Hard Times for the Art World

1.29.09: Update at the end of the post

The last thing I want to do is contribute to the doom and gloom, but sometimes reporting a story or passing along information is essential so that we understand the depth of the issue. Not too long ago I talked about The Downturn in Chelsea. More recently in Where's The Bailout for The Arts?, I talked about what happens when publishing wanes, galleries close and institutions retrench. It's happening. Just a few examples:

. Artnet has reported that the Seattle Post Intelligencer is closing, and that its longtime art critic, Regina Hackett, will be out of a job--a passing that bodes ill not only for Hacket but for coverage of the arts in Seattle. Here's an excerpt from Artnet:

Another month, another art critic shown the door by a major paper. This time it’s Regina Hackett, longtime correspondent for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A representative of Hearst Newspapers swung by the paper’s office Friday, Jan. 9, 2009, to tell the staff that, "Journalism is a fabulous profession, but it is a business," and that the paper would be shut down in 60 days, either to close forever or reopen as a greatly reduced online-only service (the heartbreaking footage of the announcement is available here) . . .Hackett told fellow Seattle critic Jen Graves, "I mean, there are no jobs for us."

. How's My Dealing's Deathwatch section posts the names of galleries that rumor has closing. (I recommend this blog with mixed feelings, but it does seem to have tapped into the art information network. Some of those rumors have been confimed, because I've gotten a number of the gallery press relaases myself.)

. And yesterday: The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University announced that it is closing its doors and selling its collection. (You can read reports and links in Geoff Edgers' Exhibitionist, Tyler's Modern Art Notes, and Carolina's C-Monster blog.) Here's the president's e-mail passed along by a friend:

From: President Jehuda Reinharz
Date: Mon, 26 Jan 2009
To: Brandeis University Community
Subject: Important Message Regarding the Rose Art Museum

The global financial crisis and deepening national economic recessionrequire Brandeis to formulate and execute decisive plans that will position the university to emerge stronger for the benefit of our students. To this end, our response to the crisis is to focus and sustain our core academic mission. I am writing to tell you that the Board of Trustees met today and voted to close the Rose Art Museum.The decision was difficult and was reached after a painstakingassessment of the university’s need to mobilize for the future andinitiate a strategy to replenish our financial assets.

The Rose has been a marvelous addition to the Fine Arts program, and we are grateful to everyone who expressed their love for art andadmiration for Brandeis’s academic mission by helping to create, build, and support the museum. Choosing between and among important and valued university assets is terrible, but our priority in theface of hard choices will always be the university’s core teachingand research mission. Today’s decision will set in motion a long-term plan to sell the art collection and convert the professional art facility to a teaching, studio, and gallery space for undergraduate and graduate students and faculty.

Update: Read Hrag Vartanian's Art Market Recession Report in the NYFA Current



Barbara J Carter said...

That is shocking news about the Rose Museum. I got a chance to visit it back when I lived in Boston, and I found it a marvelous space, well curated, with interesting and engaging (and significant) contemporary art. What a blow!

Nancy Natale said...

The closing of the Rose is stunning. It mounted some wonderful shows. I remember Kiki Smith, Judy Pfaff, Joan Snyder and many more wonderful shows there. What a terrible loss to Brandeis, the Boston area and to artists!

I can't help but wonder if this is connected to Bernie Madoff. I see his devastation everywhere, including in my own life with the loss of my part-time, at-home bookkeeping job for a formerly very wealthy client who is now flat broke at an advanced age. Madoff is just a one-man manifestation of the greed and disregard for consequences of the many who lived as though they were alone on the planet. They would still live that way (and I'm sure some do) if their hands were not slapped out of the till, i.e. Citibank buying a gazillion-dollar corporate jet, John Thain spending $1.22 million to redecorate his office while Merrill Lynch was getting a bailout or Sarah Palin wearing her $150,000+ wardrobe and redecorating her Wasilla mayoral office for $50,000+.

I'm just afraid that the arts will suffer inordinate damage from this financial mess - as they usually do whenever money gets tight. The death of newspapers marks a loss of culture in so many ways. WTF are we coming to?

Donna Dodson said...

Re: Bailout for the Arts, I saw this on ArtNet... NEA IN RECOVERY PACKAGE
The vast $825-billion economic recovery package unveiled by congressional Democrats on Jan. 15, 2009, does have a tiny little boon for the arts: a $50-million budgetary boost for the National Endowment for the Arts. Despite the modesty of the request -- about 3/500ths of one percent of the total -- some Republicans have already taken issue with the allocation. According to the Chicago Tribune, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) said arts support was "a far cry from the traditional tools of stimulating the economy." The strategy is a familiar one from the "culture wars" of the 1990s, when the right wing made regular attacks on government support for the arts. The economic recovery package faces further scrutiny in Congress, though it is expected to pass in some form within a month. NEA’s 2008 budget is $144.7 million.

Nancy Natale said...

Sure enough, the Boston Globe reports today http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/01/28/crisis_raises_questions_on_brandeis_campus/
that our boy Bernie Madoff wreaked his havoc on Brandeis donors. I think a fitting punishment for him would be to put an ankle bracelet on him and make him stay in his $7 million penthouse so he could watch what happens to the Little People (or little art museums).

Nancy Natale said...

That link to the Madoff affect on Braindeis is

Donna Dodson said...

Madoff Killed himself, but his sons and brothers are still alive and might have been involved in the scam...

Joanne Mattera said...

I haven't heard that Madoff killed himself. I just checked "Madof suicide." There have been many "Madoff suicides," people who now find themselves with nothing and don't know how to live that way. I guess that's the one advantage artists have, eh? We know how to make stone soup and to wring every cent out of a dollar.

Sorry about the loss of that part-time job, Nancy.

Casey Klahn said...

I have enjoyed corresponding a bit with Regina Hackett, and I hope she'll post her crits in another format after the P.I. goes the way of the wind.

Nancy Natale said...

Not to be obsessive about Madoff, but not only is Madoff alive and kicking in his penthouse after the judge in the case refused to jail him, but his sons actually turned him in to the feds after he told them that the whole thing was a giant scam. Bernie the Sociopath/Psychopath even bilked his own sister out of her life savings so that she is now forced to put her home up for sale.

Donna Dodson said...

Got it wrong, I guess. Looks like some of his investors killed themselves after losing so much money to his scheme. That is sad. Betrayal hurts! Thanks for the clarification and info on Madoff.

Stephanie Sachs said...

Has anyone had the opportunity to read this article in the NYtimes. It is about how clothing boutiques are using part of their space to showcase artwork. It goes along with Joanne's marketing theme.

Glenn said...

I read that article this afternoon as well in the NY Times and as the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. I think it's very creative on the part of the artist and the participating venue. It definitely will require a paradigm shift for us all as we move forward.

Joanne Mattera said...

The concept of mixing art and fashion like that creeps me out. If Julian Schnabel is doing it, it can't be good.

Donna Dodson said...

More news... Patrice Walker Powell, Deputy Chairman for States, Regions and
Local Arts Agencies at the NEA, announced to endowment staff that she
has been named by the Obama administration as acting chairman of the
NEA. In addition, Anita Decker has been appointed by the White House as
director of government affairs. The following statement on economic
stimulus was posted to the NEA website today.

"Information Regarding the Arts and Economic Stimulus