Margarita Aguilar, who left her position as director of El Museo del Barrio, New York, earlier this week, has now filed a legal complaint against the museum, reports Ed Morales of ABC News, which cites gender discrimination in a hostile work environment. According to the charges, Aguilar was subjected to humiliating comments during a gala rehearsal last summer by a member of the museum’s executive board, who suggested she “lose weight,” “dress better,” and “pluck her eyebrows.” The complaint also alleges that, during the controversial financial crisis at the museum, Tony Bechara, the chairman of the museum’s board, did not allow her to meet with major fundraisers, later posing that her departure was voluntary when Aguilar insists she was fired for not attending a meeting to respond to the executive committee’s charges that caused her initial suspension on January 9. The museum, despite a recent $35 million renovation, has cut a third of its operating hours and a fifth of its staff. When asked for a statement, Bechara replied, “We do not comment on the separation of an employee from the museum.”
Brooks Joyner, president and chief executive officer of the Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania, is leaving his post, effective February 28, reports John J. Moser of the Morning Call. Joyner came to the museum in May 2010 after retiring as director of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, to oversee Allentown’s $15.5 million renovation, the museum’s first expansion in thirty-five years. Museum membership increased over 200 percent during his tenure, reflective of his planning of popular exhibitions, such as “Who Shot Rock and Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present” that drew crowds to the institution’s reopening. “The museum is just a wonderful treasure,” Joyner reflects, “not just the beautiful Renaissance paintings, but everything else about it: a sense of energy and kind of adventure. People feel that the museum has had a facelift, and it really has.”
After seven years of absence, Indonesia will return to the 2013 Venice Biennale, reports Carla Bianpoen of Artinfo. The Indonesian pavilion, which will be allotted over five thousand square feet, will concentrate on the theme of sakti, a Sanskrit cosmological term that is used to describe creative energy. It will include works by Albert Yonathan Setyawan, Eko Nugroho, Entang Wiharso, Sri Astari Rasjid, and Titarubi. The project follows the conceptual framework set forth by the curator of the Fifty-Fifth Biennale, Massimiliano Gioni, named “The Encyclopedic Palace.” “It will be interesting to see whether this could indeed signify a new departure for contemporary art,” says Gioni, “the dream of universal, all-embracing knowledge.”
With both a new hall and a partial redevelopment of Art Basel’s original venue, architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have tried to update the fair’s space to correspond with its status as a “global-live-marketing enterprise,” noted the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The major challenge for the architects was to revamp the enclosed entrance with a contemporary design. The new plans, which cost over $460 million, feature an entire renovation of the facade and the entryway of the original building. The result of the additions have added over 400,000 square feet in exhibition space. Visitors entering the fair will first encounter the circular “City Lounge,” which will consist of a bar and restaurant as well as a twenty-five-thousand-seat event hall. The showrooms will be tinted, as the new façade of the building radiates natural sunlight from outside, an aspect of the new design’s emphasis on sustainability.
Meanwhile, in Der Standard, Olga Kronsteiner reflected on the major shift in the business model of auction houses. Kronsteiner noted that the increasing amount of revenue made by private art sales has begun to dwarf profits gained by public auction. She cited the annual release of Christie’s 2012 fiscal records, which disclosed that its private sales reached upward of one billion dollars last year, surpassing 2011’s record of $814.6 million by 26 percent. Sotheby’s annual report, which will be published at the end of this month, is expected to reflect a similar trend. The findings follow recent news that Sotheby’s Canada will end its live-auction program entirely, instead focusing on private sales. These changes reflecting a shifting customer base, wrote Der Standard, caused by the growing competitive market of private buyers and the shrinking margins of traditional live auction house sales.
The Bergen Assembly, the new triennial slated to take place in the Norwegian city this fall, has announced some surprising new details about its upcoming edition this fall. For one, the festival asserts that it will not be run by curators in a traditional sense, but rather will recruit Ekaterina Degot and David Riff as “conveners.” The difference? Degot and Riff will use a “research-based methodology” and initiate “conclaves” of other artists and thinkers who will then collaborate on projects. According to the triennial’s website, the name of its upcoming edition, “Monday Begins on Saturday,” comes from “the title of a novel by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky about a fictitious research institute staffed by a motley assemblage of fairytale beings and mad scientists who are trying to solve the problem of human happiness through magic.” The website also notes, “A montage of newly commissioned artists’ projects and historical material, punctuated with fragments from literature, and quasi-fictional curatorial annotations, the assembly is conceived as an aggregate or archipelago of fictitious research institutes—a little like the departments in the novel—‘hosted’ by existing institutions in Bergen.”
The Harvard Art Museums have announced today that they will open their renovated and expanded facility designed by Renzo Piano in the fall of 2014. The plan will unite Harvard’s three museums, the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Sackler, and their respective collections under one roof, while creating new art and conservation study centers that include galleries, classrooms, studios, and a theater for lectures and public programming. “For more than a century we have been a ‘laboratory for the fine arts’ and a premier training ground for museum professionals,” said Thomas W. Lentz, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot director of the Harvard Art Museums. “The expanded and renovated Harvard Art Museums will not only enhance our ability to advance that mission, but will enable us to share with the public the constant experimentation with new ideas and new ways of understanding human expression that underpin our work.”
Julia Mariciari-Alexander has been appointed executive director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. She will replace Gary Vikan, who’s leaving after twenty-seven years. Mariciari-Alexander was deputy director for curatorial affairs at the San Diego Museum of Art, and has also worked at the Yale Center for British Art. She will begin her new position on April 1. “She is passionate about the public mission of museums, and her enthusiasm is infectious,” said Walters board president Douglas Hamilton.
Coline Milliard notes on Artinfo that Nicola Lees has been named the Frieze Foundation’s curator. Lees, who will take over the post from Sarah McCrory, was formerly senior curator of public programs at Serpentine Gallery, where she worked with Hans Ulrich Obrist to coordinate what came to be known as “Serpentine Marathons,” two days of interdisciplinary lectures, events, and talks. She has also worked at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. At Frieze, she will be responsible for the artist commissions and will sit on the jury for the Emdash award. “The biggest challenge and opportunity of this role will be to work with the architecture of the art fair and to spot vantage points and frameworks for new works to thrive,” Lees told Artinfo.
Maria Baibakova, founder of Baibakov Art Projects in Moscow, has been named the new strategic director of the art market website Artspace.com, which also announced that it has raised $8.5 million in new funding. A graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art and Harvard Business School, Baibakova will also join the board of directors at Artspace.com, according to the venture’s cofounders Catherine Levene and Christopher Vroom. Said Baibakova, “I hope to continue expanding Artspace.com as the trusted resource and marketplace for collectors of all levels.”
Meanwhile, Walter Robinson has been hired by the venture as a bimonthly columnist, according to GalleristNY. Robinson, whose first column for Artspace.com has been published here, was formerly the editor of Artnet.
Alex Gartenfeld has been appointed curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami. The newly created position includes both curatorial and administrative duties and will commence May 10. Gartenfeld is currently an independent curator based in New York, where he has also acted as an editor at the online components of Art in America and Interview. He has contributed to some twenty-five exhibitions worldwide.