Roundup: Pope closes Sistine Chapel, Bjork at MoMA, and nude art tours

Roundup: Pope closes Sistine Chapel, Bjork at MoMA, and nude art tours
In New York, the exhibition "Björk" at the Museum of Modern Art continues to stir debate over its curation. In this image, a visitor listens to the audio guide during a preview. (Justin Lane / European Pressphoto Agency)

A group of homeless people is granted a special tour of the Sistine Chapel, a mysterious private investigator is digging dirt on critics of conditions in Abu Dhabi, and the Museum of Modern Art's Björk show continues as subject of debate. Plus, a look at Velazquez’s wonderfully strange “Las Meninas,” a lively discussion about the future of LACMA and a painter’s comeback late in life.

— The pope shut down the Sistine Chapel for 90 minutes last week to host a private viewing for a group of 150 homeless people.


A private investigator has been looking into a critic of New York University’s role in Abu Dhabi, and at a former New York Times reporter who did a story on labor conditions there. The client and the motivation for the investigation remain unknown.

— And since we're on the subject of labor conditions, the New York Post's gossip page has scintillating coverage of what it's like to work at Jeff Koons' studio: "It made an iPhone factory look like a fun place to work." 

— NPR has an interview with Tania Bruguera, the Cuban performance artist who was detained for attempting to stage a free-speech performance in Havana's Revolution Square.

— Arts writer Greg Allen says everyone needs to cool it with the anti-Museum of Modern Art attacks tied to the Björk exhibit. Need a primer on what all the hyperventilating is about? Here's my summary from last week. (Hyperallergic)

"A work of artifice and a slice of life at once." Upon the opening of a show of Diego Velazquez's works in Paris, critic Jason Farago dissects the enduring appeal of his master canvas, "Las Meninas."

— Washington City Paper has an interesting profile of painter Sam Gilliam, a D.C. artist whose resurgent career has some ties to Los Angeles (among them: curator Walter Hopps and gallerist David Kordansky).

— The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been adding to its trove of digitized catalogs and now has 422 art books available for free perusing or download. I've already downloaded the one about chess…

— Critic Hal Foster has a terrific essay in the London Review of Books about museum space. Namely, the ways in which it has been regarded over time and the forces that have shaped it, increasingly into a place of entertainment. Long, but totally worth it.

— And because I'm on a museum kick: In this piece in Libération, philosopher Paul Preciado looks at the museum as capitalist artifact, in which exhibits are "products" and art history a "cognitive-financial accumulation." I'm no French speaker, so I read it using Google Translate, but his point about the hypothetical creation of a privatized monster-mega-museum called MOMAPOMPIDOUTATEGUGGENHEIMABUDHABI is comprehensible no matter what language you read it in. (And it's probably a reality that is closer than we think.)

— As two men are appointed to top museum jobs in England, some ask, where are the women?

— Critic Catherine Wagley has an interesting piece on the ways in which women critics and curators are key in documenting the work of women artists.

— My colleague Christopher Hawthorne organized a lively discussion about the future of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art at Occidental College last week (in which I participated). The best line of the night came from architect Mark Lee, of Johnston Marklee, who offered a colorful Bobby Darin simile to describe the work of the museum's original designer William Pereira. (Video of the proceedings can be found here.)

— As part of the talk at Occidental, critic Alexandra Lange contributed a thoughtful piece on Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s proposed LACMA redesign. Lots of food for thought. 

— Plus, in her summary (in one and two parts) of the proceedings, Ezrha Jean Black describes Zumthor's revised building design as containing "a Gumby-like footprint." The shape does indeed bear a passing resemblance to the Great Green One.


— Speaking of strange museum experiences: the French have built a full-scale replica of the caves at Chauvet, complete with recreated Upper Paleolithic Art made with era-appropriate materials. Not sure whether this is insane or admirable — or a totally Borgesian work of conceptual art.

— "Scalies" — the people featured in architectural renderings. A fascinating piece by Alissa Walker, tied to an exhibition at UC Berkeley. (Citylab)

— Plus, architectural things that terrify me: this 1969 proposed hotel for Machu Picchu by Miguel Rodrigo Mazuré.

Nude art tours. They are a thing … in Australia.

— And last but not least, your moment of breakfast: Roads & Kingdoms has started a series devoted to my favorite meal of the day and it is pretty dang rad — ox eyeballs and all.


Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.