Friday, October 16, 2009

Attorney General investigates Brandeis over Rose

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has launched an investigation into Brandeis University’s possible misuse of donations to its Rose Art Museum in response to school leaders’ January threat to shutter the museum and sell off its collection. It’s unclear how long the investigation has been going on.

The Attorney General’s Office filed a civil investigative demand at Suffolk Probate and Family Court in Boston on Tuesday to “investigate the potential misapplication of charitable assets donated for the benefit of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University.” But Brandeis’s attorney, former Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly, says Brandeis agreed to an investigation from the AG around five months ago. “We want them to review,” he says. “Prior to the sale of any art, it’s required that the AG review it. And we want that done.”

Jill Butterworth, a spokesperson for the attorney general, would not comment on whether this filing announces a new investigation or just the continuation of an existing investigation. She says the AG’s office has been “monitoring and watching” the situation since Brandeis leaders threatened the Rose in January.

“The university is fully cooperating,” Butterworth says. She declined to provide additional details, saying, “We don’t discuss ongoing litigation.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Immerman named president of Montserrat

Stephen D. Immerman (left) of Scituate, Massachusetts, has been named president of Montserrat College of Art. He is scheduled to being work at the Beverly, Massachusetts, school, on Nov. 16. He’ll fill the shoes of Helena J. Sturnick (below), who has lead the school since 2007. In August, the school named its new dorms on Essex Street – the first new building construction the school has ever done – after her.

Immerman has worked at MIT’s Resource Development, Academics and Student Affairs Divisions. He is also chair (a volunteer position) of the State University of New York at Potsdam Foundation Board of Directors, where he helped to lead a $12 million fundraising campaign for his undergraduate alma mater.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brandeis agrees to not sell some Rose art

Attorneys disagree on what happened at hearing yesterday

Brandeis University agreed at a court hearing yesterday to not sell any art donated to its Rose Art Museum by three Rose overseers who have sued the school during the length of the trial. Also during the hearing at Suffolk Probate and Family Court in Boston, Brandeis agreed to give the state Attorney General’s office, which oversees Massachusetts nonprofits and public charities, 30 days notice before it sells any art from the Rose, and the Attorney General will in turn notify the three Rose overseers.

However attorneys representing the two sides disagree on the details. Attorney Edward Dangel says Judge Jeremy Stahlin rejected Brandeis’s argument that his clients – plaintiffs Jonathan Lee of Brookline, Meryl Rose of Swampscott and Lois Foster of Boston – don’t have standing to bring their case. Brandeis’s attorney, former Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly, says the “judge took the matter under advisement.” Dangel replies, “That’s false.”

Dangel says the judge issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting Brandeis from selling art donated to the Rose by the plaintiffs and their ancestors before the conclusion of the court case. Reilly says there’s no injunction, but Brandeis “stipulated” – agreed – to that.

“Brandeis has no intention of selling any of the art donated by any of the plaintiffs and any of their ancestors,” Reilly says. “Brandeis never had any intention of selling that art.”

The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research called the Suffolk Probate and Family Court to confirm the facts, but a clerk there said records from yesterday’s hearing were not immediately available and to check back this afternoon. (Update: I checked back with the court that afternoon, and after being transferred to a few different people, was told that the records may not be available for a week or more.)

The three overseers are seeking to stop Brandeis’s threatened sale of works from the Rose’s collection and preserve the museum. In addition, they argue that if the Rose museum can’t be saved, the collection should be given to a new Rose Preservation Fund that they would start independent from Brandeis. The Waltham university is fighting these claims, and argues that the overseers’ proposals could threaten charities across the state.

Both sides do agree that the next hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 2, with trial dates presently set for June 29 and July 1, 2010.

MFA hikes ticket prices, cuts special exhibit fee

May make MFA visits the most expensive museum tickets in U.S.

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts – already one of the most expensive art museums to visit in the United States – is raising its general admission adult ticket price from $17 to $20 as it opens its new special exhibition “The Secrets of Tomb 10A” on Oct. 18.

However, with this 18 percent price hike visitors will now gain admission into everything in the museum, instead of the $25 adult admission previously charged for entry into special exhibitions, like this Egyptian antiquities show, or this summer's “Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese” Renaissance painting exhibit.

MFA special exhibition tickets appear to have been the most expensive art museum admission in the nation. But now its general admission tickets may be – along with New York’s Museum of Modern Art (whose price includes special exhibitions) – the most expensive general admission in the land.
General admission at some U.S. museums:
New York’s Museum of Modern Art: $20.
Art Institute of Chicago: $18.
Philadelphia Museum of Art: $16.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art: $12 (special exhibits: $25).
L.A. MOCA: $10 ($2 fee for online purchases)
Dallas Museum of Art: $10.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Damián Ortega

From my review of “Damián Ortega: Do It Yourself” at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art:
At the 2003 Venice Biennale, Damián Ortega presented what has become his signature sculpture, “Cosmic Thing” (pictured below). He dissected a 1989 Volkswagen Beetle and suspended the individual parts in mid air so that they resemble a 3-D assembly diagram.

It was an eye-catching floating monument to the end of manufacture of the Bug (not to be confused with the "New Beetle," which has been produced since 1994). It spoke of Ortega's native Mexico City, where the car was ubiquitous, kept on the road with parts cannibalized from other VWs. Ortega, who now splits his time between Mexico and Berlin, also saw it as representing the legacy of the Nazis. Adolf Hitler commissioned the Volkswagen as an affordable, durable "people's car" — exactly why the Beetle thrived in Mexico. Dividing the car into its component parts was Ortega's metaphor for atoms that make up molecules, for rocks and gases that combine to form galaxies, for the relationship between individuals and their societies. But mostly, it's a catchy cool showcase for a famously cute car.

Included in "Do It Yourself," a 13-year survey of Ortega's art at the Institute of Contemporary Art, “Cosmic Thing” exemplifies both the strengths and the weaknesses of his style of conceptually based sculpture — and much conceptual art today.
Read the rest here.

Related: Our interview with Damián Ortega.

“Damián Ortega: Do It Yourself,” Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, Sept. 18, 2009, to Jan. 18, 2010.

Pictured from top to bottom: Damián Ortega, “False Movement (Stability and Economic Growth),” 1999 in foreground, in background from left to right “Autoconstruction, Bridges and Dams: Bridge,” 1997, “Cosmic Thing,” 2002, and “Autoconstruction, Bridges and Dams: Obstacle,” 1997; two photos of “Cosmic Thing,” 2002; “Union-Separation,” 2002, with “Skin,” 2006-07, in the background at left; “Autoconstruction, Bridges and Dams: Bride,” 1997; “Belo Horizonte Project,” 2004; and Damián Ortega with “Belo Horizonte Project,” 2004. All photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Damian Ortega interview

Damian Ortega, a Mexican conceptual sculptor who began his career as a political cartoonist, is exhibiting a survey of his work called “Do It Yourself” at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art. On Sept. 15, 2009, I had a chance to speak to him about his background, about some of the ideas in his work, and about the band the B-52s. Here are some excerpts:
  • “The cartoons, the caricature had something which I really enjoy and appreciate about timing, about the politics, about the information of the day, the context of the news, the sense of humor. … The problem is when the caricature doesn’t resist the time. The next day the caricature maybe is less important. And after three years the cartoons have lost the life. It’s a quality. It’s like a fruit. But I would like to have a second reading of the same piece, going deeply.”

  • “Working for the newspapers is really quiet and alone. You should be sitting in your studio. Sculpture it was more attractive to move, you need to go out, you need to cut the materials, being in contact with more people, which I really like. Especially at that time. Art is really open to be your own boss. Which is really something which I appreciate.”

  • How do you move from the idea to the physical object? “It’s very connected. It could be one or the other side, but always it is something very intuitive. Like a fear or like a joke. Always it is something kind of unconscious or a memory. After that is more the rational part when you can understand what is this, what is the meaning, why, what is the context. Sometimes I need to wait for three, five years, ten years to understand this intuition or this intuitive moment before [I make the piece]. Or sometimes I just do it, because it’s easy and after a few months, weeks or years I find some meaning.”

  • “The pickaxe [‘Tired Pick Axe’], for example, is really like the fear to lose the control, the power, or don’t have it.”

  • “The idea of the Coke [“120 Days," pictured above], the disorder produces fun but also some strange feeling, like something is wrong. ‘This Coca-Cola is so weird. Something’s wrong with them.’ It’s like the birds in the Hitchcock film, no? It’s like, hmm. Who are we? What are we doing? What are we thinking? What is our own relationship with the objects within society or the context.”

  • On “Resting Matter” (pictured below): “This piece is really an accident in some way because I just took the pictures. It could be a Minimalism out of order, or in storage. My idea was about the energy of the people who accumulate or store some pile of bricks to build something in the future. It’s just the power of the future. It’s just a battery with energy condensed and maybe in five years, 10 years they will build something else. Maybe never. It is some potential waiting.”

  • “The Beetle [“Cosmic Thing,” pictured below] is an exploded system with each piece has a molecular function, like a big system exploded and you can see the atoms. It’s kind of molecular.

  • “The Eames designers from LA. I remember a very beautiful film in which they zoom in the body of the human and they found the molecular of the atoms and smallest part of the human. And the camera is doing a zoom back and the camera is going really to the universe and see the planets. A very similar image to the atoms and the macro-cosmos. I play a little bit with these, like a solid and an expanded, also what’s happening inside an object.”

  • What interests you about the connection between the micro and the macro? “I think it’s me, myself and the group, my city or my school, my friends, or let’s say my context. I am alone or I am part of the system. I think it’s about individuality and political context. Who made who? If the individual can change the context or the context made, can change the individual. This mix of inside and outside, individual and group of society, open and closed.”

  • Is the name “Cosmic Thing” from the album by the B-52s? “Yeah. Well, more or less. This is not a specific thing. It’s more like a system, a solar system. And I had the idea from the Eames of this cosmic interpretation. And I remembered the song of the B52s, ‘La cosa cosmica.’”

All photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research, except for the photo of "Resting Matter" and the first photo of "Cosmic Thing."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Honk Parade

The Honk Parade, an extravaganza of brass and percussion, marched from Davis Square in Somerville to Harvard Square in Cambridge today. Pictured from top to bottom: Boston Hoop Troop, Cakalak Thunder, SCUL of Somerville, Can-Can Revolution, Carnival Band, Pink Puffers, Bread and Puppet Theater of Vermont, stilter girls, What Cheer? Bridgade of Providence, Bread and Puppet Theater stilters from Vermont, Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band of Somerville, Donky Show from Cambridge, Bread and Puppet Theater from Vermont, jugglers, and Disbanded Drill Team.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research. Order these images, plus more photos from this year and last year's Honk here.

Our coverage of Honk 2008 and Honk 2007.