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November 5, 2006

Our AJBlogs
We have 18 ArtsJournal blogs on culture. You can check them out at AJ Blog Central or visit: Terry Teachout's About Last Night , Andrew Taylor's Artful Manager , Tobi Tobias' Seeing Things , Greg Sandow's Sandow , Jan Herman's Straight Up , , Kyle Gann's PostClassic , Tim Riley's blog riley , Drew McManus' Adaptistration , Nancy Levinson's Pixel Points , Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes , Martha Bayles' Serious Popcorn, John Perreault's Artopia , Doug Ramsey's Rifftides, Lee Rosenbaum's CultureGrrl, Douglas McLennan's diacritical Apollinaire Scherr's Foot in Mouth, and Jerome Weeks' book/daddy and Henry Fogel's On the Record.

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American Cultural Domination (Except When It's Not) "The world is moving toward a uniform material culture, dominated by mostly material American influences: technological innovations, fashion, Hollywood and the celebrity culture it promotes, hip-hop, and rock 'n' roll. But the pervasiveness of the trappings of American culture obscures the central cultural paradox that lies within the globalization process: Although people around the world may wear, eat, and listen to American products, they continue to maintain their deeply ingrained values, beliefs, and underlying assumptions." - Chronicle of Higher Education 12/08/06

Errant Arendt Attention Philosopher Hannah Arendt is being celebrated on the 100th anniversary of her birth. But "if her star shines so brightly, it is because the American intellectual firmament is so dim. After all, who or where are the other political philosophers? The last great political American philosopher, John Dewey, died in 1952. Since then American philosophy — with the partial exception of Richard Rorty — has vanished into technical issues; within the subfield of political philosophy, the largest of its figures, John Rawls, remains abstract and insular." - Chronicle of Higher Education 12/08/06

Smelly Assault (Even If They're Cookies) The California Milk Processor Board, whose 'Got Milk?' campaign is famous around the world, thought they had the next big milk promotion. They installed ads at bus shelters that emitted the scent of fresh-baked cookies. But the ads have quickly disappeared after the transit authority "received several complaints from bus riders concerned that the aroma might not be safe." - Yahoo! (Reuters) 12/06/06

How Walt Disney Took Over The World "Even now, forty years after his death, the slight figure of Walt himself is almost impossible to pick out from the parti-colored throng of movie clips, projects, and moral tendencies that march under the banner of 'Walt Disney.' Say the name to most people and you know what will flash onto their mind’s eye: unashamedly bright hues, flying elephants, singing bears, corporate dominance, happy endings, and a helping of values that slip down as easily as ice cream. How did we arrive at this blinding apotheosis?" - The New Yorker 12/04/06

Is Borat A Reflection Of European Ignorance? Sacha Baron Cohen's runaway hit mockumentary, Borat, is being seen by most observers as a scathing indictment of American ignorance. But is it America that is cartoonish, or just the infuriatingly limited European view of America? Chris Jones says that Borat "functions very nicely as a smug celluloid confirmation of the cheap and ignorant Western European view of a homogenously ugly America." - Chicago Tribune 12/03/06

The Translation Algorithm The intricacies of different languages have always been a bit much for computers to handle, and computerized translation programs have never been as reliable as users would like. Translation "is a tricky problem, not only for a piece of software but also for the human mind. A single word in one language, for example, may map into three or more in another... But a New York firm with an ingenious algorithm and a really big dictionary is finally cracking the code." - Wired 12/01/06


Rumors Of UK Funding Cuts Roil Arts Leaders The arts in England have done well in funding in recent years. But "over recent weeks, some arts boardrooms have veered from paralysis to near-panic. Anticipating austerity, large organisations like the Royal Opera House put in frugally for nothing more than inflation-proofing of their present grant, only for the Treasury to spring a calculated leak that the arts are scheduled for something between zero increase and a five percent cut." - La Scena Musicale 12/09/06

Alberta Artists Await Newfound Clout "After nearly 20 years of being shut out in the cold, arts and culture have finally found their way back onto the political agenda: During the election campaign, three candidates made increased government arts funding a priority in their platforms. Which can only be a good thing, say those in the arts and their supporters. Despite its flush of oil revenues, Alberta currently ranks 11th out of the 13 provinces and territories in its per capita funding for the arts." - The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/09/06

Heads Will Roll "The opera house that dropped a production featuring the severed head of Muhammad over security fears suffered an embarrassing setback shortly before the disputed show resumes: It lost the offending prop. The head of the Islamic prophet as well as those of Jesus, Buddha and Neptune that were used in the three-year-old production of Mozart's Idomeneo have gone missing." - New York Post (AP) 12/08/06

Using The Arts To Heal International Divides Michael Kaiser has been ambitious since the day he took the reins at Washington's Kennedy Center. "For the past three years, Kaiser, who volunteers as a cultural ambassador with the U.S. State Department, has helped arts organizations in other countries improve their planning, marketing and fundraising, and he has brought artists from Iraq, China and elsewhere to the U.S... He and the Kennedy Center have focused their training efforts in countries that are 'in transition and in trouble' -- including Pakistan and Iraq -- because that's where art can have the greatest impact." - Bloomberg 12/07/06

News Flash: Some Critics Not Popular With Those They Critique In New York, a play, concert series, or art exhibit can be made or broken on the say-so of a handful of extremely influential critics. So how do the artists who submit their work for the approval of such tastemakers feel about the job the critics do? Time Out New York found out, and the results were, well, predictable. - Time Out New York 12/07/06

Thanks For The Kudos, But... AJ blogger Apollinaire Scherr, who also serves as dance critic for Newsday, was one of the critics put to the test in Time Out's survey, and she came out of the fire unscathed. But she also feels that the process used to conduct the survey was seriously flawed, from the selection of critics discussed to the inclusion of publicists on the judging panel. - Foot In Mouth (AJ Blogs) 12/06/06

Cultural Olympiad Iced From The Schedule An ambitious arts and culture program for Vancouver's 2010 Olympic Games that was supposed to begin this year has been put on ice until 2008.
- The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/06/06

Report: LA Arts Support Badly Skewed A new report says that big established Los Angeles non-profit arts organizations are wildly favored over smaller non-profits. The report notes "a disconnect between the local nonprofit arts community and the for-profit entertainment industry," and one unidentified arts executive quoted in the study describes L.A.'s signature industry as "a local economic machine that takes ideas from the arts community but doesn't give back." - Los Angeles Times 12/06/06

Is "Middle-Class Guilt" Holding Back Arts Funding? "Given the overall success of the arts in Britain, given the quality of exhibitions and live arts programming, given the way that new capital projects have led to artistic innovation; given the fact that past funding increases went directly into the arts themselves and not into the (miserable) salaries of those who run the arts (NHS administrators, please note!); given such a record, why are we so tortured with self doubt, so crippled with apology and self-abasement?" - The Guardian (UK) 12/04/06

Welsh Culture Minister's Radical Arts Funding Reforms Rejected "Almost every one of the hotly opposed proposals from Welsh culture minister Alun Pugh to demolish much of the traditional arm’s-length principle over control and funding of the arts have been rejected by the review committee he was forced to set up." - TheStage 12/05/06

Group Requests Columnist's Removal From Holocaust Memorial Council "An Islamic civil rights group wants a columnist removed from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council for criticizing Rep.-elect Keith Ellison's decision to use the Koran during the Minnesota Democrat's ceremonial swearing-in next month. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said yesterday that comments by Dennis Prager, a columnist and conservative talk radio host, displayed an intolerance toward Islam that makes him inappropriate to serve on the council, which oversees the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum." - Washington Post 12/05/06

Why An Art Professional Is A Better Choice (Do We Really Have To Explain?) More applause for the appointment of James N. Wood to lead the Getty Trust. "Despite fulsome Getty rhetoric about art collecting, scholarship, conservation and public service both here and abroad — indeed, despite demonstrable successes in all those areas — the tacit focus of a hugely rich art institution entrusted to corporate leadership could be characterized in three disappointing words: Protect the money. With the unprecedented appointment of a distinguished art professional, four challenging words describe the charge: Spend the money well. The appointment represents nothing less than a sea change for the Getty." - Los Angeles Times 12/05/06

The Getty Board's Smart Decision Naming James N. Wood, who led the Art Institute of Chicago, as president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust may be just the thing to repair the damage caused by his predecessor, Barry Munitz. "By selecting Wood, the trustees have shown that they listen to critics. Wood's appointment is for just five years, but that could be ample time for the Getty to put the scandals behind it and start living up to its potential." - Los Angeles Times 12/05/06

James Wood To Lead Getty "Wood, educated at Williams College in Massachusetts, began his career with a series of academic and museum positions, including a post at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He took over as director of the St. Louis Art Museum in 1975, then moved on to serve as president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1980 to 2003." - Los Angeles Times 12/04/06

Getty Names Wood As New CEO James Wood has been named as new president and CEO of the Getty Trust. Wood formerly ran the Chicago Art Institute. "One of the very appealing things about the Getty to me is that its collecting opportunities are really quite open. We were not left with an iron-clad restriction, so the opportunity is there to make the most of changing times — both in terms of the legality of acquisitions and in the cost and the importance of different cultures for both Los Angeles and the nation." - Modern Art Notes (AJBlogs) 12/04/06

Meta-Text - The Audience That Emails Cell phones ringing at performances has long been an irritation. Now there's another cellphone distraction. "I'm amazed at how people will pay for the ostensible purpose of sharing in a musical experience and eagerly toss that experience aside in favor of text messaging, e-mailing or Web browsing." - The Louisville Courier-Journal 12/03/06

Why Do People Hate LA? "Los Angeles has been hated and disrespected for a long time, publicly and privately, by people who live here, by people who visit, by newcomers and old-timers, by writers and commentators and immigrants and transients. For a city that has produced so much art — in film, painting and literature — it remains the place, as Woody Allen famously noted, whose 'only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light'." - Los Angeles Times 12/03/06

On Erasing The Language Of Hatred Actor-comedian Michael Richards' explosive onstage use of the word "nigger" has ignited a movement to obliterate the term and substitute the euphemism "the 'n' word." The idea has comedians debating the power of language, and some, like Dick Gregory, are pointing to the danger of sanitizing speech. " 'Calling it "the 'n' word" is an insult,' said Mr. Gregory, whose 1964 memoir was titled 'Nigger.' 'It should be just as much an insult to Jews if they started changing concentration camp to "the 'c' word" and swastika to "the 's' word." You just destroyed history.' " - The New York Times 12/03/06

Borrowing As Artistry, Not Theft Contemplating the Ian McEwan plagiarism accusations, Charles Isherwood nearly sighs aloud. "Doesn’t it seem wearying, this stream of 'gotcha' stories trumpeting the news that a novelist or a lyricist or a playwright has used a few turns of phrase or the curves of somebody else’s life story without proper accreditation, or with improper specificity? I half expect to read of a lawsuit brought by a journalist covering last year’s plagiarism scandal against a journalist covering this year’s, asserting copyright infringement." - The New York Times 12/03/06


Nijinsky Awards Announced: "The fourth biennial Nijinsky Awards, considered the Oscars of the dance world, were presented Thursday on a stage where, nearly a century ago, legendary dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky often choreographed, rehearsed and performed: the recently restored Monte Carlo Opera House." Los Angeles Times 12/09/06

Sugar Plum Conundrum: What is it about the Sugar Plum Fairy that sets so many ballerinas' hearts atwitter? Hers is not a leading role, not even close, and compared to some of the leaping, cavorting characters in The Nutcracker, she's not even that interesting from a dance point of view. "Sugar Plum is always in danger of being little more than a pink and pretty vacuum - which is why a succession of producers have attempted to invent extra substance for her." The Guardian (UK) 12/06/06

Royal Ballet Lands An Outsider Choreographer: The company named Wayne McGregor as its new resident choreographer, and it's an oddly inspired choice. "The world as seen by Wayne McGregor is a world apart from the warm, centrally heated classrooms of the Royal Ballet School and the dainty interval sandwiches of Covent Garden. It is a mindset that engages with the real world of conflict and abandonment, of cruelty and technological revolution, of commonality and infinite human difference. It is a new world for the Royal Ballet, a renaissance by any other name." La Scena Musicale 12/05/06

Stepping Out In San Diego: San Diego is seeing a boom in dance performances by young choreographers staging their work in makeshift spaces... San Diego Union-Tribune 12/03/06

Los Angeles Ballet Makes Its Debut: The company opens with a new Nutcracker. And it's not bad, writes Lewis Segal... Los Angeles Times 12/04/06

A New Look Ailey?: The Alvin Ailey Company unveils a new look. "Two additions to the repertory unveiled in the first week of the Ailey's monthlong season at the City Center are by celebrated choreographers -- both female, both white, both renegades -- who operate far from the themes of black experience, the humanistic outlook, and the conventional sentiments typical of Ailey's own work." Bloomberg 12/04/06

Sinking, Swimming Or Soaring At City Ballet: Only a handful of dancers are made City Ballet apprentices each year, but for them it is an almost certain prelude to becoming part of the company. "City Ballet does not hold auditions; other than a few dancers like Nikolaj Hübbe, who joined as a principal after attaining that rank at the Royal Danish Ballet, company members enter through the school, which was created to cultivate dancers of the quality George Balanchine needed." The New York Times 12/03/06


Breakthrough - Hollywood's New Leading Men "In the past two years, black actors have been making bold artistic strides. Not since the '70s, when actors like Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty took a hands-on interest in filmmaking, has such a talented bunch of performers delivered such varied, impressive work in a range of movies." Denver Post 12/10/06

Movies For God "Ever since 'The Passion of the Christ' grossed $371 million in 2004, Hollywood has been dreaming of capturing the Christian dollar. Only recently, New Line’s 'Nativity Story,' the latest in a series of religious-themed films from mainstream studios, had its premiere at the Vatican and took in a modest $8 million at the domestic box office on its opening weekend. But until now the studios have been largely unsuccessful with Christian films because, as David Kirkpatrick sees it, most executives do not know very much about Christianity." The New York Times 12/10/06

If He Runs It Like He Runs The 'Skins, It'll Be Back To Classical Soon In what will likely signal an ignominious end for classical radio in Washington, D.C., Daniel Snyder, the notoriously inept (but charismatic) owner of the Washington Redskins football team is buying classical station WGMS, with plans to convert it to sports talk. Washington's two public radio stations air no classical music (WETA phased it out in favor of news/talk nearly two years ago; WAMU never had it), and WGMS has been the subject of complaints from listeners concerning its weak signal. Washington Post 12/08/06

Aboriginal Film Cleans Up At AFI Awards "Australia's first ever indigenous language feature film has been awarded the country's top movie honour. Billed as an Aboriginal comedy, Ten Canoes tonight won the best film category at the 48th annual Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards in Melbourne." The Age (Melbourne) 12/08/06

British Musicians Want Copyright Protection Extended "Paul McCartney, U2 and Eric Clapton joined thousands of other musicians Thursday in an appeal to the government to extend the British copyright protection on their recordings... in response to a report recommending that the government maintain its current laws granting copyrights on sound recordings and performers' rights for 50 years. That falls well short of the 95-year copyright protection that exists in the United States, and the recording industry fears that British artists could see their work exploited in their lifetimes." Houston Chronicle (AP) 12/07/06

Should We Trade Commercials For Product Placement? Ever since the TiVo began to gain traction in the television marketplace, consumer advocates have worried that the ability for viewers to skip over commercials would lead to more product placement within shows. Dan Brown says that would be just fine with him. "The deal I have in mind would be a classic quid pro quo. Each side would get something. The first step would be a ban on commercials. That’s right. There would be no more commercials on TV. In return, TV producers would be allowed to do as much product placement as possible." London Free Press (Ontario) 12/07/06

Let The Parade Of Self-Congratulation Begin! "Clint Eastwood's Japanese-language film Letters from Iwo Jima has won the first major prize of the film award season. The film topped the US National Board of Review (NBR) list for best film. Helen Mirren was named best actress for The Queen, while Forest Whitaker won best actor for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland." BBC 12/07/06

The Retro Christmas Craze Television doesn't often go in for retro. Everything in the TV business seems to be contractually required to scream "new and different," even when the program in question is a pale imitation of dozens of others. So it's notable that, every Christmas season, TV is suddenly awash in ultra-low tech, decidedly old-school holiday specials. It's even more notable that viewers can't seem to get enough of them. "It's about the shared experience, the childhood memories that powerfully linger and the new memories adults are so desperate to create with their kids... Make no mistake, it's the parents driving this train." Washington Post 12/07/06

Treading Carefully On Sacred (But Funny) Ground Despite the tendency of comedians to embrace the topical, you don't see a lot of Islamic-based comedy in Western countries, in part because of how easy it has been to inflame Muslim sensibilities to deadly effect of late. But a new Canadian sitcom is meeting the issue head-on. "Its creators admit to uneasiness as to whether Canadians and Americans can laugh about the daily travails of those who many consider a looming menace... The strongest insurance against outrage from the faithful is that [the show was created by] a Canadian Muslim of Pakistani origin whose own assimilation, particularly after she left Toronto for Regina, Saskatchewan, 10 years ago, provides much of the comic fodder." The New York Times 12/07/06

Oscar Dabbles In A Bit Of The Ol' Ultraviolence "The fight for the Oscar is often a bloody one, filled with subplots, capers, and strategic stabs to the back, metaphorically speaking. But this year an unusual amount of mayhem is showing up in the movies themselves. Academy members in the thick of screenings for the Oscars could be forgiven for wishing they had donned surgical scrubs for what has become a very bloody year." The New York Times 12/07/06

Why Hollywood Keeps Its Closet Door Locked Hollywood's public promotion of gay rights stands in stark contrast to its desperate cling to the inside of the closet door, writes Andrew Gumbel. "Playing gay and admitting to being gay are two completely different things. When it comes to the latter, Hollywood still adheres to the mentality that American audiences look to their on-screen idols as outlets for their own romantic fantasies and thus need to think of them as strictly heterosexual. The mentality is not necessarily wrong - homophobia is certainly widespread in the American heartland, as evidenced by the slew of recent state ballot initiatives condemning gay marriage. But it does suggest a certain failure of the imagination." The Independent (UK) 12/06/06

Canadian Film Treasures Dead To Rights "Thanks to spiralling copyright licensing costs, payable to whoever holds the copyright (unions, archives, creators, corporations) -- and thanks, too, to the rising cost of insurance to protect against copyright claims -- more and more public film footage is no longer available to the Canadian public, nor for use by Canadian creators." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/06/06

Hollywood's Moroccan Dreams Morocco has become a hotbed of American movie production. Why? "In the post-September 11 world, most U.S. movies that deal with or are set in the Arab world have found their options for location shooting limited because of safety concerns. And Morocco has been the beneficiary." Yahoo! (Reuters) 12/05/06

LA's Noir Vision, An Export To The World "Noir is the indigenous Los Angeles form: It was created here, it grew up here and from here it spread, not only as a genre but as a way of looking at life, character and fate. As a framing lens, it's now so powerful that it seems not only to be a strategy for telling a story but a way to understand — automatically, unconsciously — how a story works. ... Raymond Chandler's narrow mean streets now encompass Tokyo, Berlin, São Paulo, London — any city that has crime or deceit or cracks in the facade or some event in which fate's jaws snap shut with cruel or ironic finality." Los Angeles Times 12/03/06

TV For The Whole Family, Sans Saccharine "The debate over what should be considered 'family TV' is never-ending. We talk ourselves into spirals of contradiction, illogic, and subjectivity when we make big pronouncements about how to control a child's imagination. Oddly, if you ask the Parents Television Council what kids ought to watch, the answer is reality TV." Recoiling from that suggestion, Matthew Gilbert says the situation is not so dire. He points to "a number of recent prime time shows that have found a way to appeal to teens and their parents simultaneously, without insulting either group with sap or stupidity." Boston Globe 12/03/06

Audio Books, Savior Of The Lowly Cassette "Variety recently published an obituary for the VHS format: 'VHS, 30, dies of loneliness.' If there’s a format heaven, you’d expect VHS to be joining audiocassettes there. At age 42, cassettes predate VHS and have been pummeled by CDs and digital downloads. But the cassette just won’t seem to die." What's keeping it alive? Audio books. The New York Times 12/03/06

German Drama Takes Top Prize Among Euro Films "A film about a secret policeman in the former East Germany has taken top prize at the European Film Awards in Warsaw. The Lives of Others - or Das Leben Der Anderen - beat Spanish production Volver by Pedro Almodovar, although this still came top in five categories. These included best director for Almodovar, top actress for Penelope Cruz plus the people's choice award." BBC 12/03/06

Call It The Rock Hudson Mental Block As liberal as Hollywood is, many gay actors have chosen to remain closeted throughout their careers, partly out of fear that American movie audiences wouldn't accept a known gay actor playing a straight role. "Indeed, while top straight-identified actors have for years received praise and prizes for playing gay characters — Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, for example — executives, casting directors and maybe mass audiences still seem to have a block when it comes to gay people in straight parts." Toronto Star 12/02/06

And By "Study," They Mean "Leave It For Someone Else To Deal With" The city of Cleveland has been making a big push to draw Hollywood films to its borders, but a major part of the plan - passing statewide tax incentives that would make the city competitive with other big film towns - has hit a snag. "An Ohio Senate committee is recommending a study of the incentives, instead of a bill that would go ahead and enact them." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/02/06

So, The Pirates Will Have To Move To Jersey? Harsh. The mayor of New York is cracking down on movie piracy, pushing a new city statute criminalizing unauthorized recording. There is already a federal law banning such practices, but advocates of the New York bill hope that "such a law would spur the Police Department to crack down on piracy and minimize the economic damage it does." The New York Times 12/02/06

The Borat Effect: Ethics & Integrity In Filmmaking The International Documentary Festival is underway in Amsterdam, and everyone is talking about... Borat. Well, not Borat, actually, but "many of the ethical issues that emerged in the Borat backlash are similar to those being discussed here this week by filmmakers from around the world. Not everyone here has seen Borat, but everyone certainly knows about it. So whether or not Borat will have any lasting effect on real documentary filmmaking is definitely up for unofficial debate." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/02/06


World's Oldest Record Store In Danger "Spillers Records in the centre of Cardiff is officially acknowledged as the world's oldest music store by Guinness World Records. Now its future is uncertain - and some of the world's biggest stars are being asked to back a campaign to keep it open." The Independent (UK) 12/10/06

India Gets A New Professional Orchestra "India, which has never shown much interest in sonata form and suchlike, now has a professional symphony orchestra and this week named a Kazakh violinist as its music director." La Scena Musicale 12/07/06

Zeffirelli Returns To La Scala It's been 14 years since director Franco Zeffirelli worked at the opera house, and the buzz was considerable. "Tickets reserved for sale online for all 11 showings of Aida sold out in a record two hours. One of the season's most-anticipated cultural events, Aida attracted an audience of leading political, business and cultural figures — among them Italian Premier Romano Prodi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as his guest." The Globe & Mail (AP) 12/10/06

When Classical Musicians Were Stars "Today, thanks to CDs, DVDs, podcasts and downloads, we have access to more classical music, at our fingertips, than the most visionary composer of the 1970s could have imagined. But the notion of the classical-music composer as a major celebrity was pretty much buried with Britten. Thirty years ago, last Monday." Dallas Morning News 12/10/06

Ten Best Recordings Of 2006? John von Rhen makes his choices of the year's best... Chicago Tribune 12/10/06

Under The Influence - How To Make The NY Phil Matter More As the New York Philharmonic begins looking for a successor to Lorin Maazel, the orchestra ought to be thinking about getting a leader who will participate more in its community. "The debate about the future of classical music and the role of the symphony orchestra goes on across the country, but the Philharmonic under Mr. Maazel is not part of the conversation. Despite the problems facing orchestras, there are real success stories and encouraging news to report. But is anyone looking to the Philharmonic for answers?" The New York Times 12/10/06

Austrian Librettist's Heirs Sue For Strauss Royalties "A German court on Thursday began considering a lawsuit seeking royalties from the heirs of German composer Richard Strauss for nine works, including opera favourites Der Rosenkavalier and Elektra. In the suit, five heirs of Austrian writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal claim they have a right to about a quarter of the royalties from the operas, for which Strauss wrote the music and his partner von Hofmannsthal the libretto, or words. The payments would amount to nearly $1-million a year." The Globe & Mail (AP) 12/08/06

Boston Pops Trims Itself "Struggling to fill seats for some Holiday Pops concerts, the Boston Pops have cut the size of the orchestra in half for five of the performances, including the Pops' pricey New Year's Eve show. The move to a 40-person ensemble has angered Boston Symphony Orchestra players, who sent a petition to BSO management raising concerns about whether ticket buyers for the concerts... will feel misled when they show up at Symphony Hall." Boston Globe 12/08/06

Wasn't Classical Recording Supposed To Have Died By Now? Still looking for the perfect Christmas gift for the music lover in your life? The music critics of the New York Times are here to help, with their annual roundup of the best classical CDs of 2006. On the list this year: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's last album, the London Symphony's Beethoven cycle, plenty of Mozart (have you heard? It's his 250th birthday!), and a new Concertgebouw recording of Stravinsky. The New York Times 12/08/06

Tanglewood Hit By Windstorm The Boston Symphony's summer home at Tanglewood suffered an estimated $250,000 of damage last week when hurricane-force winds ripped through the area. "There were 300 trees down on the grounds, but the cleanup will be complete by the time Tanglewood opens in late June." WCVB-TV (Boston) 12/08/06

UK To Take On Piracy, But Leave Copyright Law Alone The British government will boost its budget for combating music piracy by £5 million next year, and is prepared to launch an all-out crackdown on illegal file-trading. "A wide-ranging intellectual property review [also] recommended the existing 50-year copyright term for sound recordings be retained, much to the chagrin of a vocal lobby of major record labels and artists who wanted it increased." The Guardian (UK) 12/07/06

Grammy's Classical Noms The Grammy nominations are out, and the London Symphony's live-to-tape Beethoven symphony cycle will be going up against a much-lauded new recording of Mahler's 7th Symphony by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony for best classical album. Other notable nominees include Osvaldo Golijov's Fountain of Tears in the opera category, pianist Martha Argerich for a live recording from the Lugano Festival, and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson for her solo album entitled "Rilke Songs." 12/07/06

Two Operas Canceled In L.A. Two small L.A. opera companies have been forced to cancel productions this week. El Dorado Opera and Lyric Opera of Los Angeles are both facing financial difficulties, and not having the resources of larger companies, they've begun scrapping shows in the middle of the holiday concert season. Los Angeles Times 12/08/06

Ringing True What is it about Wagner's Ring cycle that has such a hold on so many people? "It's absurd, lasts for ever, and has no sympathetic characters... [Furthermore, if it] does not appeal to women as much as men, it is perhaps because Wagner's idea of love doesn't extend much beyond sexual passion." Still, there's no denying the raw power of the music, as a first time Ringer found out in Cardiff this week. The Guardian (UK) 12/08/06

Another Ontario Orchestra Generating Drama Ontario's Orchestra London is on the verge of a possible musicians' strike over low pay and lack of benefits. "Most of the 29 full-time musicians (there are also 17 part-time musicians) are paid $23,223 for working a 36-week season... They receive no dental, drug, disability or health benefits. But the musicians are even more incensed by the fact that at a time when the symphony's operating revenue is at an all-time high, tickets sales are healthy and wages in other sectors of the organization have increased... base pay for musicians has inched up only 1.5 per cent per year since 2000." London Free Press (Ontario) 12/07/06

Domingo Roundly Booed At Met A performance of Puccini's La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera went awry this week to the extent that conductor Placido Domingo found himself getting lustily booed before the beginning of the third act. Domingo's offense was apparently to not have followed star soprano Anna Netrebko closely enough during her big arias in the first two acts. "In order to fully realize her artistic vision, she allowed each phrase to develop organically, unhurriedly, employing tasteful rubato and holding high notes expertly and impressively. But Mr. Domingo trudged along inattentively at metronomic speed, running noticeably ahead of his diva." New York Sun 12/07/06

The Complaining Choir Everybody loves to complain, but no one likes to listen to other people's complaints. If only bitching and moaning could somehow be made more aesthetically enjoyable, like maybe by having a 100-voice choir sing your personal kvetches in four-part harmony... The Guardian (UK) 12/06/06

Cycling Towards Exhaustion, And For What? Wagner's Ring cycle is a daunting thing to stage under any circumstances, but to do it in four days with a traveling company that sets up shop in a new city whenever it feels like it? That's approaching insanity, and yet, it's what Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky Theatre have been doing lately. Andrew Clarke is impressed with the dedication and effort of all involved, but says that the end result is less than stellar. "Much of the performance looked poorly rehearsed. Singers didn’t react to each other, preferring to follow a basic sequence of moves... With one or two exceptions, the standard of German was lamentable: why doesn’t Gergiev employ a language coach? As for the singing, there was not much of international standard." Financial Times (UK) 12/05/06

Well-Timed Windfall In Tampa Bay The Florida Orchestra managed to raise 20% of the money it needs for day-to-day operations in 2007 in only a few minutes this week, when a prominent Tampa family foundation kicked in a cool million. The hefty donation comes at an important moment for the orchestra, which recently announced a $677,000 deficit. Tampa Tribune 12/07/06

The Finn Factor Finland is a nation of just 5 million people that gained its independence less than a century ago, and yet its impact on the world of classical music has been growing exponentially in the last few decades. "It didn't happen by accident, of course. The country has earned its international reputation for music by seriously investing in it. Total spending by the ministry of culture last year amounted to €364 million ($615 million)." The Australian 12/07/06

Delfs To Depart Milwaukee Andreas Delfs has announced that he will depart his post as music director of the Milwaukee Symphony when his newly extended contract expires in 2009. Delfs has led the MSO since 1998, and was also music director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for several years earlier this decade. His final season in Milwaukee will also be the orchestra's 50th anniversary year. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12/05/06

Lighten Up! What New Operas Could Use There are plenty of contemporary operas these days. But why must new opera be so serious? The Globe & Mail (Canaa) 12/06/06

America's New "Big 5" Orchestras (One Man's List) Fred Kirshnit embraces the idea of a "Big Five" American orchestras. But his five aren't the traditional culprits... New York Sun 12/05/06

Did Jazz Die In The 1970s? To counter the claim, jazz bloggers have been weighing in with lists of what they coinsider classice from the era. And a new 70s jazz canon is being created... The New York Times 12/06/06

In Silicon Valley, The Maestros Are Momentary "In San Jose, instead of hiring a big-name, resident conductor to build a brand -- think Michael Tilson Thomas at the San Francisco Symphony -- Symphony Silicon Valley employs guest conductors only. The players have a new musical boss for every program -- at least seven new conductors at the podium each season. From a musician's seat, not to mention a concertgoer's, there is plenty of peril in the arrangement. ... But in San Jose, it turns out, it's working just fine, so far." San Francisco Chronicle 12/05/06

99 Tubists Play For Their Fallen King "You have likely never heard of Tommy Johnson, but it turns out that Johnson was, and still is, according to everyone who would know, 'the most heard tubist on the planet.' A first-chair studio musician in Hollywood for 50 years, Johnson played on thousands of recordings"; his was the breath behind those ominous shark-attack notes in "Jaws." After Johnson's death in October, a memorial concert was in order, and so on Sunday in Los Angeles, 99 tubists took the stage. "They came to honor their fallen tuba king." Washington Post 12/05/06

Paris Opera Changes Direction In Choice Of New Director The Paris Opera has named Nicolas Joël as its new General director, succeeding the controversial Gerard Mortier. "By contrast Joël, highly regarded for his oversight of the Toulouse opera, orchestra and ballet since 1990, is known for his elegant and conventional designs and choice of directors. He has staged five of his company’s nine productions this season and has not staged one at the Paris Opéra in recent memory." Musical America 12/04/06

Building A Better Orchestra Player "Too many orchestras, intent on recruiting absolutely the best players (however such a subjective thing may be measured), have tended to undervalue a musician’s skills at outreach. With a new program announced on Tuesday, Clive Gillinson, the executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, and Joseph W. Polisi, the president of the Juilliard School, will try to alter that thinking." The New York Times 12/03/06

Pappano Extends His Stay At Covent Garden To the great relief of many, Antonio Pappano has re-upped as music director of Covent Garden. "With New York's Metropolitan Opera allegedly grooming him for succession on the event of James Levine's retirement, the rumour mill went into overdrive when Pappano's contract came up for renewal. The consensus was that, stung by the constant criticism of his choice of directors and weary of being 'dismissed in one sentence' in reviews of Götterdämmerung, he would not be staying." The Independent (UK) 12/03/06

God Sells With each passing year, the hand-wringing over the downturn in record sales becomes a little more desperate. But one genre continues to experience steady growth: gospel and Christian music. Boston Globe 12/03/06

Maestro On The Move (At 34) "Vladimir Jurowski is one of the youngest and most successful maestros around: he's been in charge of the opera house at Glyndebourne since 2001; next summer he takes up the reins of the London Philharmonic Orchestra as its principal conductor; and he's principal guest conductor of the Russian National Orchestra. All this and he's only 34." The Guardian (UK) 12/02/06


Iran's Fundamentalist President In Trouble For Watching Dance "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who flaunts his ideological fervour, has been accused of undermining Iran's Islamic revolution after television footage appeared to show him watching a female song and dance show." The Guardian (UK) 12/10/06

Frank Lloyd's Wrongs A new play currently running in Chicago dramatizes the life of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and to an architecture critic, seeing the production provides a stark reminder that some of our greatest artists can also be reprehensible human beings. It's a tough dichotomy to reconcile: "Does Wright's art justify his life? Or do we have to set aside his skyscraper-size flaws and ignore the irony that this maker of idyllic homes seemed hell-bent on destroying the domestic tranquility that once existed in his own house?" Chicago Tribune 12/08/06

The Evolution Of The Third Tenor Jose Carreras just turned 60, and his career is as alive as ever. But it's not exactly the same career he once had. "Questions about his retirement were rattling around as long ago as 1992. Then, he said 2000. But here we are, six years on, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down... But there is a sense that the prodigious tenor will be remembered fondly for past operatic glories, not present triumphs." The Times (UK) 12/08/06

An Award? Me? Um, Okay, Sure, I Guess. The first woman to win the Turner Prize seems singularly unimpressed by that fact. In fact, Tomma Abts seems to regard her entire underexposed career as something of a personal experiment in success and failure. "Abts has never had formal training in fine art and hasn't taken a painting lesson in her life... She has always painted for herself, on the side, and the fact that it has ended in glory is something she finds quite amazing." The Guardian (UK) 12/06/06

Remembering A DC Theatre Institution Mike Malone, the choreographer, director and teacher who died Monday at age 63, was a stalwart of the Washington theater community for nearly 40 years. He believed in building institutions where the arts would be an avenue for creativity for young people, and enjoyment for all. Washington Post 12/06/06

Pamuk: "Im Not A Bridge-Builder" Orhan Pamuk, on the eve of getting his Nobel Prize for literature, says he's not interested in the larger cultural connections some want to impose on his work. Pamuk, author of "My Name is Red", "Snow" and half-a-dozen other novels said he wanted to be considered above all as a writer and not as a bridge between Muslim and Western cultures. "Bridge builder? I don't like it. I am not writing fiction to explain civilization. This is not my urge." Yahoo! (AFP) 12/06/06

Pavarotti Cancels Award-Ceremony Appearance "Luciano Pavarotti, battling pancreatic cancer, recently completed medical treatment and is looking forward to resuming his concert tour next year, but won't attend a ceremony this week to receive an award, his manager said Tuesday. ... The occasion would have been his first public appearance since undergoing surgery over the summer." Seattle Post-Intelligencer (AP) 12/05/06


Reporting From Paris Philip Gourevitch is bringing more reporting to the Pais Review. "We're living in complicated and dramatic times, and I feel that our literature, especially the periodical fiction, is rarely up to the wildness and boldness of the times, that it seldom expresses the outlandishness and range of the actors and actions that are shaping our world. Without trying to run a timely publication I feel it's exciting to see what gets thrown off at a glancing angle from the actual headlines: not only as non-fiction narrative, but as fiction, as poetry, even as interview." The Guardian (UK) 12/09/06

Amazon Teams With HP For On-Demand Upgrade is betting that on-demand publishing will be a big part of its future, installing high-quality digital presses made by Hewlett Packard at several of its distribution centers nationwide so as to make on-demand orders more easily deliverable. "The Indigo digital presses used by Amazon offer quality similar to traditional offset presses, and can print maximum orders of about 5,000." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (AP) 12/08/06

Do Novelists Need To Cite Sources? "Should a novel end with a bibliography? And if it does, is it pomposity or an effort to come clean about one’s sources? ...Even a thorough bibliography will not protect a novelist against baseless charges of plagiarism founded on a narrow understanding of how the creative imagination works. [But] the only real risk [in having] a bibliography for a novel is that it will come to be a kind of obligatory disclosure." The New York Times 12/08/06

A Classic Turf War Random House UK is squaring off with traditional British publishing power Penguin in what promises to be a high-stakes battle for control of the classic literature market. "This war is partly provoked by chain booksellers, who have reduced stock ranges and made it harder for new writers to gain the shelf space guaranteed to classic authors. Such writers are also mercifully free of advance payments, royalties or prima donna tendencies." The Guardian (UK) 12/07/06

McEwen's List Of Supporters Grows Much of the literary world is lining up behind novelist Ian McEwen as he defends himself from allegations of plagiarism. At the heart of the solidarity seems to be the idea that the international game of gotcha that has ensnared so many authors in the past few years has finally gone too far, sullying the reputation of a much-admired author who was merely using another author's work as inspiration, and who gave credit to that author besides. The New York Times 12/07/06

The Book As Technology The Sony eBook is the latest "book killer" to hit the market. It won't replaced the traditional book. "Yet it is useful to remember that the printed book is just that — a technology, a tool designed for a specific purpose, no less than the shiny new Sony Reader. And the prospects for the book's survival do not depend on mere nostalgia, a fogeyish attachment to dusty shelves, and the smell of moldy paper. No, the reason why the printed book is likely to survive, at least for our lifetimes, is that it is the best tool we have for reading works of literature." New York Sun 12/06/06

Thomas Pynchon Steps Up To Defend McEwan From Plagiarism Charges "In a move described by his British publisher as 'unknown', Pynchon, an American who is never seen in public, does not give interviews and whose whereabouts are a closely guarded secret, sent a typed letter to his British agent yesterday to say that McEwan "merits not our scolding but our gratitude" for using details from another author's book." The Telegraph (UK) 12/05/06

Book Prize Winners To Get Publishing Deals "A division of Simon & Schuster has agreed to publish the top three winners of the Sobol Award, a new literary contest that offers a $100,000 first prize, but also has been criticized for charging entry fees and requiring that it serve as the winners' agent." Yahoo (AP) 12/05/06

The Bibliography Invades Fiction "Traditionally confined to works of nonfiction, the bibliography has lately been creeping into novels, rankling critics who call it a pretentious extension of the acknowledgments page, which began appearing more than a decade ago and was roundly derided as the tacky literary equivalent of the Oscar speech. Purists contend that novelists have always done research, particularly in books like 'Madame Bovary' that were inspired by real-life events, yet never felt a bibliography was necessary." The New York Times 12/05/06

Is There Any Point To Literary Prizes? "The truth is literary prizes are a very blunt instrument. Judges will never get it 'right' because there is no such thing as an objective judgment about which book is 'best'. All one can hope for, really, is that in the process of drawing up the long- and shortlists the judges will have scooped up a goodish proportion of goodish books out of which they pick a winner which is, well, goodish." The Guardian (UK) 12/04/06

Stealing Words (Join The Club) "Ian McEwan, the most successful novelist of his generation, has been dogged by imputations of fraudulence. He is not alone. In the past several years plagiarism rows have swirled round Zadie Smith, Jonathan Coe, PD James, Beryl Bainbridge and Graham Swift. McEwan has suffered more than most." The Observer (UK) 12/03/06

In The New South Africa, Black Novelists Emerge -- Slowly "Twelve years after the end of apartheid, the South African literary scene remains as fragmented as ever, with writers exploring their own ethnic experiences. Although more books are published than ever before, few create a national conversation.... Since the end of apartheid, the national and international spotlight has been shifting to black writers, driven by an expectation that this is their moment to write the next chapter of South African history: the political, social and economic coming-of-age of the 80 percent of the population that was formerly disenfranchised." The New York Times 12/03/06


London's West End In Song "This year singing shows have been the West End's theatrical success story. Straight theatre productions have closed early but musicals are booked up way into 2007. Since the beginning of 2006 there have been 20 new musical productions in the West End." The Observer (UK) 12/10/06

The Writer As Director (Not So Easy) "The main advantage for writers is their internal ear - which knows the tune of how the lines are 'meant to be'. This is also the great disadvantage. At every first read-through, all the writer can hear is the actors wrecking these rhythms. And the first instinct is to tell them so. The director's (correct) instinct is, 'Not now'." The Guardian (UK) 12/09/06

Killing Innovation - One Theatre's Demise Brighton's Gardner Arts Centre is a model of clever interesting programming, but it's closing because of money worries. "Thanks largely to the experience, intuition and artistic courage of the venue's programmer, Claire Soper, the Gardner has built a first-class reputation. It stands for all that an arts venue should be - risk taking, finding and supporting the next Mark Ravenhill or Peter Brook. Its loss will be a calamity, not only for Brighton and Hove, but for the UK's arts industry as a whole." The Observer (UK) 12/10/06

A Little Dinner With That Play? Dinner theatre is a special event in many small communities. "Today running a dinner theater can be a struggle. Production and royalty costs are high, and with new food and a different cast each time. The National Dinner Theater Association now has just 32 members, down from 48 two decades ago." The New York Times 12/10/06

Nothing Tired About Those Numbers Sleepy musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone has recouped its full $8 million investment only 30 weeks into its run. "[The show] opened on Broadway May 1 at the Marquis Theatre and has been doing hefty business ever since, with recent weekly grosses topping the $1-million mark." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/08/06

Martin Leaving Huntington Boston's Huntington Theatre Company is losing its artistic director. 68-year-old Nicholas Martin, who joined the company in 2000, will hang it up in 2008, and assume the title of artist emeritus for two additional seasons. "During his tenure in Boston, the Huntington built two theaters in the South End and launched a play development wing. And Martin's ties to New York and to Williamstown brought in a stream of both big name and promising young actors as well as national attention." Boston Globe 12/08/06

Struggling Spring "It's got a cast of hot young things, plenty of sex, strong word-of- mouth, and the best score Broadway's heard in years. Not since Rent has a rock musical had as much going for it as Spring Awakening does. What's missing, however, is box office. Spring Awakening will open Sunday night at the O'Neill Theatre with well under $1 million in advance sales, a gulp-inducing sum for a major Broadway musical." New York Post 12/07/06

Broadway Veteran Accused Of Sexual Misconduct A prominent Broadway actor has been arrested and charged with having sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl who came backstage to meet him in 2001. James Barbour, who starred in Beauty & The Beast and Jane Eyre on Broadway, has admitted to kissing the girl, but insists that it stopped there. "There was allegedly another incident with the same girl during a dinner at an Eighth Avenue restaurant, and a third in Barbour's Upper West Side apartment, authorities said." The Globe & Mail (AP) 12/07/06

Your Kids & Broadway: A Ridiculously Expensive Gamble You're a good parent. You take every opportunity to expose your children to all the widely varied cultural events your city offers up, and that new musical version of Mary Poppins seems like just the holiday treat your kids could really sink their teeth into. One problem: you live in New York, where Broadway tickets can run $250 a pop. Furthermore, your kids are, well, kids, which means that they're unpredictable, and a $2 tantrum could well wind up ruining your thousand-dollar evening out. So answer me this: you feeling lucky, punk? The New York Times 12/07/06

Why Not More Gay Comedy In London? It's Simple Supply & Demand. "So Michael Billington wonders why British playwrights aren't writing more gay farces, when the gay comedy of manners is proving so successful on Broadway. There are two answers to this. One, because British theatres aren't commissioning them, and most writers have a hard enough time making ends meet without writing work just for the hell of it. And two, if gay writers write gay stories, we're told we're 'ghetto-ising' ourselves; if straight writers write about gay themes, they're told they don't know what they're talking about." The Guardian (UK) 12/06/06

Stripping Back The Art A Norwegian appeals court has ruled that striptease is an art form and should therefore be exempt from value-added tax (VAT). BBC 12/06/06

Gay Themes, Boulevard Forms: Where New York Bests Britain "Whatever its faults, New York theatre has virtually patented a new form: the gay comedy of manners. Its origins lie in Mart Crowley's 1968 play The Boys in the Band, dealing with a surprise hetero visitor to a gay birthday bash. Crowley's work launched a series of plays that combined a gay agenda with mass audience appeal. In Britain, leaving aside Joe Orton's taboo-breaking farces, the only real equivalent is Kevin Elyot's My Night With Reg (1994). When will our own writers wake up to the fact that there is now a big market for gay boulevard comedy?" The Guardian (UK) 12/05/06

Organizing To Save Theatre Museum A group of cultural heavyweights has banded together to protest the imminent closing of London's Theatre Museum. "The organisation is demanding the V&A withdraws its notice of closure on the museum and is looking for alternative ways to manage the institution. In the longer term, it also wants to investigate 'broader possibilities for properly housing' the museum’s collections, potentially moving them to a new location." TheStage 12/04/06

Hare Feeds Broadway's Starving Masses David Hare's new Broadway play, "The Vertical Hour," has hardly been a hit with American critics, but hometown critic Michael Billington views it from an entirely different perspective. "In many ways, it's a characteristic Hare play. Dealing with the emotional journey of a woman who has swapped war reporting for academia, it is precisely about the intersection of public and private lives. But what moved me, almost as much as the play itself, was the audience response: the almost palpable hunger of Broadway theatregoers for a play about big issues. Even more than it might in Britain, Hare's play fulfils an urgent need." The Guardian (UK) 12/01/06


Backlash Over Looted Art Claims "Seventy years after the Nazis stole their property, a new wave of Jewish families is winning back valuable artefacts in Germany and Austria. What was once a trickle of successful claims has become a flood. But now there is a backlash. German politicians and museum directors are expressing fears about the break-up of key collections and, after years of recognising the moral rights of claimants, are questioning the motives of those pursuing the claims." The Observer (UK) 12/10/06

How Basel Miami Got To Be America's Largest Art Fair "Unlike London, where the major museums are setting their exhibition clocks to Frieze Art Fair time, or New York, where the art machine is big enough to swallow almost any art fair whole, Miami offers what might be called a level playing field for different viewing circumstances: i.e., fairs, museums, the private collector/alternative spaces and a few other ventures. All contribute equally to the flow of information." The New York Times 12/10/06

A Return To Printing By Hand "Letterpress, which became obsolete in the 1980s with the rise of desktop publishing, is experiencing a resurgence as artists and consumers rediscover the allure of hand-set type." The New York Times 12/10/06

The Man Who Is Taking On Museum Donations Senator Chuck Grassley has been going after the way art is donated to museums in America. "The idea that a wealthy collector can win a big tax deduction for giving away something that remains on his walls offends Mr. Grassley. 'Call it what it is, a subsidy for millionaires to buy art. Where I come from the word giving doesn’t mean keeping'." The New York Times 12/10/06

Downtown L.A. Too Ritzy For Neon Museum L.A.'s Museum of Neon Art just over a month away from homelessness, with no prospects for a new home in sight. "At the end of January, a month after the downtown museum celebrates its 25th birthday, the lease runs out on MONA's home of 10 years... The museum is caught in a bind common among bohemians in booming urban settings: With rents rising, lofts proliferating and redevelopment efforts underway downtown, the 400-member museum, which lives on a $200,000 yearly budget, can't afford most buildings." Los Angeles Times 12/08/06

Will The ICA Change Boston's Stodgy Architectural History? Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art, with its striking cantilever overlooking Boston Harbor, may be the most architecturally significant building to be built in the Hub in a generation. "Four decades ago the completion of a City Hall in Brutalist concrete sent the city’s cultural guardians into a panic. Since then, with a few exceptions like the John Hancock Tower, the city’s architectural aspirations could generally be summed up in one word: brick." But the ICA, which stands in a largely undeveloped area at the moment, will eventually be more than a stand-alone monument to creativity: "Viewed through a maze of new buildings, the structure could wield the force of a wonderful surprise." The New York Times 12/08/06

Definitive Hicks Painting Up For Auction "Edward Hicks’s celebrated 'Peaceable Kingdom' paintings — parables of the animal kingdom inspired by the words of the prophet Isaiah — come up for sale every now and again. Each seems to have its own special story. On Jan. 19 Christie’s in New York is selling the last of 60 images in the series." The seller, who is descended from Hicks himself, expects to realize $3 to $4 million. The New York Times 12/08/06

Seeing Masterpieces Everywhere "Art is making more money than ever before. This year, a new world record was set for the most expensive painting of all time - and broken a few months later. There is a frenzy in the market that encompasses everything from contemporary art to looted Greek and Roman antiquities. Unexpected discoveries fuel the fantasy that you or I can participate in this greedy sport, that valuable masterpieces lie in attics or cupboards, waiting to be recognised... There are only two questions about art we all recognise. But is it art? And if it is, what's it worth?" The Guardian (UK) 12/07/06

Is Boston Ready To Embrace The New? Bostonians have never been known for their cutting-edge taste when it comes to art. "But the new Institute of Contemporary Art is growing up into a museum that has the potential to be a player on the world stage. Boston's aesthetic can grow up with it." Boston Globe 12/07/06

Tate Seeking £5m To Keep Turner In UK "The Tate launches a major campaign today to purchase one of Turner's late masterpieces, The Blue Rigi, a heartstopping view of Mount Rigi seen from Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, in which he captured the elusive moment when night fades into the pale light of dawn. The work is, according to the Tate, one of the finest watercolours painted. It needs to be, for Tate Britain must raise £4.95m to prevent it leaving the country. This would be the biggest sum it has ever paid for a single work of art." The Guardian (UK) 12/07/06

German Critic Slams Turner Honoree In the hours since German-born artist Tomma Abts was named the recipient of this year's Turner Prize, British art critics have been lining up to praise the selection. But Germany's leading critic begs to differ, saying in a blistering article that Abts's paintings look like East German wallpaper samples. The Guardian (UK) 12/07/06

You Might Even Argue That A Normal Building Is Out of Place There "A proposed residential tower designed by Foster and Partners for New York’s Upper East Side has sparked conflict between neighbors, pitting preservationists against the local artists, designers, and gallery owners who hope to see the building constructed... Foster argued that such ambitious architecture isn’t out of place in the neighborhood, and pointed to the Carlyle, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum as examples." Business Week 12/07/06

ICA Looking Good On Boston's Harborfront "Costing $41 million and three months late, the Institute of Contemporary Art is Boston's first new art museum in almost a century," and James Russell says that it looks like it will live up to the hype. "The 65,000-square-foot building's generous, light-filled lobby sweeps you around to a handsome glass elevator the size of a panel truck... The interior has architectural presence without getting in art's way. The outside pugnaciously asserts this old upstart's new place on the harbor -- and in the city." Bloomberg 12/05/06

Pork Barrel Portraits The expectation has been that Canada's new National Portrait Gallery would be built in Ottawa, the capital. But it appears from internal government documents that the project will be built in Calgary instead. Why Calgary, home of the Stampede ad mythologizer of the cowboy? Prime Minister Stephen Harper hails from the city. 'Nuff said. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/06/06

Boston's Hip New Contemporary Boston's Institute for Contemporary Art has a stunning new building on the city's waterfront. "With the possible exception of a lighthouse, there's probably never been a building more intensely involved with the sea. The ICA and the harbor enjoy the architectural equivalent of a dating relationship." The Boston Globe puts together an impressive multimedia package to explore what the new buildng means to the city. Boston Globe 12/06/06

Restoration Hard Ware - Restore Bamiyan Buddhas? "Five years after the Taliban were ousted from power, Bamiyan’s Buddhist relics are once again the focus of debate: Is it possible to restore the great Buddhas? And, if so, can the extraordinary investment that would be required be justified in a country crippled by poverty and a continued Taliban insurgency in the south and that is, after all, overwhelmingly Muslim?" The New York Times 12/06/06

In Search Of A Little Turner Razzle Dazzle The Turner Prize has lacked a certain oomph for the last few years, writes a former winner. "Many pundits bemoan the razzmatazz of the Turner and the proliferation of cultural prizes in general, feeling that they are undignified and inappropriately competitive in the arts. I think they are a good way to engage the public in the debate of what makes good art. In a world where a zillion cultural products beg for our attention, prizes strive to champion quality. If, in doing that, they occasionally include the media-friendly option, so be it." The Times (UK) 12/05/06

Art In The Schools? (Or Money In The Bank) "Three years ago, the Philadelphia School District went on a treasure hunt to gather up about 1,200 artworks. There were paintings, sculptures and tapestries from more than 260 schools. A Chicago art consultant brought in to catalogue the works said the entire collection could be worth $30 million. But now that the School Reform Commission is struggling to resolve a $73.3 million budget deficit, art experts, along with members of various school communities, are worried that district officials could be tempted to sell the artworks." Philadelphia Daily News 12/05/06

Kahn's Yale Art Gallery To Reopen, Restored "Yale University, famous for its Gothic buildings, is showing off a newly restored jewel that marked the beginning of its modern era. The university has completed a $44-million restoration of the main building of its art gallery that was designed by architect Louis Kahn.... The Chapel Street building, which opened in 1953, was Yale's first modernist structure and marked a radical break from the campus' largely neo-Gothic character. It was also Kahn's first masterpiece," and it reopens Sunday. Los Angeles Times (AP) 12/05/06

Design Tethered To, Or Divorced Of, History Nicolai Ouroussoff considers skyline-altering projects in two great cities and advises that "while the design for the Phare Tower in Paris is a work of sparkling originality that wrestles thoughtfully with the urban conflicts of the city’s postwar years, the other, the gargantuan Gazprom City in St. Petersburg, Russia, is a bone-chilling expression of corporate ego run amok. Together, they train a lens on the range of architectural approaches to a daunting problem: the clash between the classical city and the inflated scale of the new global economy. And they underscore the limits of the creative imagination when it is detached from historical memory." The New York Times 12/04/06

Buy Russian Russian art is selling briskly, even withstanding charges of fakes coming to market. "The Russian sales are about rediscovering more home-spun talents Often, prices and estimates were inexplicably erratic. But, like the problems with fakes, this is all part of a young and booming market." The Telegraph (UK) 12/05/06

Mysteries About Hermitage Art Thefts Still Swirl "The Hermitage has been criticised for not having noticed the theft earlier. With a collection of almost three million objects, the process of checking them against inventory is continuous and takes some 10 years." The Telegraph (UK) 12/05/06

Victoria And Albert Drops Reproduction Fees The Victoria & Albert Museum says it will drop fees for publishing images in scholarly books and magazines. "Reproduction costs now often make it difficult to publish specialist art historical material. The V&A is believed to be the first museum anywhere in the world which is to offer images free of copyright and administrative charges." The Art Newspaper 11/30/06

Ottawa Museums Get Fix-up Funding Five Ottawa national museums get $100 million from the Canadian government to fix up their buildings. "Many of Ottawa's national cultural institutions have complained about the decline of their facilities for years, saying they have had to defer necessary repairs and upgrades due to lack of funds." CBC 12/04/06

German Artist Wins Turner German-born artist Tomma Abts has become the first woman painter to win the controversial Turner Prize in its 22-year history. BBC 12/04/06

When Admission Is Free, People Flock To Museums (Who Knew?) Admission to England's museums and galleries has been free for five years. "To mark the occasion, the government released figures which showed an average 83% rise in visits to museums and galleries which formerly charged. That is 30m extra visits, says the government, and something to be celebrated, according to the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell." But some warn that if the state cuts its support, the price barrier may have to go back up. The Guardian (UK) 12/02/06

How To Fix A Crippled Art Fair "Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties Inc... last year bought Art Chicago, the longest-running and once-leading contemporary art fair in the country, from its longtime producer. Its team will be at Art Basel Miami Beach -- as it has been at other such fairs around the world -- to try to make the contacts and find the elements that could return Art Chicago to international prominence... Part of the Mart's plan is to host five concurrent commercial shows, of varying size and focus, in its complex along the Chicago River." Chicago Tribune 12/03/06

Baby, You're The Top "If things are looking up for architecture in the 21st century, it's partly because of the roof. After decades of neglect, it is once again becoming the most visible element of new buildings, let alone whole cities. All those flat-roofed towers constructed since the 1950s and '60s are being reimagined as occasions for greenery, gardens, pools, playgrounds and even parks. Then there's the advent of Google Earth, a free computer program that has people everywhere looking at buildings — and entire cities — from the top down. Suddenly, the whole planet has been turned into a roofscape." Toronto Star 12/02/06

Fractal Geometry & Jackson Pollock: Something's Not Right "In an article published this week in the prestigious science journal Nature, two physicists contend that a method intended to identify complex geometric patterns in the seemingly chaotic drip paintings of Jackson Pollock is flawed and may be useless in the increasingly convoluted world of authenticating Pollock’s work." The New York Times 12/02/06

Who Cares About History? It's Tall And Shiny! "Russia’s largest company, Gazprom, announced on Friday that it had chosen the architecture firm RMJM London to design [St. Peterburg’s] tallest building, brushing aside arguments from preservationists and residents that the project — whoever the architect — would destroy the city’s architectural harmony." The New York Times 12/02/06