George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Ai Weiwei Vase Is Destroyed by Protester at Miami Museum" @nytimes By NICK MADIGAN

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Ai Weiwei Vase Is Destroyed by Protester at Miami Museum" @nytimes By NICK MADIGAN

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“Colored Vases” by the artist Ai Weiwei at the Pérez Art Museum Miami in Florida in November 2013. The police on Sunday arrested a man who is accused of smashing one of the vases. Daniel Azoulay/Perez Art Museum Miami, via European Pressphoto Agency

MIAMI — Officials at the recently inaugurated Pérez Art Museum Miami confirmed on Monday that a valuable vase by the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei had been deliberately destroyed by a visitor in what appeared to be an act of protest.

A spokeswoman for the museum said the incident occurred on Sunday afternoon when a local artist walked into the waterfront museum and picked up one of the vases in an installation of Mr. Ai’s work titled “Colored Vases.” A guard asked the man to put it down, but instead he threw it to the ground, smashing it, the spokeswoman said.

The police were summoned and arrested Maximo Caminero, 51. Mr. Caminero was charged with criminal mischief and later released after posting bail. He told reporters that he planned to hold a news conference on Tuesday afternoon to explain his actions, but later canceled it.

Pérez Art Museum Miami, which opened with much fanfare during the Art Basel festival here in December, published a statement on its website saying that after the vase had been broken in the museum’s retrospective exhibit of Mr. Ai’s work, a security team “immediately secured the galleries and the person was apprehended.” Without mentioning Mr. Caminero’s name, the statement said that the museum was “working with the authorities in their investigation.”

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Maximo Caminero Miami-Dade Police Department

“Although the museum can’t speak directly to intentions, evidence suggests that this was a premeditated act,” the museum’s statement went on. “As an art museum dedicated to celebrating modern and contemporary artists from within our community and around the world, we have the highest respect for freedom of expression, but this destructive act is vandalism and disrespectful to another artist and his work, to Pérez Art Museum Miami, and to our community.”

Mr. Caminero, a native of the Dominican Republic who has long lived in Miami, told the Miami New Times, a weekly newspaper, after his arrest that he had broken the vase to protest what he said was the museum’s exclusion of local artists in its exhibits.

Mr. Ai has become China’s best-known artist and has been under intense pressure from the authorities there to curtail his advocacy efforts, which included a lengthy investigation he undertook into shoddy construction that contributed to the deaths of thousands of schoolchildren in their classrooms during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Mr. Ai, 56, was detained for 81 days in 2011 on tax evasion charges, and remains subject to travel restrictions.

Reached by telephone in China, Mr. Ai said he had initially understood the vase to have been broken accidentally. But then he read a news report that the vase in Miami had been deliberately smashed, and he questioned Mr. Caminero’s expressed reason for doing so.

“The argument does not support the act,” Mr. Ai said. “It doesn’t sound right. His argument doesn’t make much sense. If he really had a point, he should choose another way, because this will bring him trouble to destroy property that does not belong to him.”

Mr. Ai said he had no idea whether the vase could be fixed or whether its loss would be covered by insurance. But he said he was not overly distressed by the breakage. “I’m O.K. with it, if a work is destroyed,” Mr. Ai said. “A work is a work. It’s a physical thing. What can you do? It’s already over.”

News reports here said the vase was worth $1 million, a figure the museum said was provided by the police as an estimate based on previous appraisals of similar works by Mr. Ai. An official appraisal of the vase’s value is underway, said Alina Sumajin, a spokeswoman for the museum.

A similar work, called a Group of 9 Coloured Vases, consisting of Neolithic vases painted by Mr. Ai in 2007, sold at Sotheby’s in London in 2012 for $156,325, a price that included buyer’s premium.

Paradoxically, Mr. Caminero claims to be an admirer of his Chinese colleague. He told the Miami New Times that he destroyed the vase “for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here.” Miami’s museums and galleries, he said, “have spent so many millions now on international artists,” without, in his view, giving any attention to local talent.

“It’s the same political situation over and over again,” he told the newspaper. “I’ve been here for 30 years and it’s always the same.”

Mr. Caminero suggested that he had been inspired by one of Mr. Ai’s most famous works, “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” a series of three photographs, on exhibit here, in which he dispassionately shatters a priceless ancient Chinese vase to make a point about valuation of art and everyday objects as well as the fragility of cultural objects.

The Pérez museum’s description of the photographs says that the artist dropped a 206 BCE-220 CE urn to the floor “to express the notion that new ideas and values can be produced through iconoclasm.”

“I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest,” Mr. Caminero told the New Times.

Patricia Cohen contributed reporting from New York.

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Choose the Artists, Ignore the Critics" @nytimes by BLAKE GOPNIK

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Choose the Artists, Ignore the Critics" @nytimes by BLAKE GOPNIK

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Anthony Elms, one of the curators of this year’s Whitney Biennial. Abe Frajndlich for The New York Times

PHILADELPHIA — Anthony Elms says that the first artwork he fell in love with, as a boy growing up in southern Michigan, was John Singleton Copley’s painting of a swimmer pulled from the clutches of sharks, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Mr. Elms may soon be casting his mind back to that picture as he starts to feel like chum.

He is in the last stages of being a co-curator for the latest biennial survey of this country’s art, which opens on March 7 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Now 82 years old, the show — which ran annually from 1932 until 1973 — is as famous for the vitriol it provokes as for its works: “When it comes to being boring, the Whitney staff is inexhaustibly inventive,” read one slam from 1977. “It’s glum, preachy, sophomoric and aesthetically aimless,” another critic wrote in 1993.

Encountered on his home turf at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art here, where he has been an associate curator since 2011, Mr. Elms doesn’t come across as girded for battle. He’s wearing pink jeans, a dress shirt and a tweed jacket — a sedate style he says he’s favored since high school. “I used to be the kid where they’d go, ‘Who’s the narc?’ ” Slight, almost pretty, Mr. Elms looks at least a decade younger than his 43 years.

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An image from “Malachi Ritscher, Iraq War Protest, Chicago,” part of Public Collectors' project for the Biennial. Joeff Davis

He’s the wild card in the curatorial mix, somewhat junior beside Stuart Comer, the chief curator of media and performance art at the Museum of Modern Art, and Michelle Grabner, a longtime professor of painting now teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at Yale. (The Whitney is giving one floor to each curator.) Before his current job, Mr. Elms helped run a minor university gallery in Chicago, after a decade spent as an exhibition preparator and a freelance writer and curator, and also making art. The invitation to do the Biennial came pretty much out of the blue, he said, after he was asked to submit a one-page proposal.

Mr. Elms said he’s read the stack of previous Biennial pans, “and I actually found that kind of liberating,” he said. “I know someone’s not going to like the show, so I might as well just go forward and try to do it the way that seems right. Maybe this is about the part of me that comes from scrappy Michigan.” He added, “Anything I can do to put more artists in more people’s faces is something I’ll say yes to.”

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“A machine to catch ghosts,” by Elijah Burgher, who is in the show. Elijah Burgher

Mr. Elms’s Biennial spread will include works by 24 artists and collectives — the unknowns and the unheralded, as well as a few famous figures. Elijah Burgher is a 35-year-old painter who remembers getting the email from Mr. Elms saying he would be in the Biennial. “It sounds really silly, but I felt like I was going to faint,” Mr. Burgher said, speaking by Skype from his Chicago studio. Wearing an old red hoodie, he was bleary-eyed from finishing his Whitney work at 4 meet the shipping deadline. Behind him on a wall hung a canvas like those he was sending to New York. The painting invokes the occult and carries a self-designed “magic” symbol, a bit like a Wiccan pentacle, that Mr. Burgher called a sigil. It seems to cross the stick figures of Keith Haring with rigorous geometric abstraction. The last-minute Biennial piece is a detailed drawing, in colored pencil, of three nude males posed in front of a crude mural of naked swordsmen.

Making esoteric work in Chicago about spells and sex can leave a young artist feeling invisible, Mr. Burgher said. A Whitney invitation promises critical validation and a market boost: “I want both — who doesn’t?”

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An image from “Fountain,” by Angie Keefer. Angie Keefer

Marc Fischer is another of the eight Chicagoans whom Mr. Elms will feature on his Whitney floor. Mr. Fischer rarely makes salable objects — he lives mostly off part-time teaching and fees from museum projects — and the Biennial doesn’t offer financial rewards. “It’s a bit bizarre how special it’s treated — maybe a few more people will ask me to give a lecture,” he said in a phone interview. Although he normally works as part of a collective — this year’s Biennial will have a full eight of those — his Whitney work comes under the aegis of Public Collectors, a kind of community project that he runs solo to bring attention to the weird stuff people amass.

For the Biennial, Mr. Fischer has delved into the estate of Malachi Ritscher, who was well known in Chicago as a peace activist and for the thousands of recordings he made of the city’s music scene. He came to national attention in 2006, when he immolated himself in protest against the American war in Iraq. Mr. Fischer’s installation will include recordings by Ritscher and listening stations for them, but also a skateboard that Ritscher designed and documentation of his life, ideals and death. “I want to see the museum lend its authority to something which is not normally accorded it,” Mr. Fischer said.

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Paul P., whose work “Writing Table for Nancy Mitford(Blitz Era)” will be in the show. Abe Frajndlich for The New York Times

If Mr. Elms’s tastes run from magic paintings to cassette tapes and skateboards, documentary photos and day-in-the-life videos, his eclecticism may be a reflection of a shifting moment in art, said the 36-year-old artist Paul P., whom Mr. Elms recently met. “I think that at this moment to be a curator could be a more modest act,” said the artist from his studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. That is, instead of making choices based on some idea of setting the art agenda, a curator could aim instead to sample the vast range of interests that artists now have.

Paul P. found success with luscious, Whistlerian paintings of young men culled from the pages of gay pornography. He said he was grateful to Mr. Elms for letting him go in a new direction: He’ll be showing his fountain-pen drawings of old master sculptures, as well as a wooden desk and stool that he designed in the refined Victorian style known as Anglo-Japanese; it was built by a Toronto craftsman.

“To have what was on the forefront of my interest be what Anthony was interested in is great,” Paul P. said.

Mr. Elms has called for a Biennial with “a multiplicity of voices and a sense of poetry,” but the role of poet these days risks being less about complex ideas rendered with maximum concision than about portentous, high-seeming confusion.

Worse yet, his party-mix approach could make his floor at the Whitney read as an avatar of the art fair, geared to collectors’ lust for variety.

The market implications of the Biennial — a recent article in Forbes discussed it as a guide to art investing — left one rigorous conceptualist, Angie Keefer, hesitant about accepting Mr. Elms’s invitation to exhibit, although she counts herself a fan of his work as a curator. After much back and forth, the piece she agreed to make will be installed near where visitors pay to enter, and will address “economic versus artistic definitions of what value is,” she said from her home in Hudson, N.Y. A projection of a lovely waterfall will be manipulated to give visitors a visceral sense — literally — of the rise and fall of commodities futures. Whether the public likes what it gets is not very much on her mind, she said — or Mr. Elms’s.

Correction: February 13, 2014

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of one of the people whose work will be featured at the Whitney. He is Marc Fischer, not Fisher.

Correction: February 14, 2014

An earlier version of this article misstated the format for recordings made by Malachi Ritscher that will be part of an installation by Marc Fischer at the Whitney Biennial. The recordings will be presented digitally — there will not be “piles of tapes.”

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George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Marianne Boesky: In Search of Art Stars" @wsj by Alexandra Wolfe

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Marianne Boesky: In Search of Art Stars" @wsj by Alexandra Wolfe

When gallerist Marianne Boesky first showed the works of Takashi Murakami —the Japanese artist renowned for work that combines traditional Japanese style with contemporary Pop, whose career she launched in 1997—the art world thought she was crazy. "I couldn't even give his work away," she says. "I could even go so far as to say I was mocked for showing it." One of his pieces recently sold for over $15 million at auction. And Ms. Boesky has had her own success, introducing art stars such as Lisa Yuskavage, Yoshitomo Nara and Barnaby Furnas.

In a few weeks, Ms. Boesky, 46, is taking another risk. At this year's Armory Show, a New York art fair that runs from March 6 to 9, she will showcase the work of emerging South African-based artist Serge Alain Nitegeka. While Ms. Boesky has never devoted her entire booth to one artist at the Armory, she is reserving all her space for him—not bad for an artist who's never been seen in the U.S.

With the contemporary art market booming, fairs such as the Armory Show—in which booths often cost galleries at least $100,000—have become increasingly influential. They're a one-stop shop for global collectors looking to buy more efficiently than ever before. Some collectors forgo in-person shopping altogether. These days, Ms. Boesky never even meets some of her clients, who often buy the works of recognized artists based just on seeing photos of them. "An email comes in, and you Google the person, and it's the 14th-richest person in Japan or something," she says.

But while she thinks collecting is now "a lot less personal" than it used to be, one motivation for buying remains the same. "Art is a status symbol and always has been," she says. "People arrive at a certain level of wealth, and they've bought their umpteenth car, and art is that great equalizer of having arrived."

On this day, Ms. Boesky is sitting in her white minimalist office in her spacious Chelsea gallery in Manhattan. She has a second gallery in a rental space on the Upper East Side, opened in 2010. Now she is planning to announce the creation of another gallery, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where she will showcase the emerging artists she has increasingly represented in recent years.

Ms. Boesky has come a long way from the first space she opened 18 years ago in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood. She grew up around the art owned by her father, Ivan Boesky, the investment banker convicted of insider trading in 1986. Even then she had dreams of opening a gallery one day, she says.

Ms. Boesky spent her childhood in and around New York City, and her father often took her to galleries and auctions, where he let her raise the paddle. Her mother liked "pretty" art while her father "tended toward dark and tough art, and that's really what I related to, too." Together her parents built a collection of blue-chip artwork, including works by Auguste Rodin and Édouard Vuillard. "It was great art for somebody who grew up with nothing," she says, referring to her father.

But he tended to buy work by more established artists. Mr. Boesky met Andy Warhol and was offered works by Willem de Kooning, but she says he had no interest. "If he was going to be a successful, rich man, he was going to have a Renoir and a Monet, but he also liked the really tough stuff." Ms. Boesky was especially interested in her father's sculptures by Alberto Giacometti. "To me, their raw, ugly, roughness was relatable and sad and beautiful," she says. "But that's all gone and in the past."

When Mr. Boesky was convicted, she says, "everything sort of imploded." She was then in college—first at Duke University, then at Middlebury College. After graduating, Ms. Boesky supported herself working for a few private dealers and interning at Sotheby's before she realized that she needed to make more money if she wanted to amass her own collection. During a brief stint in law, while working for the American Civil Liberties Union, she met her first artist, Lisa Yuskavage, through an art dealer.

She got a loan to rent a space on Greene Street and continued to add artists, eventually selling her apartment to open her current gallery in Chelsea. "I borrowed money to get started, and I've continued borrowing money to grow, and I just keep borrowing money," she says, laughing. "I am a risk taker, but I have never defaulted on a single loan." Her parents didn't help finance the gallery. "It was not something that my parents were going to be in a position or have an interest in supporting and bankrolling," she says.

Now, Ms. Boesky lives with her husband and daughter above the Chelsea gallery in an art-filled apartment. "My hope was just to be able to feed myself and keep the doors open," she says. "It never occurred to me I'd be able to buy a house and a boat and all these things…but it's a nice incidental benefit, no doubt about it." She's also glad to have been able to help artists have the same opportunities. "I like that artists don't need to be burned-out hippies anymore."

With recent artwork drawing high prices—such as the record sale of a 1969 Francis Bacon triptych for $142.4 million last fall—some are asking whether there could be an art bubble. Ms. Boesky says she doesn't believe so because prices aren't high across the board. "People are chasing young, hyped, hip, and they're chasing the rarefied blue-chip, hard-to-get art and paying whatever it takes to get it, but the middle remains to be seen," she says.

Since the contemporary art market weathered the economic downturn better than assets like homes, Ms. Boesky thinks art is now considered a less volatile asset than it once was. "Late 2009 and 2010 wasn't easy for anyone, but it's kind of incredible," she says. "The richest people…even in the worst of times are still rich, and they need to put their money somewhere." Unlike stock in a tech company, art is a physical asset. "Things go up and down, but they don't go to zero…and at least I have a storage facility in Delaware I could visit," she quips.

In the past few years, the art market has come under fire for its lack of oversight. Art-fair transactions are not public, and auction houses rarely disclose buyers or sellers of works they bring to market. Most galleries don't post the prices of their artwork, in defiance of a decades-old law that mandates they do so.

And groups of speculators can buy a large amount of work by a particular artist, put the pieces up for sale at auction and then enlist their friends to bid up the prices. If the works sell well, the speculators can reap tidy profits. "You can call that collusion, but it's not illegal, and I don't even know if it's unethical," she says. She admits there is a fine line. "You could compare it to insider trading in that…all the little people who don't get access get hurt by losing opportunity," she says, "but it's all very gray."

Ms. Boesky does think the art world, traditionally a handshake business, would be better served by embracing written contracts, which would avoid many of the legal spats over payments that have plagued countless deals. In the end, though, she says most people buy art because they love it. "We're talking about art," she says. "Nobody gets hurt."

Write to Alexandra Wolfe at

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"Salzburg art stash 'more important than Munich" @BBC

Salzburg art stash 'more important than Munich'

Contemplative Woman by the German artist Fritz Maskos seized from Cornelius Gurlitts collection in Munich Contemplative Woman, by the German artist Fritz Maskos (1896-1967), was seized from Cornelius Gurlitt's collection in Munich

Paintings found at the Austrian home of art collector Cornelius Gurlitt are even more significant than those found at his Munich flat, his lawyer says.

Works by Renoir, Monet and other French impressionists are among the 60 or so pieces, Hannes Hartung told BBC News.

Last year it was revealed that hundreds of artworks had been kept at Mr Gurlitt's home in Munich, many believed to have been looted by the Nazis.

He denies the works were looted but Jewish groups want further details.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

A wonderful Seine scene by Pissarro, a wonderful bridge picture by Monet and a sailing boat sea scape by Manet”

End Quote Hannes Hartung Cornelius Gurlitt's lawyer, describing some of the newly found works

No decision has been taken yet about publishing photos of the newly found works and giving further details about them.

Jewish groups have called for a list of the works to be published, to assist identification of any works stolen or extorted from victims of Nazi persecution.

Mr Gurlitt, 81, is the son of the Nazi-approved art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who died in 1956.

Hildebrand Gurlitt was described by the Claims Conference, a Holocaust restitution organisation, as "one of the four art dealers commissioned by Hitler to handle stolen art".

"Therefore the origins of his inheritance should be checked," it said in a statement.

'Many Renoirs'

The discovery of the pictures at Mr Gurlitt's Salzburg home was announced on Monday.

"They are very prominent works," said Mr Hartung.

Cornelius Gurlitts Salzburg home Cornelius Gurlitt's Salzburg home has been secured against potential break-in and theft, reports say

Nameplate on Cornelius Gurlitts Salzburg home file pic Mr Gurlitt's spokesman said initial assessment suggested the works had not been stolen

Two paintings previously unknown by German artist Otto Dix 5 November 2013 These previously unknown works by German artist Otto Dix were found in the Munich flat

"A wonderful Seine scene by Pissarro, a wonderful bridge picture by Monet and a sailing boat sea scape by Manet.

"Then there are also many other works by Renoir, and by Liebermann. They are in general artistically outstandingly good pieces, which are of more significance than the collection from Schwabing [a district of Munich]."

More than 1,400 long-lost or unknown art works, estimated to be worth $1.35bn (£846m; 989m euros), were discovered in Mr Gurlitt's apartment in Munich in March 2012.

They included pieces by Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Otto Dix.

Hildebrand Gurlitt c1925 Hildebrand Gurlitt was accused of working with the Nazis to acquire looted art

The cousin of Cornelius Gurlitt's father, Wolfgang Gurlitt, was also an art collector, who dealt with "degenerate art" during the Nazi era.

Wolfgang went to live in Austria during the war and gave his significant art collection to a museum in Linz.

The Linz Lentos museum has had to restitute a number of paintings from his collection in recent years as it was established they were stolen during the Nazi era.

In November, the director of the Linz museum said there were no indications of a connection between the two cousins but art historians are less certain, the BBC's Bethany Bell reports from Vienna.

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George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Christie's Pulls Auction of Joan Miró Art After Uproar" @wsj by Patricia Kowsmann

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Christie's Pulls Auction of Joan Miró Art After Uproar" @wsj by Patricia Kowsmann

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "Christie's Pulls Auction of Joan Miró Art After Uproar" @wsj by Patricia Kowsmann

Portuguese railway workers block the rail track at the Santa Apolonia station in Lisbon on Tuesday during a protest against austerity measures. Zuma Press

Christie's has withdrawn 85 artworks by Spanish surrealist Joan Miró from its auctions in London this week, after an uproar in Portugal over the government's move to sell the works in an attempt to cut its debt.

The decision, announced on Tuesday just hours before the Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist evening sale, represents a blow to Portugal's coffers—as well as an embarrassment for one of the world's largest auction houses during the most important time of year for the London art market.

While the planned auction would shave off only a tiny fraction of Portugal's more than €200 billion in debt, the flap surrounding it underscores the challenges Europe's most fragile economies continue to face in curing debt hangovers.

Southern European countries have for the past two years slashed spending and raised taxes to lower their budget deficits and ease fears of debt defaults. Austerity drives that have cut social benefits have proven immensely unpopular, as have efforts to shed cultural assets, such as Greece's bid to sell islands, palaces and other icons. In the U.S., a similar outcry has erupted in Detroit as the bankrupt city sought a valuation on a collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Christie's withdrew the sale of art by Joan Miró, including 'Femmes et Oiseaux' from 1968, amid outcry over Portugal's plans. National News/Zuma Press

In Portugal, many have seen the government's move as disrespectful toward its art heritage, particularly because revenue from the sale would have been insignificant. A government official on Tuesday said that Portugal needed the money to balance its finances and would have to find it somewhere, if not from the sale.

The 85 Miró works, valued around $49 million in total, range in estimated value from $16,300 to $11.4 million. They became state property after a failing bank, Banco Português de Negócios, was nationalized in 2008.

After receiving a $105 billion international bailout in 2011, debt-stricken Portugal vowed to cut spending and sell assets. While the privatization of several state-owned companies went smoothly, though, the planned sale of the Miró works raised anger among Portuguese opposition parties and cultural institutions.

Last month, the main opposition Socialist Party took the issue to court, requesting the sale be suspended. The country's prosecutor's office agreed, and on Monday it requested a high court in Lisbon to cancel the consignment. Early Tuesday, the court ruled against the request but added that the actual transfer of the pieces to London wasn't done with proper authorization.

The art is currently being stored by Christie's in London, and Portugal has made no requests to have the works shipped back, according to a person familiar with the matter. Until now, the dealings between Christie's and Portuguese officials have been routine, and the court proceedings caught the house off guard, this person said.

"Christie's is clearly being more reasonable than the government itself," said Socialist lawmaker Inês de Medeiros.

Jorge Barreto Xavier, Portugal's state secretary of culture, said the government wasn't responsible for shipping the art, and it is unclear whether the works will be auctioned at Christie's next set of Impressionist and Modern sales, held in New York in May.

Christie's announced it was withdrawing the works only hours before its evening sale at its King Street rooms, which opened London's auction season.

"We received high, great interest in the Mirós so it is quite regrettable," said Christie's specialist Giovanna Bertazzoni after the truncated sale.

Christie's drew controversy last year for its role in the valuation of works at the Detroit Institute of Arts owned by the bankrupt city, including van Gogh's "Self Portrait" and Bruegel's "The Wedding Dance." The auction house estimated the value of the city-purchased portion of the world-class collection between $454 million and $867 million. But the valuation was criticized by some of the city's creditors who argued the process left out millions of dollars worth of other artwork at the institute.

The city under an emergency manager said all of the city's assets including its art could be sold to settle $18 billion in long-term obligations. But in recent weeks, private foundations and the state of Michigan have pledged over $800 million in an attempt to preserve the art in the museum and move control of the collection to a new nonprofit organization.

Most of the Mirós from Portugal were works on paper and would have been sold in Christie's less prestigious day sales throughout the week. But 24 works, including the major 1968 oil "Women and Birds," estimated at $6.5 million to $11.4 million, and 1953's gargantuan "Painting," valued at $4.1 million to $5.7 million, would have made up a sizable portion of Tuesday's sale.

"It certainly wasn't the most exceptional collection, but it was respectable. There were some nice paintings there," said David Nahmad, a multibillionaire dealer in town from Monaco for the sale.

Christie's evening auction on Tuesday totaled $288 million, inside its pre-sale estimate of $223 million to $324 million before the withdrawal of the Mirós. The Portuguese uproar is significant because a successful sale of the works by Miró, a major surrealist artist who heavily influenced Pablo Picasso, would have been a boon to Christie's department of surrealist art, which it has aggressively expanded in recent months.

"It's quite a blow for Christie's," said New York-based dealer David Nash before the sale.

The Miró collection, which BPN—the nationalized Portuguese bank—bought from a Japanese collector in 2006 for an undisclosed amount, was never shown in Portugal.

Opposition political parties and cultural entities hailed Christie's decision.

"The Portuguese people should have the right to keep and enjoy what is now theirs," said Pedro Lapa, art director of the Berardo Museum in Lisbon.

—Matthew Dolan contributed to this article.

Write to Mary M. Lane at and Patricia Kowsmann at

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George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Homing In on a Couple’s Basquiat Drawings" @nytimes by CAROL VOGEL

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Homing In on a Couple’s Basquiat Drawings" @nytimes by CAROL VOGEL

“Portrait of Herb and Lenore,” a 1983 acrylic on paper by Jean-Michel Basquiat depicting the couple who own it. Schorr Family Collection, Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ADAGP, Paris — Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2014
Longtime collectors like Herbert and Lenore Schorr are luckier than most. In 1981, while visiting the Annina Nosei Gallery, which was then on Prince Street in SoHo, the couple met Jean-Michel Basquiat, fell in love with his work and bought one of his paintings. That purchase was quickly followed by others — drawings as well as canvases — and, over the years, the Schorrs amassed one of the most important Basquiat collections in the country. The Schorrs also became friends with the artist, who died of a drug overdose at 27 in 1988, and occasionally bought a painting or drawing right out of his Manhattan studio.

“Jean-Michel himself was fascinated that we always gravitated toward the complex work,” said Ms. Schorr, who argues that the drawings are “the key to all his work.”

While institutions like the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh have shown Basquiats from the Schorrs’ collection, there has never been an exhibition focusing chiefly on the couple’s works on paper by the artist. Now, however, the Schorrs are lending 22 of their Basquiat drawings for a show running from May 1 through June 13 at the Acquavella Galleries. Eleanor Acquavella, one of the gallery’s directors, said she welcomed the opportunity because “there is a complex side to his drawings that few people are familiar with.”

In addition to the 22 drawings, dense with the artist’s signature graffiti scrawls, words and images, the Schorrs will lend two paintings that incorporate drawing and collage with some of the same imagery.

Fred Hoffman, a dealer turned curator who helped organize a traveling Basquiat exhibition that opened at the Brooklyn Museum in 2005, is also assembling the Acquavella show. “About two and a half years ago, I realized how Basquiat’s works on paper had been overlooked and how important they are,” he said. “In contrast to most artists, Basquiat’s drawings were not a solution to a problem. They were complete works unto themselves.”

As is often the case these days with exhibitions at blue chip galleries, nothing at the Acquavella show will be for sale. “It is strictly educational,” Ms. Schorr said. “We still own all our paintings and drawings by the artist.”


Two weeks ago, Christie’s announced that it had won property from the estate of Huguette Clark, the reclusive copper heiress who died in 2011 at the age of 104. While the auction house said it would be selling some 400 items — art, musical instruments, furniture and rare books — in two sales in Manhattan this spring, it provided few specifics. The overall sales estimate for the property is over $50 million.

This week, some details about the art and objects began to emerge, giving a fuller picture of Mrs. Clark’s taste and that of her parents. French furniture and important Impressionist paintings apparently filled her three apartments at 907 Fifth Avenue, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, as well as sprawling mansions in Santa Barbara, Calif., and New Canaan, Conn.

“It’s a time capsule,” said Conor Jordan, Christie’s deputy chairman of Impressionist and Modern art. “In the New York apartments, we found newspapers lining some of the drawers from the 1930s. There were also French periodicals stretching back to the 19th century.”

Mrs. Clark, who chose to live at a Manhattan hospital during the last two decades of her life, rather than in her homes, has been a focus of fascination since her death. Depicted as a poor little rich girl who loved to paint and collect dolls, she is the subject of a best-selling book (a second book is due out in the spring), and her $300 million estate has been the focus of a highly publicized court battle.

Distant relatives challenged a will filed in probate court by her lawyer and accountant. Under a settlement negotiated last September, a new Bellosguardo Foundation for the arts will take over her $85 million oceanfront property in Santa Barbara, and $34.5 million, after taxes, will go to relatives, among other court-approved allotments.

Mrs. Clark came from a deeply Francophile family. Although her father, Senator William A. Clark, Democrat of Montana, was said to be a hard-nosed businessman whose life was his work, he had a soft spot for all things French (including his second wife, Anna). Anna and Huguette Clark did as well: Both women bought French paintings that will be among the highlights of Christie’s Impressionist and Modern art auction on May 6. The top attraction is one of Monet’s “Nymphéas,” or Water Lilies, from 1907, which has an estimate of $25 million to $35 million. Huguette Clark bought the painting in 1930 from the Durand-Ruel Galleries, and it has not been seen in public since.

Also coming to auction are three paintings by Renoir, including “Jeunes Filles Jouant au Volant” (“Young Women Playing Badminton”), painted toward the end of the 1880s. Mr. Jordan of Christie’s said Mrs. Clark purchased it in 1958 for $125,000, a high price at the time, when the Minneapolis Institute of Arts deaccessioned it; it is now expected to bring $10 million to $15 million. (The painting had been on loan to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, another beneficiary under the settlement of Mrs. Clark’s estate.)

The Clarks also collected American art. On June 18, Christie’s is to auction a 1913 canvas of a girl fishing in the Italian lakes region, by John Singer Sargent, estimated at $3 million to $5 million. More personal is “Prospect Park,” an 1886 painting by William Merritt Chase that is expected to fetch 700,000 to $1 million.

“It is likely that this was a gift from the artist to Senator Clark when Chase was commissioned by him to paint his portrait in 1915,” said Elizabeth Sterling, head of Christie’s American paintings department. “Chase was known to give token presents to his patrons.”

Highlights from the sales of Mrs. Clark’s art are on view through Tuesday at Christie’s in London and will travel to Hong Kong (April 4 through 9), Tokyo (April 10 through 12) and then back to Rockefeller Center later that month. All of the works will be shown at Christie’s New York headquarters just before the sales in May and June.

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George Lindemann Journal By George Lindemann - "Detroit Art Museum Offers Plan to Avoid Sale of Art" by RANDY KENNEDY

George Lindemann Journal By George Lindemann - "Detroit Art Museum Offers Plan to Avoid Sale of Art" by RANDY KENNEDY

A still-life painting by the 17-century Flemish artist Frans Snyders was hung at the Detroit Institute of Arts on Wednesday. Daniel Mears/The Detroit News, via Associated Press

The Detroit Institute of Arts, whose world-class collection has been targeted as a potential source of cash to help dig Detroit out of federal bankruptcy, announced Wednesday that it would raise $100 million to help save itself, joining a group of private foundations that have already pledged $370 million toward the effort.

Officials at the city-owned museum, which, along with Detroit, has struggled financially for many years, had said as recently as two weeks ago that such a huge commitment — money to help the city pay its pensions — would be “completely unfeasible.” But in a statement on Wednesday the museum said that it had reached out to corporate leaders in Detroit and would commit to a multiyear effort that would “stretch our fund-raising abilities to their capacity” as a way to protect its collection.

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“The D.I.A. has consistently met its financial challenges and goals and will meet this challenge with enthusiasm and confidence,” said Eugene A. Gargaro, the chairman of the museum’s board. Like the money committed recently by 10 national and local foundations, the money raised by the museum would be pledged toward the city’s pension obligations, which are believed to be underfunded by as much as $3.5 billion.

As part of the deal, the city would relinquish ownership of the museum, and it would be owned by a nonprofit organization, as most large public museums across the country are. This would relieve the city of any future financial responsibility for the institute while also shielding the institute from future municipal threats.

Gerald E. Rosen, the federal judge who is mediating the bankruptcy case and who devised the plan to try to protect the art by aiding pensioners, said in a statement on Wednesday: “We all recognize the magnitude of this great undertaking and appreciate the depth of the D.I.A.’s commitment to the city of Detroit and its retirees.”

Last week, Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, asked the State Legislature to provide $350 million to the overall fund to reduce possible pension cuts and save the art collection. But even if that money comes through — leading to an overall fund of more than $800 million — it remains unclear whether a deal could be struck with creditors in bankruptcy court to prevent the sale of art.

The Detroit emergency manager’s office last year hired Christie’s to appraise a portion of the collection that included many of the museum’s masterpieces. The auction house said that selling this portion would generate $454 million to $867 million, a number that has been criticized by some of the city’s creditors as being inaccurately low for the best of the museum’s collection.

The possibility of selling part of the city’s cultural history to pay its bills has enraged many, who say it would be a betrayal and would hurt Detroit’s chances of being able to revive itself economically. Museum officials have warned that a sale of masterpieces would not just diminish the museum but would lead to its eventual dissolution because donors would cease to give to it and a three-county tax fund that now provides it with crucial operating money would be withdrawn.

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George Lindemann Journal By George Lindemann - "Is collecting art as profitable as it is painted?" @FinancialTimes by By Melanie Gerlis

George Lindemann Journal By George Lindemann - "Is collecting art as profitable as it is painted?" @FinancialTimes by By Melanie Gerlis

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A new book challenges the notion that art is an investment-grade asset
Work by Yayoi Kusama at Art Basel Miami Beach last year©Getty Images

Work by Yayoi Kusama at Art Basel Miami Beach last year

The international art market is having its time in the sun: auction records keep tumbling, living artists have become superstars, and their punchy paintings and shiny sculptures have become the billionaire’s playthings of choice. Amid all this noise, however, it is time to question the much-touted belief that art is also an investment-grade asset.

Most of the related books and headlines of recent years have extolled the potential of art as an investment, not least in comparison to the volatile stock markets and dwindling returns on alternative assets that have characterised the financial markets since the most recent economic downturn. One joke going around the City of London a couple of years ago was that UBS’s art collection had proved more profitable than its investment banking division.

It is understandable that the wider market gloom moved the debate about art as an asset into a new territory. Art, said its proponents, was not only a source of great value, but was also impervious to the world’s economic slings and arrows.

Yet when looked at more carefully as an investment category, art falls short relative to many of the other assets to which it is frequently – and favourably – compared. These include both traditional and alternative investments, whether public and private equity, gold, wine, or residential property. Its lack of correlation to such assets is also questionable.

The combination of the market’s illiquidity, opacity, lumpy supply and asymmetry of information undermines art’s profile as an asset. This is reinforced by the unique qualities of each work – including its history of ownership, trading and display – which create enormous ranges of pricing and valuation, and preclude sensible data aggregation or comparison. The market’s opacity further opens it up to unchecked manipulation.

Price transparency is another huge problem facing those who would map art’s returns on to a Bloomberg screen, alongside their other investments. Only 50 per cent of an already relatively small number of art trades are recorded (auction results are made public, dealers’ prices are not). To put this into perspective, Artnet, a database of auction sales, records that 1.8m works of fine art were offered at auction in 2012. By comparison, there were an average 1.5m trades per day through the London Stock Exchange alone in May 2012.

Even if the limited, patchy and inconsistent available data on art sales could be put into a hypothetical basket of all segments of art, its financial profile is hardly compelling. Most such theoretical analyses of the art market find that the average compound return for works kept for between five and 10 years is around 4 per cent.

Relatively speaking, this is already less than for gold, wine and both public and private equity, and also lower than the residential property market – another market of unique goods, but with more trading volume and available data (as well as an actual and economic utility) than the art market. And this is before considering the so-called risk adjusted return (the profits needed to make up for the peculiarities of any market). One investment professional whom I interviewed for my book* said that, given the risks in the art market, anyone who is content with less than a 50 per cent return on art “needs a lesson in investment”.

Meanwhile, art’s supposed lack of correlation with other markets is not entirely convincing. The price levels for art do not reflect its fundamental characteristics, rather the fortunes of its buyers. The art market as a whole crashed soon after the economic downturn began in earnest in 2008. Thereafter, only the top-priced works recovered as the wealthiest few emerged relatively unscathed from the credit crisis and new wealth was created outside the gloom of Europe and the United States. Many experts also agree that the data frequency to support the correlation claim is much too short to be meaningful, given how relatively infrequently art is sold for a known price. What may seem to be a lack of correlation may in fact just be a lack of information.

This is not to say that art doesn’t offer a different type of return – and even one with some grounding in economic analysis, should this be important. In a 2007 paper, the economists Erdal Atukeren and Aylin Seckin estimated the intangible joy of looking at a work of art – which they define as its “psychic return” – at around 28 per cent. While it would be difficult to persuade a bank to lend money on the back of this estimate (or indeed against most estimates of art’s value), owning and looking at art certainly offer something that a stock certificate or bar of gold do not.

Meanwhile, the social worth of art also cannot be ignored. In recent years, contemporary art in particular has become fashionable. Art fairs such as Frieze and Art Basel – essentially slick trade shows – have transformed themselves into “to be seen at” events around the world, complete with celebrities and VIP events. Participation in today’s art market offers an unparalleled presence in today’s experiential economy: how else could a hedge fund trader find himself sitting next to a film star at an exclusive dinner in a Miami Beach hotel?

For investment purposes, however, while all assets have their risks and peculiarities, art seems to offer none of the saving graces. Like gold, art is a hard asset with no intrinsic worth. But gold, which also divides opinion as an asset, has a daily, fixed, per-ounce price that enables it to be traded as a commodity and certainly a more convincing hedge against inflation. Private equity is a notoriously opaque and often illiquid area of investment, but still offers enough genuine data points from which to create indexes, assess risk and attempt to gauge returns.

Meanwhile, there does not seem to be any impetus to rectify the lack of verifiable and meaningful data in the art market – which underpins most of its profit potential anyway. There is a chance that you make money on your art, and a greater chance that you don’t; the difference is largely luck. Equating a popular asset with a profitable asset is misleading. From an investment point of view, art seems to be a very fragile prospect.

* ‘Art as an Investment? A Survey of Comparative Assets’ by Melanie Gerlis is published by Lund Humphries in the UK (£30) on January 17 and in the US in February ($60)

Melanie Gerlis is the art market editor of The Art Newspaper. She will be taking part in a panel discussion, “Is art really a good investment?”, at the London Art Fair on January 17,

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George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Lost in the Gallery-Industrial Complex" @nytimes by HOLLAND COTTER

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Lost in the Gallery-Industrial Complex" @nytimes by HOLLAND COTTER

A new year. A new New York mayor. Old problems with art in New York. I have a collection of complaints and a few (very few) ideas for change.

Money — the grotesque amounts spent, the inequitable distribution — has dominated talk about art in the 21st century so far. It’s a basic fact of art history. Emperors, popes and robber barons set the model for the billionaire buyers of today. Of course, it is today that matters to the thousands of artists who live and work in this punitively expensive city, where the art industry is often confused with the art world.

The distinction between the two, though porous, is real. The art industry is the nexus of high-price galleries, auction houses and collectors who control an art market renowned for its funny-money practices. In numbers of personnel, the industry is a mere subset of the circle of artists, teachers, students, writers, curators and middle-range dealers spread out over five boroughs. But in terms of power, the proportions are reversed, to the degree that the art world basically functions as a labor source, supplying the industry with product, services and exotic color but, with the age of apprenticeships long gone, only uncertainly sharing in its wealth.

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The scene at Christie’s during the sale of Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud.” Christie's Images, via Associated Press

Do I exaggerate? A bit. The argument can be made that labor is benefiting from its ties to management, in a high-tide-floats-all-boats way. Visit art schools or galleries, and you get the impression that a substantial portion of the art world is content to serve as support staff to a global ruling class.

The reality is that, directly or indirectly, in large ways and small, the current market system is shaping every aspect of art in the city: not just how artists live, but also what kind of art is made, and how art is presented in the media and in museums.

I got tired of money talk a while back. Rather than just sputter with indignation, I figured it would be more useful to turn in another direction, toward art that the industry wasn’t looking at, which is a whole lot of art. But reminders keep pulling you back to the bottom line. With every visit to the gallery-packed Lower East Side, I see fewer of the working-class Latinos who once called the neighborhood home. In what feels like overnight, I’ve watched Dumbo in Brooklyn go from an artist’s refuge to an economically gated community.

Recently, my attention was drawn to a controversy surrounding a large and much praised group exhibition installed at a complex of converted warehouses called Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The show, “Come Together: Surviving Sandy,” was conceived as a benefit for artists who had suffered losses in the 2012 hurricane and was promoted as evidence of art-world solidarity. Yet a widely read blog, Art F City, reported that the owners of the complex, which had for some years provided low-rent studios for artists, were now raising rents dramatically, forcing many artists to vacate. (Landlords say 25 percent of Industry City tenants are artists). The new residents seem to be an upscale clientele drawn by the artsy atmosphere.

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Part of the exhibition “Come Together: Surviving Sandy” at Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Whatever the full facts, money is the winner, and with that comes caution and conservatism. This is almost absurdly obvious on the high-end of the market. Sales of retrograde “masterworks” can be relied on to jack up the auction charts at regular intervals; the most recent record was set last fall by a $142.4 million Francis Bacon painting of Lucian Freud, a monument to two overpraised painters for the price of one. Meanwhile, big, hugely pricey tchotchkes — new whatevers by Jeff Koons, say — roll out of fabrication shops and into personal museums being assembled by members of the international power elite.

Outside auctions, the marketing mechanics buzz on. Roughly since the end of the multicultural, postmodern 1990s, we’ve watched new art being re-Modernized and domesticated, with painting the medium of choice, abstraction the mode of preference. Together they offer significant advantages. Paintings can be assembly-line produced but still carry the aura of being hand-touched. They can be tailored to small spaces, such as fair booths. Abstraction, especially if color is involved, can establish instant eye contact from afar. If, in addition, the work’s graphic impact translates well online, where stock can be moved eBay style, so much the better.

Other traditional forms — drawing, photography, some sculpture — similarly work well in this marketing context. But an enormous range of art does not, beginning with film, performance and installation, and extending into rich realms of creative activity that defy classification as art at all. To note this dynamic is not to dismiss painting or object making, but to point to the restrictive range of art that the market supports, that dealers are encouraged to sell, and that artists are encouraged to make.

The narrowing of the market has been successful in attracting a wave of neophyte buyers who have made art shopping chic. It has also produced an epidemic of copycat collecting. To judge by the amounts of money piled up on a tiny handful of reputations, few of these collectors have the guts, or the eye or the interest, to venture far from blue-chip boilerplate. They let galleries, art advisers and the media do the choosing, and the media doesn’t particularly include art critics. What, after all, does thumbs up, thumbs down matter when winners are preselected before the critical votes are in? In this economy, it can appear that the critic’s job is to broadcast names and contribute to fame.

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The Silent Barn art space in Brooklyn’s thriving Bushwick neighborhood. Sasha Maslov for The New York Times

Conservative art can encourage conservative criticism. We’re seeing a revival — some would say a disinterment — of a describe-the-strokes style of writing popular in the formalist 1950s and again in the 1970s: basically, glorified advertising copy. Evaluative approaches that developed in the 1980s and 1990s, based on the assumption that art inevitably comments on the social and political realities that produce it, tend to be met with disparagement now, in part because they’re often couched in academic jargon, which has become yet another form of sales-speak.

There’s no question that we need — art needs — an influx of new commentators who don’t mistake attitude for ideas, who move easily between cultures and geographies. Regular gigs in mainstream print journalism have all but dried up, but the Internet offers ambitious options in a growing number of blogazines including Art F City (edited by Paddy Johnson) and Hyperallergic (edited by Hrag Vartanian), which combine criticism, reporting, political activism and gossip on an almost-24-hour news cycle.

And although both are based in New York, they include national coverage and in a feisty mix of voices, a welcome alternative to the one-personality blog of yore. That mix would probably be even more varied, and transcultural, if a few forward-thinking, art-minded investors would infuse some serious capital into such enterprises so they could pay writers a living wage and make online freelance writing a viable way of life.

I don’t know what it would take to get a global mix of voices into some of New York’s big, rich art museums. If archaeologists of the future unearthed the Museum of Modern Art as it exists today, they would have to assume that Modernism was a purely European and North American invention. They would be wrong. Modernism was, and is, an international phenomenon, happening in different ways, on different timetables, for different reasons in Africa, Asia, Australia and South America.

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Truong Tan’s “What Do We Want,” part of “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia” at the Guggenheim Museum. Richard Perry/The New York Times

Why aren’t museums telling that story? Because it doesn’t sell. Why doesn’t it sell? Because it’s unfamiliar. Why is it unfamiliar? Because museums, with their eyes glued to box office, aren’t telling the story.

Yes, MoMA and the Guggenheim have recently organized a few “non-Western” shows. MoMA’s  2012 “Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde,” packed to the ceiling with art we’ve rarely if ever seen, was a revelation. But they need to take actions far more fundamental and committed. International Modernism should be fully integrated into the permanent collection, regularly, consistently.

Their job as public institutions is to change our habits of thinking and seeing. One way to do this is by bringing disparate cultures together in the same room, on the same wall, side by side. This sends two vital, accurate messages: that all these cultures are different but equally valuable; and all these cultures are also alike in essential ways, as becomes clear with exposure.

With its recently announced plans for an expansion, MoMA has an ideal chance to expand its horizons organically. The new spaces, which should certainly be devoted to the permanent collection, won’t be ready for several years, but the museum has no excuse for waiting for its long-overdue integration process to begin.

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“The Shadows Took Shape,” an exhibition of Afrofuturist works at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

And on the subject of integration, why, in one of the most ethnically diverse cities, does the art world continue to be a bastion of whiteness? Why are African-American curators and administrators, and especially directors, all but absent from our big museums? Why are there still so few black — and Latino, and Asian-American — critics and editors?

Not long ago, these questions — of policy but also political and ethical questions — seemed to be out there on institutional tables, demanding discussion. Technically, they may be there still, but museums seem to be most interested in talking about real estate, assiduously courting oligarchs for collections, and anxiously scouting for the next “Rain Room.” Political questions, about which cultures get represented in museums and who gets to make the decisions, and how, are buried.

Political art brings me back to where I started, with artists, and one final, baffled complaint, this one about art schools, which seem, in their present form, designed to accommodate the general art economy and its competitive, caste-system values. Programs are increasingly specialized, jamming students into ever narrower and flakier disciplinary tracks. Tuitions are prodigious, leaving artists indentured to creditors for years.

How experimental can artists be under such circumstances? How confidently can they take risks in an environment that acknowledges only dollar-value success? How can they contemplate sustaining — to me this is crucial to New York’s future as an art center — long and evolving creative careers? The temptation for many artists, after a postgraduate spurt of confidence, is to look around, see what’s selling, and consider riffing on that. We’re seeing a depressing number of such riffs these days.

Again, do I exaggerate? And, again, sure, to some degree. By no means is all the news bad. Start-up galleries are opening; middle-tier galleries are holding their own, or doing better than that. Artist-intensive neighborhoods like Bushwick and Ridgewood are still affordable, companionable and fun.

But when the rents get too high, or the economy fails, or art buying falls out of fashion, and the art industry decides to liquidate its overvalued assets and leave? Artists, the first and last stakeholders, will have themselves to fall back on. They’ll learn to organize and agitate for what they need, to let City Hall know, in no uncertain terms, that they’re there. They’ll learn to share, not just on special occasions, but all the time. They’ll learn that art and politics are inseparable, and both can be anything and everything. They’ll learn to bring art back from the brink of inconsequence.

As someone long on questions and short on answers, let me ask: Why not start now?

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George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Let Curators Be Curators, MOCA’s New Chief Says" @nytimes by By RANDY KENNEDY and JORI FINKELJAN

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann - "Let Curators Be Curators, MOCA’s New Chief Says" @nytimes by By RANDY KENNEDY and JORI FINKELJAN

The New York office of Philippe Vergne, the Dia Art Foundation director, who was named on Wednesday to lead the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, looks out onto a brick vista of Chelsea art galleries. But hanging on the wall next to the windows is a photograph of Walter De Maria’s New Mexico land-art work “The Lightning Field,” showing a vast sweep of Western plateau.

As Mr. Vergne heads to California — the second New York-based director in a row chosen by the Los Angeles museum — he will in one sense be taking over an institution whose possibilities are just as wide-open. Barely more than 30 years old, beloved and fiercely defended by local artists and in possession of one of the best collections of postwar art in the country, the museum is still in the early stages of defining itself in a rapidly growing international art world. And its board, after years of failing to give the museum enough money to meet its ambitions, recently announced that it had raised $100 million toward an endowment that it hoped to increase to $150 million.

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Philippe Vergne will head west to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Robert Caplin for The New York Times

But Mr. Vergne will also take over an institution that, by the standards of most large-city museums, is now little more than a shell. It employs only two full-time curators, after several departures in recent years, most during the tumultuous tenure of the previous director, Jeffrey Deitch, who himself left in 2013, with two years left on a five-year contract. After years of cost-cutting and layoffs, the museum has 42 full-time employees. By contrast the Hammer Museum, across town, has 93 full-time employees, including six curators, even though its collection and exhibition space is much smaller than the Museum of Contemporary Art’s.

In a wide-ranging interview Friday morning, Mr. Vergne said that, unlike Mr. Deitch — who was criticized for running the museum as de facto chief curator, leading to the acrimonious departure of the longtime head of the curatorial staff, Paul Schimmel — he believed in the importance of a chief curator. He said he would make his first priority finding one and recruiting a staff, and then would mostly stand back and help them work.

Mr. Vergne, 47, who was born and educated in France but who has worked for many years in the United States, said that he understood how much work would have to be done to rebuild the museum. And while he is highly respected as a curator, he said, “I don’t think I will curate.”

“The role of the director is to support the curators and let the curators be curators,” said Mr. Vergne, an animated man known for dry wit and a persistently thick Gallic accent.

He added that even with the recent growth of the endowment, he expects much of his job to watch the bottom line and to woo donors. “I know that to do that,” he said, “my time will be consumed with making sure the institution is financially secure.”

His goal, he said, is to have the resources to be able to use the collection as a launching pad to make the museum “the most experimental institution in this country.”

Mr. Vergne’s record as a fund-raiser for Dia is not clear. In 2009 the foundation announced plans to build a new space on West 22nd Street. But construction has not begun and Dia has not commented on the state of its capital campaign. In the interview, Mr. Vergne insisted that progress would be announced soon and that the “proof will be in the pudding.”

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“The role of the director is to support the curators,” said Mr. Vergne, whose predecessor at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles was described by critics as a de facto chief curator. Robert Caplin for The New York Times

“I feel very strong about where Dia is compared to where Dia was when I found it,” he said.

Fred Sands, the new president of the museum’s board, said it chose Mr. Vergne in part because he had solid administrative talents as well as the respect of artists and a deep understanding of the contemporary-art terrain.

“He knows how to run a business,” he said. “A museum is a not-for-profit business, but it is a businesAs for Mr. Deitch, a veteran New York gallery owner whom he described as “sort of a loner,” Mr. Sands said: “He was not focused on running the museum. I love the guy, but that’s not what he was interested in.”

He added: “I think the artists and curators are looking for a good dad and Philippe is that. People have been saying to me, ‘Well, you finally did it.’ ”

A question that has hovered over the appointment is the role of Eli Broad, the billionaire collector who was deeply involved in recruiting Mr. Deitch and who later this year will open a museum featuring his own vast contemporary collection across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art’s downtown site. Mr. Broad, the museum’s founding chairman, bailed it out in 2008 when it almost went under, but he has also been criticized as a kind of puppet master.

While Mr. Vergne said he met Mr. Broad as “part of one conversation” during his visits, search committee leaders said Mr. Broad was not involved in making the selection.

But Mr. Vergne emphasized that he was open to the idea, when appropriate, of sharing pieces from the museum’s collection with Mr. Broad’s museum. “What makes a collection alive is for a collection to be seen, so I think it would be great if there is a relationship between the two institutions,” he said. “For me it’s almost a no-brainer.”

“I like Modernism,” he added, “but more is more.”

Randy Kennedy reported from New York and Jori Finkel from Los Angeles.

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