2015 in Review: Museums

  • December 29, 2015 13:41

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Installation view of the Edlis/Neeson Collection at Art Institute of Chicago, showing works by Jasper Johns (center) and Roy Lichtenstein (left).
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On April 30, 2015, the Whitney Museum inaugurated the opening of its new home with a dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting featuring First Lady Michelle Obama, Mayor Bill de Blasio, architect Renzo Piano, and Whitney leaders.
video still, Whitney Museum of American Art

The Observer takes a look at museum trends and news in 2015 with its list here, and we've added links and additional stories below.

- Openings and Closings: Cheers abounded for the Whitney move to New York City's Meat-Packing district, with inaugural exhibitions "American is Hard to See" and "Frank Stella" and its new Renzo Piano-designed building. Philanthropists Edythe and Eli Broad put their contemporary art on public display and The Broad lit up in LA. George Lucas fights legal battles to create his museum in Chicago. Tehran Contemporary Art Museum opened to reveal a world-class collection of modern art. Despite some crowds, Museum of Biblical Art in New York City is among the institutions to shutter.

- Expansions and Renovations. The Westmoreland Museum (now with the Scaife collection) and Cinicinnati Art Museum are among many museums with expanded gallery space. Crystal Bridges added a Frank Lloyd Wright House to its landscape. The Frick in NY and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh abandoned expansion plans.

- Big Gifts. A sampling: The $400 million Edlis-Neeson collection went to the Art Institute of Chicago; 850 works collectively given to the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Centre Georges Pompidou came from Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner; and James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin gave a $200 million American art collection to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Charles Courtney Curran, By the Lily Pond, 1908. Bequest of Richard Mellon Scaife; Westmoreland Museum of American Art.
Westmoreland Museum of American Art

- Scandals. San Francisco's de Young Museum seemingly fired a whistleblower after the institution's chief financial officer, Michele Gutierrez, lost her job. Gutierrez had filed a complaint over board president Dede Wilsey's alleged passing of a $450,000 payment to a former staffer without full board approval. Critics' disapproval reigned over the silly "Björk" show at MoMA.

- Restitution. Possible Nazi loot, and the provenance of objects in collections overall, were scrutinized a bit more at museums worldwide. The Norton Simon Museum will have to defend its ownership of a contested c.1530 Lucas Cranach the Elder diptych of Adam and Eve. The Toledo Museum of Art was among the institutions to return antiquites sourced from accused smuggler Subhash Kapoor, who stands trial in India.

- Tech. Some museums banned selfie sticks to avoid accidental damage to objects and people. Apps like WoofbertVR aim to make armchair viewing of museum collections possible while Spotzer is renamed Cuseum and adds info to the museum visitor's experience. Google Art Project picks up the pace inside museums, including the British Museum, but copyright issues blur the view of art.

- Breakage and Thefts. Schoolchildren break art in clumsy falls in museums from Israel to Taipei. It's been 25 years since the Gardner Museum heist, two named suspects are dead, but hope remains that the half-billion dollars worth of missing art will be found; video surveillance released. Dutch museum's stolen art held for "ransom" in Ukraine. Thieves ransacked a museum in Verona, Italy, making off with an estimated $16 million in artworks.

- Most Popular. The European Museum Forum named Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum the European Museum of the Year, but the Dutch may still need to share the Rothschild Rembrandts

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