ARTS BEAT NEWSLETTER - November 27 - Decmeber 3, 2000

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  • SQUABBLING OVER MARTHA GRAHAM: Legal wrangling over the ownership of Martha Graham's choreography. A few weeks ago it seemed like a settlement had been made to revive the Martha Graham Company, but that may now have fallen through. The dance company's board is also exploring whether Graham heir Ron Protas actually owns the dance works. Village Voice 11/28/00

  • WHY WE STILL CELEBRATE BACH: "More than any other composer, Bach revealed within this language the immense power of the small detail, the significance each motif could have within the tonal language: he can make his contemporaries seem insipid. Nevertheless, in addition to the grand and even startlingly original effects of his imagination conceived throughout his life, he was able to demonstrate the latent expressive force that resided in pure craftsmanship, in a simple technical competence that amounted to genius." New York Review of Books 12/21/00

  • THE MYTH OF FIRST PERFORMANCE: There's always been an aura about "The Premiere" of a new piece of music, a sense that, most often with the composer present or involved in some way, that a first performance provides some special window into a work. In reality though, "far from receiving an absolute truth, those present at these revelations were more often given half-glimpses of unpolished works in their infancy. That is, when they could hear the music at all." The New Republic 11/27/00

  • THEATRE IN AUSTRALIA: "In the 1970s and early 1980s Australian theatre was seen as part of an integral social debate about national identity and self confidence. The advent of serious arts funding came out of clearly articulated statements on the importance of the arts, and our politicians were well versed in the reasons why a funded arts environment was important to a social system. The arts were seen as a necessary expense, like roads or water." Now we should enjoy the rewards. Sydney Morning Herald 11/29/00

  • JERUSALEM'S OWN SPACE NEEDLE? An "almost 500-foot-tall tower rising above the old city that will have a restaurant close to the top and a synagogue for only 36 at the very top" is being planned for one of the world's most historic cities. Why is it necessary to mar the view of the city with a modern monstrosity? The Idler 11/28/00

  • CEZANNE AS BUSINESS MODEL: "University of Chicago economist David Galenson charts the sea change from artistic tradition to reinvention, using the auction prices of paintings as his measure of value. Correlating the price of a work of art with the age of the artist at the time of the painting's execution, Galenson mapped the patterns of success and innovation over the past century in art history. His essays describe French and American painting, but their relevance is much broader." Salon 11/28/00


  • THE ROYAL WINNIPEG'S REVOLVING DOOR: The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has had three artistic directors in eight years. And, with the dismissal late last week of Andrew Wilhelm-Boyles, three executive directors in the same period. What's happening to one of Canada's great dance companies? National Post 11/29/00

  • CONTRACTING TO DANCE: The Australian Ballet postpones a major work and schedules it for the opening of its 2001 season, then discovers its contract to perform the work has run out. "The contract, believed to date from 1986, stipulated that for 10 years the Australian Ballet had the rights to stage the work in-house, that is, without a repetiteur. After that, a new contract would need to be renegotiated and a repetiteur flown out to re-stage the work." Sydney Morning Herald 11/20/00
  • DRIVING EDWARD VILLELLA: In the 15 years since he founded it, Edward Villella has turned Miami City Ballet into a respectable, successful company. "But Villella, though exhausted by years of overwork and in failing health - he has a bleeding ulcer and underwent his third major hip operation last May - keeps pushing toward new peaks. It's almost as if the closer he gets to the mountaintop, the harder he drives himself - and the more frustrated he becomes at not reaching it." Miami Herald 11/19/00
  • PILOBOLUS AT 30: When Pilobolus debuted 30 years ago, few knew what to do with them. They stripped down movement and "spent more time clinging to one another, and disguising their bodies than doing what passed for dance - doing steps across the floor. The men had taken virtually no dance technique classes. Pendleton didn't even know how to point his feet, for goodness sake. But audiences loved it. And so - though more cautiously - did the critics." Orange County Register 12/03/00



  • NEW TV ARTS CHANNEL: Britain's first satellite arts channel debuted this weekend, promising to "absolutely delight and astonish its viewers by offering a respite from the non-stop incestuous mash of pish and tosh - gardening, cooking, interior design - screened these days by the BBC and ITV." The Telegraph (London) 12/02/00
    • IN SEARCH OF AN AUDIENCE: Will the new arts channel succeed in finding an audience? "This is laudable, an attempt to fight the forces of dumbing down, but will it work? Is art the same kind of thing as food or shopping, something that can be presented as a niche broadcasting commodity?" Sunday Times (London) 12/03/00
  • WITHOUT THE SOAP SELLERS: The history documentary "A People's History" on the history of Canada has exceeded all viewership projections and has become the most-watched documentary in Canadian history. But the series producer complains "Nothing will be financed unless it can be demonstrated to sell pop or soap. It just won't happen. The marketplace will not, operating by its own laws, produce what is necessary and good for our children and our society.'' Toronto Star 12/01/00

  • HOME MOVIES: Out of fear that a Napster-like program could soon make free movies available over the internet, major Hollywood studios are exploring ways to distribute their films to PC users over the Web. "The movie studios are quickening their pace because they do not want to find themselves in the same boat as the recording industry." (Reuters) 11/30/00

  • ABC STAFF PROTESTS: Australian Broadcasting Corporation staff walked off the job this week in a vote of no confidence in managing director Jonathan Shier. The Age (Melbourne) 11/30/00

Plus: It's been a bad year for movies both on the screen and at the box office.  


  • THE MYTH OF FIRST PERFORMANCE: There's always been an aura about "The Premiere" of a new piece of music, a sense that, most often with the composer present or involved in some way, that a first performance provides some special window into a work. In reality though, "far from receiving an absolute truth, those present at these revelations were more often given half-glimpses of unpolished works in their infancy. That is, when they could hear the music at all." The New Republic 11/27/00
  • OPERA BROADCASTS CLOUDY? The Metropolitan Opera Saturday broadcasts begin their new season this weekend. But there is anxiety about the future. Texaco has sponsored the Met broadcasts for 60 years, the longest continuous sponsorship in America. The company has recently merged with Chevron though, and neither company will commit to the future. Hartford Courant 12/01/00
  • TENOR OF THE WORLD: "Ben Heppner, a Canadian gentle giant of 44, is that rare bird - and, rarer still, he can not only sing the notes, but sing them with musical sensitivity and intelligence too, as well as making a fair stab at acting them out on stage." The Telegraph (London) 11/30/00
  • SO MUCH FOR THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT: Three years ago women in rock music dominated popular music. But in the past year there's been a backlash. ''Lilith didn't rock. It was like, `OK, women want to go off and do women's music.' But how can men identify with this? Especially young men? They were accepted at Lilith, but they weren't really welcome. And I think it's partly responsible for what's happening in rock now. The music is loud and rude and crude. Guys can relate, but women can't. There's definitely a backlash against women in the rock world.'' Boston Globe 12/03/00
  • MUSIC THAT SHOCKS: Some might be scandalized by the music and behavior of some of today's musicians. But "rock musicians of today take note: There's little you've done that wasn't already taken care by your predecessors in early-17th-century Italy." The Globe & Mail 11/29/00
  • OPERA IS EXPENSIVE, NOT WASTEFUL: Scottish Opera's financial crisis has got a bad name, say the company's proponents. "There's this myth of profligacy. We don't waste money in opera. It is expensive because there are so many people involved. The money is spent on a lot of very creative personnel." Glasgow Herald 11/29/00
  • WHY WE STILL CELEBRATE BACH: "More than any other composer, Bach revealed within this language the immense power of the small detail, the significance each motif could have within the tonal language: he can make his contemporaries seem insipid. Nevertheless, in addition to the grand and even startlingly original effects of his imagination conceived throughout his life, he was able to demonstrate the latent expressive force that resided in pure craftsmanship, in a simple technical competence that amounted to genius." New York Review of Books 12/21/00
  • EARLY MUSIC: "In 1912, Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the phonograph, funded a massive talent search throughout Europe, with the hope of finding some outstanding artists to record for his own Edison Record Company. More than 300 singers agreed to make two-minute cylinders to give Edison some idea of their voices." Public Arts 11/27/00
  • WHAT'S WRONG WITH TRYING TO BE THE BEST? Baritone Thomas Allen is tired of the charges of elitism being hurled at London's Royal Opera House. "If you want excellence, you can't escape élitism. It's the same with football. Cream rises to the top. Manchester United wants the best and works hard to get it. It's nearly as expensive and impossible to get into a great football match as into an opera house." The Observer (London) 12/03/00
  • POLITICS OF WORLD MUSIC: "In the days before World Music, the Music of Africa series of 10 LPs, recorded in Africa and introduced by Hugh Tracey, were one of the few ways the general listener might encounter African music. But throughout the surge of international interest in African music in the Eighties and the world-music boom that followed, Tracey's name was barely mentioned. Not only did his ethnographic approach seem antiquated, Tracey himself was an embarrassment - a colonial figure who had distorted the music for his own purposes and allowed himself to become a tool of apartheid." The Telegraph (London) 12/02/00

Plus: Paris Opera technicians strike for more money and better conditions ~ Is London's Royal Festival Hall the "seediest concert hall on earth" and if so, why? ~ Ronald Wilford, one of the most powerful figures in the classical music industry, is stepping aside as Columbia Artists Management top boss ~ British songwriters launch a campaign to convince people that free music on the internet is harmful to the business ~ Toronto's main concert hall, Roy Thompson Hall, is to get an acoustical makeover ~ Madonna's web concert found an audience of nine million ~ Australian Chamber Orchestra "looks set to end the year $900,000 in the red ~ Despite Napster record sales are booming ~ Argentina's National Symphony Argentina's National Symphony is wrapping up its season. 



  • KENNEDY CENTER HONORS: The Kennedy Center honors Placido Domingo, Chuck Berry, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Clint Eastwood and Angela Lansbury. The Washington Post pofiles each. Washington Post 1/03/00

  • THE UNRETIRING ROSTROPOVICH: Since he left the directorship of the National Symphony five years ago, Rostropovich hasn't slowed down. He still gives 100 performances a year, he teaches, and the foundation he started with his wife has provided about $5 million in medicine, food and equipment to children's hospitals and clinics in Russia." Los Angeles Times 11/29/00

  • FAUX WILDE: A recording, long thought to be the only one of Oscar Wilde, probably isn't. "Experts have analysed the recording using the latest techniques, and have concluded it is likely to be a forgery." BBC 11/30/00

  • CHAPLIN THE COMPOSER: When Charlie Chaplin won an Oscar for his movie "Limelight," it wasn’t for his acting but for composing the film’s original score - a talent few of his fans are aware of. "Perhaps because he was so multifaceted - a comic actor of extraordinary imagination, an untiring, perfectionist director, the co-founder of United Artists - it seems unfair that Chaplin had one more talent. But, though it is largely overlooked today, the creator of the ‘Little Tramp’ was an accomplished musician who wrote soundtracks for nearly all of his films." The Guardian (London) 11/27/00



  • UNCERTAIN TIMES IN CANADA: Canada's two book superstore-chains are locked in battle as Indigo makes a hostile bid to buy Chapters. Both the chains are losing money. And with the threat of US booksellers trying to get in the Canadian market, the book industry in Canada is entering the all-important holiday season with much intrepidation. Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/30/00
  • THE PROBLEM WITH PUBLISHING: "The real problem is not books but publishing, or publishing as we have known it. Free trade, globalization and the Internet are having their disruptive way with what once was a profession that operated like a gentleman's intellectual club. Ironically, the country that appears to be suffering the most from consolidation of the publishing industry is the United States. Even more ironic, the country best equipped to withstand the global behemoths may be Canada." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/27/00
  • CANADA'S OVER-ACHIEVING WRITERS: The Canada Council spends $18 million a year subsidizing Canadian writers. Despite average sales of a fiction title of 2,500-3,000, Canada has produced a long list of important writers, led most recently by Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje "If you look at the Canadian track record in supporting publishing and literature, it is an incredible investment, and we have wonderful success stories that are recognizable and undeniable." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/29/00
  • CART BEFORE THE HORSE? It’s somewhat surprising the publishing industry is still betting millions on the future market for e-books, given the dismal performance of the CD-ROM and the fact that reliable e-book technology is still in development. Nevertheless, authors, publishers, online distributors, and e-book middlemen are feverishly trying to stake their claims in the new digital landscape. "Everyone at the table has an eye on someone else's plate, even before the food has arrived." New York Times 11/27/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • TRASHING SUSAN SONTAG: Was the selection of Susan Sontag's "In America" as the winner of this year's National Book Award a mistake? Daniel Halpern thinks so. " 'In America' is such a bad book that it seems possible that even its nomination - to say nothing of its victory - is the result of some sort of conspiracy, or at least of a mistake resulting from the particularly baffling handwriting of someone at the National Book Foundation." The New Republic 11/21/00
    • WIN THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AND SELL...233 COPIES? Susan Sontag's "In America" sold only 233 copies for the week ending Nov. 19, "which would reflect only a few days of award buzz. 'In America' - which has received mixed reviews - has sold only 3,972 copies since being published in January. Chances are, the award will raise that number, but to judge by the halfhearted reception Sontag got at the ceremony, the book inspires mixed feelings." 11/27/00

PLUS: Book revenues for America's four largest bookstore chains rose 6.3%, to $1.59 billion, for the third quarter ~ Association of American Publishers proposes e-book standards ~ Stephen King discontinues publishing his serialized on-line novel because not enough people were paying for it. 


  • "SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL" OPENS on Broadway and the early reviews aren’t pretty: "Whoever the many chefs were, the finished product is a flavorless broth." New York Times 12/01/00 (one-time registration required for access)
    • LACKING FOR TALENT: "There isn't much wrong with the new musical "Seussical" that a comparatively small earthquake could not put more or less right." New York Post 12/01/00
    • ON THE CONTRARY: " 'Seussical the Musical',' has matured into a sleeker, more confident show for its Broadway bow." Boston Herald 12/01/00
    • THE SEUSS INDUSTRY: The Grinch and "Seussical" are only the beginiing of a flood of Seuss-based projects in the wings to be brought to life. New York Daily News 12/01/00
  • INVESTING IN THE BIZ: Two of the producers of "Rent" on Broadway are plowing some of the millions they earned on the show back into the business. They propose to build a new Off-Broadway performing arts center. "The proposed eight-story building will include two state-of-the art off-Broadway theaters (one with 499 seats, the other with 450), dance studios, rehearsal halls, office space and condominiums. The cost of the project is $15 million." New York Post 12/01/00
  • MACKINTOSH TO QUIT PRODUCING: Superstar musical theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh has announced he won't be producing any more new musicals. "Mackintosh, one of the greatest creative and financial mainstays of musical theatre for three decades, says he is winding down and will in future produce only revivals." Sydney Morning Herald 11/28/00
  • SPACEY HELPS THEATRES: Actor Kevin Spacey has been using his financial success and fame to help out theatre companies. "I think it's unfortunate that people use theater as a stepping stone to film and then they don't come back. I never viewed it that way." The New York Times 11/28/00 (one-time registration required for access)



  • TURNER WINNER: This year's Turner Prize goes to a photographer for the first time. The £20,000 prize, which has specialized in controversy in recent years, was awarded to Wolfgang Tillmans, a "German whose special line is taking pornographic homosexual pictures." The Telegraph (London) 11/29/00
    • TIFFED OFF AT THE TURNER: What is it about the Turner Prize? Why are we fascinated by it? The Independent (London) 11/26/00
    • EVEN BETTER THE SECOND TIME? Controversy precedes the awarding of this year's Turner Prize after charges that one of the finalists plagiarized from a science fiction book cover. The Times (London) 11/28/00
    • PLAYING IT SAFE FOR TURNER: Tillmans, "is on the fashionable cusp between photography, art, and fashion, and was a safe choice." Financial Times 11/30/00
    • THE ABC's OF THE TURNER PRIZE: "For all its outrageousness, once an artist is nominated for the Turner Prize, they become part of the establishment." Here's an annotated guide through the workings of the Turner. The Scotsman 11/30/00
  • GUGGENHEIM MAKES DEAL WITH NYC FOR NEW MUSEUM: The Guggenheim Museum has reached an agreement with New York City on the site for its new $678 million 520,000-square-foot Frank Gehry-designed museum complex in Lower Manhattan.  New York Daily News 11/28/00
    • LEGACIES: Why did New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani (not a politician particularly known for his love of visual art) go out of his way to get $67 million to the Guggenheim Museum for a new downtown museum?  Financial Times 11/29/00
    • NEW GUGGENHEIM NOT CERTAIN: For the $678 million project to go forward, the City Council has to sign off on it, as do the state and federal governments. New York Times 11/29/00 (one-time registration required for access)
    • GUGGENHEIM'S BIG FUNDER? Ohio exec pledges $170 million to the project, which would be the largest ever donation to an American museum. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/01/00
  • NEW YORK'S DISAPPOINTING FALL SEASON: For the first time in memory, collectively the major museum shows in Manhattan are a flaccid, uninspired disappointment. "Perhaps it's an anomaly. Certainly it's the first time in memory that not a single big fall show will be remembered as being of more than cursory artistic significance." Los Angeles Times 11/29/00

    • WHAT MUSEUMS WANT: What exactly do museums want today? New York's fall schedule of shows at major museums is perplexing. "The lineup of fall shows suggests that museum professionals, driven by the desire to be financially secure, wildly popular or socially relevant, opt for one of two alternatives: exhibitions that look like upscale stores, or exhibitions that look like historical society displays." New York Times 12/03/00 (one-time registration required for access)

  • DESIGN TRIUMPH: The controversy that plagued the British Museum every step of its redesign - including the public outcry over its use of the wrong kind of stone in its new $97 million portico - seems to have finally subsided. "To visitors to the Great Court, this storm in a wine goblet will mean little if anything. In 10 years, few will know or care what all the fuss was for. What they will know, instead, is one of the most extraordinary covered squares to be found in any city, ancient or modern. The Guardian (London) 11/27/00
  • NOT SO FAST: Just a few years ago the internet was being touted as likely to revolutionize the world of art sales. Its success hasn’t been nearly so pervasive, but "even the skeptics did not predict the problems that have since assailed art and antiques online sites." The Telegraph (London) 11/27/00
    • EXCLUSIVITY SELLS: Online auctions were supposed to transform the world of art sales, democratizing the bidding process and thus driving up prices. "But so far, that hasn't proven to be the case." Wired 11/30/00

PLUS:  Venice's third worst flood in the last 100 years endangers priceless art ~ Sotheby's and Christie's plan to pay part of their class action settlement with coupons ~  New plans by the American Association of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors to find art stolen by the Nazis ~ Austrians consider returning paintings by Gustav Klimt stolen during the Nazi era ~ Australian art market may be cooling down. China plans to spend $60 million on a new museum to house a treasure trove of relics being saved from the giant Three Gorges Dam ~ .A long-lost statue of Christ made by Michelangelo has been discovered in a small church outside of Rome. 



  • WORLD ARTS CONFERENCE: A major international conference with delegates from 60 countries has gathered in Ottawa to talk about protecting "the vitality of many of the world's cultures which are currently threatened by the dominance of U.S. popular culture, and a globalizing economy which is turning national cultures into commercial commodities." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/01/00

    • CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER ADDRESSES CONFERENCE: "Some people think because of the power of communication, the American culture is a problem around the globe. It's not a problem, as long as every nation finds a way to make sure that people are comfortable with themselves, they know who they are, they know their roots and they work to have their arts and culture well inside of themselves." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/01/00
    • ON AMERICAN CULTURAL DOMINANCE: Many of the delegates from 60 countries dispute the message: "You can't stop the transmission of U.S. culture, so it needs to be regulated." Ottawa Citizen 12/03/00

  • THE POLITICS OF ANONYMOUS GIFTS: These days it seems like corporate "adver-donors" want to get as much advertising out of a donation to the arts as they want to help the arts. But there are still those who support the arts out of a sense of wanting to do something worthwhile. Just why do people give anonymous gifts? Hartford Courant 12/03/00
  • AS BAD AS ALL THAT? Is American culture going to the dogs? Morris Berman thinks so: His book "Twilight of American Culture" paints "a copious chamber of cultural horrors: corporate publishing and the death of small bookstores, New Age platitudes and spiritual nostrums, ignorant college students and their jargon-ridden post-modernist mentors ... you get the idea. For blame, Berman trots out The Usual Suspects: globalization, corporate domination, endless greed, insidious marketing, the media circus, and of course, the stupidity and gullibility of the American public." Really? The Idler 11/27/00
  • BRINGING ARTS TO EDUCATION: Every study shows that children who receive instruction in art and music are more focused, get better grades and score higher on standardized tests than children who don't. So it was something of a small triumph for sanity when the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this month announced a $4 million pilot program to help bring arts instruction to kids living in public housing. Baltimore Sun 11/28/00
  • A DAY WITHOUT ART: Artists and theater groups in Singapore have declared December 29th "No Art Day" as a protest against the government’s restrictive censorship laws. "For 24 hours participants will refrain from making art, appreciating art, consuming art, engaging art, administering art, or any other activity that might be interpreted as an 'encounter' with art." Times of India (AP) 12/01/00
  • THE NEW CAPITALISM: "With Russia’s government strapped for cash, the country’s sprawling network of great arts institutions is being forced into the unfamiliar world of commerce. The Russia Museum is one of the winners, organising an ever-expanding network of souvenir shops, a web site, and this year a record 15 foreign exhibitions. None of this has come easy to Russia’s museums and theatres. For 70 years the former Communist regime paid their entire budget, and also taught that private enterprise was a sin." The Scotsman 11/27/00



  • DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT: Identification, that is. Luciano Pavarotti tried to check in at a Sheraton Hotel in Padua, Italy, but forgot his ID. The hotel refused to check him in. "Unfortunately, in Italy, we are required by law to ask patrons for proper and valid identification. We did everything we could to help him. We called the police for help - to try to get identification for him." New York Post 11/28/00

  • POE'S MYSTERIOUS CODE: For 159 years, a cryptogram, offered by Edgar Allan Poe, has baffled puzzle solvers. "Solving it became the holy grail of the art, with Poe fanatics convinced it would unlock a secret message from beyond the grave." Now a Toronto software engineer has cracked the code, and it turns out that... The Globe & Mail 11/300/00

  • LEONARDO'S TOPLESS MONA LISA: Did Leonardo paint a suacy topless Mona Lisa? The Italian press has been hailing "the topless Gioconda", a nude pastiche of Leonardo's Mona Lisa that art historians now claim was copied from an original by the Florentine master himself. The painting is known as Monna Vanna, and experts argue that "Leonardo painted a lost saucy parody of the Mona Lisa for his patron Giuliano de Medici. The Guardian (London) 11/28/00

    • SMILING SCIENCE: A neuro-scientist believes the enigma of the Mona Lisa's smile might be due to an optical trick. "If you look at the painting so that your gaze falls on the background or on Mona Lisa's hands ... it would appear much more cheerful than when you look directly at her mouth." Discovery 11/30/00

  • AN EXPENSIVE CHANGE OF HEART: An Australian art collector puts up a painting valued at $1 million for auction, but then has a change of mind and decides to donate the work, by an important Aussie artist, to the National Gallery. The change of heart may cost him though - he's still liable for Sotheby's seller's commission, estimated to be as mush as $200,000. The Age (Melbourne) 11/28/00
  • UNLIKELY BENEFACTOR: Russia's struggling Sakharov Museum, which "aims to promote the ideas of human rights and civil society," has been offered a boost from an unlikely source. Boris Berezovsky, the industrialist accused of embezzling $1 billion from Aeroflot airlines and who fled the country last month, has given the museum $3 million.  Moscow Times 12/01/00