Posts Tagged ‘art’

Free Admission to PS1 for the Year

October 7, 2015

Today MOMA PS1 has announced that admission to PS1 will be free for New York City residents for the year, beginning on October 11th.  The free admission is the gift of Marina Kellen French, made in “honor of all New York City artists” and coincides with the 40th anniversary of PS1.

PS1 is located at 22-25 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, and is usually open from noon to 6pm Thursday through Monday (closed Tuesday & Wednesdays).  It’s not clear yet as to how or if residency will be checked at the door, so consider taking a license or the NYC ID card.

For more information, see the PS1 press release at:


The Chronicle continues: More Museums Cut Hours, Exhibitions & Staff

September 14, 2009

At the top of the list, reflecting a drop in the value of its endowment, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is cutting down on the number of major loan exhibitions.  Such borrowed exhibitions tend to be quite expensive and the museum apparently intends to reduce the number of the larger of these shows by up to 25%.  Other avenues of raising funds are also being considered.  The Met has long had a recommended (voluntary) general admission fee, but Director Thomas Campbell has reportedly not ruled out entry fees for special exhibitions. Staffing cuts occurred earlier in the year.

The Cleveland Museum of Art cut its budget, but apparently not the number of its employees.  The museum has seen a 30% drop in funding and intends to cut costs, including salaries, to make up the gap.  The museum is continuing with a $350m renovation and expansion.

LSU Museum of Art has cut at least one exhibition from its schedule after learning that its budget has been slashed by 20%.  The museum is also ending its free admission program and will now charge $6 for students and $8 for others.

Detroit Institute of Art is facing the cut of $6 million in funding from the state of Michigan.  The cuts will reportedly come primarily in the form of reductions in staff and operating costs.

The Miami Art Museum has cut staff after a 10% reduction in operating costs but is continuing with a $220 million expansion project.

This listing is just a fraction of the art institutions that are affected by the broader economic conditions and other related organizations, notably local historical and science museums, have been hard hit as well.  Smaller institutions tend to rely on state funding and considering the current situation, are a prime target for the legislative budget axe – with the ultimate result being a limitation on public access to art.

Image:  The Arthur Sackler Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chinese Art (permanent exhibition).

A Selected Chronicle of the Times: Museum Cuts, Shrinkage, and Expansions

April 30, 2009

  • The Akron Art Museum has cut staff and hours. The number of exhibitions will also be reduced by about one third.
  • The Bishop Museum in Honolulu has announced plans to cut both staff and hours, beginning May 1st.
  • The Boise Art Museum has laid-off an associate curator and plans additional staff cuts, reportedly hoping to staff some areas of the museum with volunteers instead.  The museum has a new director and is apparently struggling with accumulated debt.  
  • The Brooklyn Museum will put its entire staff on a one week furlough this summer and reduce the salaries of those making in excess of $60,000.  Some planned exhibitions have been cancelled as well.  The museum has lost about 32% of the aid that it previously received from the city of New York.
  • The Everson Museum has cut two full-time positions and is planning to outsource others to reduce costs.
  • The Getty Trust has announced that it will lay off about 14% of its workers, resulting in the elimination of about 97 positions and with future vacancies to remain unfilled.   The top 10 administrators at the Getty will be taking pay cuts as well.  It is also reported that present financial conditions will require some planned exhibitions to be cancelled and although entrance will remain free of charge, the cost of parking will increase–up to $15 per vehicle.
  • The Japanese American National Museum has reduced its hours as a result of financial issues.   It is now closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, prior to its apparent rescue from the jaws of insolvency, announced plans to reduce its staff by 20%; a total of about 32 postions.
  • In March the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced 74 layoffs, adding to the 53 that already occurred.  The museum’s endownment has reportedly dropped by 28% in value.  (That’s a loss of about $800 million).
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art has instituted cuts to salaries and exhibition plans.  Admission fees may rise as well.
  • The Walters Museum in Baltimore has eliminated some jobs, instituted a hiring freeze and furloughs.  Some planned exhibitions have been cancelled. 
  • And then there is the uncertain future of the Rose Art Museum.  It will remain open while its fate is decided by Brandeis University, which had previously announced plans to deaccession the museum’s entire collection.
  • The Las Vegas Art Museum has closed its doors, at least for the time being.  The fate of its collection is unknown.

The list goes on; these are but representations of the entire picture.  Economic conditions have hit nearly across the spectrum of art institutions.

Along with the losses attributed to the decline in value of endowments and debt, other factors may be involved, including the interconnected structure of the museum system itself.  In consideration of joint projects and traveling shows, the cancellation of exhibitions has a potential for producing a cascading effect.  That is, when a payment is involved and one institution cancels, the lending institution may not receive additional revenue it was counting on either.  Regardless, as a result the personnel at both museums involved in the logistics of such projects is not needed either.  Also, the combination of rising entry fees and a loss of personal income may, if not yet, contribute to a decline in attendance as well.

On the other hand, a few institutions are moving forward with plans to expand, despite mixed conditions.

  • The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum intends to continue with expansion plans despite a recent staffing cut.  A loss of value in the museum’s endowment was sited as the cause, but the expansion is presumably funded through separate fundraising efforts.
  • The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art recently announced that it intends to expand the museum’s space signficantly, although there no concrete plans as of yet.
  • The Saint Louis Art Museum has apparently revived its expansion plan and intends to begin construction later this year.
  • And, the Crocker Museum in Sacramento is in the midst of new construction that will triple the exhibition space.  Interestingly, it purchased some building materials left over from the Museum of Modern Art (NY) renovation. 



International blog watch: Tokyo Source

February 17, 2009

Tokyo Source is a Japanese web magazine that features interviews, reports on event happenings, creative projects and an evolving cultural perspective.  It can be  described as more than an emerging online presence, but rather, it presents the focus of a social movement; a network to change the world–with a refreshing and sustainable perspective.  Tokyo Source introduces evocative artists/creators from artistic and social fields in the form of its trademark extended interviews, exhibitions, projects, and talk media.   The blog  feature is a distinctive resource for information on the art and creative scene in Japan and for a contrasting perspective on topical social/cultural issues.  It is well worth a visit by anyone with an interest in the Japanese art scene and local contemporary culture.  

The Tokyo Source group published a first book of interviews, これからを面白くしそうな31人に行った (31 were to be interesting to see the future) by Pie Books last summer and is available on Amazon JP

The Tokyo Source website and blog are written in Japanese, with a rough English translation available via the Google search/translator (just cut and paste page url into the Google search box).


Retro-Politics: Conservatives Go After the NEA (Again)

February 4, 2009

Right on time, Representative Don Manzullo appeared on the Rachel Maddow show last week, citing funding for the NEA as one reason for his opposition to the economic Stimulus Plan.  As it has been widely reported, he and all Republican house members voted against the plan despite concessions. 

In expressing his opposition, Representative Manzullo resurrected the art-bashing politics of the late 1980s and early 1990s.  During that time, Jesse Helms and conservative groups sought to reduce or eliminate funding for the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) based upon the government agency’s funding of artists like Karen Findley and Andres Serrano.  Helms and his collaborators targeted certain NEA funded artists as purveyors of the offensive, obscene and immoral.  They publicly attacked the financial support of such artists with government funds.

Government funding of the NEA has fluctuated over the last two decades, with a high of around $180 million to a low of about $99 million.  The problem with the NEA isn’t funding, however.  Rather, as self-defense against conservative attacks, the NEA preemptively ceased funding individual artists.  Despite, perhaps, saving the agency from a complete death at the time, it was severely hobbled by that decision.

During the 1980s and ‘90s artists and their supporters fought back against the conservative condemnation.  The attack on the NEA was, rightfully, described as an attempt at censorship.  The First Amendment ensures that the government will not enact laws that limit the freedom of speech, and the contemporaneous argument was that the reduction or elimination of funding was tantamount to government limitation of speech.  Conservatives and others that supported the attack claimed that the reduction of funding was a withholding; not an affirmative limitation of speech.  However, since the NEA self-limited itself, the Constitutional question was avoided–that of Congressional allocation of funding being equivalent to a law that limits speech.

However, the specific goal sought, at least in the public sphere, was the silencing of artists.  Anti-NEA conservatives claimed that this denial of grant opportunities was not censorship either because the artists could still speak–they just wouldn’t get paid for it.  Superficially this may be true, but most artists struggle for funding, so in fact the lack of public money very likely did prevent some artworks from being created.

 A side issue is that of obscenity.  Singling out a few artists from the many that received NEA grants, the NEA opposition claimed that obscene and offensive artwork was being funded by the agency.  In other forums, e.g., the courts, the definition of obscenity has seen progress over the years, changing from an I-know-it-when-I-see-it perspective, to one that accounts for potential, even if tiny, social, cultural or scientific value.  The NEA artists that were attacked never received the benefit of court review based upon the legal definition of obscenity, but rather were condemned based upon sensationalistic descriptions and misrepresentations about the purpose of their work.

In the context of art theory and criticism, artwork such as this should be evaluated on the success of the speech that it is producing.  A proper question might be whether Findley’s work evokes a feminist message or whether Serrano’s Piss Christ is a well-enunciated statement of religion and physicality, or just a gimmick.  Approaching these works from the perspective of “obscenity” is simply erroneous, simplistic, and serves only to sensationalize and politicize speech.

The NEA, as it exists today, is less than a shadow of its former self.  It exists only to fund groups and community projects, which are certainly worthy, but for purely political–speech based–reasons, it does not fund individual artists at all.  By not funding individuals, the NEA removes itself from making potentially politically reverberating decisions.  The agency censors itself.  In the past, artists valued the NEA, not just because it was a source of funds, but because it was non-discriminatory in allocating its grants, thereby truly promoting the progress of the arts (and in consequence, socio-cultural discourse).

The NEA is still hedging its position today.  On the NEA website, the Visual Arts grant information page states, “The Arts Endowment is committed to advancing and preserving the work of contemporary visual artists that reflects serious and exceptional aesthetic investigation.”   (Emphasis added).  The main grant page states that, “In most areas, funding is limited to organizations.”  The Art Projects area, which in the past would have encompassed individual artists, lists several main categories for which grant applications may be entered, including: “Access  to Artistic Excellence…organization; Challenge America:  Reaching Every Community Fast-Track Review Grants; and Learning in the Arts…organization.”  (Emphasis added).

Despite the position taken by the anti-NEA conservatives, there are probably many reasons why artists were targeted, then and now.  I believe that in using anecdotal information only, it is reasonable to state that very few, if any, artists have the same political leanings as Jesse Helms, Representative Manzullo and their conservative colleagues.  Attacks on the NEA are not only based upon superficial moral, and potentially religious differences, but they are attacks based upon political objectives.  Few NEA artists are likely to be Rep. Manzullo’s constituents, and based upon history, he may believe that he can score points with his actual constituents through this method.  Therefore, the attacks on NEA, in the 1990s or now, can also be seen as an attempt to create cultural divisiveness for political gain.

On his website, Representative Manzullo, who represents Northern Illinois, has posted his grievances with the stimulus package, citing that NEA funding is “non-job creating.”

“The non-job creating spending in this bill includes:

[item] a)  $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.”

( January 29,2009)

As supporters have pointed out, artists, in fact, do work and funding to the NEA does create jobs.  This seems particularly true given the present configuration of the NEA, which would tend to allocate funding to community groups and organizations.  Personnel will be needed to organize events, teach classes, usher audience member to their seats, build backdrops, etc., etc.  In turn, particularly in regards to performance-based art and visual art exhibitions, cafes and restaurants also benefit by the presence of  local art events and the patronage of attendees.  If individual artists were able to receive grants they would, as probable conditions of the grant, spend the full allocation on producing artwork by purchasing supplies and services–which of course, puts money directly into the local economy–and produces jobs.  In turn, individual artists also tend to work with community organizations and galleries, which also creates audiences that are likely to buy an extra cup of coffee or have a meal nearby.  NEA funding creates jobs.

It would be more than a shame if we let retro-politics determine how we perceive the funding of the arts.  Rather than limiting NEA funding, this is clearly an area that benefits local economies.  It also, just as importantly, advances the socio-cultural discussion.  The stimulus bill’s provision for additional funding for the NEA should be supported, but artists and art patrons should also lobby the NEA to relax its self-imposed restrictions and once again promote free expression.



National Endowment for the Arts 

Update 2/18/2009:

The Stimulus Bill, signed by President Obama yesterday, ultimately retained $50 million in funding for the  NEA.

N.E.A. Press Release

History and Text of the Stimulus Bill is available on the Library of Congress site here.

Additional Resources:

To Encourage Great Art, Help Great Artists by Raymond J. Learsy, 2002, NY Times