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Week of  June 23-29, 2001

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


"THIS WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BE WAR": Ten years after the Congressional dust-ups over Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano, and federal arts funding in general, the echoes of what became a full-fledged culture war still resound. The American arts world has changed immeasurably in the last decade, and countless artists and organizations have long since given up trying to get public support for their work. The next ten years will tell much about what remains of America's commitment to art, but they could never be as telling as the last ten. Boston Globe 07/01/01

NOT ENOUGH CAR CRASHES, APPARENTLY: "Looking at television news, you could reasonably arrive at the ridiculous conclusion that people almost never talk about books, movies, television or theater. . . Television news has many habits that send occasional viewers to newspapers or National Public Radio in exasperation, but one of its most perplexing mistakes, on both the local and national levels, has been its virtual failure to acknowledge this most vital aspect of existence, the glass through which we interpret what it means to be human." Chicago Tribune 07/01/01

PAYING FOR THE WEST WING: Even the lowest-paid youngest writer on a hit American TV drama earns $100,000-$120,000 a season. But The West Wing is looking to cut costs from its $2 million/show budget, and so, even though the show's writers were due to get raises after the recent Writers Guild contract agreement, the show is declining to grant them. The New York Times 06/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)


BACK TO BASICS (IN SEQUINS): Dance shows have been big on Broadway for several seasons. This year there is more dance than ever, but it's of a throwback variety of the 30s/40s variety. The New York Times 06/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

DANCE HEAD OUT IN PITTSBURGH: "Gray Montague has been fired from his position as executive director of the Pittsburgh Dance Council, 19 months after he was hired to lead the contemporary dance presenting group." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/27/01

MULTI CULTI DANCE: English ballet companies aren't so English anymore. "As national flagship companies become increasingly international, the question of company style and national dance style will become increasingly important. For much of the 20th century, the old world sent their dance missionaries to the new. Now the tide is turning. A possible result of all this mixing and blending is a change to the so-called English style of dancing, softer, more lyrical, than the American and Russian way." Sydney Morning Herald 06/26/01



A DIFFERENT KIND OF RATINGS WAR: The dirtiest thing you can say to a Hollywood producer is "NC-17." The rating, which is assigned to American movies deemed inappropriate for children of any age, is considered the kiss of death for a film, and producers will jump through any number of hoops to avoid being slapped with it. But "a new wave of explicit films featuring full frames of hard-core action will soon invade theaters across the country, as directors and distributors push the limits of what's acceptable and thumb their noses at the movie rating system." New York Post 07/01/01

HELP WANTED. WIMPS NEED NOT APPLY: Somewhat in defiance of his own name, Sir Christopher Bland says that whoever succeeds him as chairman of the BBC will have to be controversial. If not, "you have appointed the wrong man or woman. There are difficulties attached to any real people and this is a job that deserves and needs a real person." The Guardian (UK) 06/27/01

IS DISNEY CHEAPING OUT? With its recently released Atlantis, Disney has racked up another animated dud. Indeed, it's been some time since the studio produced a quality animated picture. Some say Disney has lost its creative edge, and, struggling with trying to balance its budget, that Disney has gone cheap in its production values. New York Observer 06/27/01

POLS AGAINST SEX/VIOLENCE: Crusading against violence and sex on TV and in movies is popular with some US politicians. But "the main reason these bills are likely to fail, like so many similar ones in the past, is not the political influence of the entertainment industry, though the influence is formidable. Television, movie and music companies gave a total of $13.7 million to candidates for federal office last year, more than the oil and gas industry, banks or drug companies. The New York Times 06/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LOOKING FOR ART ON TV: Why aren't there more arts on TV? "Mainstream channels lazily assume we are a philistine nation made up largely of home-improving cooks. Don't they know more people go to the theatre than to soccer matches? Haven't they clocked the astonishing attendance figures for Tate Modern? Terrestrial TV's treatment of the arts is a shabby disgrace." Thank god for the new Artsworld channel. The Guardian (UK) 06/26/01

COMEDY CLUB OF THE MIND: Radio long ago surrendered to television in the war for the hearts and minds of the public, and retreated into the limited world of drive-time music blocks, stock market updates, and shrieking talk show hosts. But in the UK, radio seems to be making a stab at returning to the days when the best comedy on the air was aural, not visual. "While every mediocre stand-up appears to be given a TV series on the strength of a couple of years on the circuit and a reasonably well-reviewed Edinburgh Fringe show, Radio 4 attracts less egotistical, less pushy talents." The Telegraph (London) 06/23/01



TOWER OF DOUR: Tower Records, which has been, in many parts of the US, the most comprehensive place to buy recorded music, looks to be on the verge of bankruptcy. The company has closed down its book business, closed 10 of its music stores and laid off 250 employees. Los Angeles Times 06/23/01

SWEET HOME, PHILADELPHIA: It's been weird for some time; Philadelphia has been building a new $260 million performing arts center, but none of the arts groups for whom it was being built has signed up to use the hall. But after two years of negotiations, the arts groups - including the Philadelphia Orchestra - have agreed to be tenants. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/28/01

CUP, NO HANDEL: Is a recently discovered score, touted as a long-lost work by Handel, really by the composer? Some experts insist not, now they've heard it. Christian Science Monitor 06/29/01

RATTLE GETS HIS WAY: "Sir Simon Rattle appeared to be close to signing a long-awaited contract with the city of Berlin yesterday, after politicians in the capital finally bowed to his key funding demands for its Philharmonic Orchestra." The Guardian (UK) 06/30/01

NEW BOLSHOI CHIEF: Wasting no time after Gennady Rozhdestvensky's resignation as conductor of the Bolshoi earlier this month, the government has chosen Alexander Vedernikov as chief conductor. "Apart from serving as chief conductor of the Moscow Symphonic Orchestra, Mr. Vedernikov, 38, has performed at La Scala in Milan and the Royal Opera House in London." BBC 06/27/01 

COMMON CAUSE: Not since the Vietnam protest era have American pop musicians united so passionately around a political cause. The U.S.'s continued reliance on the death penalty as an integral part of the nation's justice system has sparked a new wave of protest songs, many of them centered around one or two famous death penalty cases. The New York Times 06/27/01

HEALING MUSIC: A new groundbreaking study says that patients who have suffered brain injuries can recover significantly faster by listening to music. "If this were a drug intervention, people would be clamouring for it. Patients like it, it's cheap and effective and it has no negative side effects." National Post (Canada) 06/25/01



THE BIONIC FIDDLER: "Although born without a right hand, 17-year-old Adrian Anantawan seems poised for a very real career as a violinist. He's headed this fall to the Curtis Institute of Music, arguably the world's most selective and prestigious music conservatory." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/01/01

NUNN'S HABITS: Trevor Nunn has come under almost continuous fire since taking over the helm of Britain's National Theatre, yet, under his leadership, the National has achieved near-unprecedented success. This contradiction doesn't surprise one critic: "Nunn is a hard man to warm to - there is something defensive in his manner, and a touch of the martyr about him. But it seems to me that his first three-and-a-half years at the NT, though troubled at times by flops and disappearing directors, have produced an often outstanding body of work in which quality has been mixed with the best kind of populism." The Telegraph (London) 06/23/01



SUPREMES - WRITERS RETAIN E-RIGHTS: The US Supreme Court strikes a blow for freelancers, ordering publishers to treat electronic rights for published material as separate. Now publishers, including The New York Times, "face the prospect of paying substantial damages to the six freelancers who brought the lawsuit in 1993 and perhaps to thousands of others who have joined in three class-action lawsuits against providers of electronic databases, which the court also found liable for copyright infringement." The New York Times 06/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • ANYTHING NOT TO PAY: Publishers are busy removing freelance material in their archives rather than pay free-lancers for electronic rights after Monday's Supreme Court ruling in the free-lancers' favor. The Writers Union says "These threats are a slap in the face of the United States Supreme Court and they are particularly distressing because we, from the very beginning, really put out the olive branch to the industry saying, 'We'd like to work these solutions out with you'." 06/27/01
  • WIN WITHOUT WINNING: So the US court says publishers owe freelance writers extra money for electronic publishing rights. Publishers just include electronic rights with paper rights in a take it or leave it deal. So freelancers are unlikely to come out ahead. Wired 06/28/01

TOO POPULAR? "Could it be that accessibility is a dirty word for many literary pundits? Certainly the great postwar movements in literature — the nouveau roman in France, the formlessness of much American beat literature, the disjointed anti-narratives of John Barth, Donald Barthelme and Thomas Pynchon — helped marginalise the conventional novel, depositing it in that critical file marked Antiquated and Reactionary." The Times (UK) 06/28/01

BASIC REVIEW: What is happening to the art of book reviewing? "There is nothing the book industry - and, I suspect, many authors - would like more than to get rid of reviews entirely. We are not effective advertising. Our focus on content rather than image makes us hopelessly out of step with the times. In the twenty-first century we may well become an endangered species - a few of us kept alive in captivity to serve as quote whores, but otherwise extinct in our native habitat of books." Good Reports 06/28/01

MARK TWAIN'S LATEST STORY: "The Atlantic Monthly's publication this summer of Mark Twain's "A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage"—a story Twain submitted to The Atlantic in 1876 that was essentially forgotten and remained unpublished until now—has drawn renewed attention to the author and his connection with the magazine. The relationship began in December, 1869..." Atlantic Unbound 06/25/01


FOR WHAT AILS YE: Shakespeare fans aren't happy with recently announced plans to restructure Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company. "It seems that the RSC's artistic director, Adrian Noble, became bored with directing Shakespeare a few years ago - indeed, he has pretty much said so. Now he seems also to have got bored both with the Stratford theatres and with London's Barbican spaces. I am sorry for him, yet, I must confess, not all that sympathetic." New Statesman 06/25/01

WHYFORE ART THOU DRAMATURG? It seems like every theatre these days employs a dramaturg. But these so-called "conscience of the theatre" figures are a sign of something wrong in the creative process. "There are many excellent dramaturgs, just as there are many excellent designated hitters in the American League. But the designated-hitter rule, because it creates an unnecessary team member, is a disservice to baseball, and the emergence of the dramaturg as a distinct position is likewise a disservice to the theater." Chronicle of Higher Education 06/25/01

COLD - REAL COLD: Now they're voting not only on who ought to be the National Theatre's next artistic director, but when current director Tony Nunn ought to leave. "A British poll reports that The poll of 1,000 theatre goers showed that 88% would prefer Trevor Nunn to step down as soon as possible." BBC 06/25/01

COPYCATS WANTED: With the success of The Producers acting as a sort of artistic sparkplug, Broadway types are swinging into high gear in an attempt to continue the reinvigoration of the musical theatre form. Of course, the success of such endeavors is somewhat dependant on there being enough good musicals to throw at the public, and some observers are already worried about the potential for a glut of mediocre song-and-dance shows. Hartford Courant 07/01/01

ABBA DABBA DOO: Mamma Mia!, a mother-daughter story built around 22 songs by Swedish vocal group that collapsed twenty years ago, opens on Broadway in October. Not just opens, but opens big. It's now booking through September 2002, and at $100 a ticket, it ties The Producers as the most expensive show in town. New York Daily News 06/29/01


STOLEN TO ORDER: Two paintings - a Gainsborough and a Bellotto - were stolen in a three-minute raid on an 18th-century house in Ireland Tuesday. "They are valued at £3 million, and were almost certainly stolen to order." A pair of latex gloves left behind may be the crucial clue. Irish Times 06/27/01

  • FUNDRAISING: Dissident or Provisional IRA fundraising was suspected as a possible motive for one of Ireland’s most daring art robberies." The Times (UK) 06/27/01

TILTING AT ART: London has embraced modern art in a big way. Contemporary artists are stars. So how peculiar that national portrait prize-winner Stuart Pearson Wright should lash out against the type of contemporary art that has made Tate Modern a star. The Times (UK) 06/27/01

STOP THE PRESSES - VERMEER NOT PERFECT: With British museumgoers lining up for blocks to purchase tickets to a rare exhibit of the works of newly trendy painter Johannes Vermeer, some critics worry that the buzz surrounding the exhibition will lead many patrons to be disappointed by the reality of what they find on display. London Evening Standard 06/29/01

JACKO AND THE LADYBUG: A Styrofoam cup with dead ladybug, $29,900. Jars of internal cow organs, $250,000. A life-size sculpture of Michael Jackson with his pet chimpanzee, $5,600.000. "Who, in a troubled economy, is buying this stuff? Do they really believe they'll enjoy looking at it for the rest of their lives? And perhaps most important, where do they put it?" Slate 06/28/01

ON THE TRAIL OF STOLEN ART: Theft of art seems to be on the rise. "Most of the stolen art comes to London or America. Some of it goes to museums, but much of it is bought secretly by private collections for a fraction of market value. And this at a time when the focus on the uncovering and repatriation of hot art - from the Holocaust, the Soviet era, illegal digs at ancient sites, etc .- is at an all-time high in the US." 06/27/01

SURVEYING ARCHITECTURE: "While architecture is the most public of art forms, it's the least subject to public debate in most of the nation's newspapers. That's one of the findings of the first-ever online survey of 40 architecture critics writing for daily American newspapers. . . Only about a fourth of the critics have degrees specific to the field of architecture, the survey found, but about half report having practical work experience in architecture or a related field." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/27/01

EMPTY ISLAND: The buildings on Berlin's Island of Museums have been closed for some time, with major plans for renovation stalled by the city's perilous financial condition. Now one of the museums has reopened after three years of renovation. Okay, there's no art inside yet, but...Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/26/01

THE NEW VAN GOGHS: In Berlin, a flourishing trade in commissioned "fakes." "Under German law, the work of any painter dead for at least 70 years can be reproduced, provided the copy is an inch shorter than the original, and its origin clearly marked at the back." The Independent (UK) 06/26/01

AMATEUR STING: Archeologists in Egypt are protesting the allowance of amateur diggers on archeological sites. "The experts, who often fail to make headlines after years of painstaking work, have been stung by the amateurs' sometimes spectacular finds, like the discovery of the lost underwater city of Herakleion" Middle East Times 06/22/01.

ASSEMBLY-LINE FORGER: "By French law, an artist is allowed to make twelve copies of any bronze sculpture, all to be numbered. Any further copy, even if made in the artist’s lifetime and under his supervision, is legally considered a reproduction." So the some 6000 bronze fakes perpetrated by French entrepreneur Guy Hain and sold for $18 million are grounds for some good long jail time. The Art Newspaper 06/22/01

THE MUSEUM'S BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Outgoing Louvre director Pierre Rosenberg is pessimistic about the future of museums. "Until now there was art education in schools. You had a little bit of knowledge about antiquity and Old and New Testament. Now this knowledge is lost all over the world. What is the Annunciation, for example? The Louvre does deal with 1 million children each year. But that’s not enough. If the problem is not taken up by the Ministry of Education, it won’t work. And that’s everywhere. Without education, I am sure we are lost for the future." Newsweek 06/25/01


INVESTING IN CREATIVITY: A new New England report urges major new investment in the region's arts. "Among the suggestions: setting up a Creative Economy Council to spur economic development and promote partnerships between arts groups, educational institutions, government, and business." Boston Globe 06/28/01

LEAVING JAPAN INC: "Thousands of Japan’s most talented and creative individuals are joining the flight into exile. In the past 10 years the number of Japanese who are permanent residents abroad has risen 23 percent to a record level of nearly 900,000. They are out of patience with Japan’s leaden conformity, its stultifying bureaucracy and its moribund economy—and they have the skills, resources and adaptability they need to leave." Newsweek 07/03/01

WHOSE COMMUNITY STANDARDS? Last summer a community radio station in Oregon played the hip-hop song Your Revolution, only to be slapped with a citation and a $7,000 fine from the FCC, which said the song contained "unmistakable patently offensive sexual references." Wonders the station manager: "Why the move to determine whether artistic content is obscene or indecent? These are things that have a whole host of problems attached to (them)." FreedomForum 06/27/01

RIGHT WRITE? What does it say about English education when tests to measure grasp of the language don't ask a student to write even a single word? Can one really learn to use the language well when the tests are multiple choice? Sydney Morning Herald 06/28/01

RECALIBRATING IN BOSTON: "Boston's largest cultural institutions are seeking more than $1 billion in philanthropic donations to renovate and expand facilities. But plans were developed during one of the greatest periods of prosperity in U.S. history. Now they're slated to be carried out amid an economic downturn that leaves many wondering which projects actually will get done." Boston Herald 06/26/01

STATE OF THE ARTS: The state of Connecticut has a budget surplus, and legislators are considering making a big new investment in the arts. The boost would be large enough to make Connecticut the largest per capita state spender on the arts. Hartford Courant 06/24/01

MIDDLE-VALUE: The American Midwest is reinventing. "The cultural makeovers currently under-way in towns like Milwaukee, Cleveland, Des Moines, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis were hardly elective. Crisis and pain spurred their innovation. Today, despite lousy weather half the year, there's a newfound lightness to these places, a flexibility mirroring that of the new arrivals who work for the new capital-unintensive companies that don't manufacture anything." New Art Examiner 06/01



EMBRACING THE FORCE: Australian Star Wars fans want to have the Jedi philosophy counted as an official religion, and will mark it on upcoming census forms. "We have submitted a written proposal to have the Jedi Faith entered into the, already substantial, Religions Database. If this is approved, the Jedi figures (on the census forms) will be recorded." The Age (Melbourne) 06/27/01