The Game of Museum-Director Musical Chairs Heats Up, Leo Fitzpatrick’s Gallery Is Closing Shop, and More Juicy Art World Gossip

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RING AROUND THE DIRECTOR ROLE 

If you know me IRL, you’ve probably heard me say it a thousand times: the best kept secret about this column is that it’s not actually gossip, it’s all reported facts, just written… . And that’s true! I wouldn’t tell you good people anything I don’t know to be absolutely true, hat in hand. 

However, the last few weeks have really had the rumor mill churning, because a string of high-up museum directors are playing musical chairs—and the music hasn’t stopped yet. Imminent changes in leadership at some of our country’s most revered institutions are afoot, and people can’t stop speculating on who’s going where—and whether some director-swapping might be in the offing. While I can’t confirm that any of this is true, I can clue you in to what the talk around town is with people who are pretty in the know. Let’s dive into some pure and uncorroborated, capital-g Gossip, shall we? 

The staff at MoMA PS1 have been wondering for quite a while who will fill the hallowed role of director, as Kate Fowle left this March to work as Hauser & Wirth’s curatorial director. The Queens museum’s top job was most famously filled by Klaus Biesenbach from 1995 until 2018, and one current PS1 employee joked to me that he might be “BiesenBACK.” In other circumstances such an about-face would be shocking, but Biesenbach did abandon his coveted post at MOCA Los Angeles to go back to his native Germany to direct the Neue Nationalgalerie in 2021. Maybe he’s restless once more. Other loudly parroted rumors about the PS1 role have mentioned Lauren Cornell, Koyo Kough, Paul Ha, Thomas Lax, Connie Butler, Legacy Russell, and Hamza Walker.

Oh, and a new name also just entered the fray: Eva Respini, who stepped down from her role as chief curator at ICA Boston earlier this week, accompanied by a press release tantalizingly stating that she would “announce her next chapter in the coming weeks.” Guesses about her destination immediately started rolling in, with bets being placed alternatively on a move to PS1 or to the Guggenheim Museum, which has been looking for a successor to replace the outgoing Robert Armstrong when he departs this year after almost 15 years in the role. According to sources close to the Guggenheim, the new director will be announced in the next few weeks, perhaps around the time of the museum’s big spring shindig.

Respini—who was curator and co-commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion of last year’s Venice Biennale, and who will be curating the “Platform” section of this year’s Armory Showwould be an obvious choice. However, sources close to the matter have whispered to me that this is not the case, and that, hey, maybe she’ll actually head to the New Museum, where Lisa Phillips is currently at the helm, or, who knows, she could pull a Kate Fowle and switch over to the mega-gallery world.

Fantasy league, anyone? Your guess is as good as mine in this crazy, mixed-up world. 

PUBLIC ACCESS NO LONGER GRANTED

The scene outside of an opening at Public Access. Photo by Annie Armstrong.

Life moves pretty fast—if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. 

The famous Ferris Bueller-ism lends itself pretty well to the New York gallery scene as well, where it’s always #GroworGo, with exciting, ambitious new spaces cropping up while accomplished spaces breathe their final sighs seemingly every month. May is no exception. According to my spies, Public Access is set to close after this summer. I’ll be pretty sad to see this gallery shutter—it’s become one of my favorites in recent years.

“When I started at St. Marks, I didn’t think about how much money I could make, I thought about how much I could afford to lose,” its owner, Leo Fitzpatrick, told me last fall when I was reporting on the boom in galleries on Henry Street. He had opened Public Access in the East Village in 2020, and moved over to Henry Street in 2021 to nab cheaper rent and be closer to the community and the skate park on Monroe and Pike. (“Those are the kids I want to come here, are the skateboard kids,” he told me in that interview, as a former skate rat himself—you’ll recall he was cast by Larry Clark to play Telly in .) 

Fitzpatrick remained mum about the gallery’s closure, but some context clues might help. Before he started Public Access, he was a director at Marlborough, and before that he had opened two galleries, called Home Alone and Home Alone 2, which emphatically did not sell art. Those were co-founded with Nate Lowman and Hanna Liden

Similarly, Fitzpatrick never saw Public Access as particularly commercial, once telling me, “We’re terrible at selling art. We don’t sell anything. We’re lucky if we break even. That’s not why I do it. I have a full-on day job too. But hopefully, we can open some kids’ eyes to what the idea of art is, how big of an umbrella it is.”

My hope is that he’s just got restless legs, and this won’t be the last we see of his imaginative and democratic programming, which at Public Access has notably exhibited photography by Dave Schubert, paintings by Steve Keene, a cut-up photography book by Christopher Wool, and several group shows that surely kickstarted the imaginations—and possibly careers—of those skate kids who lined up for their openings, among others. Their current group show “Joke’s Up!” features work by Marika ThunderDaniel JohnstonNoah Trimble, and street artist Sluto, and apparently they’ll host a few more during the summer before they officially lock up in September. Go catch it while you can. 

WE HEAR 

 

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PPOW has taken over representation of Mosie Romney from Nicodim… The Frick is looking for two new curatorial assistants as they plan their move back to their original pad (not a bad office space if you ask me; I hear employees can access a bowling alley in a separate part of the house)… Maëlle Ebelle, the director of Ceysson & Bénétière’s in Luxembourg, is decamping for the greener pastures of the gallery’s New York City space… Alteronce Gumby has begun crowdfunding a new documentary on a very simple yet very complicated topic: color!… Julia Fox seems to be making art again, and it actually looks pretty cool?… According to Lucy Bull’s Perfectly Imperfect essay, Obé fitness classes are the best way for painters to deal with sore bodies from long days in the studio… has brought on Louise Benson as director of digital… The Hawthorne has gone out of business, meaning there’s one fewer decent dive bar in Chelsea… 

 

SPOTTED

 

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Lucas Zwirner, Dorian Grinspan, Thor Shannon, and Max Levai at a dinner party at Eli Bronfman’s art-filled Soho townhouse before they head to the new East Village hotspot Ella Funt for a Met Gala afterparty *** Cecily Brown smoking with Jo Messer outside of the Arden Wohl-curated group show opening at James Fuentes *** Sean Thor Conroe, Natasha Stagg, and Peter Vack at the launch party for the new issue of *** Public Art Fund’s annual gala attracted a starry crowd, including Paul Rudd, Jacolby Satterwhite, Hugh Hayden, and Carla Shen *** Gavin Brown, Loïc Gouzer, and Jeff Magid at Harold Ancart‘s first opening at Gagosian  *** Anthropologie did an editorial shoot outside of Mac’s Club Deuce in Miami, and seeing it flash up on Instagram gave me a vague feeling of PTSD *** 

? ⭐ CASTING CALL! ?️ ?

Last week’s prompt was for a -style action-thriller about Inigo Philbrick fleeing from New York City for the island of Vanuatu, with casting needed for Philbrick, his wife Victoria Baker-Harber, and the former mentor he defrauded, Jay Jopling. The winner is advisor and curator Alexis Hyde, who picked Ben Barnes as Inigo (“captures that shark eye look—would have to dye his hair”), Louis Theroux as Jay, and Jenna Coleman as Victoria. Sounds like a movie I’d like to watch!

I’m going to put the casting call on hiatus while I carve out some time to mail out these Wet Paint hats. See you next week, though!

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