David Hockney, Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott, 1968

Hail Hockney: The $90-Million Man

Market Soars for Britain’s Most Popular Painter    David Hockney is no stranger to the limelight, but lately the Los Angeles-based painter and photographer has had unprecedented exposure and the value of his work has risen exponentially, culminating in a canvas selling for more than $90 million. Nearly a million and a half visitors swarmed…

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Half of Warhol's set of 32 Campbell's Soup Cans, 1962, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, each 20 x 16", The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Warhol at the Whitney

If you weren’t around for the posthumous Andy Warhol retrospective at MoMA in 1989, and you haven’t studied postwar art, your knowledge about the Pop icon likely centers on soup cans and Marilyns. The Warhol retrospective at the Whitney Museum (until March 31, 2019) fleshes out his life and career.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Fifth Avenue façade. Photo by Jason Edward Kaufman (c) 2013

A Modest Proposal for The Met: Make the Façade a Canvas for Public Art

From Rockefeller Center to Madison Square Park and the Park Avenue median, public art has become increasingly prominent around New York. Among the memorable projects in recent years were Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates winding through Central Park, Olafur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls edging the lower harbor, and Tatzu Nishi’s Discovering Columbus, a living room constructed around the column-top statue of the explorer at Columbus Circle, a hot ticket earlier this year.

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LA MOCA’s Merchant of Bling

Much has been written about the state of LA MOCA, its stumbling exhibition program, and the forced resignation of its chief curator Paul Schimmel. But not enough investigative work has been done to determine how director Jeffrey Deitch’s commercial profile may be affecting his leadership of MOCA.

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Cai Guo-Qiang Lights up L.A. in Search of Aliens

Cai Guo-Qiang, the Chinese-born artist known for orchestrating pyrotechnic spectacles, is in Los Angeles this week to create a trio of new works that will be part of “Cai Guo-Qiang: Sky Ladder,” his first West Coast exhibition, on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary from April 8-July 30.

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Renoir, Dance at Bougival, 1883

Frick Lectures Going Online

The Frick Collection in NY has begun to stream its lectures, beginning with deputy director Colin Bailey’s talk about Renoir’s full-length figure paintings, subject of an exhibition at the museum.

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Barbara and Aaroon Levine.

Why Would Anyone Collect Conceptual Art?

Barbara and Aaron Levine are not major philanthropists on the scale of Duncan Phillips or Joseph Hirshhorn, but they bring comparable seriousness, perspicacity and enthusiasm to collecting, which focuses on Marcel Duchamp and Conceptual art by Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, and others. A recent tour of their Georgian house in Washington, DC suggests that they are more interested in ideas than in big-ticket trophies and eye candy.

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Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel frescoes, Padua, 1303-05.

Museums Move into the Digital Future, Smartphones in Hand

Museums including MoMA, the Metropolitan, the Smithsonian and the Tate, and software companies like Google, are experimenting with new apps that meet audiences in the expanding virtual world. Technological leaps are rapidly making possible remote access to images and information about art museum collections, often on ipods, Androids and other smartphone devices.

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Still from Diller and Scofido's Soft Sell (1993), single-channel projection with sound.

Nuit Blanche Brings a Night of Light to New York

Nuit Blanche New York presents 50 or so artworks — all involving light – lining the blue-collar streets and filling a few of the disused factories of Greenpoint in Brooklyn for one night only – tonight, Oct. 1. The roster includes Diller and Scofidio, Richard Serra, Krztsztof Wodiczko, Dustin Yellin, Luke Dubois, Chakaia Booker, Daniel Canogar, Jeremy Blake, Marcos Zotes-Lopez, Eli Keszler and others.

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Suddenly Last Summer

“Suddenly Last Summer” in Chelsea

Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift starred in the film version of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer. I love that film, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, but I’d never seen the play live until I happened upon a production now in Chelsea. It’s an emotionally satisfying hour and a half, worth making an effort to…

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Via Lewandowsky set a plastic outhouse in an inconvenient location.

Art on a Lake: How to Lure Locals to Contemporary Art

“Art on Lake” displays contemporary art from the European Union installed on the surface of City Park Lake in Budapest. Organized by the nearby Museum of Fine Arts, the exhibit is intended as an instrument for introducing an uninformed public to the pleasures of contemporary art.

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New Age Kiefer Documentary Disappoints

Sophie Fiennes’ documentary “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow,” about Anselm Kiefer’s subterranean earthworks at Barjac in the South of France provides little valuable material about the German artist. It’s an amateurish New Agey cliche, replete with spacey music by György Ligeti.

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Venice Biennale: Overblown Spectacle, Shallow Content

The 54th edition of the Venice Biennale opened this month and remains on view through late fall. The core of the show is the Giardini park where 29 national pavilions present official exhibitions sent from Europe and the Americas, with a few from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, relative latecomers to the international art circuit. Nations lacking permanent pavilions get space in the nearby Arsenale or around town. A record 89 nations are participating this year, up from 77 in 2009.

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Gorchov, LeWitt, Benglis in US Mission

Art for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Nothing to Ruffle the Eagle’s Feathers

The art collection inside the new United States Mission to the United Nations, as curated by Yale art school dean Robert Storr, is American art at its least provocative. The decorative mix of mainly abstract prints by well-known U.S. artists is unadventurous and uniformly anodyne — about what one would expect for a government building: nothing to ruffle the American eagle’s feathers.

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Glenn Ligon’s Self-Referential Elegies

Glenn Ligon, 50, the subject of a retrospective at the Whitney Museum, is a Bronx-born African American who has devoted his career to making word-based art that elegizes his reflections on being gay and black in America. His technical range is severely limited, and for all the inarguable righteousness of his project, I cannot help but feel his work is overly self-referential, lacking the universality of great art.

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Culture Wars Revisited at the Philadelphia Art Museum

Prompted by the Smithsonian Institution’s removal of a controversial artwork from an exhibit about homosexual identity, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has mounted a photography exhibition that looks back to the so-called culture wars of the late 1970s through the 1990s, when social conservatives fought to prevent tax money from supporting art that dealt with homosexuality, feminism, racism or other contentious issues.

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Calder in Washington

There was no decree naming Alexander Calder (1898-1976) the capital’s official artist, but walking around the National Mall, you’d think there had been. His abstract sheet-metal sculptures are in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden and on the grounds of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn and American History museums, and a mammoth mobile dominates the atrium of the National Gallery’s East Building. An abundance of his works is on display in these museums as well as in the Phillips Collection. He also invented meatl-wire drawing in space. All told, he made a few hundred wire figures before abandoning the medium for abstraction in the 1930s. Among them were several dozen celebrities, athletes and art-world friends that are the main focus of “Calder’s Portraits: A New Language” at the National Portrait Gallery through August 14, 2011.

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Washington Portraits – and a correction about my take on museums and private collections

“Capital Portraits: Treasures from Washington Private Collections,” at the National Portrait Gallery is hardly an ingenious or groundbreaking curatorial conceit, but it’s a display of high-quality works by John Singleton Copley and Gilbert Stuart, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Andy Warhol and others that otherwise would not be accessible to the public. Blogger Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes condemns me for not trashing the show. I respond to him here.

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George Condo’s Slapdash Mediocrity Spoofs the Masters, Fools Collectors

George Condo – on exhibition at the New Museum – says he paints like the Old Masters, but applies their technical finesse to subjects of his own invention. Don’t believe it. The paint handling is muddy and effects of light and shade, volume and texture inexpertly rendered. He says his works have to do with madness or dark visions, but they look puerile and silly.

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Ife: Challenging the Notion of African Primitivism

“Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria” opens our eyes to the astonishingly realistic human figures cast in metal or terra cotta more than half a millennium ago in the ancient West African city-state of Ife (pronounced EE-fay). These elegant and captivating statues change the way we think of Africa and Africans, and for that reason this might be the most important African art exhibition anywhere right now.

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Vik Muniz’s Oscar-nominated “Waste Land” on PBS Tonight

“Waste Land,” a film about the Brooklyn-based, Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz, which recounts a celebrated artist using his work as an instrument to promote social justice.

The documentary accompanies Muniz to Brazil, where he plans to harvest garbage from one the world’s largest landfills and use it to assemble portraits of people who scavenge the dump for their livelihoods. Expecting to be met with hostility, he and an assistant visit the site and discover instead a community of amiable and well-mannered workers. Rather than proceed on his own, he decides to collaborate with the workers on their “garbage” portraits and to return proceeds from sale of the artworks to improve their lives.

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At the Met Opera, Balancing Novelty and Tradition

The Metropolitan Opera’s 2011-12 season brings seven new productions along with the revamped “Ring,” not to mention a world premiere. The current season’s new productions of La Traviata and Don Pasquale were terrific.

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Geoffrey Rush as Gogol’s Madman: A Night of Virtuoso Shtick

Geoffrey Rush, past winner of Oscar, Tony, and Emmy awards, in a stage adaptaion of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman, gives an astonishing bravura performance that sold out the month-long run that ends at Brooklyn Academy of Music this weekend. But his over-the-top comedic interpretation of the tragic protagonist, while wildly entertaining, leaves the audience emotionally unmoved.

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John the Baptist’s Tooth is in Baltimore

John the Baptist’s tooth, the arm of Saint George and the head of Saint Sebastian are currently at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore as part of “Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe,” a rich exhibition on view until May 15 that brings together 130 golden sculptures, jewel-encrusted and enameled boxes and crosses, paintings and illuminated manuscripts.

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Patti Smith’s “Memoir” Paints her Youth with Mythic Brush

Whether a memoir or an act of romantic self-mythologization, Patti Smith’s book is a sensitive evocation of her and Robert Mapplethorpe’s entwined histories in the sixties and seventies as they struggled to make their way as artists. The Bildungsroman seems destined for the screen.

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A Dutch Masterpiece Visits the National Gallery

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has borrowed the painting “Saint Sebastian Tended by Irene, 1625,” a religious scene by the Dutch artist Hendrick ter Brugghen, from the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, to show alongside the gallery’s own ter Brugghen, “Bagpipe Player, 1624,” a major recent museum purchase.

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Authors Guild’s Muddy Argument for Copyright Law

The erosion of copyright protection in the age of rampant theft of intellectual property over the internet is a serious problem, but an op-ed in the NY Times written by officials of The Authors Guild provides a poor argument for action.

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Coming Soon: Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art

I’ve been in Australia for three weeks, visiting museums in Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart, Tasmania. Apologies for my absence, but I will soon post my review of the MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art newly created by gambling tycoon David Walsh in his native Tasmania. It’s a remarkable story, so stay tuned. Jason…

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Corcoran Hires Outside Consultants to Shape its Identity

The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has retained Lord Cultural Resources to determine how the institution can continue to survive, and whether its operation should remain linked to the Corcoran College of Art + Design. The Corcoran also plans to lease their adjacent parking lot to a local developer, who will erect an eight-story office building on the site once slated for a Frank Gehry-designed expansion.

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Metropolitan Museum Should Expand under Fifth Avenue Plaza

The Metropolitan Museum of Art plans to renovate the entire Fifth Avenue plaza in front of the museum, but the project will not include building new subterranean space, which was the scheme earlier in the decade until a lawsuit from neighbors led to scaling back the plan.

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In Trinidad, an Ascendant Hindu Culture Celebrates Diwali

A three-day cultural tour of Trinidad and Tobago as a guest of the prime minister replaced vacation-spot clichés with a textured view of the tropical nation’s evolving identity. About half the population is decended from laborers brought from India in the 19th century to work the sugarcane plantations, and many are celebrating the Hindu festival Diwali.

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SoHo Lofts for Artists Only?

A 1970s-era law still on the books that stipulates that lofts in SoHo be rented to artists. The law’s been ignored for years, but an article in today’s NY Times reports that since the recession the city is paying closer attention to its requirement that tenants be artists.

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Warhol Foundation Lawyers Quash Antitrust Lawsuit

The closely watched federal lawsuit in which a private collector is suing the Andy Warhol Foundation and its subsidiary Art Authentication Board is about to reach an abrupt and unexpected end. The London-based American Joe Simon, whose 2007 complaint challenges the Authentication Board’s rejection of the authenticity of the 1964 Warhol self-portrait that he owns, says that he and his lawyer, Seth Redniss of New York, will withdraw from the case at the next hearing.

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Rembrandt Scholar’s Lecture a Disorganized Ramble

The Rembrandt Research Project issues the latest volume in its Corpus next month, and the editor, Ernst van de Wetering, considered leading Rembrandt expert, offered a lecture at Columbia University. His talk was a disorganized ramble.

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Paul McCarthy at L&M Arts, Los Angeles

“Paul McCarthy: Three Sculptures,” which inaugurates the new Los Angeles gallery of New York-based L & M Arts, has made me a reluctant fan. The grotesque sculpture is a robotic double image of George W. Bush copulating with a pig, just the sort of shock-schlock that McCarthy has made his stock in trade.

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Metropolitan Opera’s Valhalla Machine for Das Rheingold Disappoints

The Metropolitan Opera opened its season last week with Das Rheingold, the premier of a new production of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle. This new “Ring” is directed by Robert Lepage who conceived a 45-ton machine with vertical planks that swivel to form various stage configurations. It’s a clever and versatile mechanical invention, but the resulting visual effect, and other aspects of the production, are a disappointment.

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See the Site Santa Fe Biennial on Your Computer

The Site Santa Fe Biennial is well organized by curators Sarah Lewis and Danial Belasco around an interesting theme – the use of drawing and high tech in animation – and has a great web site that includes excerpts from many of the works included.

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Brandeis Launches Search for Rose Art Museum Director

Here is the letter, emailed to the Brandeis community today, from president Jehuda Reinharz, whose January 2009 announcement that he would sell off the university’s art collection to balance the college’s finances damaged the school’s reputation and led to his announcement last fall that he would resign in June 2011 if a replacement is found.…

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Text $ for Post-fire Phillips Collection

Donations of $5 or $10 Now Accepted Via Text Message With All Major Mobile Phone Carriers Washington, D.C. – In the wake of a recent renovation-related fire, The Phillips Collection launches a micro-donation campaign to raise funds toward repair of the historic Phillips house. Supporters can donate $5 or $10 to the museum by sending…

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Former Getty Director Michael Brand Heads to Aga Khan Museum

TORONTO. Michael Brand, the former J. Paul Getty Museum director who stepped down at the Los Angeles institution earlier this year, has been appointed to a consultancy post at the Aga Khan Development Network, a global Islamic charitable foundation that is currently building an Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. According to sources with knowledge of…

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The Guggenheim Bull-bao and the Art of Bullfighting

Should bullfighting be banned in Spain? Activists recently protested at the Guggenheim Bilbao, while in Navarre a bull leapt into the crowd injuring spectators – an episode similar to one portrayed by Goya in his 1815-16 etching series “The Art of Bullfighting.”

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MoMA’s Quest for Relevance

MoMA’s new installation of its post-1960 collection seeks relevance in current affairs, but for the institition to advance it must look beyond the United States and Europe and extend its intellectual purview to Asia, India, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. To neglect to do so is a form of cultural trade protectionism that will leave the museum behind the great globalist trend of the 21st century.

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Marty Margulies pledges $5 million to the Metropolitan

Martin Z. Margulies, the Miami-based developer who has amassed one of the country’s top private collections of modern and contemporary art, has pledged a $5 million bequest to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His collection of modern and contemporary art is not part of the donation.

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What Should Artists and Critics Urgently Care About?

What should artists and critics urgently care about? A Whitney Museum show of early performance-related art represents curators’ interest in art about art. It’s part of the performance art vogue, but much of the art is rather minor.

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Roxy Paine’s Metal Trees Are Flourishing

Artist Roxy Paine will have an exhibition of a new Dendroid sculpture at James Cohan Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea district this fall, and other artworks from the series have been purchased for as much as $1 million by the Israel Museum, National Gallery of Canada, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum, Munich RE, and Sweden’s Wanås Foundation. His huge work seen at the Metropolitan Museum last year has not been sold.

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School of Visual Arts to Launch MFA Program

The School of Visual Arts in New York is launching an MFA program next year that will require students to be in the city for three six-week summer sessions. The rest of the time needed for the degree – two school years – they can stay at home and take courses over the internet.

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Starn Twins’ Big Bambú May Travel after the Met

Since unveiling their rooftop installation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the twins Doug and Mike Starn have been deluged with invitations from organizations around the world seeking to replicate the popular piece. “It’s been amazing,” said Mike Starn, hanging out beneath Big Bambú, the bamboo structure that he and his brother designed. Interest has…

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Weston Naef Says Early Muybridge Photos Are Not by Muybridge

Modern Art Notes has an interview with Getty Museum curator emeritus of photographs Weston Naef that lays out reasons why pre-1872 photographs published by Eadweard Muybridge are likely the work of others. Naef notes that Muybridge had not learned photography when he returned to his native Britain from California in 1860. When he came back…

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Art Basel Tour by Camera [part 2]

Still wondering what was for sale at Art Basel? The fair may be closing, but for those who skipped this year it’s still useful and entertaining to see the offerings. Fortunately, art adviser Todd Levin has provided a follow-up to the first installment of his walk-through photo survey which covered the “blue chip” ground floor…

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Should the Getty merge its CEO and museum director positions

I discuss the question in an opinion piece in today’s Los Angeles Times. Here’s the text of the article: Should the Getty merge its president and museum director positions? With both jobs now unfilled, some are calling for the leadership roles to be consolidated. Doing so would be a mistake, but the Getty should work…

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Photo May Depict Slave Children in American South

A 19th-century photograph recently discovered in a Charlotte, NC moving sale portrays two children that may have been slaves. According to the Associated Press, it was acquired by Keya Morgan, a NY dealer and collector of Civil War-era artifacts. He paid $30,000 for an album containing the photo and $20,000 for a document dated 1854…

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