News
The Met Names Max Hollein as Next Director—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week

01  The Met has appointed Max Hollein, previously of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, as its new director.

(via the New York Times)

Hollein, 48, will oversee “the artistic side of the museum — exhibitions, acquisitions, programming,” according to the New York Times, when he formally assumes the directorship this summer. Daniel H. Weiss, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s president and CEO, will remain in charge of its business and operations. It is the first time in 60 years the venerable New York institution has not appointed someone from within its own ranks, the Times reported. Before moving to San Francisco in 2016, Hollein directed several institutions in Frankfurt over the course of 15 years, including the Städel Museum, which is known for its Old Masters collection. He was responsible for developing what the Times called “a forceful digital strategy” at the Städel, and raised significant private funds for renovation and expansion, an unusual accomplishment in Europe, where museums receive much more government support. He brought his innovative vision to San Francisco, too, creating digital experiences for the Fine Arts Museums, including a Minecraft map of the pyramids of Teotihuacan, for a show on the Mexican archaeological site.


02  Chris Dercon resigned from Berlin’s Volksbühne, ending his controversial tenure as director.

(via DW)

Dercon and Berlin’s culture senator Klaus Lederer agreed the embattled director should depart from the city’s cherished progressive performance space, according to a statement from public Berlin broadcaster RBB, which first reported the story on Friday. Criticism of Dercon, which began as soon as his appointment was announced in 2015, marred the former Tate Modern director’s tenure at the Volksbühne. Opponents charged he was planning to take the beloved space in a more corporate direction and his debut program last month was met with a middling reception in the city. The debate often veered into personal attacks on Dercon, whose door was smeared with feces on a near-daily basis in August 2017, even before his official September start date. Weeks after Dercon did take the reigns, protesters occupied the performance space for six days, with nearly 40,000 signing a petition in opposition to Dercon’s tenure. In announcing Dercon’s departure, Lederer called the personal attacks “unacceptable,” reported DW, adding they were “unworthy and devoid of any culture.” Klaus Dörr, the Volksbühne’s managing director, will temporarily take charge of the institution until a permanent successor is found.


03  A Marc Chagall painting was recovered nearly 30 years after it was stolen from an Upper East Side home.

(via the FBI)

The painting was recovered last year from a man in Maryland who had contacted the FBI’s Washington office after a suspicious local gallery owner, who declined to buy the Chagall due to its lack of documentation, suggested he reach out to law enforcement. The FBI’s art crime team determined it was a painting stolen from the elderly couple Ernest and Rose Heller, now deceased, by someone who worked in their apartment building and stole from tenants when they were away. The Maryland man who contacted the authorities had originally met with the thief to help sell the painting, but the deal fell apart and the Maryland man retained the painting and kept it in a homemade wooden box in his attic, labeled “Misc. High School artwork.” The Heller estate plans to auction the work, with proceeds from the sale going to reimburse the insurance company that had paid the theft claim, and to several nonprofit organizations, including an artists’ colony in New Hampshire.


04  The Lucas Museum bought Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop from the troubled Berkshire Museum.

(via the New York Times)

The cash-strapped museum in western Massachusetts sparked controversy when it proposed deaccessioning some of its most prized paintings, including several by iconic American painter Norman Rockwell. At first, the sale of roughly 40 works was halted by two lawsuits, though a judge recently ruled the sale could proceed under certain conditions. The sale of Shuffleton’s Barbershop (1950) to an anonymous institution was announced in February, under an agreement that involved the Berkshire Museum and the state attorney general’s office. That deal, meant to prevent the Rockwell work from disappearing into a private collection at auction, required the purchasing institution to loan the painting to the Norman Rockwell Museum for 18 to 24 months, before returning to its original home, which has now been revealed to be the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. The Times reported that “the museum’s founder, George Lucas, of ‘Star Wars’ fame, is already known as the leading private collector of Rockwell’s work,” and owns “dozens” of Rockwells, most of which will eventually go to his museum.


05  Art collector Victor Pinchuk has been ensnared in the U.S. Special Counsel’s Russia investigation by a $150,000 payment to the Trump Foundation.

(via the New York Times)

Three sources told the New York Times that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating a $150,000 donation that Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel magnate, gave to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in September 2015. The probe comes amid a broader investigation into foreign money going to then-candidate Trump in the years leading up to the 2016 presidential election. The payment was solicited by Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal attorney, and was given in exchange for a 20-minute appearance, via video, that Trump made at a conference in Kiev. The Mueller investigation has primarily focused on connections between the campaign and Russia, but the money from Ukraine is significant because, as a former IRS officer Marcus S. Owens told the Times, “it comes during a campaign and is from a foreigner and looks like an effort to buy influence.” He also argued that $150,000 was “an unusual amount of money for such a short speech.” The Victor Pinchuk Foundation said in a statement that it reached out to Trump to foster “enduring ties between Ukraine and the West” and that, in 2016, “it was by no means assured that Mr. Trump would be the Republican nominee.” Pinchuk is also one of Ukraine’s biggest art collectors, known for displaying large-scale work by Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst in his garden. In 2006, his foundation opened the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev, and in 2009 launched the Future Generation Art Prize, which is awarded biannually to artists under 35. (The total winnings are $100,000.)


06  The touch of an overly-curious visitor shattered a Jeff Koons “Gazing Ball” on display in Amsterdam.

(via Hyperallergic)

A sharp sound echoed through the Nieuwe Kerk church in Amsterdam on Sunday, the last day of a Jeff Koons exhibition at the 15th-century site, after a visitor placed a fingertip on a hand-blown glass ball by the artist, immediately breaking the orb. The small blue sphere was part of Koons’s Gazing Ball (Perugino Madonna and Child with Four Saints) (2014–15), which featured a gazing ball placed on an an aluminum shelf jutting out from a copy of the altarpiece painting by Pietro Perugino. While the artwork invites visitors to come close in order to gaze, the only indicator that a safe distance should be respected was a piece of tape on the ground. Koons previously stated that a visitor would have to “lift the ball up for it to go anywhere,” ARTnews reported in 2015, due to what the publication described as a “metal rod coming up through the center of each ball.” But the shattered silver insides of the orb strewn across the floor of the Amsterdam church prove at least some are easier to dislodge. While the value of the artwork has yet to be released, Hyperallergic reported that the church is currently working with Koons’s studio to “assess the damage, as well as the possibility of repair.”


07  France and Saudi Arabia have agreed to a $20 billion tourism plan to develop the famed cultural site Mada’in Saleh.

(via The Art Newspaper)

Under the arrangement, reported by The Art Newspaper, France would help Saudi Arabia develop a museum, research center, university, and hotels, along with other cultural amenities and infrastructure in the Al-Ula region, which includes the ancient architectural site of Mada’in Saleh. Saudi Arabia’s government is footing the project’s bill, according to one source who spoke with the publication. That same source billed the planned museum on Arab history as being “two to three times bigger than the Louvre Abu Dhabi,” the success of which reportedly prompted Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to raise the idea of a cultural partnership with French president Emmanuel Macron. The pair signed off on the 10-year agreement this week. Mada’in Saleh is the home of a dazzling but difficult-to-access array of architectural wonders carved directly into the cliff face by the Nabataeans, whose kingdom spanned the fourth century BC to the first century AD.


08  An art collector who was part of Andy Warhol’s scene died when a fire broke out in his Trump Tower apartment last weekend.

(via the New York Times)

A blaze on the 50th floor of the apartment building in midtown Manhattan on Saturday injured four firefighters and claimed the life of 67-year-old Todd Brassner, a collector of art, watches, cars, and vintage guitars. Brassner, who in recent years struggled with health problems and bankruptcy, began collecting and dealing art after being introduced to Warhol by his father, the dealer Jules Brassner. Fellow collector Stuart Pivar, speaking with the New York Times, recalled that Warhol and Brassner were “very close,” and often went shopping together. “They were like two 14-year-olds, seeing the world,” Pivar said of the pair. “[Brassner] was very knowledgeable about pop art.” Brassner spent decades acquiring work by artists such as Robert Indiana and Mati Klarwein, which he stored in his apartment alongside curios such as a collection of ukuleles, but in recent years he became something of a recluse; Warhol biographer Blake Gopnik said he made several attempts to schedule an interview with Brassner, to no avail. Friends recalled that, after Brassner declared bankruptcy in 2015, he attempted to sell his Trump Tower apartment but could not find a buyer after the 2016 presidential election. As one friend recalled, “When people heard it was a Trump building, he couldn’t give it away.”


09  The U.S. Holocaust Museum is aiming to raise $1 billion in five years after surpassing its previous funding goal.

(via the Washington Post)

The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., celebrated its 25th anniversary on Monday with the announcement of a new goal: raising $1 billion by 2023. The museum set the ambitious figure after raising $715 million—$175 million above its target—from 366,000 donors for a campaign was supposed to end this year but will now continue. “We see that we have all this momentum that we really want to seize,” museum director Sara J. Bloomfield told the Washington Post. Raising $1 billion would be a coup for an institution with the relatively small operating budget of just $116 million. The Holocaust Museum has welcomed 43 million visitors, 15 million of which were students, since opening in 1993. The fruits of this final fundraising effort will go to expanding the museum’s educational impact and supporting its mission of inspiring people to “confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity” at a global scale. The vice chairman of the museum’s board, Allan Holt, who is the son of two Holocaust survivors, told the Post that the museum is not only a tool for remembrance: “It is education, prevention of genocide. There’s no shortage of work to be done to continue to carry the message,” he said.


10  Toronto police are looking for a museum visitor who allegedly stole a pricey stone from a Yoko Ono exhibition.

(via the Toronto Star)

“Yoko Ono: The Riverbed,” currently on view at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, invites visitors to hold, meditate, and stack stones, some of which the artist has inscribed with phrases like “dream,” “wish,” and “remember.” But one visitor took the interactive exhibition too far when she walked out of the museum with a stone reading “Love Yourself” on March 12th. While the phrase itself is extremely common––gracing the advertisements of countless body wash campaigns and titling a hit song by Justin Bieber––this stone is not. The object, which Ono hand-painted, is estimated to be worth $17,500. The Toronto police are now searching for the alleged thief, according to the Toronto Star, which first reported the stone’s disappearance. The police have released security footage of the suspect and are seeking help in identifying the 55- to 60-year-old woman who was caught on camera in a black ensemble with a red scarf.

Cover image: Max Hollein at the opening of the Monet exhibition in the Städel Museum in 2015, during his tenure as Director of Schirn Kunsthalle, Städel Museum and Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.