ARTS BEAT NEWSLETTER - October 2-8, 2000

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  • FUNDING BOOST FOR NEA: US Senate approves $7 million increase in budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. It's the first funding increase in eight years. Washington Post (Reuters) 10/06/00
    • DETAILS of Congressional funding for America's cultural institutions (including money to build an exhibit at the National zoo for farm animals? "This will raise the lowly mule, chicken and pig to the same status as the zoo's celebrated cheetahs and mountain lions.") Washington Post 10/06/00
  • CONFESSING TO THE CRIME: After a three-year antitrust investigation, Sotheby's former president and CEO Diana D. Brooks has agreed to plead guilty to felony counts of conspiring with Christie's to violate antitrust laws. Sotheby's has also agreed to plead guilty to antitrust violations and pay a fine of $45 million - on top of the multimillion-dollar settlement two weeks ago in the investigation's civil case. New York Times 10/05/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • BOOKER PRIZE FINALISTS ANNOUNCED: Finalists for the literary prize are: Margaret Atwood - "The Blind Assassin," Trezza Azzopardi - "The Hiding Place," Michael Collins - "The Keepers of Truth," Kazuo Ishiguro - "When We Were Orphans," Matthew Kneale - "English Passengers," and Brian O'Doherty - "The Deposition of Father McGreevy" BBC 10/05/00
  • GILLER PRIZE FINALISTS ANNOUNCED: Great excitement in Canada about the announcement of finalists for the Giller Prize (one of Canada's top literary prizes). A few reactions? "All the books have brown covers except one." "Bleak, bleak and bleaker." The list showed "big themes, big ideas and a few surprises." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/05/00
  • LARGEST DONATION EVER TO LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: Billionaire John Kluge is donating $60 million to the Library of Congress. "Kluge's money is the largest single gift in the institution's 200-year history. The donation, according to a source close to the project, will be used to establish the John W. Kluge Center for scholars and a $1 million annual prize for lifetime achievement in scholarly endeavors. The center will be located in the library's Jefferson Building and, like a university, will have endowed chairs in a number of fields." Washington Post 10/05/00
  • OPEN SECRETS: The U.S. and Russia reached a breakthrough agreement Wednesday at an international conference on the restitution of Holocaust-era art to open their archives to help recover Nazi-looted treasures. Access to Russian archives has been ofcrucial concern to Jewish groups pressing for restitution. Yahoo! News (Reuters) 10/04/00
  • BOARD MEMBERS TURN BACK SALARIES: In August, supporters of Dallas's Kimbell Museum were surprised to find out that two of the museum's directors were receiving salaries of $500,000 a year for services that were traditionally considered voluntary. Now the salaries will be discontinued. "After careful consideration, we have decided that it is no longer in the best interest of the Kimbell Art Foundation and the Kimbell Art Museum for Ben and me to receive compensation for the work we perform for the foundation and the museum." Dallas Morning News 10/03/00
  • HOLLYWOOD NORTH? The betting now is that Hollywood will be paralyzed by strikes next year as writers, actors and directors all negotiate new contracts. Will that stop the insatiable worldwide demand for entertainment? Not hardly. Much of the production figures to head north. "In Toronto and Vancouver, the main English-language production centres, directors, actors, technicians, casting agents and craft industries are already experiencing an unprecedented boom in demand - and reaping the dividends of Hollywood's woes." The Globe and Mail 10/05/00
  • WARSAW PIANO COMPETITION OPENS: The Chopin Competition, one of the world's major international piano competitions, is set to begin. The competition has launched the careers of pianists such as Maurizio Pollini and Krystian Zimerman and standards are so rigorous that no winners were declared in the last two competitions (in 1990 and 1995). "This year's competition has already proved tough. Only 98 pianists qualified, based on videotapes of their performances, compared with 140 in 1995." Ottawa Citizen (AP) 10/04/00
  • ANCIENT CITY SAVED: In the past three months in Turkey, the ancient city of Zeugma, "a key transit point across the Euphrates River believed to have been more than three times the size of the Roman city of Pompeii", was threatened by flooding. A team of 250 international archeologists and other specialists fought to rescue elaborate mosaics and other ancient Greek and Roman remains. The Globe and Mail (AP) (Toronto) 10/03/00
  • MASTER FORGER SENTENCED: Last week, after a remarkable trial a French judge sentenced a man called by French police "the most sophisticated and prolific master-forger in the history of European art" to one year in prison. "The extraordinary progress of the 57-year-old Geert Jan Jansen from the School of Fine Art in Amsterdam to a small-town courtroom 50 miles from Paris, is a story of two false names, seven fake bank accounts and up to 1,500 fake works of art." The Age (Telegraph) (Melbourne) 10/02/00

PLUS: Canada unveiled plans yesterday to host a World Summit on the Arts and Culture with 2000 representatives of arts councils and funding bodies from more than 50 countries ~ British arts minister who advocated Richard Branson taking over the running of the national arts lottery was formerly on Branson's payroll ~ Denver's arts economy is the city's seventh largest employer and has grown 31 percent since 1997 ~ New Bolshoi leadership feuds with leading ballerina ~ Canadian government to invest $50 million in the Canadian film industry ~ How Canada developed its own regional theatres ~ Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra forced to cancel concerts in Middle East because of fighting ~ Cleveland Orchestra conductor Christophe von Dohnanyi slips on a stair and dislocated his right shoulder but conducts the orchestra's Carnegie Hall opening ~ Canadian government to spend $150 million subsidizing homegrown magazines compete against American publications ~ Harold Pinter will make his acting debut in one of his own plays as part of a ten-play Pinter-fest coming to Broadway ~ Leading New Jersey black theatre closes because of debt ~  Actors picket the New York Times to protest newspaper's coverage of the actors strike against the TV commercial industry ~ San Jose Museum of Art names new director ~ Venice's art is under attack by woodworms devouring the art ~ Creation of micro-radio stations, approved by the FCC last year, are still being held up by large broadcasters ~ Artists in San Francisco march on city hall to protest high rents and evictions due to the Dot-com boom.



  • WHAT THEATER IS NOT: "Entertaining," "instructional," "celebratory," or "cathartic," at least in the opinion of one riled performing arts professor. The solution? "We should refuse to sit and watch the same old masquerade, the same old plays, the same old actors. We need to kill the theatre off so that new performance can have room to grow." The Guardian (London) 10/04/00

  • BUILDING A BETTER CONGRESS: Think of all the lawyers and business-people who populate Congress. But in the 20th Century there was only one architect served in Congress. Why not more? Hard to say - "The creative process of architects is a constructive, inclusive process - therefore more diplomatic than the aggressive and adversarial methods of engagement in politics ... Yet they have always seemed to be supporting actors at best or bit players at worst, in the various dramas unfolding on society's main stage..." Boston Globe 10/05/00

  • A PLAN FOR BUILDINGS THAT MATTER: British Prime Minister Tony Blair called a meeting last week to talk turkey about English architecture. By moving design center stage, he was making the "implicit promise of a new generation of social security offices, barracks, embassies and primary schools that would make Britain a byword for great architecture. It would, so Blair and his advisers blithely promised, have the effect not just of producing good buildings, but also of saving money and producing a healthier, happier society." The Observer 10/08/00

  • MUSIC CONSERVATORY ONLINE: A Canadian man has come up with software that allows teachers to teach music in real time over the internet. Keyboards plugged into computers allow immediate interaction between teacher and student, even if they're thousands of miles away. CBC 10/04/00

  • THE MUSIC WORLD'S EXCLUSIVE CLUB: The Los Angeles Philharmonic just chose 12 new players to fill orchestra vacancies. More than 1000 musicians auditioned, chosen from the thousands more who applied. The decision process of finding players for the modern elite orchestra is an arduous murky road. Los Angeles Times 10/08/00 

  • PLAYING TO THE CROWDS AT THE EXPENSE OF SCHOLARSHIP: The US's National Endowment for the Humanities has been supporting popular traveling exhibitions in an attempt to reach out to audiences. "To many scholars, the idea that the endowment supports barn photography with enthusiasm while it considers cutting scholarly projects represents a terrible shift in priorities. And to these scholars, the shift couldn't come at a worse time, since the agency is already short on cash, with a budget of only $115-million." Chronicle of Higher Education 10/02/00

  • THE V&A's PROBLEMS: London's Victoria and Albert Museum is in disarray. Attendance is down, raising money is tough, and the museum's leadership is feuding amongst themselves. "There is a feeling among some of the trustees that the V&A doesn’t know where it is going. Having a director and chairman at odds only adds to the problems, and decisions on many key issues are now being postponed." The Art Newspaper 10/03/00

  • HIT A POET WHILE HE'S DOWN? "It seems churlish to complain that poetry is receiving publicity, however dishonestly generated. Sales and readerships are very low; I read recently that 3% of all book sales are of poetry, and even that figure seems surprisingly high. But might we not be in danger of an inflationary rhetoric with regard to contemporary poetry, where so many superlative epithets - 'best poet of their generation', 'best American poet currently writing', and so on - are scattered like confetti over the whole crowd? The Guardian 10/05/00

  • PRECIOUS SALES: Just what can explain the popularity of Jeff Koons? "Koons has had an impressive run at auction. Starting in November 1999, records for Koons weren't just set, they were obliterated. Several of his exquisitely crafted porcelain sculptures came up and easily cruised through the million-dollar barrier. Suddenly, Jeff Koons prices were in Andy Warhol territory." Who's buying this stuff? 10/05/00

  • BALANCHINE BEYOND NEW YORK: "Can Balanchine's ballets have a viable life elsewhere? The recent Balanchine Celebration at the Kennedy Center answered that question with a yes of Joycean force." New York Magazine 10/02/00

  • THEMATICALLY SPEAKING... Earlier this year the Tate (Modern and Britain) arranged the artwork in their galleries thematically rather than in the more traditional chronological order. Curators and critics have been debating the trend of showing art this way, even as more museums adopt the idea. Does it increase understanding or muddy the conversation? The Telegraph (London)

  • THE NY PHIL SWEEPSTAKES: The name-the-next-New-York-Philharmonic-music-director game continues. Peter G. Davis takes a look at the contenders. "I wouldn't count out anything in this latest crazy round of musical chairs. When I left Barenboim's hotel suite, who should be ushered in, with a hungry look in his eye, but Zarin Mehta?" New York Magazine 10/02/00

  • DISNEY'S THEATRE PLAY: Critics commonly trash Disney for its commercialism and bland focus. So many were surprised when "Lion King" showed up on Broadway a few seasons ago and turned out to be an artistic success. Now Disney's into theatre in a big way, and there are reasons beyond just money. "Disney's interest in theater may also be due in large part to the fact that people who know and love theater are running the show." Los Angeles Times 10/08/00

PLUS: Children's Museums are hot these days, with 100 new museums in the planning in the US this year ~ Escalation in the US Congressional hearings into violence and media are politically self-serving for those in charge ~  What does it say that politicians seem to agree on violence and media? ~ Choosing music directors for America's major orchestras is a "mysterious game" ~ Bernard Haitink, one of Covent Garden's most successful music directors, prepares to leave ~ New Yehudi Menuhin bio paints picture of a tortured childhood.



  • HOW THE FEDS GOT CHRISTIE'S/SOTHEBY'S: Last December Christie's London was forcing out Christopher M. Davidge, its chief executive. "When Christie's demanded all of his business records, Mr. Davidge turned the tables and produced a bonanza. He dug out private files of his handwritten notes to Christie's one-time chairman, Sir Anthony Tennant, and gave them to his lawyer, who, by late December, had dumped them in the laps of the company's criminal lawyers in New York. The impact still reverberates through the $4 billion-a-year auction world, which will never be the same. New York Times 10/08/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • I WRITE THE CHECKS... Alberto Vilar has become the Daddy Warbucks of the music world. In the past few seasons he has given some $150 million for projects he likes. "Mr. Vilar has not been shy about demanding displays of gratitude commensurate with such gifts. At the Met, for example, an operagoer may now sit in the Vilar Grand Tier or dine at the pricey Vilar Grand Tier Restaurant. As a result, he has become an easy target for critical barbs, particularly in Europe." New York Times 10/08/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • THE POST-MODERNIST WEB: "In the postmodern realm of cyberspace no 'grand' narratives, all-encompassing stories, or over-pervasive myths either impose their guidance or legitimate specific approaches. We do not encounter in cyberspace such good old stories as the dialectic of the Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational/working subject, or the creation of wealth." *spark-online 10/00

  • WRITING BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Dissident writers in the old USSR had to be wary. Since their work could not be printed at home they memorized it "The two most important phenomena in dissident writing in the Eastern bloc surrounding Samizdat and Tamizdat were the underground press in the authors' own country and the opportunities for publication abroad." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10/01/00

  • THE WORLD'S LONGEST-RUNNING PRODUCTION: Every 10 years since the 1600's the residents of Oberammergau have performed a passion play. "This year, more than 2,000 locals, almost half the village, will give 100-plus performances to half a million visitors. Qualifications for participants are severe. If you weren't born here, you must have lived here for 20 years, or ten if you marry a lifelong resident. Until 1990, rules for women were even more rigid. Actresses had to be unmarried and under 35." New Statesman 10/06/00


  • SENTENCED TO PERFORM TOGETHER: The Audubon String Quartet has played together for 26 years. But a dispute among the members that started last February got out of hand and when three of the players tried to fire the fourth, he went to court and got a restraining order. Now the quartet plays under court order to remain together. "The judge can't make them like one another, or speak to each other. For now, though, he can sentence them to make creative harmony, until further notice." The Guardian (London) 10/06/00

  • WHO WANTS TO BE A MOVIE STAR: Director Roman Polanski ran a classified ad to cast the lead for his next movie. Some 1,500 "sensitive, vulnerable and charismatic men who want to star in a $35m movie about a Polish pianist who escapes the Nazi gas chambers" showed up to audition. A "hard-nosed blonde woman, the casting director looked as if she had seen about 700 nobodies that day and had another 700 to see." The Guardian (London) 10/03/00

  • HOW WELSH IS WELSH? A Los Angeles judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought against a Welsh choir. The plaintiff contended that the choir wasn't Welsh enough and that by calling itself Welsh it was "engaging in deceptive practices. BBC 10/08/00 

  • PROGRAMMATIC ERROR: The Boston Symphony has hurriedly withdrawn this season's covers of its program books after discovering that part of the cover image "presents an indistinct image that creates a visual double-entendre of a distinctly anatomical nature." Boston Globe 10/05/00

  • NEWS ON COMMISSION: "The worst-paid journalists on earth live in Nigeria. Because of this, Nigerian journalists do on a daily basis what would constitute a firing offence in Canada - they accept money from the people they write about. These payments, called 'commissions', are paid by companies, individuals, organizations and governments when journalists come to call." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/03/00

  • SHAKESPEARE'S JOB: A new biography claims that Shakespeare was a highly regarded actor and that he thought of himself as "doing a little writing on the side." The Independent (London) 10/08/0