Sections

The Lehman legacy: A retrospective

Cornerstone: The Brooklyn Museum's glass pavilion opened in 2004, the same year the institution dropped "of Art" on the end of its name.
The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Don’t miss our updates:

When he steps down in mid-2015, Arnold Lehman will have spent 18 years as director of the Brooklyn Museum. In that time he has pushed boundaries, fended off controversy, and reached out to new audiences. Under his leadership the institution increased its focus on Kings County artists, cemented its commitment to feminist art, and booked exhibitions with mass appeal. Here is an expertly curated timeline to help guide you through Lehman’s legacy.

1997

Lehman takes the director job

Lehman’s first official act was to march in the West Indian American Day Parade, an experience he said impressed upon him the need to make the museum a place for all of the borough’s people.

1999

First Saturdays begin

Recognizing the old adage that the best things in life are free, the Brooklyn Museum starts opening its doors to all — and offering cash bars — on the first Saturday of every month.

Fall 1999

“Sensation”

The exhibition’s elephant-dung-laden painting of the biblical Mary gets Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s goat, big-time (the dismembered animal carcasses probably didn’t help, either). The mayor, a Catholic, not having seen the exhibit, pulls the museum’s funding, which constitutes nearly a third of its $23-million budget, and tries to evict it from the city-owned building it has occupied since 1897. Lehman would respond with a federal lawsuit and ultimately force Giuliani to back off.

2000

“Hip-Hop Nation: Roots, Rhymes, and Rage”

An exhibition of artifacts and memorabilia makes the case for rap representing a major cultural shift in America and worldwide. Some in the museum world criticize the show as not befitting the museum, but the huge attendance it attracts convinces Lehman he is onto something.

2002 “Star Wars: The Magic of Myth”

Another big-draw exhibition is met with hand-wringing from high-society types.

2004

Name change, new entrance-way, and a Kings County review

The building’s new glass pavilion opens and the plaza’s fountains are unveiled, ending a three-year, $63-million renovation. Coinciding with the big reveal is the museum’s change to its current name, from “Brooklyn Museum of Art.” Also, the museum doubles down on its commitment to showing local artists with the show “Open House: Working in Brooklyn,” featuring 200 of them.

2005

“Basquiat”

The Museum’s first solo show of the work of native son Jean-Michel Basquiat.

2006

Graffiti show and curatorial shakeup

A graffiti exhibition and a rejiggering of how curators works together — separating the department into two groups, one for exhibitions and one for permanent collections, rather than the subject specialty divisions seen in most institutions — draws potshots from the likes of Metropolitan Museum of Art chairman George Goldner. The Manhattan arts bigwig tells the New York Times the pop shows are “razzamatazz” and compares the curatorial shift to forcing medical specialists to leave their departments.

2007

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art opens

An entire wing devoted to feminist art opens with Judy Chicago’s massive installation “The Dinner Party” as a centerpiece.

2011

The “Raw/Cooked” series starts

The museum starts giving lesser-known Brooklyn artists solo shows as part of a recurring series.

2012

First Saturday dance parties fall victim to own popularity

The museum calls off the dance parties that had been taking place on First Saturdays because, drawing crowds as big as 20,000 in warm weather, they had gotten too big to handle.

2014

“Ai Weiwei: According to What?” “Swoon: Submerged Motherlands” and Lehman’s resignation

The museum takes a less controversial stand for freedom of speech, showcasing dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s work, then stretches the limits of the rotunda with a 60-feet-tall tree installation by Gowanus artist Swoon. In early September, Lehman announces he will retire in mid-2015.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Don’t miss our updates:


Reasonable discourse

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: