Answered Prayers...? Let's Hope...

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In a surprise, but nevertheless highly anticipated announcement, the Getty Trust revealed its choice for the new president to replace Barry Munitz who hastily resigned or--to put it more precisely--was shown the door last February. After a nine month hunt and--one would hope--a lot of soul searching, the Getty trustees did something rather revolutionary: they summoned up the courage to overcome the corporate mentality that currently prevails in American museum board rooms across the country. Their choice is 65 year old, James Wood, a highly respected art historian and for twenty-five years director of the Art Institute of Chicago from which he retired two years ago. It's heartening to know that along with his professional expertise in European painting and sculpture, as well as in American art of the 19th and 20th centuries, Mr. Wood also has the well-deserved reputation of a skillful administrator. One can almost hear a collective sigh of relief coming from the Getty, the institution which has been besieged by controversies for quite some time. Mr. Wood has made a welcome statement that the role of visual arts will be the main focus of his tenure. Some place in the sky, Mr. Getty is smiling, I hope...

And now, let's talk about why Art Talk did not air last week. No, I wasn't playing hooky. I spent the whole week in New York running through museums and galleries which traditionally schedule their best exhibitions during this holiday time of year. Recent works by Lucian Freud at Acquavella was, hands down, the best gallery show in town. Freud, with his customary intensity, continues to scrutinize male and female models, and more often than not presenting them nude and rarely in flattering poses. These revealing portraits, charged with melancholic sexuality, are also fused with heartbreaking vulnerability. One of the exquisite pleasures of looking at Freud's canvases is examining the rich texture and bravura brushwork of his painting up close. It's a mystery for me how this eighty-four year old artist manages to sustain the intensity of his artistic process at such a feverish pitch which would certainly crush many younger and less talented artists. No wonder that in spite of the prices for his art being in the millions of dollars, most of the works are already sold.

Nearby, the Gagosian Gallery is hosting the most disappointing show of another figurative painter: relatively young and highly fashionable, John Currin who is much praised for his painterly technique inspired by Old Masters. I wish I could say that I was shocked by the graphic depictions of sexual activity in many of the paintings but actually all this groping and penetration adds up to nothing in terms of erotic sensuality. The lasting impression of these lazily executed paintings is of their artistic impotence.

The Brooklyn Museum is an absolute must to visit right now. There are three highly satisfying, traveling exhibitions currently on view: photographs photographs by Annie Leibovitz, gigantic, tour-de-force watercolors by Walton Ford and, my personal favorite, hyper-realistic sculptures by Ron Mueck. Psychologically complex portraits by Ron Mueck have an extra surreal component thanks to their radical shifts in scale. His sculptures show incredibly lifelike people, both dressed and naked. They are either shrunken to the size of a doll or blown up to such huge proportions that they make you experience the museum gallery as if it were a dollhouse. Such a pity that this show will not come to LA.

"Lucian Freud: Recent Works, 2004-2006"
Acquavella Galleries, New York
On view until December 20

John Currin at Gagosian Gallery, New York
On view until December 22

Brooklyn Museum
"Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005"
On view until January 21, 2007

"Tigers of Wrath: Watercolors by Walton Ford"
On view until January 28, 2007

Ron Mueck On view until February 4, 2007