Roundup: Kusama's popularity, Frida's love letters, overgrown galleries

Roundup: Kusama's popularity, Frida's love letters, overgrown galleries
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's exhibitions drew the most visitors in 2014. Seen here: an installation by the artist at the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts in southern Taiwan. (KMFA / EPA)

The world's most popular exhibitions … galleries getting ever bigger … Frida Kahlo's love letters … and controversies surrounding the park projects of architect Thomas Heatherwick. Plus: overcrowded museums, Lima murals buffed, Fresno's DIY art scene and the architecture of a Norwegian prison. Here is the Roundup:

— Edifice Complex: As some galleries expand, their gigantic dimensions have started dwarfing museums. Not included on the gallery-museum size chart Hyperallergic put together: Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, soon to open in Los Angeles, which will check in at a gargantuan 100,000 square feet.


— The Art Newspaper rounds up the most popular exhibitions — and Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama takes the top honor for global exhibition attendance. But as the Guardian points out, despite the fact that women artists are behind some immensely popular shows, they still represent only 27% of solo exhibitions.

— In the meantime, some museums are the victims of too many visitors. The Louvre, for example, draws more than 9 million visitors a year, yet it is designed for 5 million. (Arts Journal)

— European state museums and other art holdings are dipping into their collections to pay the bills, undertake remodels, settle debts and even build casinos. The New York Times has an interesting report on how some institutions are doing the previously unthinkable: using art as asset.

— There has been lots of restitution news surrounding cases of Nazi-looted art: a canvas by Camille Pisarro found in the collection of German hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt will be returned to heirs, the Dutch royal family is also returning a 17th century canvas by Joris van der Haagen to the descendants of its Jewish owner and, closer to home, the heirs of Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker can proceed with their case against Pasadena's Norton Simon Museum in their attempt to have a canvas by Cranach the Elder returned.

The mayor of Lima, Peru, has painted over murals commissioned by his predecessor — and Limeños are outraged. Peruvian daily El Comercio has images.

— An auction house in New York is selling a trove of love letters by Frida Kahlo.

— On to the gossip: artist Matthew Barney has filed a custody suit against his ex, musician and songwriter Björk, for a role in the raising of their 12-year-old daughter, Isadora. It hasn't been a good 2015 for the singer: this comes on the heels of a critical pile-on for her solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, which opened last month.

— It is now possible to insure works of conceptual art. But can I insure my conceptual art bumper sticker: Think about honking if you love conceptual art.

— A fascinating piece about how a set of damaged canvases by Mark Rothko at Harvard are resuscitated daily using lights.

— William Poundstone has the curious story of how James Whistler's 19th century canvas "Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1" — otherwise known as "Whistler's Mother" — became a cultural touchstone. (L.A. plays a role.) And my colleague Jessica Gelt witnessed the delicate "tete-a-tete" it took to get the masterpiece hung at the Norton Simon, where Whistler's painting and two others from Paris' Musée d'Orsay are now on view.

The Atlantic checks out Fresno's art scene — and the ways in which festivals such as the Rogue benefit the city's downtown.

— The pictures that accompany this New York Times story about drought in California are stark, beautiful and terrifying. (Though the question the piece asks, about whether the drought represents the end of the California dream, is a little melodramatic. People will adapt, if only because they have to.)

— L.A.'s derelict Sunset Pacific Motel in Silver Lake (informally known to some as the Bates Motel) will be turned into a work of art by a French artist who will spray the entire building, along with the accompanying palm trees, with a ghostly coat of limewash.

— "This is New York City, and what's important in New York is glamour." An interesting piece about a proposed park on a pier off Manhattan that brings together high-rolling donors (Barry Diller), public money, name-brand architects (Thomas Heatherwick, who currently has a show at the Hammer Museum) and questions about how public space is managed.


— Speaking of Heatherwick, his proposed Garden Bridge in London is coming under fire for the ways in which it will — and won't — serve the public.

— A piece about prisons in Norway and how they are geared at rehabilitation instead of punishment has an interesting subplot about architecture — and the ways in which loss of freedom can be implied through design in subtle, yet humane ways. ArchDaily has additional photos of the design.


— From the Department of "Hell, Yeah!": Northridge is getting the city of L.A.'s first protected bike lanes. They aren't the first in L.A. County, though. If you ride on Rosemead Boulevard in Temple City, the lanes are protected by greenway. Time to invest in some new rilas.

"Biesenbacle" and other words in a satiric dictionary put together by Women Inc., a group of women working in contemporary art.

— And last but not least: Angora show bunnies … as photographed by "Piss Christ" artist Andres Serrano. Because Monday.

Find me on the Twitters @cmonstah.