Have recent museum shakeups begun to besmirch the once-coveted title of “Museum?” itself? ArtInfo Blogger William Poundstone sees a trend, noting that “at least two incipient L.A. museums are avoiding the M word”. Both the the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in LACMA West, and a proposed gay and lesbian museum are considering alternative labels. Poundstone weighs weak alternates like “library” (too much shooshing), and “gallery” (seems like everything’s for sale), but says ““curate” has become an all-purpose verb for anything.”
L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art is planning an exhibition that will examine the cultural impact of disco music, reports the LA Times.
James Surls is cropping up in unexpected places: Garden and Gun magazine features an informative feature on James Surls’ contributions to the Houston art scene as founder of the Lawndale Art Center and his larger-than-life career and personality. Last year, Surls radically restructured the way he does business, firing all six of his national dealers, focusing instead on an annual by-invitation-only dinner/sales event at his studio outside Carbondale, Colorado. The Second Annual Studio Exhibition is set for July 28, and will saxophonist and artist Dickie Landry, The Art Guys, the Flatlanders, starring Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Joe Ely, a monograph by noted art critic Thomas McEvilley, several hundred guests, beer, guns, BBQ, and of course, new large scale sculpture that Surls will not spend tens of thousands of dollars shipping to remote dealers.
The fundraising flows two ways: The DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum outside Boston has a pair of tickets they’re offering for a donation of $36,000, all with no middleman. At last years’ Texas Contemporary Art Fair in Houston, a single piece represented Surls in the Blue Star Art Center booth, attended by Surls’ personal sales rep!
Art philanthropist Eli Broad defended Jeffrey Deitch and the Los Angeles MOCA’s new direction, in an op-ed piece in the LA Times on Sunday, sparking a flurry of commentary, mostly negative. Blake Gopnik, in the Daily Beast, speculates on new shows coming up at MOCA to draw in the crowds the Deitch/Broad faction appears to want: “Home of the D-Cup: The Topless Girl in 20th-century Culture.” and “You Love Their Songs, Now See Their Paintings: The Art of Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan.” What was a local shake-up is taking on larger significance as a museum populism backlash.
Blogger Robert Boyd recaps the furor surrounding LA MOCA’s firing of curator Paul Schimmel, putting it in historical context- “Didn’t Nelson Rockefeller and Stephen Clark fire founding MoMA director Alfred Barr in 1943?” It’s not the meddling that’s new, he says, it’s the “massive rise in the number of super-wealthy individuals” who feel entitled to engage in it.
With the artworld in almost unanimous head-shaking mode over MOCA’s firing (?) of respected curator Paul Schimmel, the LA Times puts the episode in context of a series of staff losses since the arrival of art-dealer-turned-museum-director Jeffrey Deitch.
Chief curator Paul Schimmel is only the latest of many being shown the door at Jeffrey Deitch’s MOCA. Although late Friday denials that Schimmel had been fired, and had instead resigned remain surrounded by hovering question marks, The LA Times says, “according to museum insiders, MOCA also laid off senior education program manager Aandrea Stang, senior designer Nicholas Lowie, writer/editor Erica Wrightson, and three curatorial assistants.” Another of MOCA’s five curators, Philipp Kaiser, finished last month.
Then the Times tots up other staff losses: “Departures since Deitch’s arrival include education director Suzanne Isken, who became director of L.A.’s Craft and Folk Art Museum, chief fundraiser Jennifer Arceneaux, who took charge of fundraising for the Sundance Institute, and two executives who were hired under Deitch in 2011 and served less than a year before leaving without explanation: chief fundraiser Sarah Sullivan, and executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer David M. Galligan. Other departures include Richard Weil, who would become chief financial officer under Deitch’s predecessor, Charles E. Young, and Gary Cypres, a volunteer trustee who chaired the museum board’s finance committee before resigning in February for reasons he declined to state.”
The Menil Picasso vandalism story is working its way up the media ladder: the Wall Street Journal‘s Eric Felten pokes at the art/crime knot without unraveling it, referring to a tongue-in-cheek “portfolio review” of Landeros’ rambling, immature symbolist paintings, on ArtInfo.com, based on pictures posted on Landeros’ Facebook page. Not really getting the humor, (admittedly thin) Felten points out that many artists whose works we value today have committed crimes and/or acts not acceptable to conventional moral standards, and makes a feeble case for vilifying some and not others based on the specifics of their misbehaviors.
Paul Schimmel, highly respected chief curator at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art for 22 years, was fired by the museum’s board, over disagreements about the museum’s direction. Billionaire philanthropist, and virtual museum-owner Eli Broad delivered the chop Wednesday, much to the dismay of the artworld.
Artist Jonas “Nina” Becker’s meme-friendly combination of quaint photographic technology, van customization, and arts education for neighborhood youth, the Mobile Pinhole Project, has sprawled across the media and the streets of Los Angeles. The Project uses a 1991 Toyota Previa refitted as a giant pinhole camera to bring alterna-tech photographic experiences to kids used to phone cams.
Founded in mid-2011, the project began as a lesson in the new arts microfunding: following a September, 2o11 crowd-funding campaign on IndieGoGo that raised $1100, the Project won a $1,000 grant for supplies and van repairs from Artist Bailout, via a potluck dinner. In 2012, a series of apparently successful and well-documented workshops led to the project being featured on “All Things Considered” on KCRW radio, and now, on Glasstire!