Wet Paint: MoMA Director on Defensive Amid Toxic Leon Black Fallout, Ridgewood Gallerist Takes Manhattan, & More Art-World Gossip
What gallerist-actress couple was dining at a hip NoHo spot? What a-lister jetted to Brussels for a museum show? Read on for answers.
Every week, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops reported and written by Nate Freeman. If you have a tip, email Nate at [email protected]
MOMA VS. LOWRY
It’s been months since the uproar over Leon Black‘s position of power at the Museum of Modern Art reached a fever pitch, and since then, the museum’s leadership has struggled to handle the situation. At first, the board dragged its feet on whether to let Black retain his grip on the chairmanship or leave amid scandal. (In case you missed it, the scandal is that Black, the billionaire financier, gave hundreds of millions of dollars to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died by suicide while awaiting trial for sex trafficking.)
Last week, Black stepped down as the head of the firm he founded, Apollo, and on Friday, he finally relinquished power from MoMA as well, announcing to the executive committee during a hastily planned meeting that he would leave the post when his term ended in July. Black formally announced his decision not to seek another term at a board meeting Wednesday, but his colleagues have not yet announced his successor. (Black will stay on as a non-executive member of the board.)
But the problem evidently can’t just be swept under the rug by kicking out the bad guy. Sources tell Wet Paint that the board has deputized director Glenn Lowry to personally do damage control on the situation. The busiest guy in American museums has been sitting down with each department, one by one, to calm staff members outraged by the fact that Black stayed on for as long as he did. According to sources, the director has put all programming duties on hold to go into full PR mode. This week, he had an intimate chat with the photography department.
And while Lowry’s personal appeal highlights the severity of the situation, sources say it also puts him in an uncomfortable position. Black was one of Lowry’s biggest boosters on the board, and was the driving force behind the renewal of Lowry’s contract in 2018—which leaves him in charge until 2025, despite the fact that he previously said he was planning to retire at 65, per MoMA’s longstanding policy. Lowry, now 66, will be the longest-serving director in MoMA’s history.
Sources said there’s no indication Lowry is in danger of departing his term early, despite the uproar. But it’s also unclear how much longer he’ll be forced to clean up the board’s Epstein-tainted mess.
MoMA did not respond to a request for comment, and Leon Black did not respond to a message sent to a representative.
RIDGEWHERE? PLUMMETING GALLERY RENTS MAKE MANHATTAN HIP
After four years, the beloved artist-run gallery Kimberly-Klark closed its doors in the summer of 2019, ending a run of shows that dragged those in the know all the way out to the outer edge of Ridgewood, Queens. At the time, a space in the neighborhood was all its directors could afford.
“Back in 2019, I remember several galleries were talking about how Tribeca was the place to be, very desirable, but the prices were pretty expensive,” said curator, artist, and writer Jordan Barse, one of the Kimberly-Klark co-directors.
Fast forward two years, and Tribeca is still very desirable—but, shockingly, not very expensive. Wet Paint can reveal that Barse will be opening a new space next week in the heart of downtown Manhattan, further proving that Gotham’s toniest nabes are not just for established enterprises anymore. The gallery will be called Theta and it opens April 10 at 184 Franklin Street.
Barse—who until recently has been working with Lower East Side stalwart Kai Matsumiya and co-curated the current solo show there of work by Irina Jasnowski Pascual—noted that, while she plans to summon the renegade spirit of Kimberly-Klark to the space, she also considers herself part of a new wave of dealers taking advantage of cut-rate prices to open downtown and, hopefully, put down roots there.
“The real estate in New York is pretty central to the way galleries have been able to function—there’s such a premium on space here and it’s so hard to get these coveted spots in Manhattan,” Barse said. “It took real estate emptying for landlords to realize they had to get people in.”
The first show will feature new work by Omari Douglin, Elizabeth Englander, and Ian Markell, and the first day will have an opening from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. As for the name, yes, it is supposed to sound like a sorority.
“My impression of the city’s contemporary art galleries was that it interacted somewhat similarly to Greek Life organizations,” Barse said. “I thought it was interesting how ideologies and people cluster around self-selecting collectives sharing and exchanging special interests.”
WET PAINT HAT UPDATE
In addition to getting a new batch of Wet Paint Hats to send to the quiz winners—it will take a minute, but we are working our way through the list!—our genius hat-designing friends at Know Wave have restocked the digital store with a few more hats for anyone to purchase. Click on through and buy before they sell out!
Many of you knew that the clue last week was John Chamberlain‘s Fuccimanooli (1990), owned by the the Brant Foundation and installed at its East Village location, in Walter de Maria‘s old studio on 6th Street. One friend said this was the easiest quiz yet—oh well, back to the drawing board here at Pop Quiz global headquarters! And while I know it’s frustrating for those who sent in the right answers a bit on the later side, we can only list the first 10 respondents. They are: Brussels-based curator Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte; the writer and critic Andrew Russeth; Cyprien David, exhibition coordinator at Gagosian Geneva; collector and patron Scott Lorinsky; Brian Balfour-Oatts, director of postwar and contemporary art at Archeus / Post-Modern; New York-based architect Peter McCourt; Paula Cooper Gallery senior director Alexis Johnson; Tom Lee, director of commissions and collections at to.org; and contemporary art specialist at Artnet, Henri Neuendorf—who got no hints from us, promise!
Here is this week’s. Name this artwork and artist, and its owner.
Winners get eternal glory and a hat. Email [email protected] with all your guesses!
Ramiken is reopening its legendary Lower East Side space at 389 Grand Street, nestled behind a liquor store in the heart of the Seward Park co-ops, while still keeping the giant top-floor space in Bushwick—the first show will be memorial show for Sven Sachsalber, who died in December … Art Dubai opened in the city’s International Financial-Centre, with dealers such as Emmanuel Perrotin physically present at an expo for the first time in over a year … MoMA curatorial assistant Danielle A. Jackson is leaving the museum to join the downtown juggernaut that is Artists Space as curator …
Dia Chelsea opens this month after two years of renovations … A long list of artists—Amy Sillman, Jack Pierson, Robert Irwin, Charline von Heyl, Christopher Wool, and many others—signed a letter to the editor in The Big Bend Sentinel attacking the Chinati Foundation for terminating the contract of longtime staffer Rob Weiner, who first came to Marfa as Donald Judd‘s assistant and has been at Chinati for decades … Steak tartare is back on the menu at the Odeon … ZAK’s, the project space run by Zak Kitnick in his studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, will reopen with a show of work by Patrick Sarmiento in April …
Photographer Walker Bunting shot Lily-Rose Depp for Elle, and the wonderful pictures featured the actress in a crab-walk pose—one that reminded some of a crab-walk video starring the actress and Red Scare co-host Dasha Nekrasova and made during the early pandemic panic period (kind of a genius reference point for a fashion rag shoot you ask us) … Glenstone, the museum in Potomac run by Emily Wei Rales and Mitch Rales, will reopen its indoor spaces April 8 … Launching next week is Nota Bene, a brand new podcast hosted by advisor Benjamin Godsill and Nate Freeman (yes, me!) that will have, um, a lot more shit-talking than your usual polite and informative art talk—we’re saying that it’s “the podcast version of a boozy lunch at Sant Ambroeus” … Ella Kruglyanskaya is now repped by Bortolami … Raque Ford is now repped by Greene Naftali … Raucous-fun karaoke spot Winnie’s has quietly reopened its East Broadway location upstairs …
*** Roberta Smith at the gallery Broadway rocking an incredibly rad Shrits Water Lillies bucket hat *** Lucas Zwirner and Maya Hawke, the actress and musician daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, at dinner at Il Buco Alimentari, the NoHo boîte co-founded by Zwirner père *** Jeremy O. Harris and Tyler Mitchell nibbling at the sweet Indian snack jalebi at the opening of Bode Tailor Shop on Hester Street *** The team behind Dr. Clark pulling up to Lucien in a mini fire truck they bought last week in New Jersey, look for it to be tooling around Dimes Square come summer, with Dr. Clark staffers grilling up lamb out of the back ***
*** Sylvester Stallone popping into galleries on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach *** Paris Hilton at the new Carbone in Miami Beach *** Voice-of-her-generation writer Honor Levy outside of Dimes Deli accusing passersby of being the anonymous writer behind The Sober Canal, which is a print newspaper parody of The Drunken Canal, try to keep up *** Brad Pitt arriving in Brussels via private jet to see his friend Thomas Houseago’s show at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium ***
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