ARTS BEAT NEWSLETTER - October 30 - November 5

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October 30 - November 5

1. Special Interest 
2. Dance
3. Media
4. Music
5. People
6. Publishing
7. Theatre
8. Visual Arts
9. Issues
10.For Fun

1. Special Interest

  • THE MUSIC TO COME: In a demonstration of the new data-transmission capabilities of Internet2, a conference in Atlanta today will "allow musicians from across the U.S. to perform together over the Web. At the Atlanta conference, Dr. Karl Sievers of the University of Oklahoma will play trumpet while the rest of his brass quintet accompanies him - via Internet2 video conferencing - from the university." 10/31/00
  • THE NET'S KILLER-APP: Just how popular has the music-sharing company become? "At peak times, Napster CEO Hank Barry says, the company has 'about a million' simultaneous users - a staggering number. America Online, by comparison, has about 1.6 million users at peak hour, according to SEC documents filed last month. In other words, during peak hours, a startup with a few dozen employees, beta software and no income stream accounts for two-thirds as many Internet connections as a 15-year-old Net behemoth with 15,000 employees and a pre-merger market capitalization of $108.5 billion." 10/31/00
  • HOW RECORDING CHANGED MUSIC: The ability to record music did more than just make performances available after the fact. "A century of recording has changed the way we listen to music and the way music is performed – as well as what we listen to – to an extent we are only just beginning to grasp." The Independent 11/03/00
  • MUSEUMS MOST TRUSTWORTHY: "A recently released study shows that 43-percent of Americans consider museums to be 'more trustworthy' than any other information source." In second place, cited by 18 percent of the respondents, were books. Write News 11/05/00
  • HISTORY YOU CAN HOLD IN YOUR HANDS: As libraries become more and more electronic, they've been dumping some of their paper archives. "When the British Library decided to dump a historic archive of American newspapers, the best-selling novelist Nicholson Baker was so horrified he decided to buy it for himself. He is now engaged in a one-man campaign to rescue 'the raw store of history' that microfilm and the internet promise to destroy." The Telegraph (London) 11/04/00

2. Issues

  • GOOD TIMES FOR PRIVATE ARTS SUPPORT: Spending by philanthropies on arts and culture increased by 47 percent last year, reports the Journal of Philanthropy in its annual ranking of the Philanthropy 400. Philanthropic support for arts and culture organizations on the list totaled $1.15 billion last year. Overall charities took in 14 percent more last year than the year before. (table at the end of story) Chronicle of Philanthropy 10/30/00
  • MAYBE THE BRIBE'S NOT BIG ENOUGH? There's a federal election going on in Canada, and the Liberal party, in power for a number of years now, is offering a bribe to the arts - $600 million in new arts spending, if the government is re-elected. Artists aren't impressed, though. The government's made promises before, but hasn't come through. CBC 11/03/00
  • REDISTRIBUTING THE WEALTH? A debate is going on in Australia about how to best spend money on higher education. "While Australia's best universities are well below Ivy League status, the lower end of the spectrum is well above America's worst." If making the best schools truly great isn't easily possible, should effort be made at general improvement? (In which case the best are diminished while the worst improve). Sydney Morning Herald 11/01/00
  • I COME TO PRAISE THE CITY: "The modern city is a city of houses many ethnes, many cultures, many religions. [It] is too fragmentary, too full of contrast and strife; it must therefore have many faces, not one.... The lack of any coherent, explicit, image may therefore, in our circumstances, be a positive virtue, not a fault, or even a problem." The New Republic 10/30/00

PLUS: Taipei official pledges to make the city "the cultural city of the Asia-Pacific," beginning with a year-long arts festival of work from 10 nearby countries ~ A BBC history of Britain is too full of self-congratulation ~ Scotland's arts groups, languishing for funding in recent years, got a pick-me-up this week, in the form of the "largest-ever increase in funding for the arts in Scotland ~ Australian artists launch "a withering attack on the government, the arts media, populism and the boards of the performing arts companies." 

3. Dance

  • RESCUING MARTHA GRAHAM: Finally, maybe a plan to rescue the Martha Graham Dance Company, which went out of business in May. The company "is poised to reopen in temporary quarters as soon as January with a fresh infusion of private contributions and a promise of a $750,000 capital grant from the state senator from its home district. The state contribution comes with strings; the dance center cannot get the money unless it raises $750,000 in private donations for operating expenses. New York Times 10/30/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • THE RIGHT DIRECTION: The National Ballet of Canada will lose only $165,000 this year, compared to the $1 million it lost last year. National Post (Canada) 10/30/00
  • ESCAPE FROM AUSTRALIA: Eleven dancers are leaving the Australian Ballet. "It is known that among those departing are three of the eight senior artists and two of the three leading soloists." Sydney Morning Herald 11/01/00
  • TAYLOR ON TOP: Paul Taylor’s influence is felt throughout the dance world, and, at age 70, he’s still working strong. "Ultimately Taylor's achievement is being 70 and still practising his art. While other dance groups fall victim to poverty and changes in fashion, the Paul Taylor Company has prospered since it was formed in 1955. Some of the dance world's starriest names owe a debt to his extrovert style." The Guardian (London) 11/02/00
  • BALLET FOLKLORICO FOUNDER DIES: "Amalia Hernandez, the founder of Mexico's Ballet Folklórico and a pioneer in the revival of traditional Mexican dance styles over the last 50 years, died Saturday at the age of 83." Dallas Morning News (AP) 11/05/00

4. Media

  • A WHOLE NEW PICTURE: The movie industry is changing dramatically with the development of high-definition digital video - a transition being likened to that from silents to talkies, or from black and white to color. "In the long run, there is no question that DV will replace film. It gives you a more complex and satisfying control over the image than you ever had before." The Telegraph (London) 11/02/00
  • DARK HOUSES: After the boom in multiplex building over the last several years, movie theaters across the U.S. are closing in record numbers. "So far this year, 355 theaters housing 1,888 screens have shut their doors, while only 131 theaters with a total of 1,370 screens have opened." 11/01/00
  • LITTLE PRAISE FOR THREE DECADES OF BRITISH FILM: As the London Film Festival opens this week, the first in a four-part series on the state of British film over the last 30 years. Don’t look here for aggrandizing praise. "British film has for the most part been second-rate, the culture of film-makers has been undernourished, the cinema-going public has been too shy of invention, and, without the brilliant, redeeming system of television funding and production in this country, British film would be dead in the water." The Telegraph (London) 10/30/00
  • FILM LOOKS EAST: "Leaving aside the bloated monster of Hollywood, is anyone in the world serving up great films today? The answer is yes - but not where you might expect. Instead of France and Italy, Iran and South-East Asia now lead the way." The Telegraph (London) 11/01/00
  • TRANSATLANTIC ENVY: British film and media types are quick to criticize Hollywood fare as "too bland, too formulaic, too predictable, too dumb. If only, the argument goes, we had such resources: our films - edgy, relevant, cool and British - would surely sweep the world. But it's inescapable that America has the most diverse, intriguing and professional film culture of any country in the world. Their breadth and range shames our admittedly small film industry, which is obsessed by gangsters and clubbing." The Telegraph (London) 10/31/00


5. Music

  • DO THE MATH: "Music, you would think, is manufactured in the Old Economy, and the distributed free of charge as common property by the New. Yet in that case, is the New Economy an economy at all any longer? Who would go on providing music if buyers want to purchase at one price only, namely that of zero, getting it for free? The Net's great promise – that every ware should preferably be shareware – does it not overlook that this 'everything' has to be produced before it can be distributed?" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11/01/00
  • WHEN POP ISN'T SO POPULAR: There is a real crisis in the British pop music industry, with "sales in decline and British acts now barely troubling the American charts." Not such a surprise, writes one critic. The industry did it to itself over many years. The Telegraph (London) 11/04/00
  • THE MORE THE MERRIER: Now that the dust has settled, a detailed explanation of how protesters in Berlin managed to save the city’s three opera houses from the government’s proposed consolidation. "Berlin had been a vital stronghold in the war between low-culture politicians and high-brow institutions. To have lost Berlin would have meant that no city in Europe could consider itself entitled to more than one opera house." The Telegraph (London) 11/01/00
  • A MATTER OF LABELS? "Article after article about this most vilified and most lauded pasty-faced pimply 'rapper of the year' have made the same error, referring to Eminem as a 'white rapper' too many times to list here. A crossover artist. Crossing over from what? While we should all pay attention to the vile lyrics of Eminem's work, we should also pay close attention to the equally vile way the media have focused so much on this one offensive rapper out of hundreds, constantly reminding the public of his whiteness." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/30/00

  • THE FIRST GREAT AMERICAN COMPOSER: "Copland was the first, the only and probably the last American classical composer upon whose greatness and importance everyone could agree. His 100th birthday is Nov. 14, and the celebration has taken on something of an iconic status. If we fall into the temptation to look back at the 20th century as the American century, Copland, born as it began, becomes a ready symbol for a nation coming of age." Los Angeles Times 11/05/00
  • SEARCHING FOR SHOSTAKOVICH: The debate over Shostakovich’s reputation raged on at this weekend’s international Shostakovich symposium in Glasgow, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the composer’s death. A memoir supposedly dictated by the composer himself and smuggled out to the west has "purportedly revealed the composer to have been a secret dissident through Stalin's reign of terror, and to have encoded that dissidence within his music. The essence of the argument has always been this: one camp thinks it's authentic, the other believes it to be a monstrous fraud." The Herald (Glasgow) 10/30/00

PLUS: Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall, which cost $39 million to build in 1982 - will undergo a sweeping $18 million acoustic makeover ~  A $9 million production of Madam Butterfly in Australia scheduled for next season has been canceled due to poor ticket sales and the falling value of the Australian dollar ~ London's Royal Opera House has turned down impresario Raymond Gubbay's application to run the company ~ American Composers Orchestra names a new director ~ Glyndebourne director resigns from the Glyndebourne opera festival ~ MForty of the worlds most prominent musicians published an open letter in several Berlin newspapers protesting the Berlin government's proposal to merge the operations of the Staatsoper in east Berlin ~ Mariss Jansons conducted the New York Philharmonic as a potential candidate for music director.

6. People

  • THE SHOOTING OF ANTHONY LEE: The actor that LA police shot and killed at a Halloween party Sunday (he was carrying a toy gun) was a longtime much-loved Seattle actor. "For the many in Seattle who knew and admired this charismatic man who left his mark on our theater scene, Lee must be remembered not mainly as the victim of a freak shooting, but as a riveting actor and an extraordinary human being. He deserves that." Seattle Times 10/31/00
  • WAS RED HIS FAVORITE COLOR? "Picasso as a Cold Warrior for the Evil Empire? Although the artist's membership in the Communist Party in the late 1940s and early '50s is well known, it has been largely ignored by scholars as a casual flirtation, with slight, if any, bearing on his art." A new book wonders if it really was so casual. ARTNews 11/00
  • NEW LINCOLN CENTER PREZ: Gordon Davis, on taking the top job running Lincoln Center: "If you go to Lincoln Center in all its different facets, there is already a wide diversity of audiences, which is wonderful. What some people don't understand is that you don't try to reach more diverse audiences because it's somehow "The Right Thing To Do.' You do it because that is where creativity ultimately comes from-broadening and invigorating the arts. It's in our self-interest to reach the broadest audience." Backstage 11/03/00
  • AIN'T THAT RICH: "By 1993, when he ended his thirteen years as the chief drama critic for the New York Times, Frank Rich had come to be known as 'the Butcher of Broadway,' but the Frank Rich that emerges in the pages of his new memoir is far more Dalmatian than Cruela De Vil." New York Magazine 10/30/00
  • THE GRAVES BUSINESS: "In the 1980s, Graves became the darling of postmodernist architecture. Then he designed a tea kettle for Alessi, with a bird on the spout, that became an icon of sophisticated home design. Today, he is a self-proclaimed 'old fogey' who designs toasters for Target - and, by the way, more buildings than ever." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 10/30/00

7. Publishing

  • THE RIPPLES OF BIGNESS: Think consolidation of the publishing industry won't affect what you read? "Science and technical journals have become a case study in the publishing industry's growing consolidation. Until the 1960's, scores of smaller companies and nonprofit organizations published the vast majority of journals. Since then, a handful of companies led by Reed Elsevier have acquired the bulk of them and have aggressively raised subscription prices. The average price of a subscription to a scholarly journal has more than tripled in the last 14 years. To keep up, libraries now buy fewer new books than they did a decade ago, diminishing the market for books of all kinds and frustrating professors desperate to publish." New York Times 11/03/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • DOES HYPE PAY OFF? Do the books publishers spend huge sums marketing and generating pre-publication buzz for actually end up with the readership and popularity that was hoped for? Here are some real sales figures on some of the most recently hyped releases. 10/30/00
  • THE NEW READING: "Hypertext literature is a wonderful subject for discourse, theory, and intellectual hobnobbing; but in the final analysis, there's really not that much to it. Insofar as hypertext binds the Web together, it's wonderful. Insofar as hypertext allows multimedia Web art to function, it's great glue. Insofar as hypertext comprises a new literary genre, it's about as riveting as those "write your own story" books that came out when I was a kid. *spark-online 11/00
  • GILLER WINNERS: For the first time, Canada's Giller prize has been awarded to two writers - "David Adams Richards and Michael Ondaatje both won the $25,000 Giller Prize. The judges, Margaret Atwood, Jane Urquhart and Alistair MacLeod, all senior deans of Canadian literature, huddled for just a few hours before announcing their decision." Ottawa Citizen 11/03/00
  • THE 'OTHER' ONLINE PUBLISHING: Negotiating book rights is "a time- and labor-consuming, long winded, costly and inefficient business; heavy manuscripts have to be expensively shipped often over long distances, and there is a huge amount of copying, and faxing and phoning at international rates, with often only a comparatively small reward. Why not, indeed, work it all out online: post catalogues, properties, partial manuscripts on the Web, e-mail pitch letters and offers, conduct auctions? Publishers Weekly 10/30/00
  • JUST THE RIGHT SIZE: Novellas are this fall’s literary sensation, with one after another short work of fiction hitting the bookshelves. An easy way out for stymied writers? A concession to readers’ dwindling attention spans? "When push comes to shove, perhaps the word represents a state of mind rather than a specific number of pages. There is something dangerous about the narrative choices the writer takes. If Steve Martin's novella had been a page longer, it would have been mawkish; a page shorter, dismissible." Village Voice 11/07/00
  • TWO APPROACHES TO WRITING A LIFE STORY: Recent biographies of John Updike and Saul Bellow take two very different approaches to their subjects. James Atlas "meditates on Bellow's controversial role as a public intellectual, maintaining a remarkable level of objectivity," while "William H. Pritchard, on the other hand, shies away from the personal details of Updike's life, openly deriding 'talk show revelations and displays'. He argues that 'such events pale in interest when put next to [Updike's] writings, products of all those hours sitting at the desk with pencil or typewriter or computer'." Chronicle of Higher Education 10/30/00

8. Theatre

  • STRAIGHTEN UP: A year ago critics were wringing their hands about the absenceof new straight plays on Broadway and the fear that musicals might have taken over completely. The fears were unfounded. This fall tells a very different story. Variety 11/03/00
  • REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: The Royal Shakespeare Company was mired in controversy and sagging popularity as recently as two years ago. "But what a difference a couple of years can make. In 1996, [Adrian] Noble took the brave decision to cut London ties in half in favour of retrenchment and more regional touring, and new blood is continuing to revitalise the company." The Herald (Glasgow) 10/31/00
  • MISSING JEWS: "Despite the work of Pinter, Arnold Wesker and Deborah Levy, Jewish writing is a neglected presence in British theatre. If you want to see an overtly Jewish character on the British stage, you usually have to wait for the ambivalent hero-villains in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice or Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, both written at a time when Jews were officially banished from the country." New Statesman 10/30/00
  • REGIONALS TAKE ON THE GLITZ: The $8 million production of "Tantalus" at the Denver Center is the most ambitious production ever mounted by an American regional theatre. Tantalus, a co-production with London's Royal Shakespeare Company, got mixed reviews nationally, and is only the latest in a line of glitzy high-profile cooperative projects by American regional theatres. Why are non-profit theatres taking on these productions? Dallas Morning News 11/05/00
  • BRIBING 'EM WORKS: Canadian theatre is suddenly hot in Washington DC. This fall, four plays and a handful of readings are storming the U.S. capital. "The unprecedented amount of activity is largely due to the Canada Project, a two-year-old Canadian embassy initiative that offers Washington artistic directors free theatre junkets to Canada. The thinking is that if American producers are exposed to Canadian plays, maybe they will catch the bug and pass it along to their fellow Americans." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/31/00

9. Visual Arts

  • THE NEW BREED OF ART SELLER: In Toronto, a quiet revolution in the way art galleries are presenting their work. "The new dealers tend to hunt out work they like, then simply hang it on the wall to see what happens." That means mixing artists and group shows. " Instead of having to come to grips with a single body of work, take it or leave it, customers now had a menu of art options to browse through, as in any other store. And that seemed to make them feel at home, and readier to buy." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 11/04/00
  • DEFINING "HISPANIC?" The newly-opened National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque was "designed to show off the multiplicity of cultures gathered under the umbrella term 'Hispanic.' The design of the complex makes that clear with a melange of Aztec, Mayan, Pueblo, modernist and Spanish idioms." Dallas Morning News 11/05/00
  • MAKING OUR BUILDINGS WORK: "You can choose not to watch a television show. But bad architecture, whether it is a hulking condominium tower or a gargantuan "McMansion" home that looms over its neighbors, is much harder to avoid. And it doesn't go away for decades. That's why, in today's building boom, the fight to preserve the past is taking on urgent meaning. Instead of watching passively from the sidelines, more and more people are becoming involved in an attempt to control the character of their communities." Chicago Tribune 11/05/00
  • OKAY, SO MAYBE SOME OF IT ISN'T REAL, BUT... Earlier this year Canada's National Gallery was offered a $100 million gift of 1,800 Chinese and neolithic antiquities from a collector, but the proposed gift was withdrawn after experts questioned the autheticity of some of the art. Now Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum has stepped up to accept the stash, despite the experts' concerns. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 11/03/00
    • BUT WHAT'S REAL IS CHOICE: "It is the largest single donation to a cultural institution in Canadian history. The collection features work dating from the Neolithic period of 3000 BC through to the T'ang Dynasty of 900 AD. The 1,800 pieces will be packed up in Ottawa and shipped to the ROM next week. The museum plans to mount an exhibition by next spring." Ottawa Citizen 11/03/00
  • RETURN TO FOUNDER: The controversial founders of the McMichael art collection in Ontario are to be returned to control of the troubled museum after the provincial government passed legislation to end the gallery's ambitions to modernize its collection. Museum professionals across Canada have protested the move. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 11/02/00
  • WILL THE KIMBELL MUSEUM LEAVE FORT WORTH? "Quietly, in little-noticed legal maneuvers over the past two years and with the silent blessing of the City Council, the social contract Kimbell forged with Fort Worth has been dismantled. Few noticed, but the change meant that the people no longer held ultimate claim to the museum and its collection." The final step came on August 15, when the Fort Worth City Council voted away protections that would keep the museum in town. Fort Worth Weekly 10/31/00
  • COMING TO TERMS WITH THE PAST: Germany has only recently begun to come to terms with what to do with art stolen during the Nazi era. But finding solutions is problematic. "What was legal in this criminal era? Was there a semi-normality and a decent, civil art market in the early years of the Nazi regime? This might be determined on the basis of the prices obtained on the art market. Or should all sales of art owned by Jews after 1933 be regarded as 'a result of persecution'?" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11/01/00
  • THE WRITING ON THE WALL: Wall texts in museums have gotten completely out of hand. People spend more time reading the text than they do looking at the art. Is it time to cut back? A critic talks the issue over with a curator. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 11/01/00
  • SOMETHING AMISS AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM? For centuries the British Museum has been the very symbol of British rectitude and order. But a recent scandal over stone used for a new portico, and a new exhibition about ancient Rome that features film clips from the movie "Gladiator" has critics wonder whether the museum has sold its soul. The Independent (London) 10/29/00
  • WHEN IN DOUBT, SEE THE ART TEACHER: "Watching my class of potential Rembrandts and Van Goghs in action last week, I reflected for a moment on how it was that I had become that ever-popular enigma: the 'art teacher.' You know who I mean. The teacher that is always just a little lost, a little dirty and can never quite seem to find anything. For the most part, we are popular with the students because we never seem to be very concerned with discipline and we remain close to the hearts of fellow colleagues who are always in a constant search for bristol board and construction paper." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/30/00

PLUS: Engineers are studying how to fix the wobble in Norman Foster's Millennium footbridge across the Thames; the £5 million currently quoted for a remedy to the famous wobble is a colossal sum compared both to the original estimate of £9 million and the much increased 'final' figure of £18 million. ~ Non-French art dealers have opened branches in Paris in recent months, eager to get into the French market after years of government controls ~ Was Picasso's involvement with the Communist Party in the late 1940s and early '50s a casual flirtation or did it mean something more? ~ TAuction house competition is heating up a third player is Sotheby's and Christie's a run for their money ~ A new website will sell high quality digital print reproductions by artists such as Winslow Homer, Maurice Prendergast and Georges Seurat to Andy Warhol, Alex Katz and Jean-Michel Basquiat ~ President Clinton changed the name of the National Museum of American Art to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which will affect all 22 museums and research institutes run by the Smithsonian Institution ~ The Bauhaus movement is "inspiring a whole new generation of designers ready to apply its tenets to enlivening urban architecture and creating affordable design choices for the average city dweller" ~ The Getty Museum  in Los Angeles has been blocked by a judge from building renovations and additions to its villa overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

10.For Fun

  • WAS SHAKESPEARE A POT-HEAD? "Two South African scientists are about to embark on a series of forensic tests to prove a case that will blow smoke in the eyes of traditional Shakespearean scholarship. They believe that the man who bestrides the classical canon was not just a genius, but a very early pot head." The Independent (London) 11/05/00
  • OVERSIZED 'AIDA": "In an evening of not quite high culture and a few moments of low comedy, a cast of 2,200 performed the tale of doomed love between an Egyptian general and an Ethiopian slave girl as the centerpiece of this year's China Shanghai International Festival of the Arts. And while the sound was remarkably good for such a huge venue, the theatrics stole the show." New York Times 11/05/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
    • A PRODUCTION TO MAKE ELEPHANTS LOOK SMALL: Shanghai is planning the largest production of "Aida" ever mounted. With 2,250 performers, herds of elephants, camels, lions, tigers, a panther, a boa constrictor and 1,650 People's Liberation Army soldiers dressed as Egyptian legionnaires all presented in an 80,000-seat stadium, the scale is enormous. But there's only one performance scheduled, and it's been raining fiercely all week... New York Times 11/03/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • THE SOUND OF REUNION: The seven "kids" from the original "Sound of Music" movie, made in 1965, reunite in Chicago. "The seven have stayed in touch--some remain very close--since their lives were forever united on celluloid in 1965. 'Today, e-mail keeps us closer than ever'." Chicago Sun-Times 10/31/00
  • THINK YOU'VE GOT PROBLEMS: The new musical now in development about the life of Minnesota governor/wrestler Jesse Ventura is full of special needs. As in - "We'll need to find someone who can sing, act, dance - and wrestle.'' St. Paul Pioneer Press 11/01/00
  • THE VALUE OF A GOOD APPRAISER: The estate of an Arizona woman sold a collection of her paintings for $60, unaware that they were worth much more - $1 million. "The estate sought to overturn the sale, arguing that it was based upon a mutual mistake regarding the paintings' value." The judge says no. CNN 11/02/00
  • THE VALUE OF ART ON YOUR WALL: Two French boys who used pins to tack a "poster" to their bedroom wall, discover that the picture may be a previously unknown Delacroix and worth £3 million. The Mirror (London) 11/05/00