Wednesday, May 18, 2011

James Cuno - The Right Man at the Right Time

James Cuno has just been selected as the President and Chief Executive Officer at The Getty. Appreciating the challenges of dealing on an international scale with repatriation, museum loans, collaborations,and possible acquisitions, Cuno's very unique background seems to qualify him uniquely to negotiate this very precarious path to the benefit of his institution and US museums and collectors in general.

Posted: 12 May 2011 09:05 AM PDT
LOS ANGELES (LA Times) "I have argued against the laws, but I haven't broken the laws."
So says James Cuno in Jason Felch's report on the new Getty president and chief executive:
Cuno's awkward embrace of a point of view he has long criticized creates a potential stumbling block for the Getty, which today relies heavily on cooperative relationships with Italy and other nations Cuno has openly criticized.
As director of the Chicago Art Institute since 2004, Cuno has rarely had to wrestle with claims by other countries that certain antiquities belong to them and not the museum that acquired them. The position Cuno staked out is largely a philosophical one, embracing the concept of "cosmopolitanism" — that antiquities are the common heritage of mankind and not the property of one nation.
He has denounced what he considers politicized claims by modern nations like Italy that, in his view, have only weak ties to the ancient civilizations that once occupied the same land.
Cuno's arguments are perhaps the clearest articulation of a view that American museum officials used for decades to justify the acquisition of antiquities with no clear ownership record. That practice has largely ended as direct evidence of looting forced leading museums, collectors and dealers to return hundreds of objects to Italy and Greece in recent years. Yet while many museums moderated their stances during that controversy, Cuno became more outspoken."Cultural property is a modern political construct," he said in a 2006 debate at the New School hosted by the New York Times. In March of this year, he described laws that give foreign governments ownership over ancient art found within their borders as "not only wrong, it is dangerous."
You can read the Getty's acquisition policy here:
James Cuno - LA Times

By Jason Felch, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

May 12, 2011
LOS ANGELES In naming James Cuno president and chief executive of the J. Paul Getty Trust, its board members surprised many in the art world by choosing a staunch defender of the unfettered acquisition of ancient art to lead an institution that, after a decade of scandals, has all but abandoned the practice.
Since 2001, when the Getty's former antiquities curator Marion True was charged in Italy with trafficking in looted art, the Getty has returned dozens of ancient masterpieces it concluded were found through illegal excavations. More recently, the Getty has emerged as a leader in efforts to curb the looting that has fueled the market in ancient art.

LOS ANGELES  Culture Monster: The L.A. Times arts blog
Over that same decade, Cuno, 60, forged a reputation as an outspoken critic of efforts to curb the antiquities trade. In two books and many public appearances, he has called the efforts of foreign governments to regulate the trade in ancient art "nationalistic," and has lamented the limits put on museums' ability to collect art that has a murky ownership history. The issue of ancient art is just one of many Cuno will deal with at the Getty Trust, which administers a $5.3-billion endowment and the Getty's four program areas, one of which is the Getty Museum. But board members acknowledged it was a key concern as they considered Cuno for the post. "We had a very full and frank discussion about that issue," said board president Mark Siegel, who led the nearly year-long search process. "Unprompted, Jim said he thought the Getty's policies were appropriate and right for the Getty. We also told him the board didn't intend to change those policies."
In an interview Tuesday, Cuno said he still holds his views, but is a "realist." He said he accepts the Getty's strict acquisition policy, thinks the returns it made were "necessary" and has no plans to change directions.
"We're bound to bring works of art into this country legally," Cuno said. "I have argued against the laws, but I haven't broken the laws." Cuno's awkward embrace of a point of view he has long criticized creates a potential stumbling block for the Getty, which today relies heavily on cooperative relationships with Italy and other nations Cuno has openly criticized. As director of the Chicago Art Institute since 2004, Cuno has rarely had to wrestle with claims by other countries that certain antiquities belong to them and not the museum that acquired them. The position Cuno staked out is largely a philosophical one, embracing the concept of "cosmopolitanism" — that antiquities are the common heritage of mankind and not the property of one nation. He has denounced what he considers politicized claims by modern nations like Italy that, in his view, have only weak ties to the ancient civilizations that once occupied the same land. Cuno's arguments are perhaps the clearest articulation of a view that American museum officials used for decades to justify the acquisition of antiquities with no clear ownership record. That practice has largely ended as direct evidence of looting forced leading museums, collectors and dealers to return hundreds of objects to Italy and Greece in recent years.
Yet while many museums moderated their stances during that controversy, Cuno became more outspoken.
"Cultural property is a modern political construct," he said in a 2006 debate at the New School hosted by the New York Times. In March of this year, he described laws that give foreign governments ownership over ancient art found within their borders as "not only wrong, it is dangerous."
Cuno said in the interview that his interest in the subject stems from his own brush with controversy in the mid-1990s, when he was director of the Harvard University museums.
As he describes in his 2008 book "Who Owns Antiquity," Cuno approved a number of acquisitions and loans of antiquities with murky ownership histories, leading some to claim he had violated Harvard's strict acquisition policy.
Claire Lyons, then vice-president for professional responsibility of the Archaeological Institute of America, told the Boston Globe that it was "heartbreaking" that "such a prestigious academic museum, whose curators and director are also faculty members, is not up to speed on current ethical norms."
Lyons is now the antiquities curator at the Getty. In an interview, she said Cuno's views on the importance of loans are "very much in concert" with the Getty's.
In one case, Cuno approved the purchase of more than 180 Greek vase fragments with unclear ownership histories. Cuno has said he inquired into their origins. With no clear evidence that they came from illicit excavations, Cuno said Tuesday, "we were satisfied these were appropriately acquired."
In an interview, David Mitten, the retired Harvard curator and professor who recommended the purchase, has a slightly different account. He said he and Cuno knew that two antiquities dealers known to traffic in looted antiquities — Robert Hecht and Frieda Tchacos — were the source of some of the fragments.
"They had some things that were probably 'fresh,'" said Mitten, using museum jargon for objects that had been recently looted. He and Cuno took the dealers' word that that the vase fragments weren't "hot out of the ground."
Cuno "was concerned and tried very hard to follow up anything that might have been questionable," Mitten recalled. "He did call Hecht and Tchacos, as far as I know. It seemed it met our requirements."
Tchacos was convicted in 2002 of trafficking in stolen goods. Hecht, who had been a key figure in a 1972 scandal involving the Met's purchase of a looted vase, is now on trial in Rome for trafficking in looted antiquities. He supplied several objects to Harvard museums during Cuno's time there, Mitten said.
"At the time I didn't know the extent of his reputation," Cuno said Tuesday.
In 1996, Cuno oversaw an exhibit of bronze statues that included objects with murky ownership histories on loan from private collectors Leon Levy and Shelby White and Lawrence and Barbara Fleischman.
Irene Winter, the chair of Harvard's fine arts department, filed a complaint with the university's then-president, Neil Rudenstine, requesting that the loans be barred under the school's loans and acquisitions policy. Dozens of objects from the two private collections have since been returned to Italy or Greece.
Rudenstine today is a Getty Trustee and a member of the committee that selected Cuno. In an interview, he said he was satisfied that Cuno had conducted the proper due diligence.
In 2007, after the Getty adopted a policy that it would not collect ancient art unless it had a clear ownership history dating to 1970, Cuno opposed efforts at the museum directors association to adopt a similar reform, arguing objects already on the market would be best off in museums. "I was pushing very hard to question whether that was what we wanted to do," he said.The reform — championed by then-Getty museum director Michael Brand, among others — was adopted, and represented for many a turning point for the American museum community. Cuno seems aware that his controversial position is more difficult to sustain today, especially at the institution he will soon run. He said he embraces the Getty's role in forging the collaborative agreements and loans with other countries that are replacing the acquisition of antiques on the art market. "The future of the … museum is going to be the result of exchanges and collaborations and loans rather than acquisitions," he said. "That's what we have to embrace."

Photos of the Month May 2011

Water Buffalo, Botswana

Tiger, India

African Art May 2011

Mask Depicting a Female Ancestor
Lwena, Angola/Zambia
First half 20th century
Ht. 9"

Pre-Columbian April/ May 2011

Pre-Columbian Maternity Figure
State of Jalisco, West Mexico
200 BC to 200 AD
Ht. 13 1/4"
Private U.S. Collection

Tribal Art Auction Schdule May and June 2011

Tribal Art Schedule May - June 2011

1. Zemanek-Munster - Würzburg, Germany -  May 28, 2011 
African, oceanic and Pre-Columbian tribal art from european private
2. Auction Atrium , Londres Dates :6 May 11 to 9 May 2011
African & Oceanic Art
3. Hotel Drouot, Paris. Collection d'art précolombien  May 6, 2011
pre-Columbian art sale
4. Sothebys NY  May 13, 2011 African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
Including Property from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation [N08749] 
New York
5. Sothebys New York  May 18, 2011
American Indian Art [N08752] 
6. Sothebys, Paris Jun 15,  2011
Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie [PF1108] 
7. Christies, Paris June 14, 2011
Art Océanien, Africain et d'Amérique du Nord
8. Christies, Paris June 14, 2011
Holtz African Art Collection
9. Bonhams, New York May 12, 2011
Sale 18574 - Fine African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
10.  Bonhams, Los Angeles Jun 19, 2011
Sale 19236 - Sunset Estate Auction
11. Bonhams, San Francisco June 6, 2011
Sale 19161 - Native American Art
12. Pierre Berge, Brussels June 9, 2011
Tribal Art

Strong Auctions - Tribal and Contemporary

Before the Christies and Sothebys - Reuters analyzes the contemporary and post-war offerings from both New York houses:

1. NEW YORK (REUTERS).- Buoyed by record results amid a dramatic art market recovery and an increasingly global clientele, Christie's and Sotheby's are gearing up for spring auctions with nearly $1 billion of art for sale. Last year proved one of the best with Christie's posting a record $5 billion in sales and Sotheby's making $774 million in revenue -- six times more than 2009 and its second highest ever apart from 2007. It was a far cry from 2009's dire drop in sales amid the global financial crisis. "We had not budgeted for such robustness last year," said Marc Porter, chairman of Christie's Americas. "It was rather amazing." But he added that it is still a market where you can't push prices -- that doesn't change. What has changed is the ascendance of the contemporary and post-war sector, which has nipped at and sometimes eclipsed the once indomitable Impressionist and modern arena.
The biggest sale will be held at Christie's on May 11, when 66 works led by pair of iconic Andy Warhol self portraits -- his first and one of his last before his death in 1987 -- are expected to fetch from $226 million to $316 million. The Warhols' provenance could not differ more. Estimated at $20 million to $40 million, a four-image 1963 work in hues of blue was commissioned by Detroit collector Florence Barron, who paid the rising star $1,600, some of it on the installment plan. It is being sold by her family. A much later work, one of Warhol's final self-portraits reportedly purchased by billionaire collector Peter Brant in 2002 for $3.2 million, is expected to fetch $40 million. Analysts say U.S. buyers are still the major market for such works from the post-war period. "The hedge fund guys can afford to do whatever they want," said Baird Ryan, the managing partner of Art Capital Group, which provides private financial and consulting services for art owners. "They have been collecting for years and don't bid recklessly." Sotheby's, which kicks off the auctions on Tuesday with its Impressionist and modern sale, also boasts a big Warhol, "Sixteen Jackies," and Jeff Koons' "Pink Panther" sculpture, each estimated to sell for $25 million. Phillips de Pury & Co. is staging a $100 million contemporary sale, its biggest ever, led by yet another Warhol, "Liz #5," a portrait of recently deceased Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor, which could fetch about $25 million. On the Impressionist and modern side, Sotheby's has a group of 10 Picassos led by "Femme lisant (Deux personnages)," a portrait of the artist's mistress Marie-Therese Walter estimated to sell for up to $35 million. Christie's is touting a $25 million Cubist Picasso, "Les femmes d'Alger, version L," and Monet's "Les peupliers," a pristine masterpiece from the artist's celebrated poplars series which is expected to fetch $20 million to $30 million.

And after the contemporary and post-war sales,  expectations were generally exceeded by sporadic aggressive bidding.

Sothebys NewYork, NY May 2011  Yesterday’s Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale at Sotheby’s New York brought $38,982,225, above the pre-sale low estimate of $34.4 million and the highest total for an Impressionist & Modern Day Sale at Sotheby’s worldwide since February 2008. Following the success of Alberto Giacometti’s Femme debout, which sold for $7,362,500 against a high estimate of $3 million in last night’s Evening Sale, today’s auction was led by a pair of unique bronze sculptures by the artist. Petite Figurine (Homme) & Petite Figurine (Femme) achieved $962,500, well above their high estimate of $600,000. Cast circa 1946, the works were a gift from Giacometti to a friend. “We are very pleased with the results of today’s sale, which echoed a number of themes that we saw last night,” commented Molly Ott Ambler, Vice President and Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sales.

1. Sotheby's suffers growing pains
The auction house’s contemporary evening sales fall short of low estimate as its share prices take a tumble
By Charlotte Burns and Bonnie Rosenberg | Web only
Published online 10 May 11 (Market)
Sotheby's Tobias Meyer steered a steady course throughout the low-key sale new york. As Sotheby's prepared to hold the second part of its contemporary art evening sales tonight, the company's stock took a tumble and was downgraded from “buy” to “accumulate”. More than 2.6m Sotheby's shares were
traded today, following the quarterly report to shareholders in which the company announced that, while total revenue increased by 17% in the first quarter thanks to sales of high-end works, its operating costs—which were trimmed drastically during the downturn—rose 16%. This impacted the share price, which fell 6.1% today to close at $43.71. "It amounts to what we believe are growing pains for this part of the up-cycle which began a year ago," said Wall Street analyst George Sutton of Craig-Hallum Capital Group.
Despite the packed salesroom, the atmosphere on the floor this evening lacked energy as the auction house fell short of its low estimate, with total sales at $111.2m (Total with commission included, $128m, est $120.8m-$171.4m). The 58-lot sale was 84.5% sold by lot and 88.7% by value.
Major works failed to fly, including the catalogue's cover lot, Jeff Koons' porcelain sculpture Pink Panther, 1988. The work was covered by an irrevocable bid and was expected to sell for $20m-$30m. After lacklustre bidding, it hammered at $15m. The hefty expectations, however, detracted from the fact that the $16.9m total (when the buyer’s premium is added) is, nonetheless, a big increase on the previous record for a work from the series—$1.8m at Christie's in 1999—and ranks as Koons' third most expensive sale at auction. “I think it's beautiful, but it's not my style,” said fashion designer Valentino.
Sotheby's had simply gotten greedy in estimating some of the major works so aggressively. “There was a push-back against the fact that the auction house overreached. People were selective,” said New York dealer Edward Tyler-
Nahem. Andy Warhol's Sixteen Jackies, 1964, also disappointed. Estimated at $20m-$30m, it hammered at $18m (total $20.2m with premium) going to a phone bidder, underbid by Jose Mugrabi. There were two Warhol Round Jackie silkscreens from 1964 on offer, but while the first sold just above the $3m low estimate to hammer at $3.25m ($3.7m with premium added), the second failed to elicit a single bid, something dealers ascribed to the fact that it was simply an uglier picture. Ed Ruscha's oil painting Honey...I Twisted Through More Damned Traffic to Get Here, 1984, was bought in at $3.25m. The $3.5m-$4.5m estimate looked particularly punchy given the work's auction history. It first sold at Sotheby's in
1989 for $297,000, and then again at Christie's in 1998 for under half the original price of $107,000. “It was totally overpriced,” said secondary market dealer Christophe Van de Weghe. “If the estimate is correct, then things will sell. The market is good, but one has to be careful,” he added. Nonetheless, there were some good results. Van de Weghe called the $5.2m hammer price for Basquiat's Erioca I, 1988 “cheap” adding, “It's an exceptional painting and was one of the last works Basquiat painted. It's an amazing piece.”
Jose Mugrabi was the successful buyer this time, vying against a phone bidder (total $5.9m, est $3.5m-$4.5m). Felix Gonzalez-Torres' was, perhaps unsurprisingly, championed by advisor Philippe Segalot, who included the artist in the auction he “curated” with Phillips de Pury in November 2010. This evening's lot, Untitled (Aparaciôn), 1991, was chased by four bidders including gallerist David Zwirner, but sold to Segalot for $1.4m (total $1.65m, est $600,000-$800,000). There was excitement in the room when Warhol's red Shadow painting leapt immediately from the $500,000 starting price to a $2m offer on the telephone, eventually selling for $4.25m (total $4.8m, est $700,000-$900,000). “It's an
example of a good collaboration with the seller. The owner was guided by us,” said Sotheby's international senior specialist Anthony Grant. “If we'd have estimated it for much higher than the last [Shadow painting sold for], it would have raised a lot of questions.” He conceded that the auction house had stretched too far on estimates for some of the works, “maybe anticipating a market that's not quite there yet.”
Nonetheless, auctioneer Tobias Meyer steered a steady course throughout the sale and did well given the material on offer. “A lot of the works were not fresh to the market,” said dealer Paolo Vedovi. L&M gallery director Dominique Levy, who successfully bid $1.25m for Agnes Martin's Untitled #7, 1985, for the gallery's inventory (total $1.5m, est $1.5m-$2m) added: “People are used to extraordinary things and tonight was average.”Nonetheless, the house will be buoyed somewhat by the $54.8m auction of 42 works from the collection of legendary dealer Allan Stone, which easily passed its $46.8m high estimate last night (9 May). There was deep bidding for the sale's top lot, John Chamberlain's Nutcracker, 1958, which sold for $4.2m to Larry Gagosian, who recently signed the artist (total $4.8m, est $1.2m-$1.8m). Other highlights in the sale, which boasted the impressive figures of 92.9% sold by lot and 98.6% by value, included the selection of 18 works by Wayne Thiebaud. All but one sold, topping the $12.8m-$18.3m estimate to total $27.5m with premium. The top-seller was Four Pinball Machines (Study), a 1962 canvas that fetched $3m (total $3.4m, est $700,000-$900,000). The results for two sales show that the market is hungry for fresh work to come to the block. “People want new material, great provenance and something iconic,” said dealer Paolo Vedovi. All eyes now turn to Christie's, which holds its sale of contemporary art tomorrow.

2. Sothebys  NEW YORK (AP).- A rare wooden sculpture of a Tahitian girl by Paul Gauguin sold for $11.3 million at auction Tuesday. The "Young Tahitian" bust, last seen by the public in 1961, had been estimated to bring $10 million to $15 million, the Sotheby's auction house said. The sculpture is of a serene-looking Tahitian girl wearing large earrings and a necklace of coral and shells the French artist collected and strung himself. It's the only known fully worked three-dimensional bust he made. Gauguin, a post-Impressionist master, spent many years in Tahiti painting the island's beautiful women, flowers and lush tropical landscape. He presented the sculpture, "Jeune tahitienne" in French, to a friend's 10-year-old daughter in 1894 after promising her he would bring her a gift from the South Seas. Many years later, that girl, Jeanne Fournier, entrusted a Dominican priest to sell the sculpture. On June 28, 1961, it was consigned to a Sotheby's auction in London. The 9 1/2-inch sculpture had been in the possession of the current New England owner since. The owner's name hasn't been disclosed. The current record for a Gauguin artwork is $40.3 million for "L'homme a la hache," or "Man with the ax," an oil on canvas that sold at Christie's auction house in New York in November 2006. The latest auction coincides with the "Gauguin: Maker of Myth" exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It is the first major exhibition of the artist's career in the United States in about 20 years.

3. NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art auctions today brought a combined total of $21,846,692, well over the high estimate (total est. $8.3/12.6 million).* The single owner sale of the Robert Rubin Collection of African Art fetched $11,742,188, many multiples of the pre-sale estimate (est. $2.5/3.9 million) and was 94% sold-by-lot. The afternoon saw the various owner sale of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art bring $10,104,504, also comfortably over the high estimate (est. $4.2/5.9 million). In total six objects sold for more than $1 million and there was strong institutional bidding.
Heinrich Schweizer, Head of the African and Oceanic Art Department in New York said: “We are delighted with the results of today’s sales which brought $21.8 million. The exceptional total achieved for the Robert Rubin Collection is a testament to Robert’s extraordinary taste and discernment. The market recognized that this was a once in a generation opportunity to acquire part of this distinguished collection. Throughout today’s sales we saw in-depth bidding and international participation.” The Robert Rubin Collection
The Robert Rubin Collection was led by a Songye Male Power Figure ( Ht 8 1/4") which sold for $2,098,500 to set a new record for a Songye work at auction (est. $150/250,000). The piece is an icon of African Art that has been widely published and is one of the best small scale Songye figures to have appeared at auction. Other highlights included a Yombe Maternity Figure from the DRC, one of the finest sculptures from the Western Congo ever to have appeared at auction, which sold for $1,874,500 setting a new record for a Yombe work at auction (est. $150/250,000) and a Baule Male Ancestor Figure from Ivory Coast, the finest example of this type to appear at auction in recent memory which fetched $1,538,500, setting a new auction record for a Baule statue (est. $600/900,000). Afternoon sale: African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art The various owner sale was led by Yoruba Standing Female Figure Offering A Ram from Nigeria which sold for $1,650,500, several times the high estimate, to set a new auction record for a Yoruba piece (est. $200/400,000) and a Pair Of Elema Bird Masks from Papua New Guinea (ex Friede Collection see previous Newsletters) which were sought by five bidders before selling for $1,022,500 (est. $250/350,000). The afternoon auction also included a number of superb pieces from The Pierre and Tana Matisse  Foundation. These were led by a Teotihuacan Greenstone Mask, circa. A.D. 450-650, which doubled the high estimate to sell for $530,500 (est. $150/250,000) and an Admiralty Islands Bowl In The Shape Of A Frigate Bird from Papua New Guinea which fetched $194,500 (est. $20/30,000). *Estimates do not include buyer’s premium 

4. NEW YORK American Indian sale Sothebys NY May 18, 2011
Sothebys NY Wall Street Journal It's "the ultimate power shirt," as Sotheby's David Roche calls it.
The deer-hide war shirt, with locks of human hair dangling from its chest, belonged to Chief Black Bird of the Oglala Sioux. The chief played a part in the Great Sioux War of 1876-77 and, in all likelihood, the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 alongside legendary Sioux leader Crazy Horse.  Sotheby's wants as much as $350,000 for this war shirt that once belonged to Oglala Sioux Chief Black Bird..Now the object hangs at Sotheby's New York branch with arms outstretched, awaiting the annual American Indian art auction Wednesday. The shirt might never have seen battle, though Black Bird did model it for others: He's wearing it in a promotional postcard for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in the early 1900s. Sotheby's lists the item as a top lot in this sale and values it at $250,000 to $350,000, partly because of that photograph and
several others showing Black Bird in the tunic. "It's historically significant because it can be tied to a particular person," said Joe Horse Capture, an associate curator of Native American art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and an authority on war shirts. This year his museum bought an early-18th-century painted-hide shirt at Christie's for $362,500, above the high estimate of $300,000. The hair strands attached to the shirt were talismans, probably taken from a family member and worn for protection, said Mr. Roche. He added that the
adornments, which were intertwined with horse hair, were also meant to look fearsome—what he called "a nod to the threat of scalping." The sale of a shirt believed by Sioux to be powerful enough to deflect bullets
has its critics. "People's war shirts have their personal power on them," said Tom Grayson Colonnese, chair of the American Indian studies department at the University of Washington. "These kinds of items that have power are alive, so you don't sell those things."Buyers of such objects are rarely Native American, said Mr. Roche, senior consultant to Sotheby's American Indian art department. Native American art is increasingly purchased by bidders from Canada, Europe and the Middle East, with half of all lots going to international buyers at the Sotheby's American Indian art sale last year, he said. After Black Bird's death—the date is unknown—the shirt resurfaced in 1960 when Nuremberg Trial courtroom artist Ed Vebell bought it from the
American etiquette expert Amy Vanderbilt. Sotheby's obtained the shirt from private collectors who acquired it from Mr. Vebell in 2007. —Ellen Gamerman Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights

American Indian Sales Results:  Total sales $4,809,503 with the war shirt selling for $2,658.500. Another ten lots accounted for a little over 1.2 million meaning that 11 lots  totaled almost 4 million dollars out of a total lot offering of 171 lots. Many lots went unsold but the top end saved the auction.

Christies NY - May 2011 Overall, Christie's totalled $156m, selling 82% by lot and 81% by value. Nineteen works sold for more than $1m, while three pieces went over $5m, and four fetched more than $10m. Nonetheless, the figures were lower than rival Sotheby's, which took $170m last night.
Despite coming out on top, Sotheby's stock dropped 8% today to $46, the biggest dip in ten months. This reflects the fundamental problem for both houses: supply. While both did well with the material on offer, neither had managed to secure a $25m-plus firecracker to really spark excitement and send prices rocketing. Meanwhile, the estimates for the more important works in both sales were often on the optimistic side, indicating that the auction houses had to work hard in enticing collectors to consign. Equally, a high volume of the pieces on offer had appeared at auction within the past decade, another sign of the struggle to get fresh material. (

1. NEW YORK, NY.- Christie's reports its two-week sales series devoted to important Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art totaled $556,944,875 (£338,398,139/€384,154,653) and yielded average sell-through rates of 87% by lot and 90% by value. These stellar results underscore Christie's position as market leader for the major spring sales series in the Americas. The next round of auctions in these categories will take place next month in London, featuring important private collections from the estate of Swiss collector and dealer Ernst Beyeler and from the pioneering curator and collector Kay Saatchi. Of the most recent sales series in New York, Marc Porter, Chairman and President of Christie's Americas, noted, “These sales were marked by strong, sensible bidding on the part of collectors, with moments of rational exuberance. Collectors and dealers alike were committed to acquiring the very best examples of work, whether from blue-chip legends like Picasso and Warhol, or from contemporary artists like Urs Fischer and Marc Quinn. We are honored that Christie’s emerged as the auction house of choice for many of this season’s most talked-about works of art – from Vlaminck’s vivid 1905 Fauvist landscape that enthralled visitors to our galleries, to Fisher’s 35,000 pound teddy bear unveiled on Park Avenue, to the 1960s-era Warhol self-portrait that inspired an epic, 16-minute bidding battle in our saleroom. We look forward to more landmark auction moments like this in our next major sales series in London this
summer. ” In total, a whopping 88 lots offered over the course of the last two weeks surpassed the $1 million price threshold. Two lots — the record-setting 1963-64 Warhol and the rediscovered Rothko — exceeded the $30 million mark, and nine lots exceeded the $10 million mark. Numerous artist records were set — for Maurice de Vlaminck, Maximilien Luce, Cindy Sherman, Urs Fischer, Richard Diebenkorn, Cy Twombly and Anselm Kiefer, among others. Among the many landmark prices achieved, Christie’s also set the record for the most expensive photograph ever sold (Sherman) and the top price for any Warhol portrait.
Among the themes and trends that emerged during the sales series was the continued demand for top-quality works by Warhol. Christie’s offered a total of 25 works by the art world’s King of Pop, realizing a combined total of  $96,729,850. The photo-booth style Self-Portrait, 1963-64 – the artist’s very first self-portrait – sold for $38,442,500 (£23,449,925/€26,909,750) after a protracted bidding competition that auctioneer Christopher Burge quipped was ―the longest lot in history‖. The price with premium surpasses the previous record of $32.5 million set for a Warhol self-portrait last year. On the same night, Self-Portrait, 1986 – from the last great self-portrait series the artist completed before his death in 1987 – sold to a bidder in the room for $27,522,500 (£16,788,725 /€19,265,750). Self-portraits by post-war and contemporary artists fared well overall, from Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Self-Portrait, 1974, which fetched $25,282,500 (£15,422,325/€17,697,750), to Cindy Sherman’s Untitled, 1981 – which
established not only a new world auction record for the artist, but also set a new world auction record for any photograph at $3,890,500 (£2,373,205/€ 2,723,350). Re-discovered works also inspired collectors this season, and Christie’s unveiled several significant paintings that had been hidden from view in private collections for decades. Leading the group is Pablo Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger, version L, one of the largest works within the artist’s groundbreaking series of 15 paintings created in 1955 in homage to the masterpiece of the same name by the 19th century master Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). Originally owned
by the legendary New York collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, the grisaille-toned painting of a single female figure was offered from a private American collection and had not been seen in public in more than 50 years. It fetched $21,362,500 (£12,817,500/ €14,312,875). In the Post-War & Contemporary sales, Mark Rothko’s Untitled No. 17, a rare discovery and heralded addition to the great Rothko canon, realized $33,682,500 (£20,546,325/€23,577,750) while Roy Lichtenstein’s drawing Study for
Kiss V, a study for one of Lichtenstein’s most famous paintings fetched $2,098,500 (£1,280,085/ € 1,468,950). This magnificent work was acquired for a mere $10 in 1965 at a New York City Happening, and had been owned by the same collector since. In addition to the new world auction records mentioned above, world records were established for the following artists, including:
• Maurice de Vlaminck - $22,482,500 for Paysage de Banlieue, 1905
• Cy Twombly - $15,202,500 for Untitled, 1967.
• Richard Diebenkorn - $7,698,500 for Ocean Park #121, 1980.
• Urs Fischer- $6,802,500 for Untitled (Lamp/Bear), 2005-2006
• Maximilien Luce - $4,226,500 for Notre-Dame de Paris, 1900
• Robert Indiana - $4,114,500 for Love Red/Blue, 1990.
• Anselm Kiefer - $3,554,500 for Laßt tausend Blumen blühen!, 1999
• Marc Quinn - $1,202,500 for Myth Venus, 2006
• George Condo - $1,052,500 for The Ballerina, 2002
• Henri Lebasque, $1,022,500 for Le goûter sur la terrasse à Sainte-Maxime, 1914
• Jean Helion, $782,500 for Sans titre, 1935
• Alexander Calder - $602,500 for Necklace, 1939
*World Auction Record for Calder Jewelry

What's Happening Now Around the World

 4.  Utah .Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY, UT (AP).- Book dealer Ken Sanders has seen a lot of nothing in his decades appraising "rare" finds pulled from attics and basements, storage sheds and closets. Sanders, who occasionally appraises items for PBS's Antiques Roadshow, often employs "the fine art of letting people down gently." But on a recent Saturday while volunteering at a fundraiser for the small town
museum in Sandy, Utah, just south of Salt Lake, Sanders got the surprise of a lifetime. "Late in the afternoon, a man sat down and started unwrapping a book from a big plastic sack, informing me he had a really, really old book and he thought it might be worth some money," he said. "I kinda start, oh boy, I've heard this
before." Then he produced a tattered, partial copy of the 500-year-old Nuremberg Chronicle.
The German language edition printed by Anton Koberger and published in 1493 is a world history beginning in biblical times. It's considered to be one of the earliest and most lavishly illustrated books produced after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and revolutionized publishing. "I was just absolutely astounded. I was flabbergasted, particularly here in the interior West," Sanders said. "We might see a lot of rare Mormon books and other treasures, but you don't expect to see a five centuries old book, you don't
expect to see one of the oldest printed books in the world pop up in Sandy, Utah." The book's owner has declined to be identified, but Sanders said it was passed down to the man by his great uncle and had been just gathering dust in his attic for decades. Because of the cotton bond paper it was printed on, not wood pulp paper like most present-day works, Sanders said the remaining pages have been well-preserved albeit literally coming apart at the seams "Barring further calamity or disaster, it will last another 500 years," he said.
And Sanders is certain it's not a fake. "It passes the smell test," he said. "I'm not sure there's ever been a forger born who is ambitious enough to hand-create a five centuries old book in a manner sufficient enough to fool people." But what's it actually worth? Turns out, not much. It is believed there are several hundred copies in circulation worldwide, making it not-so-rare of a find, and about two-thirds of its pages are missing.
Still, it's not the monetary value that excites Sanders. "Just the opportunity to handle something from the very beginning of the printed word and the book itself, especially, ironically, in the 21st century with all this talk of the death of the book, and here we have a book that's survived 500-plus years," he said. "It's just exciting ... The value of an artifact like this to me is the least interesting part of it all." Sanders is displaying the copy at his rare book shop in Salt Lake City. San Francisco-based antiquities book dealer John Windle said if this copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle were in mint condition and fully intact, it could be worth up to a million dollars. One in such shape sold last year at a London auction for about $850,000, Windle said, but not so much because it's such a rare find. "The rarity of the book has almost nothing to do with its value," he said. "If
you're collecting monuments of printing history, monuments of human history, if you're collecting achievements of the human spirit through the printed word, this is one of the foundation books ... Every book collector wants a copy of that book or at least some pages from it." Windle noted that while its worth to collectors is priceless, it is "probably the most common book from the 15th century making its way onto the market these days." "We have a saying in the book trade: there's nothing as common as a rare book," he added. Because of this book's tattered state, Windle said it's likely worth less than $50,000.
"It basically kills the value," he said. "If it turned up in perfect condition in Salt Lake City, now that would be amazing. That would be astounding." Luise Poulton, curator and head of rare books at the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library, called it "an exciting find," but largely just because of the way it surfaced.
"It's that classic story," said Poulton, who has several pages from another copy of a Nuremberg Chronicle on display. "You really never know what's in your attic."

7. CAIRO, April 18 (Reuters) - Security has been tightened around Egypt's antiquities trove, the target of looters during mass protests, the country's top archaeologist said on Monday, adding he would now resume a quest to repatriate prized items.Several Pharaonic-era treasures went missing when looters broke into the
Egyptian Museum on Jan. 28 at the height of clashes between police and protesters who eventually deposed President Hosni Mubarak.Thieves also broke into a warehouse near the pyramids of Dahshour, 35 km
(22 miles) south of Cairo, striking twice within the span of a few days and taking hundreds of items.
Some items have since been returned, and security has been reinstated around several tourist sites after the protests died down and a military council took over from Mubarak."We are now protecting the Egyptian monuments, we're putting security everywhere ... we are putting guards with guns everywhere," Zahi Hawass, the Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, told Reuters. "People feel the stability now." 

10. AMMAN (AP).- Jordan on Tuesday launched the world's largest online antiquities database, which details every archaeological site in the country and aims to help preserve its treasures. Its creators said the Web platform could be a model for Iraq, where looters have plundered its ancient heritage. Experts said the Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities is the first such countrywide system. The site uses Geographic Information System, similar to Google Earth, to map 11,000 registered sites in the country — and a click on
each reveals inventories of what they contain and reports on their conditions. The public can use the material for planning visits. Scholars and inspectors approved by Jordan's Antiquities can update the information in a user-friendly way for other professionals to follow and for authorities to keep track of threats to the sites.
Jordan hosts a number of World Heritage sites, most famously the 2,000 year-old rose rock city of Petra — but also Umm er-Rassas, a city dating back to the 5th century that features ancient Byzantine churches, and Qasr Amra, an 8th century Islamic castle. It is also dotted with sites dating from the Neolithic Age, through Biblical times to the Crusades. The $1 million MEGA program was developed in cooperation with Getty
Institute of Los Angeles and the New York-based World Monuments Fund. "Jordan is at the forefront of safeguarding its heritage," Getty's director Tim Whalen said at an Amman press conference with antiquities chief Ziad al-Saad unveiling the system. "A piece of software is not going to stop looting," Whalen said, but MEGA's cataloging system will enable "greater protection and attention to archaeological heritage."
Archaeologists have increasingly used GIS and similar technologies to inventory digs and other uses. But Barbara A. Porter, director of the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, said that MEGA "is the first of its kind." "It has been a huge undertaking in terms of its breadth, time and finance. Rarely do you find that amount of money involved in creating such a system," said Porter, whose center was not involved in developing MEGA. Joseph Greene, the assistant director at Harvard University's Semitic Museum, said MEGA stands out from among other GIS archaeological systems, which have been more narrow in scope and intention. MEGA is the "first countrywide system used by an antiquities department" and is unique because it can used both for research and for managing sites in a readily usable format, he said.
The online system defines the boundaries of each site, an important factor in trying to prevent urban encroachment on antiquities zones, its creators say. It can help authorities in planning strategies for research and tourism development, and makes it easier for government agencies to share information. Those working in the field can report theft of wear and tear caused by tourist traffic. Al-Saad said the system is expected to be used regionally, especially in Iraq, which has seen widescale damage and theft of its extensive archaeological treasures. Whalen said MEGA will give Iraqi colleagues a modern way to inventory the
country's sites, their condition, potential threats, but "most importantly identify their geographical boundaries in a relatively easy-to-use system."

 8. The Art Newspaper The price of a Picasso loan Musée Picasso director reveals the cost of borrowing
By Gareth Harris | From issue 223, April 2010 Published online 6 Apr 11 (Museums) Anne Baldassari defends the Musée Picasso’s loan fees PARIS. The director of the Musée Picasso has defended her decision to organise an international touring exhibition to raise money for the Paris  museum’s renovation. Anne Baldassari, the museum’s director, told Le Monde: “Producing exhibitions abroad is our only resource. Japanese museums suggested remuneration for loans, which has been a practice of US and European museums for a while.” She added that money received also helps finance conservation and acquisitions.
Baldassari revealed the museum raised between €1m and €3.5m a year since 2008 from the touring exhibition “Masterpieces from the Picasso Museum”. It has visited eight cities so far, including Madrid, Helsinki and Tokyo. “We have made [in total] €16m,” she said, adding that the museum levied different
charges for loans. “The tariffs vary according to the number of works, the team [involved] and the expertise.”
In 2005 the museum lent paintings and sculptures to Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie exhibition “The Private Picasso” for a €700,000 fee, a museum spokeswoman confirmed. The Musée Picasso has over 5,000 works, including 3,700 works on paper, in its collection. Closed for renovation since late 2009, it hopes to raise €23m towards the €45m refurbishment of its home, a 17th-century townhouse. The ministry of culture will provide €19m, which “leaves €3.5m, which I’m certain we’ ll find”, says Baldassari. The museum is due to reopen in spring 2013. Baldassari’s comments follow the publication earlier this year of a report by
the General Association of Curators of French Public Collections expressing concern about cuts in state funding for French museums. Over 1,000 curators signed the document that reportedly criticised the “extreme free-market logic” increasingly adopted by national museums, a barb aimed at the Musée
Picasso. “My aim is to find ways of reopening this museum to the biggest audience possible,” said Baldassari, adding: “Our exhibitions are not mercantile, cynical or without value.”The director was recently at the centre of another furore when she refused to loan 12 works to the Kunsthaus Zürich for its 100th anniversary Picasso show, which closed in January. Baldassari said that some of these pieces were too fragile to travel.
She also added that there was a “loan freeze” implemented by the French government in 2009 for works that were not already on tour.

9. ROUEN, FRANCE (AP).- A French museum has returned the mummified and tattooed head of a Maori to New Zealand officials after spending 136 years in a Normandy museum, a belated gesture to restore dignity to the first of 16 such human heads once displayed as exotic curiosities. Representatives of New Zealand's native Maori people sang traditional songs during an elaborate ceremony at Rouen City Hall to hand over the head to New Zealand diplomats, the first to be returned from of a total of 16 in France.
"It's truly a solemn and symbolic day," New Zealand ambassador Rosmary Banks said. "We are very happy at the return" of the tattooed head after so many years in Rouen, Banks said. For years, New Zealand has sought the return of Maori heads kept in collections abroad, many of which were obtained by Westerners in exchange for weapons and other goods. Dozens of museums worldwide, though not all, have agreed to return them. Maori, the island nation's indigenous people, believe their ancestors' remains should be respected in their home area without being disturbed. Michelle Hippolite, a Maori spiritual leader and co-director of the museum in Wellington that will take possession of the head, welcomed the return. She said
that the other 15, now at museum all around France, will be returned in 2012. Hippolite said that "though it may appear" that Rouen's museum is losing part of its collection, it is gaining "an ongoing relationship with a modern people, a people of its time who are tenacious, a people of its time who are courageous."
The Rouen Museum tried once before, in 2007, to return the head but was stopped at the last minute by the Culture Ministry of France. France considers human remains conserved in museums to be part of its cultural or scientific heritage. A law was passed last year allowing the return of the heads. French Sen. Catherine Morin-Desailly authored the bill to return the heads. Scientists at Wellington's Te Papa museum will attempt to identify the head's tribe, after which it will be returned to the tribe for burial. Some Maori heads, with intricate tattoos, were traditionally kept as trophies from tribal warfare. But once Westerners began offering prized goods in exchange for them, men were in danger of being killed simply for their tattoos, French museum officials have said. Little is known about how the Rouen Museum acquired a Maori head in 1875,
offered by a Parisian named Drouet. "It's an enigma," said museum director Sebastien Minchin, adding that neither Drouet's full name nor profession is known. The head has not been displayed since 1996, when the museum was closed for a decade. Prior to that the head was displayed with the prehistoric collection.
"As was done at the time, they compared the 'savage' from the other side of the world with our local cavemen," Minchin said in a telephone interview. It isn't known whether the Rouen museum's head belonged to a warrior or a slave. The head will be first taken to London where New Zealand officials are collecting other Maori heads that have been returned from collections in Germany, Sweden and Norway, before being flown to New Zealand, where they will be handed over during a ceremony at the Te Papa museum on
Thursday. So far the Te Papa museum has repatriated more than 180 ancestral remains from 12 countries. Museum officials estimate that there are still more than 500 around the world. When Minchin became director in 2006 and discovered the head, he decided to store it because exposing it "could pose problems" for both the Maoris and the public. Minchin said that the problem goes beyond legal issues in France. He said he was criticized for opening "Pandora's box" when he first tried to return the head. "There is a fear of emptying our museums," he said. "There is a fear of restitution demands for other human remains, and notably Egyptian mummies." France passed a special law before the 2002 return to South Africa of the skeleton and bottled organs of Saartjie Baartman, a 19th century African woman exhibited in Paris and London, sometimes in a cage, sometimes dressed in feathers, under the pejorative nickname, "the Hottentot Venus."

The Death of American Indian Art

Mr. Rosenbloom's article begs the question why is it necessary to present contemporary american indian art as a continuum of art from the 16th century to the present. Why can't native american artist be regarded as artists first and their origins second. Great art whether it be of Chinese, African, American Indian stands alone to judged by its merits as art. For Mr. Glowver, the present director of the National Museum of American Indian to politicize what is supposed to a museum is unfortunate in many respects. There certainly is a place to raise these questiond to focus on the suffering and injustice endured by the American indian community. I have nevcer understood the need to intermingle  traditiona arts produced within a cultural contaxt and made for ceremonial use within that culture with art made foir commercial purposes. It reduces to NMAI to nothing more than a cultural center, which in fact is precisely what many in the Ntaive American community seems to want. And Gustav Heye whose intent when he left his collection to New York City certainly didn't embrace this philosophy. What are we doing. Is it to celebrate the derivative aspect of contemporary art. Do we have a need  for political retribution. Are we saying that Native American artists can only survive within this cutlural context. Are we just being politically correct to atone for the atrocities commited by our ancestors. Are we moving in this direction because we feel that is where the support is and ultimately it is all about the money. If so why can't we have contemporary indian art museums that won't pretend that they celebrate the traditional arts of the past. Some supporters of this new trend stated that their  mission was to change the steroetypes of the past. Really what better way to do that than to use the art NMAI now owns to educate us about the past. Some of the most extraordinary leaders in this country were native americans and nobody knows about them. And whose fault is that. This beautiful building and amazing collection provides NMAI and other museums around the country such as Denever and Minneapolis to do something very special for future generations. It looks like this will not happen. And unfortunately the public is so unaware of what is happening, they won't even know what they missed.. So much of NMAI vast collection will remain in storage only accessible by the select few that pass screening. What a shame for all of us regardless of our origin or political persuasion.
NEW YORK CITY - Wall Street Journbal - By LEE ROSENBAUM
Everyone who visits a museum display about American Indians "wants to see feathers, tepees and horses," Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian, lamented recently in his Washington office. But new installations at NMAI's New York facility, as well as at the Denver Art Museum and Brooklyn Museum, are out to prove, in Mr. Gover's words, that "Indians are not what you think they are."
The effect of these stereotype-busting displays is sometimes jarring, especially because the canon now includes contemporary art. Today's curators want visitors to view Indian artworks not as quaint ethnographic artifacts, but as vital expressions of a living culture, spanning prehistory to the present.
Nowhere is this impulse stronger than at the Denver Art Museum. Its completely reconceived 23,000-square-foot installation features about 90 works created since 1950, part of an entirely new display of 700 highlights from one of the finest, deepest collections of such material in the country—some 18,000 pieces, collected over the past 85 years. Organized into nine geographic areas, it jumbles old and new in provocative, sometimes exasperating ways.
One of Denver's great masterpieces is a 1720s Eastern Sioux deerskin shirt embellished with painted abstract designs, possibly representing birds. The curators invite its comparison to a nearby 2010 fringed "war shirt" commissioned from Bently Spang, the suddenly ubiquitous Northern Cheyenne artist whose designs, which are meant to be seen, not worn, are also on view in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Composed from memory cards, plastic and hemp cord, Mr. Spang's boxy creations stitch together photographs of images from his Montana homeland, such as flowers and rocks.
Even more unexpected is the elevation to museum status of a brown paper grocery bag bearing the image of the late rock star Jimi Hendrix. Seneca artist G. Peter Jemison improbably likens his perfunctorily painted "Summertime Blues" (2001) to the elegant, intricately decorated rawhide pouches and beaded bags of his ancestors. "Everything in this gallery was new when it was made. . . . I didn't want to separate prehistoric from historic from contemporary," explained Nancy Blomberg, Denver's curator of native arts, whose mission is to attach artists' names to as many historic pieces as possible. And the contemporary focus includes some seductive objects that resonate with earlier pieces, such as a voluptuously curved jar of glistening micaceous clay by Lonnie Vigil of the Nambe Pueblo, displayed near a superb assortment of more traditional Pueblo pottery.
Close connections with current tribe members have not only beefed up contemporary holdings but greatly enriched curators' understanding of historic pieces. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than at the NMAI, which owes the preponderance of its vast collection to the voracious collecting habits of founder George Gustav Heye (1874-1957), whose acquisitiveness was not always matched by his understanding. Consulting with relevant tribes, the museum's staff is still correcting Heye's misidentifications of some of his holdings.
Ms. Blomberg's consultations with tribal experts included posing this question to Susi Silook, a Yup'ik/Inupiaq sculptor from Alaska: "Why would someone go to all the trouble to decorate a utilitarian tool like a harpoon head?" The beguiling answer found its way onto a label for Denver's finely engraved ancient Inupiaq and Yup'ik ivory hunting tools: "Highly skilled artists created these elegant tools to please the spirits of the animals being hunted."
Contact with Indian advisers, while enhancing displays, can also sometimes diminish them. Because tribal authorities consulted by Brooklyn Museum curators Nancy Rosoff and Susan Kennedy Zeller strongly objected to public exposure of artifacts imbued with a warrior's power, you won't find any historic shields displayed in that museum's deeply informative, child-friendly temporary exhibition, "Tipi: Heritage of the Great Plains" (to May 15). By contrast, one of the stars in the permanent collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. (reviewed here last year), is a rawhide Arikara shield from North Dakota (c. 1850) bearing the image of a buffalo bull.
Brooklyn had to settle for a contemporary "shield"—a brightly colored glass circle by Marcus Amerman, Choctaw, decorated with images inspired by Lakota warrior Rain-in-the-Face's magisterial buffalo-hide shield, shown in the large photomural on the opposite wall.
The show's three full-size tepees—two newly commissioned—are promotional hooks for a much broader display of intricately adorned apparel, tools, implements, horse trappings, containers, children's objects and, of course, tepee furnishings, half of which were drawn from Brooklyn's usually underutilized collection.
Unlike the offerings in Brooklyn and Denver, the permanent-collection displays at the NMAI, part of the Smithsonian Institution, don't indulge the public's appetite for fully assembled painted tepees. The introductory gallery in the definitive "Infinity of Nations," a 10-year permanent-collection installation that recently opened at the NMAI's New York outpost, also defies public expectations about headgear: It omits the resplendently feathered, full-length warrior bonnet in favor of an array of 10 fanciful examples of headgear—everything from a conical wooden Yu'pik (Alaska) hunting hat decorated with carved-ivory sea mammals to a Yoeme (Mexico) dance headdress topped by a realistically rendered deer's head with antlers.
Curated by Cécile Ganteaume, with multimedia commentary by tribe members and scholars, "Infinity of Nations" takes visitors on an in-depth journey from South America to the Arctic, with engagingly presented information about objects, cultures, individual artists and historical figures. It ends with a contemporary section featuring 18 artists. Washington's NMAI also accords prominence to contemporary art in curator Rebecca Head Trautmann's wide-ranging, thematically organized "Vantage Point" show (to Aug. 7), displaying 31 works it acquired over the past seven years.
Unlike other museums that are ramping up their consultations with tribal communities, the NMAI plans to rely more strongly on its own expertise. (It is already largely staffed by American Indians, including its director, a member of the Pawnee and Comanche tribes.) The objective is to make its presentations "more consistent in voice and more cogent in narrative," Mr. Gover explained.
For the first time, he disclosed plans for a complete reinstallation of the Washington museum, beginning in 2014. The new approach he described may deflect the harshest attack directed at the inaugural displays by some American Indians—that the depredations and atrocities suffered by indigenous people at the hands of white invaders were soft-pedaled. New displays will likely focus on several provocative themes, according to Mr. Gover, a lawyer with scant background in art or museums. Among them: the devastation of the indigenous population "on the order of 90% to 95%"; the role of contact with Europeans as "the definitional event that shaped the modern world."
References to "massacre" and "genocide" may be included, if deemed appropriate by the curators, said Mr. Gover, who succeeded director W. Richard West Jr. three years ago. "You don't have an American Indian museum without discussion of dispossession and death on a scale unknown in human history," he declared.
This approach may put the Washington museum even more at odds with those art lovers who found the inaugural installation too political and polemical. And it would move the museum even further from its origins as a showcase for the trove assembled by Heye.
Perhaps more critically, it is not certain how a heightened focus on injustice and grievances will be viewed by the amateur art critics who meet just down the road—members of Congress who oversee the Smithsonian and currently appropriate some 60% of the NMAI's operating budget.
"I don't think it is controversial," Mr. Gover said of his new approach. "Two years ago, Congress passed an apology resolution. . . . I think the country has never been more ready for this."
Ms. Rosenbaum writes for the Journal on art and museums and blogs as CultureGrrl at International Art Markets

Books and Articles to Check Out May 2011

1.  LOS ANGELES, CA Kevin Roderick  Getty's history of looted antiquities goes way back ..  May 2 2011
In their forthcoming book "Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum," Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino will detail the story of the looted Aphrodite statue that the Getty returned to Sicily in March. A piece adapted from the book in this weekend's L.A. Times Magazine goes further back to tell the story of some pretty ballsy scams they write were perpetrated by Jiri Frel, the museum’s antiquities curator in the 1970s and '80s. The scam involved inflated valuations of art acquired by the Getty, forged appraisals and tax fraud.
In late April 1984, Williams, Walsh and Bevan called Frel into Williams’ office and put him on paid leave pending further investigation. Not long after, Frel went home, packed a bag and caught a flight for Europe—leaving behind his position at the Getty and his wife, Faya, and two sons. He continued to receive his regular salary for the next two years. Museum staff was told Frel was on sabbatical in Paris, and that was the last most of them ever heard of him. The true story of Frel’s ignominious departure was kept very quiet. Bevan’s final suggestion was that all of the documents “relating to Frel’s corruption” be gathered and removed from the building so they couldn’t be subpoenaed. With that, the cover-up appeared complete.
Felch is a Times investigative reporter. Frammolino used to be and now is a media consultant in Bangladesh. The book is due out May 24.

2. New York (New York Times. It was the third police raid on the institute, and at the end of it the investigators carried away armloads of art, including Degas drawings, a bronze sculpture by Rembrandt Bugatti and an Impressionist painting of a Normandy cottage by Berthe Morisot. All had been reported missing or stolen, some by Jewish families whose property was looted by the Nazis, and others by heirs who said their treasures had vanished during the settlement of their family estates.
The seizure of about 30 works has put an uncomfortable focus on the Wildenstein family, a discreet dynasty of French Jewish art dealers stretching back five generations whose name has long been one of the most prestigious in the international art world.
At the center of the current wave of troubles is Guy Wildenstein, 65, the president of Wildenstein & Company, an operation with spaces in New York, Tokyo and Paris. The family has faced controversies in the past, and lawsuits too, but never of the number or magnitude of those on the docket now. Mr. Wildenstein was summoned to Paris from New York to face questioning this week by French antifraud investigators who discovered the artworks while investigating money-laundering and tax evasion alleged in a criminal lawsuit against him.
Mr. Wildenstein, who holds dual French and American citizenship, is enmeshed in at least a half-dozen lawsuits; some, provoked by the raid, are being brought by heirs who claim the artwork was stolen from their families. Also seeking answers is the Académie des Beaux-Arts, a prestigious French cultural society that has filed a legal complaint seeking an inquiry about a missing painting; Mr. Wildenstein’s father, Daniel, and grandfather Georges were elected members.
Mr. Wildenstein has declined to speak publicly about the inquiry or the suits. His newly hired spokesman in Paris, Matthias Leridon, said by telephone on Friday that Mr. Wildenstein “will not answer by using the media.” “Let’s be calm and quiet and wait for the questions coming from the judges, and after he will express himself,” Mr. Leridon said, noting that Mr. Wildenstein has been called to answer questions at this point as a witness and not as a suspect.  See:

3. Who Owns Antiquity - James Cuno
"Whether antiquities should be returned to the countries where they were found is one of the most urgent and controversial issues in the art world today, and it has pitted museums, private collectors, and dealers against source countries, archaeologists, and academics. Maintaining that the acquisition of undocumented antiquities by museums encourages the looting of archaeological sites, countries such as Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and China have claimed ancient artifacts as state property, called for their return from museums around the world, and passed laws against their future export. But in Who Owns Antiquity?, one of the world's leading museum directors vigorously challenges this nationalistic position, arguing that it is damaging and often disingenuous. "Antiquities," James Cuno argues, "are the cultural property of all humankind," "evidence of the world's ancient past and not that of a particular modern nation. They comprise antiquity, and antiquity knows no borders."
Cuno argues that nationalistic retention and reclamation policies impede common access to this common heritage and encourage a dubious and dangerous politicization of antiquities--and of culture itself. Antiquities need to be protected from looting but also from nationalistic identity politics. To do this, Cuno calls for measures to broaden rather than restrict international access to antiquities. He advocates restoration of the system under which source countries would share newly discovered artifacts in exchange for archaeological help, and he argues that museums should again be allowed reasonable ways to acquire undocumented antiquities. Cuno explains how partage broadened access to our ancient heritage and helped create national museums in Cairo, Baghdad, and Kabul. The first extended defense of the side of museums in the struggle over antiquities, Who Owns Antiquity? is sure to be as important as it is controversial.
"A condemnation of cultural property laws that restrict the international trade in antiquities, the book doubles as a celebration of the world's great border-crossing encyclopedic museums."--Jori Finkel, New York Times
"Who Owns Antiquity? is an impassioned argument for what Cuno calls the 'cosmopolitan aspirations' of encyclopedic museums. By this he means not only collecting and showing art from every place and era, but also, and more crucially, the promotion of an essential kind of cultural pluralism. . . . Whatever one makes of Cuno's thesis, it brings into focus some urgent questions--for museums and for archaeology--that have yet to be given much attention."--Hugh Eakin, New York Review of Books
"Who Owns Antiquity? by Art Institute of Chicago director James Cuno deals with one of the most sensitive questions in today's art world: Should antiquities be returned to their country of origin? [T]his book provides a lot of worthwhile background."--Wall Street Journal
"It would be a mistake to see this deeply felt and carefully reasoned argument as self-serving. The crux of his argument is that modern nation-states have at best a tenuous connection with the ancient cultures in question, and their interests are political rather than scientific...Cuno advocates instead a universal, humanistic approach to the world's shared cultural treasures...Cuno's pleas for a more expansive approach to cultural artifacts must be taken seriously."--Publishers Weekly
"[A]n"--Edward Rothstein, New York Times
"The author's message is that stewardship, not ownership, is what matters. Trade in antiquities should be dictated not by politics, but by the demands of conservation, knowledge, and access. The argument presented here is thought-provoking. Cuno may be over-optimistic. But you can't help feeling that he is right."--Financial Times" (

US Art Museums - Buying, Rennovating, Changing Leadership

1. DALLAS, TX.-( )  The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) today announced that Bonnie Pitman will step down from her position as the Museum’s Eugene McDermott Director in May 2011 for health reasons. Ms. Pitman will continue to work with the Museum and its Board of Trustees on special projects through April 2012, and will help with the search and transition to the new director. The Museum concurrently announced that Olivier Meslay will serve as the interim director. Mr. Meslay currently holds the joint position of Senior Curator of European and American Art and the Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art.
“We have been incredibly fortunate to have had Bonnie in a leadership role at the Museum for more than a decade. She is an inspiring and visionary leader and has been a tremendous force for innovation and growth at the Museum,” stated John Eagle, President of the DMA Board of Trustees. “We deeply regret that her tenure could not be longer, but her health and well-being must come first and we accept her decision. We remain grateful for her dedication and service to the DMA and to the greater Dallas community.”
“The ten years I have spent at the Dallas Museum of Art have been the most professionally and personally rewarding of my career,” said Pitman. “As the Eugene McDermott Director and before that as Deputy Director, it has been an honor to work with the creative and dedicated staff and trustees of the DMA to transform our institution. The DMA is poised to be the center of this great city's cultural life for many decades to come. I look forward to assisting the Board, Olivier and the staff with the transition and appointment of a new director.”
Ms. Pitman joined the DMA as Deputy Director in 2000 and assumed her current role as Director in 2008. Her tenure at the Museum is distinguished by her development of innovative collection-based programming and her dedication to curatorial excellence and community engagement. In a time of economic uncertainty, Ms. Pitman has led the Museum to the completion of its Campaign for a New Century, which raised $187 million in support of its endowment and programs.
During her tenure as director, the DMA further invigorated its mission through a multi-year surveying of its audiences that was used for the development of new programmatic strategies for engaging the community. This research and the resulting initiatives are documented in the recent book Ignite the Power of Art, co-written by Ms. Pitman, which provides an important new model for how museums can provide more enriching experiences for diverse audiences. In putting this research into practice, the DMA’s attendance has grown more than 100% and more than half of these visitors participate in education and public programs. This research followed Ms. Pitman’s watershed report from the 1990s, Excellence and Equity: Education and the Public Dimension of Museums, which radically reframed how museums interact with their communities and set industry standards for best practices in the field.
“Bonnie’s vision and tremendous contributions have extended beyond the Dallas Museum of Art to the museum field at large,” said Eagle. “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we thank her for her intelligence and her commitment, which have allowed us to better serve our audiences and have encouraged and inspired her peers to engage the public in exciting and meaningful ways.”
The Museum is forming a search committee to begin the process of appointing the next Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art.

2. . LOUISVILLE, KY.- The Speed Art Museum has unveiled the design for a major expansion and renovation of its facilities, encompassing 200,000 square feet of new and renovated interior and exterior space. Growing out of the Museum’s long-range master planning process, the Speed commissioned wHY Architecture—led by Kulapat Yantrasast, working with his partners Richard Stoner and Yo-ichiro Hakomori —for the project.
The design includes the construction of two new buildings, both of which will link directly to the Museum’s existing structure and unify the Speed’s facility, which has grown sporadically over time. The Speed is uniquely positioned to serve as a cultural hub for the city as it is sited adjacent to the University of Louisville campus and the city’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfare—more than 5,000 people walk by the Museum site each day. The new structure to the north of the Speed’s historic original building (see above) is designed to be largely transparent—literally opening the Speed to the community. The project will also feature a new Art Park and public piazza on the Speed’s 6 acre site. Boston-based landscape architects Reed-Hilderbrand are designing the plan for the site in a modern-day realization of an idea first conceived by the Olmsted Brothers. Olmsted and his sons, who created an extensive park system in Louisville , envisioned the Museum site as greenspace linking the University of Louisville campus and the rest of the city’s park system, but their plan was never fully realized.
The total master plan consists of three phases and is estimated eventually to cost approximately $79 million for construction and growth to the Museum’s endowment. The budget for the first phase is $57 million, which includes construction of the new North Building and the adjacent Art Park and piazza, as well as an increase to the Speed’s endowment. This campaign is the largest ever undertaken by a cultural organization in Louisville. The Speed is already more than halfway to its goal for Phase I with $31 million raised to date. Work on Phase I, which encompasses the building of a new structure to the north, is scheduled to begin in 2011 and to be completed in 2015.
The complete expansion and renovation will take place in three phases, allowing the collection and staff to remain on site and the Museum to remain open to the public throughout the project. As noted, Phase I is scheduled to begin in 2011 and be completed in 2015. This phase includes the construction of a new 53,000 square-foot building on the north side of the existing facility as well as the outdoor Art Park and public piazza. To provide better access for those visiting the Museum and using the University of Louisville campus, the entry drive will be re-routed and the exterior of the existing parking garage will be planted with flowering vines to “green” its facade. Phase II includes the renovation of the Speed’s currently facility and its adjacent grounds. Phase III focuses on the construction of a new 5,000 square-foot building on the south side of the Speed’s current campus. The project will be environmentally friendly, and the Speed is seeking a LEED certification.
As the Museum moves forward with its expansion project, it is also in the midst of a comprehensive and systematic review of its 14,000-piece collection. This process is identifying key areas for collection growth and refinement, with the goal of strengthening the Museum’s holdings and making the collection more relevant and meaningful for its community and visitors. The expansion will provide flexible exhibition spaces to present the Speed’s collection and new acquisitions for the public, along with new facilities for collection care and research.
The expansion and renovation plans can be seen in detail, along with a computer animated “fly through” of the new design, in the special exhibition Unveiling the New Speed: A Model of the Future, currently on view at the

3.   BENTONVILLE, ARK. ( The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announced three endowments from the Walton Family Foundation.
“We are in the fortunate position of having a founding donor family that understands the need for stability and sustainability going forward, and therefore has worked with us to create the base endowments upon which we will build and grow,” Dr. Bacigalupi said. “These extraordinary gifts mean we are now able to turn to our community with confidence when we ask for its participation and involvement – confidence that we are here for the duration and that we will be a force in this region and in the field of museums and art history for generations to come.”
To operate a museum of the scale and ambition of Crystal Bridges, an initial operating budget of approximately $16-20 million has been forecasted, putting the Museum in the company of institutions such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum. The largest portion of these expenses will be met by the operating endowment, which has been funded by the Walton Family Foundation with a gift of $350 million.
The second endowment is for acquisitions, supported by a $325 million gift. This endowment will provide annual funding for purchases for the collection, or will accumulate a fund balance to prepare for periodic major acquisitions.
The third endowment is for capital improvements. Crystal Bridges has a campus of eight pavilions, all of them unique and site specific. To ensure that capital needs are met, the Foundation has made a grant of $125 million for future improvements and maintenance. This endowment will primarily be a rainy day fund.
These three endowments will be supplemented with other gifts and memberships, as well as earned income. The Walton Family Foundation gift will be enhanced with contributions from other donors.
“We seek thoughtful, strategic investments that create and strengthen partnerships with our grantees and the communities they serve. By investing in the endowment of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, my family has laid a foundation on which this institution can continue to grow as a resource for our community, state and nation,” said Alice L. Walton, member, Walton Family Foundation Board of Directors. “This endowment investment is core to the Foundation’s goal of further enhancing the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas and enabling the region to continue to flourish.”

4. AUSTIN, TEXAS ( More Texas Turnover: Ned Rifkin Resigns From The Blanton
More turnover at the top of a yet another Texas museum: Earlier this week, Ned Rifkin resigned as director of the Blanton Museum at the University of Texas at Austin, less than two years after he arrived. The university's provost, Steven W. Leslie, immediately promoted the deputy director for external affairs and operations, Simone Wicha, to the top slot.
Rifkin stays on at the university to do research and teach, but his quick replacement probably reflects unhappiness with within the Blanton/university. The exact nature of Rifkin's difficulties -- or disagreements with the powers that be -- are unclear, but his departure has been rumored for weeks.
Rifkin came to the Blanton from the post of Undersecretary for Art at the Smithsonian. Before that, at the job he held until 2001, he was director of the Menil Collection in Houston, where he faced a board divided by his leadership and performance, a situation recounted here on Rifkin also once headed both the High Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum.
In the press release announcing Rifkin's resignation from the Blanton, Leslie said the university appreciated his knowledge, and noted that Rifkin had improved student involvement with the museum, but not much else.
It was Rifkin, who reorganized the Blanton's staff last April, who had promoted Wicha from director of development to deputy director.
Like the Blanton -- Austin's largest art museum -- both Houston's biggest, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Dallas's, the Dallas Museum of Art, are experiencing leadership change. The MFA's beloved director, Peter C. Marzio, died last December, and Bonnie Pittman, the DMA's much-loved director, recently announced that she would step down because of health reasons.

5.   BALTIMORE, MD.-  (artdaily) The Baltimore Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees today announced its selection of the Maryland-based architecture firm Ziger/Snead to work with the Museum on its ambitious $24 million capital renovation. The decision follows a comprehensive year-long selection process. The BMA’s much-anticipated renovation—scheduled to be completed in 2014 during the BMA’s 100th Anniversary—will create dynamic spaces for art and people and ensure the BMA is a magnet for new generations of visitors.
In January 2010, the Board formed an Architect Selection Committee and, recognizing the abundance of highly qualified firms in our state, voted to consider only architecture firms headquartered in Maryland. This is the first time the BMA has focused a search exclusively on Maryland-based architects for a project of this scale. It is estimated that the entire renovation project will create 185 jobs in construction and related industries.
The capital renovation is the result of nearly a decade of careful planning by the Museum’s Board of Trustees and staff, including a long-term strategic plan, an architectural master plan, and a campaign feasibility study. Ziger/Snead will undertake conceptual design planning throughout the summer.
“We have long admired the BMA’s original building designed by John Russell Pope and we see this as an opportunity to bring fresh, relevant, welcoming, and dynamic changes to greatly enrich each visitor’s experience,” said Steve Ziger. “We also fully recognize how critically important this project is to the BMA, our City, and the broader community.”
The $24 million project will bring significant improvements for the visitor experience, including enhancements of galleries housing three major art collections—Contemporary, American, and African; improvements to the East Lobby; and upgrades to visitor amenities. Much needed improvements in essential infrastructure, including two new roofs and a state-of-the-art building automation system, will improve care of the 90,000 works of art in the BMA’s world-class collection. The BMA will remain open and will continue to offer free admission during the renovation to ensure its service to the community.

6.  CLEVELAND, OH.- "The Cleveland Museum of Art acquired two noteworthy objects of the ancient Andean Wari people at auction. The unique and celebrated Bag with Human Head is a painted animal hide pouch in superb condition exhibiting a remarkably lifelike head that may represent a young warrior; and Vessel with Litter Group is a ceramic container depicting an unusually elaborate sculptured vignette: a dignitary who sits in a litter carried on the shoulders of four porters.
Both objects are rare and will be showcased in a 2012-13 traveling exhibition on the art of the Wari organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art. Wari: Realm of the Condor is the first North American special exhibition devoted to the arts of the Wari, who may have forged the first empire of the ancient Andes. The museum’s Wari collection consists of a combination of important objects and textiles and represents artwork of the Central Andes (today, mainly Peru), a major Amerindian cultural region that was home to the Inca empire.
“The acquisition of these two Wari objects demonstrates the museum’s commitment to pursue works of art that will strengthen our ancient American collections, and to use the exhibitions we originate as opportunities to develop our holdings in specific areas,” stated C. Griffith Mann, Ph.D., the museum’s deputy director and chief curator. “Works of art like this bag have a remarkable physical presence, and bring us face to face with a past that scholars are still working to understand.”
Vessel with Litter Group, Ancient Andean Wari people. Middle Horizon, 600-1000 A.D. Ceramic, slip; height: 28 cm.
Only a few Wari ceramic litter scenes are known, and this is the most elaborate among them. This ceramic vessel shows a seated lord whose striped tunic and facial decoration may refer to regional origin or social position. The porters wear the same facial decoration along with simple clothing that befits their status: loincloths and ring-like headbands. The figures sit atop a domed chamber that is encircled by a register of chevron designs. Litters were generally reserved for persons of distinguished status.
The Wari Culture
The Wari were a people of the Andes Mountains in Peru who, between about 600 and 1000 A.D., forged a cosmopolitan society that many today interpret as one of the western hemisphere’s first empires. Important forerunners of the more famous Inka of the 15th and 16th centuries, the Wari built a sprawling capital city that is one of the largest, most impressive archaeological sites in South America. Like other ancient Andean cultures, the Wari did not write and thus relied upon the arts as durable forms of communication, leaving behind a legacy of finely made textiles, ceramics, luxury ornaments of precious materials and sculptures of stone or wood."  Art Knowledge News