the internal, secret mysteries of art.

The German and French galleries lead to rooms that display the exceptional collection of the Lazarofs, whose important paintings, drawings and sculptures by Kandinsky, Klee, Schwitters, Picasso, Brancusi, Léger and others are instrumental in greatly elevating the museum's Modern holdings. Take Brancusi's iconic "Bird," the attenuated, phallic bronze form atop a white marble cylinder.

There are two versions, one from 1925-26 and the other from 1927, and the subtle variations between them are fascinating. The sizes differ, and some proportions, but so do the scale relationships between figure and pedestal. One sculpture feels balanced, poised, like an elegant creature in liftoff; the other almost broods, with a quiet, precarious drama.

These are the first works by Brancusi to enter LACMA's collection. To have that long-awaited addition happen in this unusual, provocative pairing is remarkable.

The 20 Picasso drawings and paintings span the artist's working life. A small 1905 ink drawing, "Blind Beggar," shows a poor youth with a black inkblot for an eye, his pants open and his genitals exposed, as if sex will be his worldly avenue of perception.

Nearby hangs the large 1969 painting "Man and Woman," dominated by an electrifying palette of chrome yellow, black and white. The vivid, almost violent rendering of sexual congress completes the six-decade-long arc begun with the beggar.

In between is my immediate favorite -- a modest, Iberian-style head of a woman, made in the run-up to 1907's landmark painting, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon." It's surprising for its gentle poignancy. Blue, Rose and imminent Cubist-period Picasso seem jampacked inside.

And speaking of Cubism, Georges Braque's gorgeous little 1912 still life, rendered on an oval canvas that recalls both a cafe tabletop and a mirror, is a marvelous complement to LACMA's 1913 Cubist Braque oval still life. The latter is larger and more imposing, but a bit dull, while the new addition sparkles.

As the Brancusi works might suggest, the collection is exceptionally rich in sculpture. Matisse's classical, even archaic 1929 bronze head, "Henriette III," amplifies the five heads of Jeannette already in the collection. A comparable elaboration is something that happens time and again here, not least with Alberto Giacometti.

Seven Giacometti bronzes, spanning 1934 to 1960, now join the two standing women LACMA owned. (One quibble: The platform on which the extraordinary group is shown should be moved out from the wall, so a visitor could see the attenuated sculptures in the round.) The earliest is a small Cubist skull, a death's head crossed with an almost geological formation, like a rock, and the most recent is a waist-high man's head that mysteriously billows up from the floor.

Surprisingly, the object labels reveal that LACMA acquired the Lazarof collection in 2005 -- news kept under wraps until its public announcement Dec. 12. The museum had no place to show the works then, and waiting for this reinstallation was a good idea.

The three Lazarof galleries will remain for the foreseeable future, since works on paper need to be rotated for conservation purposes, and that will give us a welcome chance to get acquainted with the gift. (About 80 of the 130 works are currently up.) But there are no restrictions on integrating the collection into LACMA's holdings.

European Modern art is not exhaustively chronicled, of course, and there is much work left for the museum to do. The collection has no paintings by Kazimir Malevich or Edvard Munch, for example, to name just two prominent missing persons. But it's certainly more than respectable, and in some areas considerably more. The distinctive parity granted Eastern and Western Europe is a breath of fresh air.

Perhaps someday that breeze will blow through the postwar Modern American galleries, currently overwhelmed with New York School paintings and sculptures, some of them quite fine. In the same way LACMA gives equivalence to France and Germany before the war, making for a curiously appealing presentation, it would be a singular achievement to track postwar American avant-garde developments on the East and West Coasts.

There is a nice nook with terrific Bay Area figurative paintings by David Park and Joan Brown, capped by Jay DeFeo's monumental 1959 starburst, "The Jewel." And since abstract painting and sculpture is the focus, it's nice that the sequence ends with three excellent Hard-edge paintings by the great John McLaughlin.

He was L.A.'s premier postwar master. From there, head on over to the Hammer Wing, where "SoCal: Southern California Art of the 1960s and 70s From LACMA's Collection" is on view through March 30.
By Christopher Knight
For The Los Angeles TImes




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Met Forms Search Committee for Director

Posted By Administration, Thursday, January 10, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Wasting no time, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has formed a committee to begin an international search for a replacement for Philippe de Montebello, who announced on Tuesday that he would retire after 30 years as the museum's director.


At a conference on Wednesday, Mr. de Montebello — who will not play an active role in choosing a successor — cautioned that a search would probably take several months and that results should not be expected until at least the late summer or fall. He said he had told the board he was willing stay through the middle of 2009 if a search dragged on, but that he hoped to leave earlier.

Asked by reporters which works from the Met he would take with him if he could, Mr. de Montebello cited a Jan van Eyck diptych of the Crucifixion and Watteau's "Mezzetin," a portrait of a commedia dell'arte musician playing a guitar. "This place is just so full of wonderful things, I could go on and on," he said.

He said that he had no definite career plans, but would not return to being a curator or working in the art-history field.

The search committee, which met for the first time on Wednesday, is being led by Annette de la Renta and S. Parker Gilbert, who are vice chairmen of the museum's board. The other members are Daniel Brodsky, Russell L. Carson, Robert D. Joffe, Susana Torruella Leval, Cynthia Hazen Polsky, Frank E. Richardson, James E. Shipp, Lulu C. Wang and Shelby White. (Ms. White, with her husband, Leon Levy, who died in 2003, gave the Met $20 million to help create the museum's new Greek and Roman galleries.)

The Met joins a long list of museums in the market for directors, including the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.
By Randy Kennedy
For The New York Times

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Wall Street Collector Opens Private Gallery in Chelsea : Artist Chuck Close is Curating the Inaugural Show This Month

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

A new space for contemporary art will open by appointment this month on the ninth and tenth floors of 545 West 25th Street in Chelsea. The gallery has been established by the Flag Art Foundation, a non-profit organisation which sources say was recently created by collector Glenn Fuhrman, 42, co-head of MSD Capital (the company formed to manage the finances of computer billionaire Michael Dell). Mr Fuhrman declined to confirm his backing of the project, but New York City real estate filings indicate that he bought the 7,680 sq. ft condominium in the Chelsea Arts Tower in August 2006 for around $5.45m.


According to the foundation website, the programme will include two or three guest-curated shows a year of established and emerging international artists "from a variety of sources", presumably including many from Mr Fuhrman's own collection. The foundation also intends to lend works, again presumably largely from his collection, and offer a list of available works to interested curators. The structure appears similar to Los Angeles collector Eli Broad's art foundation which maintains a space open by appointment and lends works from both the foundation's and Mr Broad's personal collections. We understand that other private collectors are also involved with the project.

The inaugural show "Attention to Detail" (through April) is curated by artist Chuck Close and includes work by 50 artists. They range from Louise Bourgeois and Vija Celmins to Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Andreas Gursky, Maurizio Cattelan, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Gober and Damien Hirst as well as a range of younger artists. It is not clear whether they belong to Mr Fuhrman, the foundation or other collectors.

Stephanie Roach, who formerly worked with Galeria Senda in Barcelona, is named as the director on the foundation's website; she was not available for comment. Curators of upcoming shows include Sylvia Chivaratanond, who has worked for the Walker Art Center (where her husband Philippe Vergne is chief curator); Kembra Pfahler, the founding lead singer of the East Village shock-rock band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black; and Susan Cahan, professor at the University of Missouri-St Louis and former curator of the Eileen and Peter Norton Collection.

Though Mr Fuhrman is keeping a low profile, his art-world stature is rising. He serves as chairman of the American Acquisitions Committee of the Tate in London, vice-chairman of the Contemporary Arts Council of the Museum of Modern Art, and as trustee on the boards of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, and Dia Centre for the Arts in New York. His collection is known to include works by Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Long, Robert Therrien, Jim Hodges, Ron Mueck, Paul Pfeiffer, Kehinde Wiley, Jim Torok and Conrad Bakker among many others. He has lent or donated works to dozens of museums including the Pompidou in Paris, Tate Modern in London, the Guggenheim and the Whitney. The number of works belonging to the Flag Foundation is not known.
By Edward Kaufman
For The Art Newspaper




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Let the Horse Race Begin: The Search for a Successor

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

The last time the Metropolitan Museum of Art found itself looking for a director, the institution and the museum world around it were vastly different places.

It was 1977. The Met was about half its current size, with an operating budget one-fifth of the $200 million it now spends as one of the world's largest and most important museums. Only a decade earlier, it has been said, the Met's main catalog of three million works was still on handwritten cards in the basement.


But the museum is no longer the same genteel, fusty Beaux-Arts palace. It's an economic engine: the most popular tourist destination in the city, with an annual attendance of 4.6 million, not much smaller than the population of Colorado. And the qualifications demanded of Philippe de Montebello's successor will be far more extensive than those he had when he took over at 42 with a specialty in northern French painting, no Ph.D. and four years of experience as a museum director, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Today, as an ever increasing number of museums compete to lure visitors, their directors are counted upon to court donors and corporations, oversee budgets and capital plans, and negotiate with City Hall and with foreign governments (often with angry ones seeking the return of masterpieces).

Those nonartistic responsibilities will undoubtedly only multiply for the Met's next director.

It makes sense that many of the candidates who are thought to be in the running for the job are known as much for their business acumen and diplomatic skills as for their scholarship. In no particular order, they are:

NEIL MACGREGOR, 61, the well-regarded director of the British Museum since 2002 and before that the director of the National Gallery in London for 15 years. In many ways Mr. MacGregor could be seen as having the ideal experience for the job. Trained as a lawyer before veering off into art and languages, he was a university lecturer in art history and an art magazine editor before taking over an ailing National Gallery in 1987 and turning it around largely with the help of corporate benefactors, all while keeping admission to the museum free. (In a 1998 interview with Time magazine, he said he considered museums "no more a luxury in modern life than literacy.")

At the museums he has overseen, exhibitions have been both critically acclaimed and popular. And he has not shied away from making the often difficult trade-offs he felt necessary to keep money flowing to his institutions: He once agreed to allow paintings by Constable and van Gogh from the National Gallery to be licensed for reproduction on cereal boxes. In recent years he has drawn praise for his diplomatic skills, forging ties with China and Iran that have led to significant loans, and focusing attention on the looting of antiquities in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

JAMES CUNO, 56, the president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2004, after leading the Harvard University Art Museums for 11 years and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London for 18 months. Mr. Cuno, with a doctorate in art history from Harvard, is regarded as a talented and aggressive builder and fund-raiser. At the Harvard museums he doubled the size of the staff and conducted the most successful capital campaign in the institution's history, raising $55 million. At the Art Institute he is overseeing the largest addition in the museum's history, a $350 million project designed by Renzo Piano that is to open next year. Mr. Cuno has long emphasized the importance of museums' relying more on their own collections and less on the admissions boon of blockbuster traveling shows.

GLENN D. LOWRY, 53, the director of the Museum of Modern Art since 1995. In the world of cultural empire building, Mr. Lowry, an Islamic art specialist with a doctorate from Harvard, engineered one of the most ambitious expansions in museum history, an $858 million renovation, completed in 2004, that nearly doubled MoMA's size. While the design and the museum's exhibitions have been knocked by some critics since the reopening, Mr. Lowry, who came from the relative obscurity of running the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, is regarded as a deft administrator and world-class fund-raiser who reshaped a huge, unwieldy institution at a crossroads in its history.

GARY TINTEROW, 54, the curator in charge of the Met's department of 19th-century, Modern and contemporary art. In terms of scholarly clout and institutional experience at the Met, there are few others inside the museum who are mentioned as frequently as Mr. Tinterow as a potential successor to Mr. de Montebello. A curator of European paintings since 1983, he is regarded as one of the most influential scholars in his field.

While he has never run a museum, he has organized many complex, acclaimed exhibitions and has had a hand in the delicate negotiations that have led to dozens of the museum's most important acquisitions over the last two decades — gifts and purchases worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. He also oversaw the recent expansion of the galleries for 19th-century and 20th-century painting. The expansion of his duties in 2004 to include Modern and contemporary art not only signaled Mr. Tinterow's power within the institution but also positioned him as the man charged with the crucial task of keeping the Met relevant in the 21st century.

TIMOTHY POTTS, 49, the director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, who recently left after almost nine years to take over the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. Mr. Potts is an Oxford-trained specialist in the art and archaeology of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean and a former director of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, where he initiated an ambitious expansion and renovation project. At the Kimbell he wielded one of the nation's largest budgets for art acquisition, and landed many significant works, raising the museum's profile and his own. He was known as a firm but sometimes imperious director, and is said to be close to Mr. de Montebello. In addition to extensive scholarly and administrative experience, Mr. Potts is one of the few directors to have serious business credentials: He took a detour for several years, working in investment banking before returning to the museum world.

MICHAEL GOVAN, 43, who ran the Dia Art Foundation for 12 years before leaving in 2006 to become the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, could be viewed as the dark-horse candidate. He is considered one of the brightest and most ambitious of a younger generation of museum leaders, but he only recently began his new job, where a big expansion and many changes are under way. And his previous experience, which included the Guggenheim, was in Modern and contemporary art.
By Randy Kennedy
For The New York Times

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Director (and Voice) of Metropolitan Museum to Retire

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Philippe de Montebello, who has led the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 30 years and has virtually become synonymous with its monumental profile, announced Tuesday that he planned to retire at the end of the year.


A patrician figure whose mellifluous multilingual voice on the museum's audio guides is known to millions of visitors around the world, he is the eighth and longest-serving director in the institution's 138-year history.

Mr. de Montebello, 71, has more than doubled the museum's physical size during his tenure, carving out majestic new galleries suited to the Met's encyclopedic holdings. Today it is the city's biggest tourist attraction, with millions of visitors a year.

Mr. de Montebello informed the Met's board of trustees at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon that he intended to leave the museum at the end of 2008 or as soon as a successor had been found. A new director has not been named, and the board said it would immediately form a search committee.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Montebello said that after a packed fall season and the completion of several big long-term projects like new galleries for Greek and Roman art and European paintings, he felt the time was right.

"After three decades, to stay much further would be to skirt decency," he said. "This has not been an easy decision — it's wrenching for me, it's been my entire life. But it's time."

James R. Houghton, chairman of the museum's board, said he was not surprised by the announcement. "It has been in his mind for some time now," he said in an interview. "It was a mutual decision and I think the right one."

Yet he added: "To look for somebody to fill his shoes will be very hard. The pool of potential candidates is smaller than it once was."

While Mr. de Montebello has won broad admiration for his stewardship of the museum, he has sometimes drawn criticism for a reluctance to embrace contemporary art and a dismissive attitude toward claims by archaeologically rich countries to objects they say were looted and sold to Western museums.

Two years ago, however, he negotiated a pact to turn over 21 classical artifacts in the Met's collection to Italy. And a dead shark prepared by the artist Damien Hirst is now floating in a tank of formaldehyde at the southern end of the museum under a three-year loan.

Asked if the board, knowing Mr. de Montebello's retirement was imminent, had drafted a list of possible successors, Mr. Houghton would only say, "We've got all sorts of lists." He declined to describe the qualities that Met trustees would seek in a new director.

(Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, chairman emeritus of The New York Times Company and the father of its current chairman, led the Met's board of trustees from 1987 to 1998 and is now a trustee emeritus of the museum.)

Mr. Houghton said that Annette de la Renta and S. Parker Gilbert, both vice chairmen of the Met board, would be the chairwoman and vice chairman of the search committee.

Mr. de Montebello said he would not serve on the panel. "I'm the last person to name my successor," he said. "It's not my role."

Mr. de Montebello said he timed his resignation carefully. "It seemed like a good moment — to step down on a high," he said, referring to 2007 as an "annus mirabilis."

Last year he oversaw the opening of nine new or renovated galleries, beginning in April with the vast Greek and Roman galleries — a museum within a museum — and ending with the opening of the expanded and renovated galleries for 19th- and early-20th-century European paintings last month. The museum also presented some 21 exhibitions, including "The Age of Rembrandt," which included the museum's entire collection of Dutch paintings and attracted 505,082 visitors by the time it closed on Sunday, and "Tapestry in the Baroque," drawing on collections from more than 15 countries.

Many of those projects were years in the making, with Mr. de Montebello collaborating closely with his curators, seeking financing and negotiating loans.

It has been a long trajectory. He arrived at the Met in 1963 as a curatorial assistant in the department of European paintings and except for four years — from 1969 to 1974, when he served as director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston — he spent his entire career there.

His ascension to director in 1977 ended a tumultuous decade at the museum. His predecessor, Thomas Hoving, was a showman who shook up the institution, staging a series of exhibitions that attracted blockbuster crowds. But he was considered an autocrat, and by the end of his tenure had alienated many staff members and trustees.

French born and Harvard educated, Mr. de Montebello exuded a polish and erudition that reassured trustees and donors even as his European style was often spoofed in the art world in his later years.

Over three decades, the institution's endowment went from $1.36 million to $2.9 billion; attendance rose from 3.5 million to 5.1 million visitors by 2000 before retreating a bit after 9/11. Last year 4.6 million people visited the museum.

Yet Mr. de Montebello became known as much for his absorption in the Met's permanent collection as for encouraging well-attended shows. Curators say he can often be found in one gallery or another peering at a Greek bust or studying a piece of richly gilded Byzantine metalwork.

Over the years he has been responsible for championing high-profile acquisitions — some gifts, some purchases, some both — like Duccio di Buoninsegna's "Madonna and Child," dating from around 1300; Vermeer's "Portrait of a Young Woman" (around 1666-67); van Gogh's "Wheat Field With Cypresses" (1889); and Jasper Johns's "White Flag" (1955).

He also managed to outmaneuver other institutions in securing bequests of entire collections, like world-class Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works amassed by Walter H. Annenberg, the former United States ambassador to Britain and a longtime Met trustee, and his wife, Leonore.

He also motivated donors to finance grand galleries that would show the permanent holdings to better advantage, creating spaces like the 100,000-square-foot Lila Acheson Wallace Wing for modern art, which opened in 1987, and the Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court in 1990.

In the 1990s Mr. de Montebello embarked on a series of projects that involved "building from within," like the new Greek and Roman Galleries and refurbished spaces for Oceanic and Native North American Art. (Other building programs have included the expansion and renovation of the museum's period rooms and decorative arts galleries; new galleries for prints, drawings and photographs; and vast new spaces for the fast-growing collections of Asian art.)

Two years ago, he initiated a project to redesign the Met's entire American Wing, including the Charles Engelhard Court, an effort that is still in progress.

In 1989 he halted the Met practice of charging special admission prices for big temporary exhibitions, saying he felt that the fees siphoned attention from the permanent holdings and the full range of art objects at the Met.

Still, he oversaw more than his share of blockbusters, including "The Vatican Collections" in 1983; the Velázquez survey in 1989-1990; "The Glory of Byzantium," in 1997; "Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids" in 1999-2000; "Vermeer and the Delft School" in 2001; and "Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman" in 2003. His next act, post-Metropolitan Museum, has yet to be determined, Mr. de Montebello said. "I don't know what's out there," he said. "Surely I'd like to be an advocacy for excellence in art."

He allowed that his current job would be hard to top. "I'm the most grateful person on earth," he said. "I've had the privilege to run the greatest institution in the world. How much luckier can you be than that?"

For the museum world, one challenge will surely be to start seeing the Met and its long-term director as separate entities.

"The Met is a huge organization, and too many people have been increasingly saying to me, 'You are the Met,'" Mr. de Montebello said. "I am not the Met."
By Carol Vogel
For The New York Times




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An Art Donor Opts to Hold On to His Collection

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Eli Broad, the billionaire financier and philanthropist whose private collection of some 2,000 works of Modern and contemporary art is one of the most sought-after by museums nationwide, has decided to retain permanent control of his works in an independent foundation that makes loans to museums rather than give any of the art away.


The decision is a striking reversal by Mr. Broad, who as recently as a year ago said that he planned to give most of his holdings to one or several museums.

Long assumed to be at the top of the list of potential recipients was the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which next month is to open the $56 million Broad Contemporary Art Museum, a building designed by Renzo Piano and financed by Mr. Broad, as the centerpiece of its redesigned campus on Wilshire Boulevard.

Coming on the eve of the opening, the decision is a potential embarrassment for the Los Angeles museum. It was widely criticized in 2001 for mounting a major exhibition of works from Mr. Broad's collection without having secured a promised gift of the works, an act that is prohibited at many prominent art institutions because it can increase the market value of the collection.

The decision also has far-reaching implications for the way museums interact with big donors. In recent years a dizzying rise in art prices and an abiding institutional thirst for acquisitions have given well-heeled donors more influence over what a museum buys and puts on its walls.

Mr. Broad has long been a dominant force on the Los Angeles art scene, helping to found museums and serving on their boards, overseeing fund-raising for the construction of the landmark Disney Hall, which was designed by Frank Gehry, and spurring a drive to revitalize downtown.

Mr. Broad has been especially visible at the county museum, serving as a vice chairman of its board, leading fund-raising campaigns and strongly influencing the comings and goings of the museum's directors, including the hiring in 2006 of the current one, Michael Govan.

In an interview in his foundation's office here, Mr. Broad (whose name rhymes with road) said he did not view his decision as a vote of no confidence in the museum. Rather, he said, it represents no less than a new paradigm for the way museums in general collect art and interact with one another.

"I think it's a new model that makes sense for other collections," he said. "If it was up to me, I believe that museums ought to own works jointly." Mr. Broad encouraged that practice last year with his purchase of a work by the artist Chris Burden, which he then gave jointly to the county museum and another Los Angeles institution, the Museum of Contemporary Art, where he was a founding trustee.

His decision not to donate his holdings evolved over the last year, Mr. Broad said, as his collection grew, and it became clear that no museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art included, would commit to placing a large percentage of the works on permanent exhibit.

The collection has roughly doubled in size in the last five years and includes personal holdings and those of the Broad Art Foundation. Among the best-known works are some by contemporary artists including Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari, as well as earlier art-world titans like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.

"We don't want it to end up in storage, in either our basement or somebody else's basement," Mr. Broad said. "So I, as the collector, am saying, 'If you're not willing to commit to show it, why don't we just make it available to you when you want it, as opposed to giving it to you, and then our being unhappy that it's only up 10 percent or 20 percent of the time or not being shown at all?'"

Michael Govan, the director of Lacma, did not return phone calls seeking comment on Monday afternoon. In a telephone interview late Monday night, he said that he viewed Mr. Broad's decision as a positive development because it meant that none of the art works would be sold, an act that would limit access to them by Lacma and other museums.

Asked if he viewed Mr. Broad's decision as demonstrating a lack of confidence in him or in the museum, Mr. Govan said: "Quite the reverse. Since day one he's privately and publicly given me a lot of support." He noted that even though Mr. Broad does not plan to give his works to the museum, he did not profit from Lacma's 2001 exhibit of works from the Broad collection.

"And from the public perspective, I don't think most people care when they walk in the door whether the museum owns the works or not, as long as they don't lose them" to private sales, Mr. Govan said. "He's got 2,000 works, so there is plenty to go around."

Mr. Broad took pains to make clear that the county museum would be "the favored institution" when it came to loans from the Broad Art Foundation. "If it weren't going to be favored, I wouldn't have given it $50 million to build the building," he said.

He also gave $10 million for the acquisition of works, which Mr. Broad said had already been spent on two pieces: a Richard Serra sculpture, "Band," and a maplike tapestry by the artist Alighiero Boetti.

This is not the first time that the county museum has missed out on the gift of a major collection from a prominent Los Angeles patron. Both Armand Hammer, the founder of Occidental Petroleum, and Norton Simon, the canned-food magnate, decided to build their own museums in Los Angeles after toying with the idea of donating their works to the county museum.

In 2001 the museum lost out on the collection of Nathan Smooke, a former museum trustee and industrial real-estate developer whose heirs sold much of his collection rather than donating it.

Last month the museum said it had received a gift of 130 works by major Modern artists, including Picasso, Giacometti and Brancusi, from the collectors Janice and Henri Lazarof.

In reaching his decision Mr. Broad, who made his fortune as the co-founder of Kaufman & Broad, a builder of houses, and SunAmerica, a retirement-investment firm, said he envisioned a new economic model for museums that have struggled to keep pace in recent years with huge increases in auction prices for Modern and contemporary art.

"What they're doing doesn't make economic sense or any other sense, especially with the price of work today," Mr. Broad said. "The purpose of the foundation is to continue to build the collection, to be responsible for the conservation of it, the storage of it, and most importantly to give it the biggest possible audience we can."

Of course Mr. Broad also enjoys tax advantages by keeping much of his artworks in a tax-exempt foundation that lends the work out to museums.

Joanne Heyler, the curator of the Broad Art Foundation, said that Mr. Broad's collections included roughly 400 works in his personal holdings and more than 1,500 works in the foundation. The foundation alone has added more than 600 works in the last two years, she said, and last year it lent more than 900 individual works to museums around the world.

Finding adequate space to exhibit contemporary art is a particular problem, given that individual works are often enormous. The Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the county museum will contain 58,000 square feet of gallery space, nearly twice the total area of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

But roughly a third of that new space — the entire first floor — will be taken up by just two mammoth sculptures by Richard Serra: "Band" and "Sequence," owned by Donald Fisher, the founder of Gap Inc., who is planning his own museum in San Francisco.

The initial exhibition at the Broad museum will include work from other collectors as well. Among them will be some works by Jasper Johns owned by Michael Crichton, the author and a member of the county museum's board; works by Robert Rauschenberg from the collection of Ileana Sonnabend, the late New York gallery owner; and other contemporary works owned by Jane and Marc Nathanson.
By Edward Wyatt
For The New York Times




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New Tax Could Hit UK Collectors : Rules Change for Non-domiciles

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 7, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Art market experts are concerned that new taxes on asset gains for overseas investments, coupled with a planned flat £30,000 ($60,000) levy for foreign residents, domiciled in the UK for over seven years, will put pressure on London's appeal as a centre for buying art. The tax reforms, announced in the UK Treasury's pre-budget report in October 2007, are to be implemented in April.


"Any tax that exists in London rather than, for example, New York, will have a detrimental effect on the capital's competitiveness as an art market," said Anthony Browne, chairman of the British Art Market Federation.

Reforms include the closing of a loophole whereby investment gains that arise in the UK on assets—including art—bought through an offshore mechanism, will be subject to a capital gains tax of 18% (the new flat level also due to be set in April).

HM Treasury's data shows 114,000 people registered as non-domiciled residents in London at the end of the last financial year. They are believed to contribute around £12bn ($24bn) to GDP and £4bn ($8bn) to income in tax alone.

The Treasury believes "it is only fair that people who have chosen to make the UK their home…should make a reasonable tax contribution to the modern public services which support our society." Spokesman John Battersby said that "the UK's other 60m residents currently pay tax on any income that arises here: there is no reason why this should be different for non-domiciled residents."
By Melanie Gerlis
For The Art Newspaper




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France Is Trying Free Museum Admission

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 7, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

France is proceeding with an experiment in free admission at 18 national museums in an effort to entice more French to visit them, Reuters reported.


Until June 30, some of the museums, including the Louvre in Paris, will offer free admission to their permanent collections while others will offer it to visitors under 26 one night a week. Normally the entrance fees range from $9 to $12. "French museums are ready for more visitors, and we hope to draw in a new public, especially young people, said Christine André, a spokeswoman for the Culture Ministry's museum arm. "It's a question of money for some people." Foreign tourists, who make up three-quarters of the visitors between the ages of 18 and 25, will also benefit from the experiment. Ms. André said, "If the French start seeing long lines in front of the museums, they'll start to tell themselves: 'Hey, foreigners are taking advantage of this. We'd be morons not to.' " Museum attendance in Britain has risen 50 percent since free admission was introduced there in 2001.
By The New York Times

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