George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Secret Power of Synonyms" @nytimes by KEN JOHNSON

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Secret Power of Synonyms" @nytimes by KEN JOHNSON

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‘Mel Bochner: Strong Language’

‘Mel Bochner: Strong Language’

Credit Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Words have been the subjects and primary constituents of the enigmatic yet acerbically provocative paintings Mel Bochner has been creating over the past 12 years. “Mel Bochner: Strong Language,” an elegantly produced exhibition at the Jewish Museum, gives them their due and traces their roots back to text-based works that Mr. Bochner created in the ’60s and early ’70s, when he was one of New York’s pre-eminent Conceptual artists.

Mr. Bochner wasn’t alone in his preoccupation with language then. Carl Andre, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson and many other avant-gardists at the time made word art. Also, like Donald Judd, Robert Morris and Smithson, Mr. Bochner wrote critical and theoretical essays with a rigorous, analytic fervor determined to extinguish sloppy, sentimental thinking and writing about art.

The new paintings still revolve around philosophical issues that were dear to the Minimalists and the Conceptualists of the ’60s. The way they flip viewers back and forth between seeing visual forms and reading verbal texts prompts rumination about different modes of perceptual and cognitive consciousness.

They feature lists of synonyms, many gleaned from Roget’s Thesaurus, and often colloquial and vulgar ones. While some are made with a brushy touch, others are neatly lettered in juicy colors and in horizontal rows on flat, colored backgrounds, like Modernist stripe paintings. “Crazy” (2005) offers more than three dozen synonymous words and phrases in rows filling a 5-by-6 1/2-foot brown rectangle, with each word a different color. The list begins with “crazy,” continues with “nutty,” “daffy,” “dippy,” “dizzy” and “loopy” and ends with “foaming at the mouth.” “Die,” also from 2005, runs from “decease,” “expire,” “perish,” “succumb” to “push up daisies” and “sink into oblivion.”

Almost every painting is devoted to more or less negative words, as indicated by titles like “Nothing” (2003), “Useless” (2005), “Contempt” (2005) and “Obscene” (2006). An especially unsettling one is “Jew” (2008), which lists anti-Semitic labels in impulsively printed yellow letters on a brushy gray and black background, colors that pointedly evoke those of the Star of David armbands that the Nazis forced European Jews to wear. (Mr. Bochner, born in 1940, grew up in an observant Jewish household.) More lighthearted, though also rendered in yellow on black, is “The Joys of Yiddish” (2006), where you find words like “nudnick,” “nebbish,” “schmoozer” and “schlemiel.”

There’s an accusatory feeling in some pieces. One made of brushy white letters on a dark brown ground begins with “Liar,” “prevaricator,” “fabulator,” “dissembler,” “deceiver,” “hypocrite.” Who is addressed by these names, you might wonder? Am I the accused? “Silence!” “Cool it!” “Gag it!” “Swallow it!” commands one of the show’s biggest paintings — it’s 10 feet wide — in neat, cheerfully colored letters, as if to cut short your protestations of innocence. Several paintings say only, “Blah blah blah blah,” sarcastically reflecting, presumably, the sort of empty blather produced by advertisers, politicians, government bureaucrats, talk show personalities, journalists, pundits, bloggers and art critics.

The exhibition, which was organized by Norman Kleeblatt, the museum’s chief curator, also includes a selection of Mr. Bochner’s word-based works from the 1960s and ’70s. Among these is a series of small verbal portraits of other artists, including Marcel Duchamp, Dan Flavin and Eva Hesse, made of letters and words composed in configurations that formally reflect the subject’s art. “Portrait of Eva Hesse” (1966) has words like “wrap-up,” “secrete,” “cloak,” “bury” and “obscure” inked in concentric circles, mimicking the circular forms of some of Hesse’s sculptures.

But the newer paintings have a visual and affective impact that Conceptual art of the ’60s and ’70s rarely had. Far from coolly analytic, they’re hotly assertive, charged it seems with crotchety indignation and furious exasperation. And therein lies the crux: What are they so worked up about? It’s hard to say.

Taken one at a time, the paintings are lushly sensuous and bracingly punchy, but seeing many of them together is enervating. The volume is always turned way up; you feel as if you were being yelled at by a word-mad autistic savant. Styles and techniques may vary — some recent pieces have letters with the thickness of cake frosting applied to velvet — but the format of listed words,forcing you repeatedly to read left to right, and top to bottom, enhances a bullying effect.

At the same time, it seems that some of the paintings are mocking themselves. With “Babble” (2011), which begins with “babble,” “blather,” “blabber” and ends with “ad nauseum” (the painting spells it this way), it’s as if it were making fun of its own logorrhea. As with the blah blah paintings, there’s a hint that the artist himself might be wrestling with some kind of inner conflict, possibly between his imaginative, creative self and his skeptical, critical self. It’s hard to say for sure, though. The paintings are resolutely impersonal.

In this regard, a Conceptual piece from 1970 that Mr. Bochner has recreated for the exhibition is worth considering. Irregular letters chalked on a black background painted directly on the wall state, “Language is not transparent.” This might be true literally, if it makes any sense at all. Taken metaphorically it’s debatable. We do speak of some writings as clear and others as impenetrable. Reading Tolstoy you can feel as if you were “seeing through” the words on the page to the characters, landscapes and events they describe. Paintings often are metaphorically transparent, too; they can be like windows onto other worlds or into the depths of an artist’s psyche.

But that sort of transparency is not to be found in Mr. Bochner’s paintings. They are adamantly opaque, both literally and metaphorically. Whatever psychological dynamic animates them is hidden behind their optically aggressive and verbally peevish surfaces. It’s frustrating. You suspect that there’s something deeper activating them, something that would explain their splenetic moods, but you don’t know what it is. What’s he repressing?

As if sensing such questions might be on viewers’ minds, one of the last works in the show demands in loosely written white letters on a small, silver-painted canvas, “Do I have to draw you a picture?” As if you were an idiot for asking. You might want to say: “Well, sure, maybe a picture would help. Maybe all those words are just getting in the way.”

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George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Whitney Edits a Tale of a Nation" @nytimes by CAROL VOGEL

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Whitney Edits a Tale of a Nation" @nytimes by CAROL VOGEL

A year away from opening, the new home of the Whitney Museum of American Art is still a construction site, but it is already a vivid presence in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, and curators have mapped out months’ worth of exhibitions there.

The first show to go on view next spring — an opening date has not yet been set — will tell the story of 20th- and 21st-century American art entirely through the Whitney’s permanent collection. It will include many prominent favorites: Alexander Calder’s “Circus,” Edward Hopper’s “Early Sunday Morning,” Andy Warhol’s “Green Coca-Cola Bottles,” Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Music Pink and Blue No. 2,” Jasper Johns’s “Three Flags.” There will also be plenty of work by artists of later generations — Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Kara Walker — who are “now considered pillars of contemporary art,” said Donna De Salvo, the Whitney’s chief curator.

Using all 60,000 square feet of the gallery space, including outdoor terraces and rooms for film and video, the exhibition will even capture what American artists have been producing for the last decade.

 “Blues” (1929), by Archibald Motley, who will be the focus of a show at the Whitney in 2015-16. With its space doubled, the museum will have room for more exhibitions. Credit Collection of Mara Motley and Valerie Gerrard Browne, Chicago History Museum

The building, designed by Renzo Piano, calls for “an entirely new mind-set,” Ms. De Salvo said as she surveyed a capacious gallery, strewed with wires, that has high ceilings and views of the Hudson.

The new structure has more than twice the space of the Whitney’s Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue, which allows the museum to take stock of its holdings, she said. “A lot of the collection will be a mystery to the public, either because things have not been on view for decades or, in the case of acquisitions, have never been shown at all,” Ms. De Salvo explained.

The exhibition, to remain on view for around four months, will explore how the meaning of “American” has changed over the years. Artists who live and work in the United States may have been born elsewhere (or vice versa) yet play important parts in an ever-expanding national mix.

The artworks will be arranged chronologically. Making its first appearance at the museum since 1994 will be “V-yramid,” a recently conserved sculpture and video installation from 1982 by Nam June Paik. The room-size piece consists of 40 television sets stacked like a ziggurat, with blurring images and a soundtrack of rock and traditional Korean music.

New acquisitions in the show will extend beyond today’s trendy names and help deepen the diverse narratives woven into the history of American art. For example, the Whitney plans to exhibit a terra cotta head from 1947 by the African-American sculptor Elizabeth Catlett, associated with the Harlem Renaissance. It has never been shown before.

More space will allow for more exhibitions. Scheduled for the fall and winter of 2015-16 is the first full-scale survey of paintings by another figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Archibald Motley, known for his colorful scenes of urban life in Chicago. Running concurrently will be the first full-scale Frank Stella retrospective in this country since the Museum of Modern Art organized one in 1970. (MoMA organized a smaller Stella show 17 years later.)

“A lot of younger artists are particularly interested in Stella’s work,” Ms. De Salvo said, “because of his formal innovation and unending willingness to explore color, form and space.”

Also planned for that period is a show of contemporary art from the collection of the married art advisers Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner, who pledged their American art trove to the Whitney two years ago (and their holdings of European artists to the Pompidou Center in Paris). The exhibition will reflect the full range of their collection.

In the spring of 2016, the Whitney plans shows devoted to the artist and filmmaker Laura Poitras and to David Wojnarowicz, the painter, photographer, filmmaker and AIDS activist who was prominent in the East Village art scene of the 1980s.

Because of the complex logistics of the move, Ms. De Salvo said, the next Whitney Biennial will not take place in 2016, as it normally would, but a year later. She said the exact dates have yet to be determined. The current biennial runs through May 25.


Always looking to embrace the next big thing, the New Museum says the Google Glass eyewear brand will be the lead sponsor of its 2015 Triennial, which opens next February.

The Triennial explores the work of emerging artists around the world, and this edition is being organized by Lauren Cornell, a curator at the museum, and Ryan Trecartin, the Los Angeles artist and filmmaker.

“The show is very much about the future,” said Lisa Phillips, the New Museum’s director. Neither she nor Janine Gianfredi, who oversees marketing for Google Glass, whose software connects to the Internet, would specify how much money Google was providing for the show.

They did say that the Glass eyewear would be available to visitors at the exhibition. How it will be used is still being discussed and tested, they added. Ms. Gianfredi said she imagined that the viewing experience might in some way replace the conventional audio tour.

Concerns have been raised about the potential of the Glass software to collect information in a way that invades users’ privacy, and the headwear has yet to achieve mainstream acceptance.

But Ms. Gianfredi said that through its apps and social media, Google had identified a consumer appetite for new ways of using technology to create, view and appreciate art. A onetime New Yorker, she said she considered the New Museum a good fit for a trial run. “It is very experimental,” she said.

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George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Door to Art of the World, Barely Ajar" by HOLLAND COTTER

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Door to Art of the World, Barely Ajar" by HOLLAND COTTER

On a pay-what-you-wish Saturday evening in late February, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum rotunda was dense with visitors to a new show, “Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe.“

Suddenly, a bugle squawked out a few notes, and from two upper ramps banners unfurled. One was painted with the words “Wage Theft.“ The other carried a drawing of a world globe accompanied by the phrase “1% Museum.“

A call-and-response chant began: “Who is building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi?“

“Migrant workers in labor camps! Is this the future of art?“

Then a single voice called out: “The Guggenheim Museum has a museum empire. The Guggenheim should not be on the wrong side of history.“

After about 20 minutes of this orchestrated interruption, which included a tossing of leaflets and the posting of a manifesto, the demonstrators left the premises.

They were members of an activist political group called G.U.L.F. (Global Ultra Luxury Faction), which is affiliated with two larger groups, Gulf Labor and Occupy Museums. For two years Gulf Labor, a coalition of international artists, has been protesting, largely through the web, the state of what some critics likened to indentured servitude of laborers, many from South Asia, brought in to work on a new Guggenheim franchise located on Saddiyat Island — “Island of Happiness” — just off the coast of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Protesters at the Guggenheim. Credit G.U.L.F. (Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction)

Asked for a response to the protest, the Guggenheim’s director, Richard Armstrong, said the complaints were misplaced. Construction on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry, had not yet begun at the time of the demonstration. G.U.L.F. countered that all the labor-intensive structural groundwork that would make the building possible — roads, sewage systems — had been underway for some time, and reports of worker abuses were rife.

Whatever the reality, in the eyes of at least some art world citizens, the Guggenheim was doing at the very least a convincing impersonation of a globalizing corporation with new headquarters, built by and for the rich at the expense of the poor, to supply a luxury leisure and tourist spot in the Middle East with global art exhibitions.

Global — as in globalism and globalization — has been a period-defining word in talk about art and its institutions in the last few decades. And along with certain other zeitgeisty terms like multiculturalism and postmodernism, it once had a utopian ring.

When the economy, including the art market, bottomed out at the end of the 1980s, walls came down, and long-excluded art came in. Not only did the art of African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans gain admittance, but so did new art from Africa, Asia and South America, art that we barely even knew existed.

Back then, globalism seemed to hold one main promise: finally bringing us all, with our manifold colors and languages, to the table, where we wouldn’t all just break bread side by side, we’d cook up whole new fusion cuisines.

Cleaning a work by Jeremy Deller, installed near M+, a Hong Kong museum opening in 2016. Credit Laurent Fievet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Even before the financial crisis in the late 1980s, there were indicators of incipient change. One came with the 1984 exhibition “‘Primitivism‘ in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern“ at the Museum of Modern Art, organized by William S. Rubin and Kirk Varnedoe, that paired examples of traditional African, Oceanic and Native American objects with Western modern art. The take-away idea was to demonstrate the ingenious use Western artists had made of those “primitive“ sources. Non-Western art objects were reduced to illustrating Western accomplishments.

The response was explosive. In a widely read review in Artforum, the critic Thomas McEvilley, who died last year, slammed the museum with accusations of cultural colonialism. The curators came back with a defense, only to have Mr. McEvilley demolish it and, by doing so, to decisively accelerate a broad rethinking, already underway, of the blinkered attitudes of Western museums toward the rest of the world.

The debate had international repercussions. In 1989 an exhibition called “Magiciens de la Terre,“ organized by Jean-Hubert Martin at the Pompidou Center in Paris, was conceived as a corrective to the MoMA exhibition and had the distinction of being one of the first truly global museum shows, bringing together 50 contemporary artists from Europe and North America with 50 from Africa, Asia, South America and Australia.

But in a different way from MoMA, it gave the non-Western work a primitivizing gloss, beginning with the title. Art by the Western artists was, for the most part, presented for cool contemplation, but the work chosen by many of the non-Western participants had an ethnographic spin as if the objects were expected to do something: heal, receive prayers, create magic, be spiritual. Despite the show’s stated intention to create something like a globalist balance of values, a West-in-control-of-the-rest perspective remained intact.

Still, a door to a larger view of the world did open. But has it stayed open, and if so, how wide?

Workers last year at the future site of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, near where the Guggenheim is building a branch. Credit Marwan Naamani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In terms of genuine globalist reach, MoMA is a more expansive institution than it was in 1984, but only in the area of contemporary art. Global modernism remains either outside its ken or perhaps hidden away in its storage vaults. In any case, we rarely see it.

The Guggenheim has been more on the ball, though too often in a self-aggrandizing, one-shot way. For a show in 1996 imported from the Royal Academy of Arts in London, called “Africa: The Art of a Continent,“ it jammed hundreds of “traditional“ African objects, representing dozens of cultures, into its rotunda in an inchoate, context-free display. It took roughly the same omnibus approach in “China: 5000 Years“ in 1998 and in “Brazil: Body and Soul,“ which opened in 2001. It was no coincidence that these blockbusters came at a time when the museum was working hard to establish international branches.

The situation at the museum has improved. The Guggenheim has mounted some large Asian shows since — a Cai Guo Qiang retrospective in 2008, the 2013 Gutai show — and there are on-staff Asian art curators. But the museum’s much advertised global art acquisition initiative has gotten off to a disappointingly stingy start. The first installment, last year’s “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia,“ was small and tucked away in a side gallery.

In New York it has been left to smaller museums, often short of money, to pick up the globalist slack in a consistent and venturesome way. These include the Queens Museum, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, the Studio Museum in Harlem and Asia Society. Most innovative of all was the Museum for African Art, which opened in 1984 and revolutionized ideas about how to present non-Western culture in a Western context. Dismayingly, last year the museum changed its mission and name — it is now the New African Center — leaving its future as an exhibiting institution unclear.

And, of course, what has changed most boldly over the last decade is the global art landscape and the place of museums in it, a story still very much in the process of unfolding. With “Magicien“ as an originating model, international biennials and art fairs have proliferated. Essentially pop-up events, they plunk down large shipments of price-tagged pluralism everywhere, standardizing and neutralizing the experience of “difference” — editing it to a manageable market and determining what we will see in our big, ostensibly “global” museums, the “1%” as the protesters had it.

A painting seen in “Gutai.” Credit Richard Perry/The New York Times

Some of the newest of these institutions are in the Middle East and China. For the last several years China has indulged in a spectacular binge of museum construction, thanks both to competitive nationalism and to new wealth. New regional museums of archaeological or other traditional material abound. So do private museums housing personal collections amassed by members of the newly rich. There are even museums of world culture, all but unheard-of outside the West until now. Two state-run museums that opened in Shanghai in 2012, one devoted to modern and the other to contemporary art, are mandated to show at least some Western work.

In Hong Kong, among the exclusive shops and restaurants of the developing West Kowloon Cultural District, the colossal M+ museum is in operation even though its building won’t be finished until 2016. The institution’s bias is 20th- and 21st-century Asian-centric work, but it will incorporate significant Western material.

The M+ pointedly calls itself a visual cultural museum rather than an art museum. But with a starter collection that appears to draw heavily on the internationally approved contemporary Chinese canon, it could, without strong curatorial direction, adhere to a now standard-issue global format.

Is there any place to escape from this model among new or newish museums outside the Western sphere? Southeast Asia presents serious possibilities, with a lively art scene and interesting contemporary spaces in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. And Africa, where large-scale Western-style museums are all but impossible to sustain, produces alternatives almost by default.

Institutions like Bandjoun Station in the western region of Cameroon; Zoma Contemporary Art Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and Raw Material Company in Dakar, Senegal, are all small, artist-built-and-run institutions that multitask as exhibition venues, archives, libraries, studios, guesthouses, gathering spots and schools.

Far from being part of the floating world of a market-driven museum culture, they’re thoroughly grounded in a local context, yet, through social media, networked internationally. Given their slender means, they have to stay flexible, light on their feet and open to alteration. In most cases, the one component they lack is a permanent collection. Deeply committed to the idea of art being, intrinsically, a form of social activism, their very existence carries a political charge.

Our big globalizing institutions of modern and contemporary art carry no such charge. Despite their fabulously rich holdings in art, any spark of a vision of the museum as a community of cultures, a forum of equal Others, is hard to find. In this context, globalism is shut down, out of fuel.

Even unbuilt, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi feels like a white elephant, corralled on the Island of Happiness with others of its kind: an Abu Dhabi branch of the Louvre designed by Jean Nouvel, and a performing arts center designed by Zaha Hadid, all constructed by people who will most likely never get in the doors and whose art is still hard to find in comparable museums in New York. Yet it would take a real cynic not to speculate about how this might be different. What if seemingly incompatible institutional features — humane local wisdom and custodianship of treasures of art — could be made to coexist? We’d have museums that are on the right side of history, and in which the future of art would be secure. That ideal is worth storming an empire for.

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George Lindemann Journa by Goerge Lindemann - "For the Whitney’s Move, Boxes and Burly Men Just Won’t Do" @nytimes by ROBIN POGREBIN

George Lindemann Journa by Goerge Lindemann - "For the Whitney’s Move, Boxes and Burly Men Just Won’t Do" @nytimes by ROBIN POGREBIN

The Whitney Museum's new space is in the final stages of construction. Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Anyone who has ever unwrapped a chipped piece of Wedgwood understands the headaches and peril associated with moving.

Now imagine what the Whitney Museum of American Art is going through as it plans to transport more than 14,000 items, including delicate pieces like Alexander Calder’s sculpture “Circus” and landmark paintings like Edward Hopper’s “Early Sunday Morning” — to its new downtown home.

Let’s just say the logistics go well beyond buying some Bubble Wrap.

There are intricate packing and crating concerns, matters of truck scheduling and insurance and, of course, security, as artwork worth hundreds of millions of dollars is transported through Manhattan. When the Barnes Foundation moved its museum to Philadelphia from the suburbs for its 2012 opening, the movers, as a precaution, stripped all the signage from their trucks.

“Everything about it is monumental,” said Ron Simoncini, who was the director of security at the Museum of Modern Art when that institution moved to and from temporary quarters in Queens during its 2004 renovation. (The move from Manhattan took 400 truck trips and involved about 100,000 works of art, MoMA said.)

“It’s not like moving a business or moving a home,” Mr. Simoncini added. “It’s not like you call Staples.”

The Whitney’s transfer from its Upper East Side home at Madison and 75th Street to Gansevoort and Washington Streets in the meatpacking district is still a ways off.

The museum will shut down after its Jeff Koons retrospective closes on Oct. 19, and staff members will start moving into the new building in the fall. The art will be transported after that, so that the museum is ready for its spring opening. (A firm date has not been set.)

“We’re still making plans for the actual moving of art,” Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s director, said in an interview last week.

The new $760 million project, at the base of the High Line, designed by Renzo Piano, is entering the final stages of construction. (Members of the news media are to get a look at its progress on Thursday.)

Mr. Weinberg said it was not yet clear how many trucks will be involved, how many trips they will take and when they will begin pulling up to the new museum; those details will not be released even when they are determined, because of security concerns.

The Whitney, however, is no stranger to moving, Mr. Weinberg said; the downtown location will be its fourth. Founded in 1930, the museum opened on West Eighth Street in 1931, then moved to an expanded site on West 54th Street in 1954 and finally to its current building, which was designed by Marcel Breuer and opened in 1966.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art signed an agreement in 2011 to occupy the Breuer building for at least eight years.

Mr. Weinberg said he is excited at the prospect of being able to put more of the Whitney’s permanent collection on view. In the new building, which includes outdoor areas, the museum will double its total exhibition space to 63,000 square feet.

It will also be able to consolidate its administrative operations; the Whitney’s staff is spread around five different locations. “We have not all been under one roof for eight years,” Mr. Weinberg said.

John S. Stanley, the Whitney’s chief operating officer, is overseeing the move, Mr. Weinberg said.

“It’s one set of details after another,” said Mr. Stanley, who added that he did not yet have a cost estimate.

A major part of the effort will be ensuring adequate security. The Barnes Foundation had a door-to-door private security escort. “They were invisible but they were there,” said Hal Jones, whose Philadelphia-based company, Atelier Art Services and Storage, handled the move.

“It took us a year to prepare for the job,” Mr. Jones said.

The company spent six months creating the packaging for the Barnes move. Crates were packed inside of crates. Art was insulated with specialized foam, which was customized, based on the weight of each object.

The art traveled in Atelier’s climate-controlled trucks, which are equipped with a cushioning suspension system. Not all the art went over at once, to avoid attracting attention and snarling traffic. “You couldn’t just jam up the whole place,” Mr. Jones said. About four or five trucks made several trips.

“We were like an ant trail,” Mr. Jones said. “Going and coming all the time.”

And then there was all that insurance to deal with. “We have to cover everything we do,” Mr. Jones said. “Commercial; auto for vehicles; packing insurance; shipping insurance; you need insurance for your bricks and mortar; health insurance for all your employees; you need workmen’s compensation; and you need to be able to offer insurance to clients who don’t insure their work.”

The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York is preparing to move some of its 200,000 design objects back into the renovated Carnegie Mansion on Fifth Avenue. The security requirements won’t compare to the museum’s 2011 show on Van Cleef & Arpels (armed guards), but the move is nevertheless “a complicated Rubik’s Cube,” said Caroline Baumann, the director.

The bulk of the Whitney’s collection is works on paper, most of which will be moved to the new building’s study center. Of the remainder — paintings and sculptures — it is still unclear which pieces from the permanent collection will be installed when the Whitney reopens.

The rest of the Whitney’s collection will remain in its undisclosed off-site storage center. Because of the cost — and flood considerations — the museum decided against building a storage facility at the new site, Mr. Weinberg said.

After the Madison Avenue building closes to the public, there will be some private events there through the holidays, and then the Whitney plans to upgrade the Breuer building for its new tenant, the Met, officials said. To prepare for the move (and with support from the Henry Luce Foundation), the Whitney is thoroughly documenting its holdings to make sure each piece has been adequately conserved and digitally photographed.

“It’s basically getting your house clean before you move,” Mr. Weinberg said. “We have never gone through our entire collection, object by object.”

The reinstallation of the collection in the new galleries will be overseen by longtime members of the Whitney’s staff. However unnerving the prospect of this undertaking is, Mr. Weinberg said, he’s confident that it is in very good hands.

“They are people who are fully tested,” he said.

“They know this collection, they’ve traveled this collection,” he added. “These are their babies.”

Correction: April 29, 2014

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the cost of the new building. It is $422 million — not $760 million, which is the total cost of the project, including the building, the endowment and other expenses. Also, an earlier version of this correction erroneously stated that the total cost is $720 million.​

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George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Rarely One for Sugarcoating" @nytimes by BLAKE GOPNIK

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Rarely One for Sugarcoating" @nytimes by BLAKE GOPNIK

The smell hits you first: sweet but with an acrid edge, like a thousand burned marshmallows. Then you’re struck by the space, five stories high and more than a football field long. The storage shed of the Domino sugar factory, on the East River in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, was built in 1927 to hold mountains of raw sugar due for whitening. The plant was shuttered a decade ago, yet its crumbling walls still drip with molasses.

But head farther in, and that mess gives way to the pristine: Rising to the rafters and stretching 75 feet from paws to rump is a great sphinx, demure as her Egyptian cousin but glowing from a recent sugar coating. It is a sight so unlikely it seems Photoshopped.

Kara Walker, the beast’s creator, appears dwarfed by her almost-finished colossus, an ode to the cane fields’ black labor that she has chosen to make grotesquely white. She has titled it “A Subtlety” — after the intricate sugar sculptures that were centerpieces for medieval feasts — even though it is absurdly unsubtle. Its subtitle is “The Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World.”

The work was commissioned by Creative Time, the group known for its public art projects. “This feels like a Cecil B. DeMille set,” said Nato Thompson, Creative Time’s chief curator, gazing up at the result. From May 10 through July 6, on Fridays through Sundays, the public will get to be its cast of thousands.

Ms. Walker is a proudly tall woman — “5-10,” she tells me, correcting my guess of 5 feet 8. For protection from the room’s floating sugar, the artist wears yellow rubber overalls and a blue bandanna with shamrocks. Her face bears an uncanny likeness to her sphinx.

“I just noticed that her nose and profile are me, for sure,” Ms. Walker said. The “just” is hard to believe: In March, when I first visited studio in Manhattan’s garment district, she talked about enlarging the nostrils on an early draft of the head and, maybe unconsciously, pointed to her own nose as she did so.

Doubters — and there are more than a few — might read the sphinx as being all about inflating Ms. Walker’s ego and status. But it could as easily be a sendup of the genius-artist role foisted on Ms. Walker by others. “To joke about it isn’t necessarily to dismiss it,” she said, “but it is to acknowledge the complete folly of that whole notion.”

In the 20 years since her breakout installation at the Drawing Center in New York, when she was only 24, Ms. Walker has become a towering figure herself, an African-American visual artist who has achieved unparalleled global success. Her cut-paper silhouettes and animations, exhibited and owned by museums across the United States and abroad, harness genteel 19th-century imagery to magnify the dysfunctions bred by slavery.

“Mommy makes mean art,” was the judgment that the artist’s daughter, Octavia, delivered 12 years ago, when she was 4, and that gets pretty close to the truth. Awarding Ms. Walker a $190,000 “genius” grant in 1997, the MacArthur Foundation noted that Ms. Walker’s images explored the “vestiges of sexual, physical, and racial exploitation” handed down by slavery. She has portrayed sex of every conceivable kind between master and mistress and slave; her panoramic views of the antebellum south include scenes of defecation, amputation, emasculation and decapitation. Violent, yes, but Ms. Walker also sees an absurdist side to the gore in her work.


Ms. Walker’s first museum survey, in 2007, was organized by Philippe Vergne for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and traveled to the Whitney Museum in New York and several other cities. As a Frenchman, he said he finds that her work transcends the context of slavery or race or even American culture. “You just need to open any newspaper anywhere in the world to see that the gender abuse, the sexual abuse, the power abuses are part of our fabric, unfortunately,” Mr. Vergne said from Los Angeles, where he is the new director of that city’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Kerry James Marshall, an older black painter who won a MacArthur the same year as Ms. Walker, says he appreciates her work almost as much for its formal elegance as for its content.

“Because you have to keep oscillating between the two aspects of the work, it becomes destabilizing in a way,” Mr. Marshall said by phone from his Chicago studio. “But that kind of tension between those two things is a really interesting place to be.”

Not all of his colleagues agree. In 1997, the veteran black artist Betye Saar led a letter-writing campaign against Ms. Walker’s work, railing against negative stereotypes of blacks as both victims and aggressors that she said catered to the expectations of whites. Ms. Saar spoke of “a sense of betrayal at the hands of a black artist who obviously hated being black.”

Ms. Walker said she was aware of the risks her work runs and of the issues it raises about revealing dysfunction versus celebrating achievement, about loyalty to race versus “kowtowing to the dominant culture.” She insists she likes the idea of a “protesting audience” that is so engaged by her art that it is willing to be enraged by it, too. Ms. Walker casts her conflict with Ms. Saar in clash-of-the-titans terms: “You are Biggie, and you are Tupac, and you battle it out through your art, and the art is the stronger for it.”

Or at least bigger.

“In some ways, doing a project like this is a bit of a nose-thumbing at detractors, naysayers, haters,” Ms. Walker said of her Domino sphinx. With her earlier work, even her supporters conceded that the recurring antihero of Ms. Walker’s work — known as “the Negress” — had never had true control of her fate. But with Ms. Walker’s Negress-as-sphinx, that underdog may have at last become the unbeatable overcat.

Ms. Walker told me of reading about a monument that lawmakers proposed in 1923 to honor the nation’s “mammies.” It was approved by the Senate but allowed to die in the House.

The sphinx is something like Ms. Walker’s realization of that dream, but as a racist’s nightmare: The figure may be wearing a mammie’s kerchief, but she’ll never be beaten into submission.

The sculpture, the artist’s first, may meet a challenge in her career: Ms. Walker has been courting the danger of repetition, with her works in different mediums tending to share a trademark look, cast of characters and emotional and political tone. One set of silhouettes is easy to confuse with another, whereas the “Marvelous Sugar Baby” is unlike any of them. What is unclear is whether the Domino piece, for all its size, has sacrificed some of the gravitas of the earlier, crueler work.


Ms. Walker was born in 1969 in Stockton, Calif., where her father, Larry Walker, was the chairman of the art department at the University of the Pacific. She would paint and draw in his studio, “and I’d be so fascinated by what she was doing that I’d just stop and watch,” he recalled, speaking from his home in Lithonia, Ga.

The family moved to Mr. Walker’s native Georgia in 1983. Ms. Walker remembers her school in California as having included a rainbow of races, whereas in Atlanta there seemed to be African-Americans, whites and a vast gulf in between. “It became a black-and-white world for her,” her father said.


During an interview, Ms. Walker dredged up a long-lost memory of reading Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” under her desk in high school. That novel prefigures the surreal violence and sex in Kara Walker’s mature work, but it’s hard to find the book’s hints of redemption in her art. (The poster for the 1985 film version of the book, which came out when Ms. Walker was 16, featured a silhouette surprisingly close to those of her later work.)

She studied painting in Atlanta, then got a master of fine arts degree at the Rhode Island School of Design, while telling herself, she said: “You have to stop painting. You cannot paint.”

In the 1990s the notion that the medium had long been owned by white males was too strong to be ignored. So she came up with her cut-paper technique.

She describes a teacher, Michael Young, as crucial to her transformation. Speaking by phone from Austin, Tex., Mr. Young said his contribution was to convince her to play down her bookish side, advising her to be “as operatic as you can be about it — you’re not a conceptual artist.” He said that shyness had once left her close to silent.

Spend a few hours with Ms. Walker today, and you get an acute sense of shyness overcome. She talks plenty, showing a brassy surface that seems meant to hide a softer core.

Ms. Walker married a professor of jewelry in Rhode Island (they have since divorced) and later left for New York. She has taught art at Columbia University since 2002 and until quite recently lived in modest faculty housing, her longtime dealer, Brent Sikkema, pointed out. Like other friends of Ms. Walker, Mr. Sikkema emphasized that the aggression in her work does not prepare you for her wicked sense of humor, although the humor in her work is so dark it’s easy to miss.

Mr. Vergne, the curator of the 2007 survey, points to the mix of over-the-top gore and seriousness in her art. He described the silhouettes as straddling “Django Unchained,” — a “vaudeville parody” — and “Twelve Years a Slave,” a historical drama. “She bounces between both,” he said.

I accompanied Ms. Walker and her team to the current Domino factory in Yonkers, where we got an introduction to pest control and bagging and “green” processes. (Domino donated 160,000 pounds of sugar for the sphinx, but its core is carved polystyrene.) We were told that it now only takes seven people to run the refinery process, whereas in Williamsburg it once took dozens.

In some ways, then, her piece is about the passing of blue-collar America. The Domino building on the East River now belongs to the art-friendly developer Jed Walentas, who has lent the space to Creative Time while he prepares to level most of the the structure and put up apartments for Williamsburg’s new elite (with some set aside for the less privileged).

Ms. Walker has written: “Sugar crystallizes something in our American Soul. It is emblematic of all Industrial Processes. And of the idea of becoming white. White Being equated with pure and ‘true’ it takes a lot of energy to turn brown things into white things. A lot of pressure.”

There was an early moment, she recalled, when her research “led me to this place where I could only think about death and destruction, and more death.” Seeking something to counter that — “a gift, something that was promising” — the sphinx idea came to her and took hold.

Of course, in its origins in the ancient world, the sphinx could be a riddler as well as a protector. Ms. Walker’s may well stand for the scale of the questions she is asking, and for her refusal to give easy answers.

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "The Industrial Art of Those Talented Bugattis" @nytimes by JOHN LAMM

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "The Industrial Art of Those Talented Bugattis" @nytimes by JOHN LAMM

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An Eye for Design

OXNARD, CALIF. — Aficionados have argued for ages over which individual has had the greatest influence on the automobile.

Enzo Ferrari is a favorite. Traditionalists may side with Ettore Bugatti. Henry Ford gets the American vote, while Soichiro Honda rates high for innovation. Modernists might include the current chairman of the Volkswagen Group’s supervisory board, Ferdinand Piëch.

Each of those geniuses deserves a major show of his creations, but the Mullin Automotive Museum here, about 60 miles west of Los Angeles, takes a broader view in its exhibition, “The Art of Bugatti.” The show, which opened last month, honors not just Ettore Bugatti, whose grand machines remain landmarks of design and engineering, but three generations of the Bugatti family, who produced a fascinating variety of creative works.

There are other genius families, concedes Peter W. Mullin, 73, founder of the museum and chairman of M Financial, but they tend to follow a single discipline (with exceptions like Johann Sebastian Bach the Younger). Mr. Piëch may be the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, but both stuck with the car business.

Mr. Mullin, a Best of Show winner at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance and a lover of French cars, and his guest curator, Brittanie Kinch, researched the family members’ artistic pursuits and gathered representative works by each.

Carlo Bugatti (1856-1940), born in Milan but living much of his adult life in France, was the patriarch. His discipline was mainly Art Nouveau furniture, though he was also known as a painter and designer of jewelry and silver tableware.

Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916), a son of Carlo, experienced both success and tragedy. Given his name by an uncle — the noted Italian painter Giovanni Segantini — the story goes, this Rembrandt was a sculptor, specializing in animals cast in bronze. Living in Belgium in the early 1900s, he would arrive early in the day at menageries like the Antwerp Zoo and fashion animal likenesses while the creatures were most active, all the better to capture them in motion.

The tragic part: Rembrandt’s suicide at 31, thought to have been a result of depression brought on by his serving at a Red Cross military hospital in World War I and by the wartime killing of many of the zoo animals that had been his subjects.

Ettore Bugatti (1881-1947), Rembrandt’s brother, was also an artist, but his medium was the automobile. Ettore’s creations ranged from the Type 10, a car so small he was able to build it in his basement, to the huge, and aptly named, Royale. His Type 35 is one of the most successful Grand Prix cars in history; the Type 55s were arguably the epitome of pre-World War II sports cars; and the various Type 57 models were a sublime mix of speed and elegance.

Yet that wasn’t enough. In his factory at Molsheim in Alsace — under German rule when the factory was established, but later part of France — Ettore designed huge railcars, small boats, even a radical airplane.

Jean Bugatti (1909-1939) was Ettore’s son and a mix of his forebears. While able to keep pace with this father’s technical prowess, Jean showed his creative side by designing bodies for Bugatti chassis. Many of the elegant Type 57 bodies came from Jean’s drawing board, the most spectacular being the Atlantics. Only two Atlantics remain, one in the Mullin museum and the other in the collection of Ralph Lauren.

Tragedy struck the Bugatti family again when Jean died in a freak accident in 1939 while testing a racecar known as the Tank, a Type 57G that had recently won the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Those are the main characters in the Bugatti drama, though the show also displays paintings, drawings and sculptures by Lidia Bugatti, a daughter of Ettore.

In the museum, decorated like a prewar French auto salon, Carlo’s work stands out for its decidedly eclectic design, including thronelike chairs with nonmatching posts on either side, one with a carving at its top, the other post appearing to be topped by a lampshade.

One cannot be certain how comfortable the chairs might be, but they are a visual treat. Mr. Mullin relates the story that the classic shape of Bugatti grilles was taken not from a horseshoe, as widely believed, but the curves of Carlo’s chair legs.

In the exhibition, one can readily see the passion in Rembrandt’s work: a bellowing elephant (one version of which graces the hood of Type 41 Royale models) and a bison, its surface a shaggy coat you would love to touch. Still, Rembrandt’s specialty seems to have been big cats, an example of which is a stretching panther, its musculature and the curve of its back leading to the arc of its tail, thoughtfully placed next to the Type 57SC Atlantic.

For all the flamboyance of Carlo’s creations and the sublime beauty of Rembrandt’s bronzes, it is the cars that dominate this show, thanks to their fame — and their size.

The star is quite likely the Atlantic, considered by some to be the Mona Lisa of motorcars. Today’s Bugatti Automobiles, part of the Volkswagen Group, produced the modern 1,200-horsepower Veyron 16.4 Super Sport in the show, and also sent for display a 19-foot 6-inch-long Royale assembled in 1932.

In contrast is the tiny Type 10 Le Petit Pur Sang, whose name translates to little thoroughbred. There is a Type 55 Roadster, designed by Jean Bugatti, rotating slowly on a platform. Five unrestored vehicles, including a wood-sided truck, serve as a reminder of the textile magnate Fritz Schlumpf, an infamous Bugatti hoarder.

For all the beauty in the exhibition, perhaps the most fascinating display is of a well-rusted hulk with just two wheels.

“Most people walk in to see the Atlantic but walk out talking about the beauty from the deep,” says Mr. Mullin, who is also the chairman of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

It’s a story involving a 1925 Bugatti Type 22 lost in a poker game, its new owner unable to pay import duties and the car ending up 170 feet down in Lake Maggiore in Switzerland for more than 70 years. The car was recovered in 2009, and Mr. Mullin bought it at auction the next year for about $370,000.

In another display, an unfinished shell appears to levitate above a Type 64 chassis in Mr. Mullin’s collection that had never been bodied. Mr. Mullin had Jean Bugatti’s preliminary drawings for the car, which included papillon — French for butterfly — doors, hinged in the roof, predating Mercedes-Benz’s gullwing design.

Mr. Mullin asked Stewart Reed, head of the transportation design department at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., to “reimagine” a body for the chassis. Not wanting to hide the charm of the frame, driveline and wheels, Mr. Mullin has the completed body — purposely unpainted — hovering above.

Then there is the 100P airplane. Ettore started working on it in the 1930s, intending to build a speed record setter. An unusual design, it has wings that sweep forward, a V-shape tail and a pair of 450-horspower engines behind the cockpit driving counterrotating propellers at the front. Only one was built, and it is at the AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wis.; the 100P in the exhibition is a reproduction planned for flight this year.

While a closing date for “The Art of Bugatti” has not been set, anyone planning a visit — an experience bound to give the feeling of stepping into the 1938 Paris Motor Show — should do so by year-end.

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "More Public Art for Governors Island" @nytimes by CAROL VOGEL

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "More Public Art for Governors Island" @nytimes by CAROL VOGEL

“Painted Phone,” one of Mark Handforth’s works to be shown on Governors Island. Credit Timothy Schenck Photography/The Trust for Governors Island

When a new 30-acre park opens at the southern end of Governors Island on May 24, it will boast a grove of hammocks, two ball fields, a formal garden and play areas with climbable structures and spray showers. It will also be part of an ambitious backdrop for a new public art program taking shape on this 172-acre island, the former Army and Coast Guard base in New York Harbor. The city took control of Governors Island in 2010, and each year there’s more to do and see, attracting thousands of visitors during the summer months.

The new Governors Island Park, with sweeping views of New York Harbor, Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, will be a canvas for artists to create site-specific installations. Susan Philipsz has composed a sound piece inspired by the island’s military history. Based on the notes of the taps military bugle call, it will be played every day at 6 p.m. “It’s like the ghost of the former military base,” said Tom Eccles, who is organizing the island’s public art program.

Mr. Eccles, director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., said he was trying to create “a sense of journey and discovery which is uniquely suitable to finding works of art in the landscape.” He asked the sculptor Mark Handforth to create an exhibition consisting of four totem-like sculptures, surreal works that include “Painted Phone,” a 30-foot bronze tree with lopped-off limbs cradling a blue phone. The works by Mr. Handforth will be in place for about two years. Ms. Philipsz’s sound composition is permanent.

The British artist Rachel Whiteread is creating a cast concrete structure resembling an abandoned shed, to be placed permanently on Discovery Hill, south of the new park. Set for completion in 2015, it will look like a found yet familiar object hidden in the woods.


Being able to say that an artwork has been on “long-term loan” to a major museum can be an irresistible sales pitch for an auction house. Ask the experts in Christie’s postwar and contemporary art department about “Black Fire I,” a 1961 canvas by Barnett Newman to be auctioned there on May 13, and they will immediately note that it has been at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1985.

A seminal example of Abstract Expressionism, it pairs Newman’s luminous use of a black palette with his signature device: the zip, a feathery band of a contrasting color used to define the composition of a canvas. The work, with an estimate of about $50 million, is being sold by the Daniel W. Dietrich II trust, named for a Philadelphia collector.

Just a year ago, Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, sold Newman’s “Onement VI,” from 1953, at Sotheby’s in New York. It fetched $43.8 million.


The Jewish Museum's new logo. Credit Sagmeister & Walsh

Delving back to ancient sacred geometries and that most ubiquitous of forms, the Star of David, may seem too obvious a reference for the Jewish Museum, which was faced with the task of designing a new graphic identity. But the design, below, to be introduced on Tuesday, seems both familiar and modern. Sagmeister & Walsh, the New York design firm, has created graphics that will appear on the museum’s admissions tickets and banners, signs, gallery guides, gift wrap and even the menu in the museum’s cafe. By June they will also grace a revamped website.

“The old identity didn’t work anymore — it wasn’t adaptable,” Claudia Gould, who has been the Jewish Museum’s director for nearly three years, said of the current logo, featuring the museum’s name in a red box.


Stefan Sagmeister, one of the firm’s partners, said that it had approached “a lot of people involved with the museum — board members, employees, the director — and asked them what they thought the Jewish Museum should be.” Several similar adjectives emerged: intimate, inclusive (meaning multigenerational) and elegant.

“The new logo may be based on a hidden sliver of imagery that comes out of history,” Mr. Sagmeister said, describing the hexagram shape, a sign of Jewish identity since the Middle Ages but also a symbol used by other cultures. “But it has a contemporary look. It’s very necessary to attract a younger audience, and with this design I think you can feel the difference.”


When it came to filling a gap in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, the single greatest priority for James Rondeau, its chairman of contemporary art, has been to find a 1960s stack, one of those serial boxlike units that are perhaps Donald Judd’s most popular works. “It’s something I knew we had to have since I arrived here in 1998, and probably curators before me were on the lookout for one too,” Mr. Rondeau said.

Through the Mnuchin Gallery in New York, the Art Institute was able to acquire “Untitled (DSS 120)” from 1968, what Mr. Rondeau believes is among the last of the artist’s 1960s stacks still in private hands. Judd, who died in 1994, created his first stack in 1965. This one, measuring 10 feet from floor to ceiling, consists of identical stainless steel and Plexiglas boxes cantilevered from the wall at regular intervals so they form a column of alternating solids and voids.

The work was included in exhibitions of Judd stacks at the Art Institute earlier this year and the Mnuchin Gallery last year. Like many museums, the Art Institute does not disclose what it pays for acquisitions. But this stack was offered at a Christie’s auction in 2009, when it sold for nearly $4.9 million.

Correction: April 24, 2014

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the design firm working with the Jewish Museum. It is Sagmeister & Walsh, not Sagmeister & Walch.      


George Lindemann Journal by George "Most Wanted and Most Haunted" @nytimes by By HOLLAND COTTER

George Lindemann Journal by George "Most Wanted and Most Haunted" @nytimes by By HOLLAND COTTER

Visitors at “Warhol: Jackie” at Blain/Di Donna, a gallery on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Credit Byron Smith for The New York Times


A half-century ago this week, the 1964 World’s Fair opened in Flushing Meadows, Queens. With Belgian waffles, Michelangelo’s “Pietà” and a Tent of Tomorrow, the event was a last postwar blast of guilt-free consumption, Sunday school piety and faith in the future as a good place to be. It was also the scene of a smashup in progress, as the America of the 1950s ran into the 1960s.

The momentum had jolted into high gear a year earlier. With the Kennedy assassination, an era of lost illusions had begun. So had a time of anger. As the fair opened, the Civil Rights Act was stalled in Congress. The country’s involvement in Vietnam was escalating. The Beatles had landed and set off a youthquake. The city itself, anxious to get clean for tourism, was beefing up on vice squads.

To a degree hard to imagine now, contemporary art had a reflective active role in this feverish picture. No artist took the cultural pulse more precisely than Andy Warhol. And we see his diagnostic instincts already fully developed in two remarkable New York exhibitions: “13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World’s Fair,” at the Queens Museum, and “Warhol: Jackie” at Blain/Di Donna, a gallery on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

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Warhol’s Worlds

Warhol’s Worlds

Credit Byron Smith for The New York Times

By 1964, Warhol was a different artist from the one he’d been just a few years before. Gone were the filigreed drawings of boots and shoes that had made him a commercial design star. He left advertising and office life behind and set up shop in a ratty loft on East 47th Street that he called the Factory. There he made multiedition silk-screened paintings of subjects that he considered typical American themes: cheap food, tabloid violence and celebrity worship.

With the help of close friends and lots of speed, he turned out vast series of individual images, including soup cans and Coke bottles, car wrecks and electric chairs. He also did portraits of Marilyn Monroe, by then two years dead, and of the recently widowed Jacqueline Kennedy. In each case, the original likeness was lifted from news media sources, then reproduced exactly and repeatedly, like faces of saints in the Byzantine Catholic churches of his Pittsburgh youth.


During the same months he was doing all this, he was also working on a public commission: a new work to be displayed, along with that of nine other young Americans, on the facade of the New York State Pavilion at the World’s Fair. The pavilion’s architect, Philip Johnson, selected the artists (Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly and Robert Rauschenberg were among them), assigned them a uniform size and left the choices of form and subject up to them.

Stumped for ideas, Warhol arrived at the theme for his fair project by chance. On a visit to a friend’s home, he came across a 1962 New York City Police Department brochure of mug shots titled “The 13 Most Wanted Men.” That was that. He reproduced, large, the head shots of the mostly young Italian-American and Irish-American crime suspects on Masonite panels and had the panels installed high on the pavilion’s exterior.


Managerial alarms went off. Word came down that the piece was unacceptable, had to go. Workmen came and blotted out its images with aluminum-colored house paint. Who made the censorship decision? It wasn’t Johnson. Accusatory eyes turned to Robert Moses, the fair’s demagogic president, who had a big stake in uplift and would have hated Warhol’s jailbirds. But with worries that the fair would be a flop (financially, it was) and the prospect of African-American groups protesting his hiring practices, he probably didn’t notice.

The real culprit seems to have been the New York governor, Nelson A. Rockefeller, who was running in the 1964 presidential election and feared that the ethnic content of the Warhol commission would cost him votes. Yet the few surviving photographs of “13 Most Wanted Men” in situ tell a simpler and even realer story: The piece was plain outrageous. Not only did it literally elevate criminality and violence for all to see (one of the mug-shot subjects looks badly beaten up); it also generated, for those in the know, homoerotic “rough trade” vibes that gave the label “wanted men” an extra spin.

Those rare photographs of the piece during its brief intact existence are in the Queens Museum show. (The pavilion itself, in poor condition, still stands.) So are, strikingly, nine of “13 Most Wanted Men” paintings that Warhol made on canvas, for gallery display, after the commissions were done. And all are given deep context through a wealth of supporting material.

A Stygian black “Little Electric Chair” painting from 1964-65, on loan from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, underscores the punitive, death-obsessed direction of so much of Warhol’s work at the time. And a homoerotic reading of the public commission is reinforced by the presence in the show of “13 Most Beautiful Boys,” a series of filmed head shots of various young men, gay and straight, who visited Warhol’s studio, beginning in 1964.

Most interesting of all, though, is the purely documentary material. The curators — Larissa Harris of the Queens Museum, Nicholas Chambers of the Andy Warhol Museum, along with Anastasia Rygle and Timothy Mennel — have performed miracles of archive diving. And they’ve surfaced with newspaper clips, letters, telegrams, contracts and other ephemera that flesh out the fate of the commission, which the news media barely reported and to which the public remained largely oblivious.

These materials also flesh out a sense of America at that time: a country startled by its own suddenly detonative tensions, tensions that made the World’s Fair, that “Olympics of progress,” anachronistic in its own day, and that give the Queens show, like many dedicated to Warhol, a keyed-up, caustic, slightly nasty edge.

A break in this mood comes in a set of four small 1964 portrait paintings, in cerulean blue and black, of Jacqueline Kennedy. Based on cropped news photographs, they catch her smiling on arrival in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, and monumentally veiled at her husband’s funeral days later. The themes of violence and mortality that link so much of Warhol’s art from this period are here, but the pictures seem to belong to a different, graver world. Its essence is distilled in the other show, “Warhol: Jackie,” at Blain/Di Donna.

Organized in collaboration with Bibi Khan, a former curator of the Andy Warhol Foundation, this show is devoted to silk-screen paintings, with a few prints, of the first lady, based on eight news photos, including the one of her standing, stunned, as a witness at Lyndon B. Johnson’s emergency swearing-in. Despite the limited range of images, the paintings, alone or grouped, are astonishingly varied, with subtle differences in tonal values and weights of pigment, and forms coming in and out of focus, as if seen through curtains of static.

Much that seems cold and cynical in Warhol is here: in the mass production, in the voyeurism, in the opportunistic appeal to pop-cultural emotion. The repeated images — he made more than 300 “Jackie” paintings — are like a 1960s equivalent of today’s 24-hour television and Internet news cycle, repeating the same tragic data in an endless loop to a tinkly soundtrack.

But the “Jackie” pictures also evoke a specific type of image, one tied to desire, devotion and a salvational hope: the religious icon. In this light, the Blain/Di Donna show might be seen as a shrine to a black-and-blue Madonna, the “Most Wanted Men” as a roll call of martyr-saints. The saving grace of Warhol’s best art is that a sense of critical morality is always, if almost by accident, operative. And in 1964, when two damaged decades were slamming together, and he felt caught in the wreck, he called on it.

Correction: April 26, 2014

A picture caption on Friday with an art review of two shows of works by Andy Warhol misidentified the venue shown. The photograph, of a visitor viewing a set of four small paintings of Jacqueline Kennedy, depicts the show “13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World’s Fair,” at the Queens Museum. It does not depict the show “Warhol: Jackie,” at the Blain/Di Donna gallery on Madison Avenue, which features different “Jackie” works.

“13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World’s Fair” opens on Sunday and runs through Sept. 7 at the Queens Museum, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park; 718-592-9700 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 718-592-9700 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting, It travels to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh on Sept. 27. “Warhol: Jackie” runs through May 17 at Blain/Di Donna, 981 Madison Avenue, at 77th Street; 212-259-0444

George Lidnemann Journal by George Lindemann "The Deep Freeze in Art Authentication" @wsj by Jennifer Maloney

George Lidnemann Journal by George Lindemann "The Deep Freeze in Art Authentication" @wsj by Jennifer Maloney

Joe Simon, left, sued the Warhol foundation after it said his 'Self Portrait' wasn't an authentic Warhol. Madeleine Farley

As contemporary-art prices soar, collectors want assurances that works are authentic. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to get an answer.

A series of high-profile authentication disputes have made art historians reluctant to offer opinions, and prompted several artist estates and foundations to disband their authentication boards.

The authentication deep freeze means uncertainty for artworks that haven't previously been authenticated or included in an artist's catalogue raisonné, or scholarly inventory. Such works may end up occupying a murky middle ground and sell for less than authenticated works, experts say. "There are people who are willing to take educated gambles," said Peter Stern, an attorney who specializes in the art world. Others can't be sold at all.

In 2007, Joe Simon, a London-based filmmaker, sued the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts after the board ruled inauthentic a silk-screen featured during the artist's lifetime on the cover of his catalogue raisonné. The foundation announced in 2011 it was disbanding its authentication board after it says it spent more than $6 million fighting the suit. Mr. Simon said he dropped it because he couldn't afford to continue.

"Protecting collectors, it's not our job," said Michael Straus, chairman of the Warhol foundation. "I don't think putting the burden of that due diligence on an artist estate, especially in the absence of sufficient legal protections, is appropriate."

In February, a group of collectors sued the Keith Haring Foundation, saying the organization had cost them at least $40 million by publicly declaring their paintings "counterfeit" and declining to consider information that could establish their provenance. The foundation's authentication board was dissolved in 2012.

Collectors sued the Keith Haring Foundation after it declared some works, including this one, counterfeit. Connie Grisley Images

The case with the greatest chilling effect for scholars was one that led to the closure of Manhattan's Knoedler & Co. gallery. Last year, Long Island art dealer Glafira Rosales pleaded guilty to conspiring to pass off a Queens artist's paintings as works by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and others. Former Knoedler President Ann Freedman named a long list of experts who she claimed had seen and endorsed the paintings before they were revealed as knockoffs. The reputations of several art experts were tarnished and at least one has been sued by a collector who bought a fake.

A bill introduced in the New York legislature in March could offer some relief to New York-based art experts. The bill aims to make it more difficult for collectors and dealers to bring lawsuits against art historians whose opinions they contest. Lawsuits have been brought against experts both for finding works inauthentic and for wrongly authenticating works that turned out to be fakes.

Even as many artists' heirs decline to perform official authentications, some continue to hold considerable influence in the marketplace.

In a recent deposition, Mark Rothko's son, Christopher Rothko, said he has twice been invited by an auction house to view Rothko paintings discovered since the publication of the Rothko catalogue raisonné. One of those paintings —which was authenticated by David Anfam, the author of the Rothko catalog—sold at Christie's for $33.7 million, Christie's said.

Last month, Christie's postponed a sale after the sisters of Jean-Michel Basquiat alleged in a federal suit that some works in the collection of Basquiat's onetime lover, Alexis Adler, were of "questionable authenticity." Six of the works had been approved by the estate's now-defunct authentication committee. Many others hadn't been evaluated.

"Now without the authentication boards, it's a real tricky situation for everybody," Ms. Adler said.

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George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Is This Rothko Real?" By Jennifer Maloney

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Is This Rothko Real?" By Jennifer Maloney

For nearly 30 years, Douglas Himmelfarb has tried to prove his painting is a Rothko -- but no one will authenticate it. Marco Garcia for The Wall Street Journal

Douglas Himmelfarb spotted the painting in 1987 at an auction preview in South Los Angeles. The offerings that day were a mix of furniture and no-name artwork. This canvas was large and dirty, and depicted three rectangles of color stacked on top of one another. A handful of people stood clustered around it as someone pulled it off the wall and turned it around. On the back was a signature:



EX. NO. 7

A woman scoffed, Mr. Himmelfarb recalls: "Mark Rothko did not paint in California, and there is no such thing as the California School of Fine Arts."

Mr. Himmelfarb, at the time a 35-year-old ad writer and estate-sale scavenger, drove home to Santa Monica and ran to the library. He discovered Rothko had spent the summer of 1949 in California, as the painter first explored the stacked-rectangle structure for which he would become famous. The California School of Fine Arts definitely existed—Rothko taught there in 1949 before it was renamed the San Francisco Art Institute.

The next morning, Mr. Himmelfarb returned to the family-run auction house and bought the painting, unchallenged, for $319.50 with tax.

Since that day, he has been on a mission to prove his painting is real.

After decades of setbacks and dead ends, the collector recently obtained what three scholars believe is compelling photographic evidence linking the painting to Rothko.

Mr. Himmelfarb's long struggle highlights a crisis in the obscure but high-stakes world of art authentication. As prices for blue-chip artworks soar—the record for a Rothko is nearly $87 million—authentication is increasingly important because collectors want assurances before they open their wallets.

But in recent years, art historians, artist estates and foundations have become more reluctant to issue opinions on an artwork's authenticity. The threat of costly litigation brought by collectors contesting decisions has prompted foundations including the Keith Haring Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to fold their authentication boards. (See story below.) And in the wake of a recent art-fraud case that closed Manhattan's Knoedler & Co. gallery, some art historians have stopped giving opinions altogether.


HIGH STAKES Paintings by Mark Rothko have soared in value over the past decade. The record, set in 2012 at Christie's in New York, right, was $86.9 million for 'Orange, Red, Yellow.' Christie's

An Art-World Titan

One of the giants of 20th-century art, Mark Rothko was part of the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s and 1950s that introduced radical new directions in art, producing monumentally scaled abstract works and shifting the art world's focus from Europe to New York. Rothko, who became known for his large fields of intense color, is credited with creating more than 800 paintings over the course of his five-decade career. Born in what is now Latvia in 1903, he settled in New York in 1923 and by the early 1960s had become an international art star. He died in 1970.

Prices for his works, which were popular with collectors during his lifetime, have soared at auction in the past decade. After Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow" set a record of $86.9 million at Christie's in 2012, two of his paintings sold at Christie's last year for $46 million and $27 million. The works that fetch the highest prices are brightly hued examples of his signature stacked-rectangle paintings, often in reds, oranges, and blues. Forgeries have emerged, most notably in the recent art-fraud case that involved the Knoedler gallery, which sold fake Rothkos and other knockoffs that had in fact been created by an artist living in Queens.

A Born Collector

As a child growing up in Chevy Chase, Md., Mr. Himmelfarb wandered through Washington, D.C. art museums and haunted a local antique shop. He bought his first painting, for $30, at age 8 and had acquired a sizable collection by the time he was 17. After earning a degree in English from the University of Maryland, he went to work for an ad agency in Washington, moving to California a few years later.

In the late 1980s, he became friends with a pair of sisters in Los Angeles whom he met while art hunting. A year later, they named him their legal heir. He quit the ad business and began restoring a property they gave him—a courthouse in Malibu—and later acquired and restored other properties.

Mr. Himmelfarb and the sisters, Ruth and Ella Hirshfield, lived together in Bel Air and Honolulu. Now 61, Mr. Himmelfarb still lives with and serves as a caregiver for the sisters, who are in their 90s.

Mark Rothko © Brooklyn Museum/Corbis

Wooing a Top Rothko Scholar

After buying "Ex. No. 7" in 1987, Mr. Himmelfarb traced it back to Mollye Teitelbaum, a Los Angeles collector who sold it to the auction house while going through a divorce, according to her son Murray Teitelbaum, of Ojai, Calif. Ms. Teitelbaum and her ex-husband, Ben Teitelbaum, had acquired a large but mostly undocumented collection at auctions and through a San Francisco dealer, their son said. The couple made many art-buying trips to San Francisco, visiting artist studios and galleries and paying in cash. Mollye and Ben Teitelbaum both died in the 1990s.

"Ex. No. 7" was one of a pair the Teitelbaums had owned since at least 1964, Mr. Teitelbaum said. The other, with a similar signature and labeled "Ex. No. 4," is now owned by the younger Mr. Teitelbaum.

If one were deemed authentic, the other likely would be, too.

Mr. Himmelfarb began reading as much as he could about Rothko. At the same time, he began a correspondence with David Anfam, a British art historian who would become the world's leading Rothko authority.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Anfam was about to embark on a decadelong project at the National Gallery of Art in Washington to publish a catalogue raisonné, or official inventory, of Rothko's works on canvas. When a work is included in a catalogue raisonné, it is generally accepted as authentic.

Dr. Anfam initially thought Mr. Himmelfarb's painting held promise, according to documents in a bankruptcy-court case that Mr. Himmelfarb filed last year after overleveraging his properties. Hoping to use his painting to pay off creditors, he subpoenaed correspondence and other documents that illustrate his efforts to prove the painting's authenticity.

Dr. Anfam visited Mr. Himmelfarb in California around 1988, briefly inspected the painting and said he would study it in more depth at a later date, both sides confirm.

In 1989, Dr. Anfam wrote to the collector: "I very much look forward to the opportunity to assess your fascinating 'Rothko,'" according to a letter filed in the bankruptcy case.

In 1993, Mr. Himmelfarb visited Dr. Anfam at the National Gallery. The two men were photographed together on the roof of the museum. Dr. Anfam inspected the painting again around 1994, according to William Harbig, Dr. Anfam's legal adviser.

In 1998, shortly before the catalog was published, the collector and Dr. Anfam had a heated phone conversation, Mr. Himmelfarb says.

Dr. Anfam revealed that he had discovered in Rothko's archives a black-and-white photograph he believed was of "Ex. No. 7." The collector felt that the presence of a photo of his painting in the artist's personal files was incontrovertible proof of its authenticity. But Dr. Anfam demurred, saying anyone could have put the photograph there. Mr. Himmelfarb says he became angry, asking: "What do you think, I snuck into his house and stuck the photograph in his personal file?"

He says he then called Dr. Anfam a f---ing imbecile.

According to Mr. Himmelfarb, Dr. Anfam replied that he could tear up the photo if he wanted to, and hung up.

Dr. Anfam declined to answer questions from The Wall Street Journal about his dealings with Mr. Himmelfarb. He referred some questions to his legal adviser, Mr. Harbig. Mr. Harbig acknowledges that Dr. Anfam discovered the photo but said the historian "doesn't remember any argument. And he also says that he has never hung up on anyone."

The catalog was published soon after. In a devastating blow to Mr. Himmelfarb's campaign, it didn't include "Ex. No. 7," though it named Mr. Himmelfarb in the acknowledgments. The catalog listed at least six black-and-white photos of paintings, each with the following attribution: "Known only from a photograph in the R.A.," or Rothko archives.

"He harbored this grudge against me," Mr. Himmelfarb says. "If you can tell me why this is not a Rothko and prove it to me, I'm happy to walk."

Mr. Harbig, the legal adviser, said: "To David, scholarship is like a holy grail. I have great difficulty believing that he would not include something in the catalogue raisonné simply because he had a personal animus against the owner of the painting."

Mr. Himmelfarb admits to a penchant for speaking bluntly, sometimes too much so. At an opening party for an art museum once, he says he criticized the design, calling it a "penitentiary for art," not realizing that the architect was standing nearby.

"I think I had a little too much braggadocio after I found the painting," he says. "Maybe that's part of the problem. I thought, 'This is great, and I did it.'"

The 15-year Quest for a Photo

A few years after losing the fight to have his painting included in the Rothko catalogue raisonné, Mr. Himmelfarb set out on a new quest: to get his hands on that black-and-white photograph of his painting. He knew that the catalogs are often revised, with works added and subtracted, as new information comes to light. If he could find the photo, it could help him prove the painting was genuine.

Mr. Himmelfarb figured the photo was in one of two places: the National Gallery of Art, where Dr. Anfam worked on the catalog, or the archives maintained by the artist's children, Christopher Rothko and Kate Rothko Prizel.

The collector hired Gerald Nordland, a former director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and acquaintance of Rothko, to research the painting. In 2002 and 2003, Mr. Nordland wrote to the Rothko family and the National Gallery requesting access to the photograph, arguing that it "could be significant in supporting the authenticity of the painting," according to letters filed with the court. Mr. Nordland got nowhere.

In 2008, Mr. Himmelfarb was hosting a cocktail party at an estate he had purchased in Honolulu when Stephen Little, then-director of the Honolulu Academy of Arts, wandered into the library and let out a yelp.

"He said, 'What is a Rothko doing in Honolulu?'" Mr. Himmelfarb recalls.

Intrigued by the collector's story, Dr. Little spent the next three years researching the painting of his own accord. He became convinced that the painting wasn't only real, but illustrated "the most critical transitional moment in Rothko's career," Dr. Little wrote in a 2010 essay.

Emails and letters filed in court and reviewed by the Journal map out Dr. Little's efforts.

In 2009, Dr. Little wrote to Christopher Rothko, requesting photographs of the back sides of a few paintings in the Rothko family collection. The request was rebuffed.

"I am afraid that the Rothko family, as a matter of strict policy, does not involve itself in questions of authenticity. I am sorry that I cannot be more helpful," Mr. Rothko replied to Dr. Little in a letter.

Dr. Little also lobbied Ruth Fine, then a curator at the National Gallery who was working on an inventory of Rothko's works on paper, to consider "Ex. No. 7"—and Mr. Teitelbaum's "Ex. No. 4" —for inclusion in a planned addendum to the inventory of works on canvas.

In 2010, she wrote that she would consider looking at both paintings.

But by the following year, Ms. Fine had decided not to. When Mr. Himmelfarb approached the Pace Gallery in 2011 for an authentication, Pace contacted a colleague of Ms. Fine at the National Gallery. The colleague, Laili Nasr, replied: "The painting is not a lost oil painting, it was fully known to David Anfam at the time of the publication of the works on canvas catalog and we do not see any reason to alter Anfam's decision in this case."

National Gallery spokeswoman Deborah Ziska said that in the past couple of years the institution canceled its plans to publish an addendum to the works on canvas inventory because the works on paper volume, including some 2,600 works, had become "such an enormous undertaking."

"The National Gallery of Art does not authenticate works of art, although the publication of a catalogue raisonné implicitly authenticates the works listed therein," she said, adding that the 1998 "book reflects the scholarship at the time it went to press."

Ms. Fine, who is retired, and Ms. Nasr, now project manager of the works on paper project, declined to answer questions about why they decided not to reconsider the painting.

In 2011, Dr. Anfam authenticated a newly discovered Rothko painting that sold at Christie's for $33.7 million.

The same year, in separate correspondence with Dr. Little and Christopher Rothko, Dr. Anfam wrote that he wouldn't reassess Mr. Himmelfarb's painting but he hoped the National Gallery would do so.

"Indeed, it's a scholarly obligation, don't you think?" Dr. Anfam wrote to Dr. Little in a 2011 email reviewed by the Journal.

The pressure on Mr. Himmelfarb to authenticate and then sell the painting continued to mount. He had already lost the Malibu courthouse, which he had turned into a banquet hall, in 2010. To save his other properties from foreclosure, he had been trying to secure a loan against the painting. In October 2012, Mr. Himmelfarb's attorney wrote to Dr. Anfam, accusing the historian of having "discouraged people from purchasing, lending upon and/or acknowledging" the painting as a Rothko. The attorney threatened Dr. Anfam with "legal action" if he disparaged the painting.

"David will never, under any circumstances, give an opinion on Mr. Himmelfarb's painting," Dr. Anfam's legal adviser said. The art world, he added, has become "a very litigious environment."

Finding the Photo

In 2013, Mr. Himmelfarb filed for bankruptcy in a bid to save his last remaining property, the estate in Honolulu. Hoping to establish the value of "Ex. No. 7" and use it to pay off creditors, Mr. Himmelfarb was now able to take depositions and use subpoenas to request information as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. He asked for records from the National Gallery, Christopher Rothko and Marion Kahan, the Rothko family's collection manager.

Among the records they turned over was a copy of the photo—the same black-and-white image that Dr. Anfam had alluded to 15 years earlier.

In depositions for the bankruptcy case, Ms. Kahan and Mr. Rothko confirmed that the photograph was of Mr. Himmelfarb's painting. Ms. Kahan said that she found it in a file of 17 black-and-white photos from a box of photographs in the Rothkos' warehouse. Of the 16 other photos—all reviewed by the Journal—at least six appear to be identical to photographs reproduced in the catalogue raisonné, accompanied by the note: "Known only from a photograph in the R.A."

Mr. Rothko and Ms. Kahan declined to comment. In his deposition, Mr. Rothko said that each time they were previously asked for the photograph, they looked but couldn't find it.

When they turned the photo over to the court, Mr. Rothko's attorney stipulated that it be accompanied by a disclaimer, saying in part: "Ms. Kahan and the Rothko family… specifically caution against drawing any undue inference of authenticity" from it.

Last week, the U.S. District Court in Honolulu completed the foreclosure of Mr. Himmelfarb's Honolulu estate—his final remaining property.

'An Absolute Genuine' Rothko

Gerald Nordland, the former San Francisco museum director, is now 86 years old. Told by a reporter that Mr. Himmelfarb had finally obtained a copy of the photo, Mr. Nordland said: "Oh my God. Good!"

"If there is a chance for one more that we can find legitimate, then I think that widens our way of looking at Mark's work," he said.

Peter Selz, a former curator and museum director who organized Rothko's first show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1961, believes the painting is real.

"I think I know Rothko's work as well as anybody," said Dr. Selz, 95 years old, who wrote an essay last year asserting the painting's authenticity. "This is an absolute genuine painting by Mark Rothko," he said.

But he said that without the Rothko family or David Anfam vouching for the painting, there is little Mr. Himmelfarb can do.

In his court deposition, Christopher Rothko was asked if he knew anyone who currently authenticates Rothko paintings.

"I don't know of any individual, no," he said.

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