Corcoran Sale Gets Art Community Talking, Fighting
The Wednesday announcement from the Corcoran that it has sold the Randall School—a building the institution bought in 2006 as a planned extension to its campus—was met with skepticism by some local art bloggers, based on what they alleged was a possible conflict of interest. That's because the museum sold the building to the art-collecting, hotel-managing Rubell Family (you know them from the Capitol Skyline Hotel, which is across the street from the Randall School), who also will be curating a traveling exhibition for the Corcoran of works from its own collection later this year. The Rubells plan to turn the building into an art museum (a satellite of its Miami museum) as well as a hotel and residences.
The announcement—and Jacqueline Trescott's article for the Washington Post detailing the sale—set off a chain reaction of disbelief. The godfather of D.C. art bloggers, Tyler Green, read Trescott's coverage, and paid particular attention to her last line: "Later this year, the Corcoran is presenting a traveling show of contemporary African American artists from the Rubell Family Collection. Officials said the exhibition is not related to the sale."
The last line of the Washington Post story on the deal is a classic case of burying the lede: "Officials said the exhibition is not related to the sale." Really? When an art-museum-and-school is preparing to exhibit a family's private collection at the same time it is cutting a real estate deal with the owners of that collection (and curator(s) of the show), the arrangement deserves significantly more journalistic examination than a toss-off at the end of a story.
Enter Kriston Capps, formerly of this paper. Capps wrote a story summarizing the deal for Art in America, and spoke to Mera Rubell, but did not mention "30 Americans," the Rubell-curated show, in his article. Via Twitter, Green and another arts blogger, Greg Allen, took him to task, asking how he could have written the story without including that detail.
@tylergreendc @gregorg ...it has no bearing on the building sale. Zero bearing. My story not about whether Corc made bad choice w/30As.
@grammar_police @tylergreendc I cannot fathom how you can be so unequivocal. And 30As really only dropped in 12/09?? *Simultaneous* deals.
Allen then grilled Capps on whom he spoke to, when he talked to them, and what he asked. An exasperated Capps finally replied, "@gregorg Corc does not have epic COI, only the strong appearance of one, and I have the notes to prove it. Do you need me to fax them 2 you?"
@grammar_police "notes to prove it"? is that the new journalistic standard?
As for the Corcoran, a press release maintains that the real estate deal was separate from the decision to show "30 Americans":
The Corcoran Gallery of Art will present the traveling exhibition, 30 Americans: The Rubell Family Collection, opening October 23, 2010. The Corcoran’s curatorial team initiated conversations with the Rubells about contracting this exhibition more than one year before signing the PSA for the Randall School in Southwest. There are no connections between the two projects.
Twitter arguments aside, the news that D.C. will gain a new contemporary art museum— especially from a woman who once said, of the D.C. art scene, "There's nothing to fight for here"—is good indeed. It appears that Mera Rubell has picked her battle.