The Bilbao-Effect Continues

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One would think that Thomas Krens' streak of bad luck might be over, but this seems not to be the case. Last year he almost lost his job as the Director of the Guggenheim Museum, when he was ordered either to tighten the museum's budget and scale down many programs, or get his walking papers. This was compounded with the closing of the Guggenheim satellite space in Las Vegas only a year after a much-publicized opening. Despite all that, Thomas Krens proceeded with what he knows best museum globalization. I don't know what he's been smoking, but at one point last year, he was actually discussing the possibility of building four Guggenheim satellites in four Brazilian cities. Subsequently, fun-loving Brazilian's woke up to smell the coffee, focusing solely on the Rio de Janeiro location, with famous French architect Jean-Nouvel attached to the $250 million dollar project. Now we read in the January issue of The Art Newspaper, my source for this program, that even this has been legally challenged, and ultimately blocked, by a court order.

Another Guggenheim extension designed by the Iraqi-born Zaha Hadid - the only woman among the constellation of superstar architects - was planned for Taiwan. But as bad luck would have it, this project has also run into major setbacks.

And while we're talking about luck, the Getty Museum has been waiting for British authorities to grant an exporting license to bring Raphael's "Madonna" to the United States. The Getty paid roughly $50 million dollars for this rare, exquisite Renaissance painting, measuring approximately 11"x7" making it - inch by inch - the most expensive work of art to date. The British tried to stop the export of this gem of a painting, hoping that some English museum would be able to match the price, hoping to keep the painting in the United Kingdom. Against the rules, the deadline was extended several times, while the Getty politely waited, keeping their fingers crossed, praying the delicate situation might be resolved in their favor. Unfortunately, the gods probably were too busy to hear the Getty's prayers, and last Saturday the news came that the Brits won another cultural battle with their Yankee cousins, and finally collected enough money to acquire Raphael for their National Gallery. But don't be sad, we Angelenos still have a Raphael in our midst a wonderful "Madonna and Child" in the collection of the Norton Simon Museum, to be precise.

Meanwhile, our Russian friends in the Hermitage Museum, in their quiet way, continue with their global expansion, by planning an addition to their already existing satellites in Las Vegas, London, and Amsterdam - this time, in Hiroshima, Japan, of all places. In 2005, Hiroshima will host a major exhibition of works on loan from the Hermitage, and if things go well, the permanent branch of this museum will be established in this Japanese city. One hopes for their success, especially in light of the financial struggle that the Nagoya branch of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts has had since its opening four years ago, due to its attendance, which fell far below what was projected.

In spite of all these setbacks, hope springs eternal, and the Bilbao-effect continues to ripple around the world.