Insights / Headlines

BY Andrew Goldstein on January 11, 2010
"Victory or Death," the RZA's update of "Washington Crossing the Delaware," places his Wu Tang compatriots and, yes, ninjas, in Emanuel Leutze's classic painting. ; Via

Share on the web

It's a brave new world. Jeffrey Deitch is taking over L.A.'s MoCA, Lady Gaga is in at Polaroid, and Michael Brand is out at the Getty. Read on for ArtWeLove’s news digest, now also available in email form—bringing a comprehensive roundup of the week’s art developments to your digital doorstep. If you aren’t signed up, click here. As always, we welcome your feedback at


January is usually a slow season in the art world, but this year a flurry of sensational moves kicked off around the globe as if cued by a starting gun. In the United States, in fact, 2010 began with twin bombshells coming from Los Angeles: New York art dealer Jeffrey Deitch has been appointed head of the city's financially-beleaguered Museum of Contemporary Art, and Getty Museum director Michael Brand has quit. Let's start with Deitch, since the maverick-y move is likely to drive debate and speculation for months to come. Hardly ever has a working or former gallery owner been handed the reins of an American art museum--with L.A.'s Ferus gallery pioneer Walter Hopps being a rare, and in some ways analogous, exception--and the situation will open Deitch's tenure to predictable accusations of favoritism and other intrigue. (As we've seen, the slightest whiff of commercialism can set off the klaxons, most recently in response to the New Museum's planned Dakis Joannou show.) But while Deitch is best known as a master promoter of trendy, youth-cult fare like Fischerspooner and the Artstar show, he's also a highly-respected connoisseur of art history, a financial whiz from his Citibank days, and a rigorously discriminating critic behind his carnivalesque persona (as evidenced by his candid opinions of his own artists' work, which, it's said, can be cutting). He has also promoted some of the most interesting artists working today, including Kristen Baker, Tauba Auerbach, and the duo of Jonah Feeman and Justin Lowe, whose "Black Acid Co-Op" installation was an underpraised marvel. All of this makes him a fascinating, unpredictable choice for MoCA--and opens provocative questions of what will happen to Deitch Projects in his absence.

As for Brand, who was hired four years ago to stabilize the exceedingly wealthy and exceedingly troubled Getty, he's apparently quit amid conflicts with his boss, Getty Trust CEO James Wood. The highly public move dashes hopes that the museum had moved beyond its fraught history, most recently colored by the resignation of Brand’s predecessor amid disputes with the previous C.E.O., Barry Munitz; Munitz’s ouster on allegations of financial improprieties; and controversy over dozens of priceless antiquities in the museum’s collection that had been acquired from tomb robbers and had to be returned to Italy and Greece. An associate director, David Bomford, will serve as interim director, while Brand will continue to live in his director’s residence and receive salary until his five-year contract is up next January—prompting some astonishment from the blogosphere.


In France, the Palace of Versailles has announced that, following the succès de scandale of their Jeff Koons retrospective last year, it plans to turn over its opulent galleries this fall to another Sun King of the art market: Takashi Murakami. One can’t help but read a sly critique into the choice, given how the palace's extravagance is identified with the end of a regime--and Murakami, Koons, and Hirst were the icons of the speculation-fueled 2000s art boom. The French government has also selected Christian Boltanski to represent the country in the 2011 Venice Biennale, hoping he’ll have as much success as his wife, Annette Messager, who took home the Golden Lion in 2005.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, a gallery in the 798 art district has been offering collectors a rare sight—an exhibition of work by artists in North Korea. Arranged by a Chinese investment company together with Kim Jong Il’s government, the show features paintings and drawings by 20 artists selected by the North Korean culture ministry. One imagines the show had few surprises, unlike the controversy that broke out over Jill Magid’s show at Tate Modern. The exhibition, “Authority to Remove,” was the product of an unusual commission the artist received from the Dutch Secret Service to create work putting a “face” to the undercover agency. After spending three years interviewing Dutch spies to draw out their universally human qualities, Magid created several pieces for the organization’s headquarters—and then announced she was writing a novel about her experience, sending the agency into a panic. The book, heavily blacked out by the Dutch and displayed under glass, was the centerpiece of the Tate show, until the agency had it removed, fulfilling the exhibition’s title. Watch a video about the project here.

In other Tate Modern news, shovels hit the ground last week to begin work on Herzog & de Meuron’s $340 million expansion, which will add more than 15,000 square feet of performance and art space to the museum by 2012. Construction has also begun on the Louvre’s planned LENS satellite in a mining town near Lille in northern France; the project, which will create 75,000 square feet of new exhibition space for the famed collection, is also due to open in 2012.


Tantalizing clues have emerged that the MFA Boston may have gotten its hands on a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci, which would make it only the second artwork by the Renaissance master in a U.S. institution. The museum is said to be in the process of vetting the work—just as new fractal-based authentication technology is making the rounds. Some institutions, on the other hand, have been parting with their artworks. The Met returned an ornate 18th-century snuffbox to the heirs of a Munich art dealer who had been pressured to sell the piece by the Nazis, and LACMA has been surreptitiously selling Old Master paintings through auction houses as part of an effort to reshape the collection—a tactic sure to enrage the deaccessioning police. Especially troubling, however, has been the apparent theft of thousands of photographic negatives Factory photographer Billy Name amassed while documenting Warhol, his entourage, and his studio in the 1960s. The images—whose shadily tangled disappearance seems straight out of an Elmore Leonard novel—are of incalculable value to scholars of contemporary art.


For anyone interested in spotting burgeoning trends in contemporary art, here are a few hints: Lady Gaga has been named creative director of a new line of Polaroid products, due out later this year; James Franco will have a show at Deitch relating to his General Hospital project, and he’s also working with Kalup Linzy, who’s going to be showing work at Sundance next month; and the RZA has created an awesome limited edition artwork by superimposing the Wu Tang Clan onto Emanuel Leutze's 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware.

In other career shifts, L.A. MoCA’s Ari Wiseman has been hired as the Guggenheim’s deputy director, a newly created position, and computer designer Bill Moggridge has been named director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York. As for the job-hunting curators out there, here's some good news.

Finally, Kenneth Noland, the influential painter whose minimalistic, often target-shaped compositions made him a key member of the Washington Color School, has passed away at 85. Famed for creating his paintings by pouring thinned paint directly onto the canvas—a technique he adopted from fellow D.C. artist Helen Frankenthaler—Noland was championed by the critic Clement Greenberg, who considered flatness to be abstract expressionism’s signal virtue. See a gallery of Noland’s work here.

Related Articles:

"MOCA says Jeffrey Deitch is its new director " [via the Los Angeles Times]

"Versailles Palace to welcome Japan artist Murakami" [via the Agence France-Presse]


"North Korea's latest export: Fine art" [via CNN]

"Jill Magid Manuscript Confiscated Following Tate Modern Exhibit" [via the Wall Street Journal]


"From Coal to Culture: Louvre Museum at Lens Site Inaugurated" [via the Associated Press]

"Michael Brand, director of J. Paul Getty Museum, is stepping down" [via the Los Angeles Times]

"More on Michael Brand’s Resignation: Now It Gets Interesting" [via Culture Grrl]

"Rumors abound that new Leonardo da Vinci painting has been found in Boston" [via the Washington Post]

"Computer method 'spots art fakes'" [via the BBC]

"The Met Returns a Nazi-Looted Snuffbox" [via]

"In Los Angeles, an Urge to Purge " [via the New York Times]

"In Search of an Archive of Warhol’s Era " [via the New York Times]

"Press Release: Lady Gaga Named Creative Director for Specialty Line of Polaroid Imaging Products" [via]

"James Franco Announces His New Gallery Show, Done General Hospital Style!" [via]

"The RZA remixes historical art" [via the Guardian]

"GUGGENHEIM STAFF MOVES" [via the New York Times]

"Cooper-Hewitt Picks Director, First Designer in Job " [via the New York Times]

"Curator: As one of the 50 best careers of 2010, this should have strong growth over the next decade" [via U.S. News & World Report]

"Kenneth Noland, 85; abstract painter, a founder of Washington Color School" [via the New York Times]

From the Article: Artists

Takashi Murakami
Christian Boltanski
Jeff Koons
Kalup Linzy
Andy Warhol
Annette Messager

From the Article: Venues