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It was billed as an unprecedented cluster of cultural glory that would transform Abu Dhabi into the Paris of the Middle East: three centrepiece museums, including the world’s largest Guggenheim and a branch of the Louvre, designed by “starchitects” to rise up among a complex of five-star beach resorts and luxury villas on Saadiyat island in Abu Dhabi.
But six years after the project was unveiled, while several five-star resorts have opened, the only visible signs of the complex are an illuminated model in an exhibition centre near a windswept desert construction site.
Repeated delays and financial concerns have diminished the impact of the scheme, say project insiders and art experts, and some now believe the emirate has no option but to scale back its grandiose plans, possibly even scrapping the Guggenheim museum.
Those concerns have been compounded by reports of the mistreatment of migrant workers labouring on the £17bn Saadiyat island complex and worries about whether the art ultimately put on display will be subjected to censorship by the conservatives who hold sway in this part of the world.
Verena Formanek, senior project manager for the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim, admitted it was still a distant prospect. “The light’s on the horizon when the Louvre Abu Dhabi opens. I think that’s the first time I will really feel more secure because then I will see a museum is really open here and this will change a lot.”
But she added: “Really, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is far away.”
After a renovation that nearly tripled its size, the revamped Palais de Tokyo swung open its doors Thursday, inaugurating what is now the largest – and perhaps dustiest – contemporary arts center in Europe.
The dust is not a mistake. It’s part of an unfinished look meant to inspire artists now allowed to run free within its walls.
About 50 artists began a 30-hour stint of around-the-clock creation to celebrate the center’s new life at the imposing Art Deco building on Paris’ Right Bank.
The renovation, that cost some (EURO)20 million ($26 million) over 10 months, opened up a dizzying 22,000 square meters (nearly 237,000 square feet) of space. That’s more than three soccer fields.
Visitors stepped with trepidation over the center’s four floors on Thursday, past dusty columns, partially painted concrete and exposed cables.
Was the renovation incomplete?
The unfinished look, so said the center’s President Jean de Loisy, is deadly intentional.
“The landscape here is different from any other center in the world,” de Loisy told The Associated Press. “Nothing is perfectly clean, nothing is perfectly painted on purpose. It is so important in art not to control everything. It’s all in favor of creativity.”
The private collector and billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, son of the late German-Jewish art dealer and philanthropist Heinz Berggruen, is set to follow in the footsteps of the collector Eli Broad by sending several works on long-term loans to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma), where Berggruen is a trustee. “I’m building up a collection for Lacma,” he says, “focusing on German artists such as Thomas Schütte, Martin Kippenberger, Gerhard Richter and Joseph Beuys.” Works by West Coast artists such as John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy, Bruce Nauman and Mike Kelley from Berggruen’s collection are also due to end up at the museum. “Los Angeles is still a developing cultural centre and that’s why one can make a difference there,” he says. His father, Heinz Berggruen, sold his collection of modern masterpieces for $120m—one-tenth of its value—to Berlin in 2000. There is now a museum in the city to house these holdings.
The Art Newspaper
Udo Kittelmann, the director of the Nationalgalerie, and Michael Eissenhauer, the director general of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin State Museums), announced last month that the Gemäldegalerie, which houses Old Master paintings, could become a museum of 20th-century art “in the next couple of years”.
The capital of Germany should have a prominent gallery dedicated to 20th-century art that does not try to conceal the “painful” gaps in the collection caused by the nation’s traumatic past, says Kittelmann.
The Old Masters currently housed in the Gemäldegalerie in the Kulturforum, which is near the Neue Nationalgalerie, would move to an extension of the Bode Museum created by converting a former garrison across the road. Kittelmann and Eissenhauer spoke of their vision at the opening of “Divided Heaven, The Collection: 1945-68” (until late 2013) at the Neue Nationalgalerie.
Securing space for a 20th-century art museum in Berlin is high on Kittelmann’s agenda. Because the Mies van der Rohe-designed Neue Nationalgalerie is listed and lacks space for a permanent display, art from important historical periods is not regularly on show.
The Art Newspaper
Opening reception, “Collecting Stories,” The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University (photo thanks to the Slow Muse website).
The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis recently kicked off its 50th anniversary celebration with an exhibition called “Art at the Origin: The Early 1960s,” an event that a few years ago seemed to have been cut off at the neck with the announcement by then president Jehuda Reinharz that the museum would be closed and the collection sold in order to keep its host institution financially afloat. The exhibition highlights paintings acquired by founding director Sam Hunter, all of them new at the time—by artists such as Johns and Rauschenberg, Louis, Kelly, Warhol, and Lichtenstein—paintings that effectively, and in some cases controversially, identified the Rose with the art of our time. That identity persists into the present and is widely appreciated, as evidenced by “Collecting Stories,” the second part of the current exhibition, which is displayed in the museum’s spacious Lois Foster Gallery and consists of acquisitions by subsequent Rose directors during the past four decades, many of them by artists who, loud and clear, voiced their support for the Rose during the bleak months of its threatened demise.
Left Bank Art Blog
Leonardo da Vinci has arrived at the National Gallery! Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan has been described as “the most eagerly awaited London exhibition in living memory”, and “the hottest ticket in town”. It’s the art equivalent of Michael Jackson and Elvis coming back from the dead to sing Christmas carols at the O2. Everyone wants to go. And that’s the problem. Because – assuming you can get a ticket – even though the National Gallery have restricted visitors to a mere 180 every half-hour, you can bet they’ll all be congregating in the same places. The exhibition is based around nine pictures that survive from Leonardo’s time in Milan in the late 1400s. Which means there’ll be at least 20 people clustered in front of each, and the idea of trying to peer through 20 sets of legs (I’m not very tall) to try to catch a glimpse of a dimly lit masterpiece is about as appealing as trying to hear Silent Night from row Z in the upper circle.
I understand that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these paintings on walls quite near to one another. But the nature of these blockbuster shows means it’s no chance at all. Art requires you to spend some time with it, to contemplate and think, leave and return. And there’s no way you can do that with this type of show.
There’s been plenty of talk about the establishment of the Clyfford Still Museum, the construction of its $29 million building and last week’s $114 million sale of four paintings originally intended for its collection.
Now it’s time to focus on what matters most — the 116 artworks (including many never before exhibited anywhere) that will go on view today when the museum welcomes the public for the first time with a grand-opening ceremony at 10 a.m.
More than 30 years after his death, Still remains largely a mystery even to art historians. Because he sold and exhibited only a small fraction of what he produced, his work has not been seen or studied anywhere to the degree of other major American painters.
Questions abound, none more pressing than these:
Was Still a strong enough artist to validate an entire museum dedicated exclusively to him?
Like Lazarus rising from the dead, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University will reopen this week (26-27 October) after a four-month renovation with two celebrations that university president Frederick Lawrence says are heavy with significance for the museum’s future.
“The fact that we are having the reopenings during the fall board of trustees meeting is designed to raise the profile of the Rose in the university community,” he says. It was these same trustees, mostly, who in January 2009 voted to sell the Rose’s famed collection of modern and contemporary art to keep the university from shrinking drastically after the 2008 markets’ crash.
Since then, the Rose has been in limbo. Its supporters successfully sued to block the sale, reaching a settlement this June. But former director Michael Rush, who helped foment the opposition, left when his contract expired in the spring of 2009, and has never been replaced. Instead, Roy Dawes, an artist who joined the Rose staff in 2002 and was once a gallery manager at Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art, has led it as “director of museum operations”. Some exhibitions had to be cancelled, including one for James Rosenquist, who blamed a fire in his studio for his withdrawal, but also said he didn’t want to have to deal with the controversy.
Rosenquist is now part of the 26 October re-opening, which kicks off a series of events to mark the Rose’s 50th anniversary. On 27 October, there is also a public reception and viewing.
Judith H. Dobrzynski
The Art Newspaper
Not many museum directors have the opportunity Dean Sobel has—which is nothing short of the chance to rewrite a chapter of American art history.
As the first director of the Clyfford Still Museum, set to open in Denver on Nov. 18, Mr. Sobel will be reintroducing a first-generation Abstract Expressionist who abruptly severed his ties to the commercial art world in 1951 and rarely showed or sold his works after that. A few museums own some of his works—massive canvases of ragged swaths of black and a primary color that resemble rawhide—but his last large exhibition was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1979-80. Nearly 95% of Still’s output has been locked away for decades. At the Museum of Modern Art’s Abstract Expressionist exhibition earlier this year, which had roomfuls of works by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman, Still was represented by one painting.
Mr. Sobel, who has spent the past six years studying the hidden trove—825 paintings and 1,575 works on paper—is convinced that Still is not only a giant of Abstract Expressionism, but also the first of the breed. “We are going head to head with Rothko, Pollock, de Kooning and Newman,” he says. “The goal for us is to put Still back in, to show the greatness of him and that he was the great innovator of the movement. He creates Abstract Expressionism before all the others.”
Judith H. Dobrzynski
Wall Street Journal
When the American Folk Art Museum opened its new building on West 53rd Street in December 2001, it was widely hailed as a sign of hope, both for the museum and New York.
Here was evidence the city could recover from the terrorist attack of a few months earlier: a shiny bronze structure smack in the heart of Midtown that would be the first major art museum to open in Manhattan since the Whitney Museum in 1966.
Today that building is owned by another institution. The museum has defaulted on its construction bonds, moved into its old, smaller space near Lincoln Center and is talking of dissolving and transferring its collections to another institution.
The final outcome still is not clear. But the museum’s descent into financial trouble is a parable about how poor decisions and unfortunate timing can undermine even the most noble of ambitious undertakings.
New York Times