WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 2-8, 2012)

ARTS & CULTURE

Forty Reasons to Celebrate in the Bronx.” By Lizzie Simon. Wall Street Journal. July 1, 2012. It’s not uncommon to hit one’s stride at 40. This is what appears to be happening at the Bronx Museum, which, to mark its 40th birthday, is offering free admission, adopting 40 local public schools with an arts education curriculum, and raising $1 million to add 40 new pieces to its collection of African-American, Asian-American, Latin-American and Bronx-native art. (Securing a $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation put the museum’s goal in plain sight.) Together these initiatives have added up to a 50% increase in attendance, according to the museum’s director, Holly Block: “We’re really happy about it. For the last 40 years we’ve been focused internally, and for the next 40 years I’d like us to be focused externally.” There are some dreams, however, that continue to be deferred. “There are over 400 schools in the Bronx and my goal in the future is to say we work with all of them,” Ms. Block said. “But I have to create an endowment for schools. It’s a big dream.” When we asked the museum’s staff to come up with some figures associated with their 40-year history, one that struck us was the 9-minute walking distance between it and another well-attended Bronx institution: Yankee Stadium. Does Ms. Block tend to see a lot of art-lovers roaming the museum in Yankee paraphernalia? “Before games, yes,” she said. “Especially if I do a baseball show.”

Judd Building Shows Its Face.” By Kimberly Chou. Wall Street Journal. July 2, 2012. After a decade under wraps, the cast-iron exterior of 101 Spring St.—the former home and studio of minimalist art icon Donald Judd—is once again visible to the public. On Sunday, workers removed the final pieces of the protective scaffolding that for 10 years had covered the five-story building at the corner of Spring and Mercer streets and predated the three-year, $23-million renovation project currently under way. The Judd Foundation will announce Tuesday that the building will reopen to the public in June 2013, offering tours and programming related to the artist’s work and philosophy. Led by New York design firm Architecture Research Office (ARO), the reconstruction, which began in June 2010, involved restoring 1,300 pieces of the building’s cast-iron exterior and updating the building to meet contemporary concerns (such as fire code) with minimal change to the original architecture. One of the first artist’s lofts in the neighborhood when Judd (1928-94) bought it in 1968, 101 Spring is the last remaining single-use cast-iron building in SoHo’s Cast Iron Historic District. Judd’s New York home and studio until his death, the building remains a symbol of the artist’s philosophy of “permanent installation,” which emphasized the placement of an art work in the effort to understand it. In recent years, 101 Spring functioned as a museum dedicated to Judd’s work and life, remaining as the artist originally installed it with more than 500 objects made by him as well as artists such as Dan Flavin and Frank Stella.

The New Elitists.” By Shamus Khan. New York Times. July 7, 2012. You can tell a lot about people by looking at their music collections. Some have narrow tastes, mostly owning single genres like rap or heavy metal. Others are far more eclectic, their collections filled with hip-hop and jazz, country and classical, blues and rock. We often think of such differences as a matter of individual choice and expression. But to a great degree, they are explained by social background. Poorer people are likely to have singular or “limited” tastes. The rich have the most expansive. We see a similar pattern in other kinds of consumption. Think of the restaurants cherished by very wealthy New Yorkers. Masa, where a meal for two can cost $1,500, is on the list, but so is a cheap Sichuan spot in Queens, a Papaya Dog and a favorite place for a slice. Sociologists have a name for this. Today’s elites are not “highbrow snobs.” They are “cultural omnivores.” Omnivorousness is part of a much broader trend in the behavior of our elite, one that embraces diversity. Barriers that were once a mainstay of elite cultural and educational institutions have been demolished. Gone are the quotas that kept Jews out of elite high schools and colleges; inclusion is now the norm. Diverse and populist programming is a mainstay of every museum. Elites seem more likely to confront snobbish exclusion than they are to embrace it. This was not always the case. This new elite sought to supplant the old families from their long-held seats, but the transformation was hardly radical. While the old elite was ultimately forced to join the new elite at the Metropolitan Opera after its academy collapsed in financial ruin, they did so in a space that was still comfortable: an opera house. Modern temples of power were built on the foundations of the old. New elites were often conservative in their tastes — building mansions that emulated those of European aristocrats, buying up old masters and building shrines to European art forms.

Warship museums are not assured victory as tourist draws; New York and San Diego have seen former Navy vessels become magnets for visitors while other cities have seen different outcomes.” By Steve Chawkins. Los Angeles Times. July 5, 2012. When the battleship Iowa was commissioned in 1943, it was a powerful weapon in yet another war to end all wars. Now its huge guns are pointed at a string of seafood restaurants in San Pedro, and it’s about to join America’s fleet of floating museums — some 48 warships that have been donated to coastal communities eager for tourist dollars and upgraded waterfronts. Although some of the attractions have thrived, others have been swamped in debt or racked by age. In San Diego, the aircraft carrier Midway has topped 1-million visitors per year. Another carrier, the Intrepid, is a must-see museum in Manhattan, especially with the recent arrival of the space shuttle Enterprise. But near Houston, the century-old battleship Texas closed indefinitely last week after holes opened up in its corroded hull and it started taking on more than 1,500 gallons of water a minute. In Alameda, the aircraft carrier Hornet is getting by. But it was nearly shut down a few years ago when officials couldn’t cover the rent and electric bills. In Camden, N.J., the battleship New Jersey now has five full-time employees — down from a peak of 50. The difference comes down to a real estate adage: “Location, location, location,” said Robert Kent, director of the Pacific Battleship Center, which will operate Los Angeles’ newest museum. Boosters say both the historic ship and its gritty, industrial harbor have plenty of tourism potential. They point to the 600,000 passengers a year who come through San Pedro’s cruise terminal, just down the waterfront from the Iowa. More visitors are anticipated over the next five years as the Port of Los Angeles — the Iowa’s landlord — completes a $1.2-billion redevelopment that includes a new marina, parks and a sprawling crafts market. If 188,000 paying customers climb aboard the Iowa in the first year, the museum will break even, said Kent, whose projections have ranged as high as 400,000. Tickets for adults will cost $18. If attendance founders, the port, under its 10-year lease, can exile the ship to a remote berth.

MOCA: Eli Broad discusses ousting of Paul Schimmel; Fallout continues from the MOCA board’s removal of chief curator Paul Schimmel. Eli Broad discusses it, and artists Paul McCarthy, Shepard Fairey weigh in.” By Mike Boehm. Los Angeles Times. July 7, 2012. Inside the 12th floor conference room of his Broad Foundation in Westwood sat Eli Broad, the man the art world wanted to hear from after the forced resignation of Paul Schimmel, the longtime chief curator of L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Broad, who helped found MOCA in 1979 and is now its biggest donor, didn’t have an official vote in the museum board’s decision to oust Schimmel — his status as a “life trustee” means he’s not a voting member. But he was present for a portion of the June 25 meeting where MOCA’s co-chairs, David Johnson and Maria Bell, negotiated an agreement calling for Schimmel to be paid his full salary for another year. (According to the most recent tax records, Schimmel was paid $235,000 in 2010.) “It was no one event,” Broad said of the board’s action. “It was time for Paul and the museum to have a new beginning.” That new beginning is now firmly in the hands of Jeffrey Deitch, the New York art dealer brought in two years ago as MOCA’s director. Deitch’s buzz-driven vision of how to run a museum collided with that of Schimmel, who was known for sweeping, meticulously researched and often expensive exhibitions that examined themes and movements in contemporary visual art. Those shows and Schimmel’s acquisitions were vital to MOCA’s standing as one of the world’s most respected showcases for post-World War II art. Normally, museum directors hire and fire employees without board involvement or authorization. But, Broad said, “the leadership felt that getting Jeffrey Deitch involved would create a bad scene which wouldn’t serve anybody.”

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