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Week of  July 22-29, 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


TAKING THE TEMPERATURE OF AMERICA'S PERFORMING ARTS: What is the state of the performing arts in America at the turn of the century? A new Rand study takes a look. "After decades of expansion, how are performing arts organizations faring? Has demand for live performances been increasing or decreasing? Are more Americans choosing the performing arts as a profession? And what is the likely effect of the Internet on the arts?" [The complete report is online] Rand 07/01

INVESTMENT UP/ATTENDANCE DOWN: A new study of arts support in the UK says "the percentage of adults attending arts events was either static or falling across plays, opera, ballet, contemporary dance, jazz, classical music and art galleries." This despite massive public funding of cultural activities. "The report estimated public funding of the cultural sector in 1998-99 at £5.2 billion, a 10% rise on the last study in 1993-94. The Guardian (UK) 07/26/01

AUSSIE ARTS BILL: How much do Australian governments spend on culture? "Funding for radio and television broadcasting, film, music, visual arts, museums, art galleries, multi-media, venues, zoos, civic centres, publishing, archives and other activities" added up to almost $4 billion in 1999-2000. This was equivalent to $209 per person. Sydney Morning Herald 07/27/01


ABT DIRECTOR QUITS: Louis Spisto, the embattled director of the troubled American Ballet Theatre, has resigned. His tenure was marked by controversy - "rising expenses, a management style that was characterized by a number of employees as autocratic and allegations of sex and age discrimination." The New York Times 07/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

END OF ERA: Anthony Dowell's tenure as director of London's Royal Ballet has been a mixed affair. "What makes a good director? The question has never been more of a poser than during Dowell's captaincy of the ballet, in the most turbulent years of the Royal Opera House's history. The organisation has struggled with vast debts, the closure and rebuilding of the theatre, and a serious loss of public affection." The Telegraph (UK) 07/29/01

  • OUT OF GAS: Is Anthony Dowell leaving just in time as director of London's Royal Ballet? "The ideal director, if he or she is not a creator, should be a curator, ensuring that the Royal Ballet presents the classics in the purest form. By emphasising design over direction, Dowell has taken the company out of the premier league of classical troupes. It still dances well but its productions have become secondary ones, not the definitive statements Ninette de Valois required of the Royal Ballet." The Observer (UK) 07/29/0

ELEVATOR ART: "Aerial dance is a new trend catching on in the dance world, especially in the western United States. 'One of the most exciting performances we ever did was a vertical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet out of the 23rd story of a skyscraper in Houston. We were 350 feet in the air with the Houston Symphony below us and 40,000 people watching. It was magical, and it had quite an impact on people'." USAToday 07/25/01


CAN'T TRUST THE REVIEWS: "If I were a critic today, I'd certainly be a sucker for a film with some flesh on the bone. Today's reviewers see so much slop that it's almost inevitable that they overpraise the few movies that exhibit even a whiff of heft or ambition. A movie critic today must feel like the restaurant reviewer who has been forced to spend months munching on french fries and cheeseburgers at McDonald's. When someone finally takes them to a decent neighborhood cafe, they go nuts." Chicago Tribune 07/23/01

MORE THAN ENTERTAINMENT? Black Entertainment Television (BET) is 20 years old. BET's founder says the network is "a powerhouse creatively and financially." But critics lament that "the network had failed to fulfill its potential, focusing too much attention on music-related programming — particularly hip-hop videos with scantily clad women." Los Angeles Times 07/24/01

WHERE'S THE ART? Animation produced with computers is producing images that are startlingly close to real life. But "a handful of critics and thinkers are questioning this new hyperreal aesthetic, suggesting that it's a limited and uninspired use of the available technology. After all, if the end result is a photorealist version of our world, then why use animation at all?" Boston Globe 07/29/01

THE NEXT THING IN RADIO: In September, satellite radio debuts in America. Its high fidelity and constant signal strength coast-to-coast could make it The Next Big Thing. Or will it? Listeners must pay $9.99-12.95 a month for the service. You get 100 channels for that, but "there's all that new equipment to buy – head units, receivers, antennas – which could cost anywhere from $200 to $600." Dallas Morning News 07/29/01

SONGWRITERS GETTING LEFT BEHIND: Lost in the debate over compensation for musicians whose work is distributed online has been the plight of the folks who create the songs to begin with. Songwriters, who have always had a tough time getting proper compensation for their efforts, are worried that they're being ignored by both performers and the online music industry. Wired 07/25/01


THE ROSENBERG GAMBIT: Pamela Rosenberg is taking over as director of San Francisco Opera, and, if successful, her plans are sure to shake up the opera world. "Blending the classic with the contemporary, and adding new vocal blood and a kind of stage direction seldom seen in America, Ms. Rosenberg is certainly taking a risk — in the healthiest, most promising sense. If even a portion of the undertaking succeeds, she may be able to convince us that opera is a living art form after all." The New York Times 07/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MTV AT 20: "The enormously popular channel, which celebrates its 20th anniversary on Wednesday, is so big, so powerful, that its reach can hardly be overstated. As the number-one cable outlet aimed at consumers aged 12 to 24, it's an essential buy for advertisers trying to coax dollars from teenage pockets. Its quick-cut visuals have changed how films are shot. And its relentless celebration of disaffected youth has spawned an advertising approach that might be called selling by slouching." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/29/01

  • DAMNABLE MTV: So MTV is 20 years old. "Generally lost in the self-congratulatory cacophony marking the cable music station's two-decade anniversary is the hard-to-dispute dissenting notion that holds that no other force in the 50-year history of rock has had such an insidious effect on the music. Chicago Sun-Times 07/29/0

BARENBOIM BAN: An Israeli parliamentary committee has called for a ban on conductor Daniel Barenboim for his performance of Wagner in Israel. Barenboim had promised he would not perform the composer's music there. "The education and culture committee of Israel's parliament said on Tuesday that Israeli cultural institutions should shun Barenboim until he apologises." BBC 07/25/01

CBSO BAILED OUT: "One of Britain’s most important ensembles – the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) – has been saved from financial collapse by an Arts Council award of almost £2.5m. The CBSO – which rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s under the dynamic leadership of Sir Simon Rattle – has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy for three years. The Arts Council award of £2,465,000 follows an earlier interim award of £494,000." Gramophone 07/25/01

EVERYONE'S RICH EXCEPT THE ARTISTS: "The music industry is based on the strange idea that the artist pays for everything but owns nothing. As a result most bands spend their career heavily in debt to their label. Record labels have been able to treat musicians badly because they were the only way a musician could make records and find an audience. But the arrival of cheap, quality recording equipment and the internet has now given the artist a number of different options." The Guardian (UK) 07/24/01

ONLINE MUSIC: Online music sales are expected to soar from $1 billion this year to $6.2 billion in 2006; 30% of these US online music sales will come from digital downloads and music subscriptions. BBC 07/23/01

SOME REGRETS: One music critic reckons that despite all the music world's advances of the past 50 years, it was still a lousy time to be a critic. "I hesitate to tot up how many hundreds of hours of my life have been wasted in half-empty concert halls reviewing convoluted nonsense — dry, charmless, bereft of emotion, drama and buzz — that has mostly never been heard since. Why did I sit there? Because, like most critics, I felt duty-bound to 'give new music a fair chance'." The Times (UK) 07/24/01

THE REVOLUTION WILL BE BROADCAST: "With the signing of a deal with the operators of, all of the Philadelphia Orchestra's concerts in its new $265 million home next season will be available - for a fee - with the click of a mouse, the orchestra and its new Web host are to announce today. . . Also signing with Andante as 'founding artistic partners' are the Vienna Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra, whose concerts also will be made available via the Internet. Kreisberger said partnerships with the Salzburg Festival, Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, and La Scala were expected shortly, and that talks were under way with the orchestras of New York, Chicago and Cleveland. " Philadelphia Inquirer 07/25/01

FUTURE UNCERTAIN FOR JÄRVI AND DSO: Neeme Järvi's recent illness was in fact a stroke, according to family members. The music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was stricken at a music festival in Estonia; he now is recuperating at a hospital in Helsinki, Norway. It still is unknown - and perhaps unknowable - whether he will be able to return to the DSO and his career. Detroit News 07/25/01

MY IN-CREDIBLE LIFE: Tristan Foison listed an amazing resume when he moved to Atlanta in 1987: "winner of the 1987 Prix de Rome, first Prize in the Leningrad Conducting Competition, 1989; First Prize in the Prague Conducting Competition, 1985; First Prize in the Busoni Piano Competition, 1980..." Trouble is, none of it was true, and when he plagiarized note for note a piece he "composed" for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in May... Atlanta Journal-Constitution 07/29/01

CRASHING THE SENATE: The U.S. Senate was all set for another of their famous hearings on the way that popular music and, specifically, hip-hop are destroying the moral fabric of the nation, staining the minds of our children, and just generally leading the entire country down the road to ruin. (And it's not even an election year!) But the sanctimony took a distinct dive once an actual, uninvited purveyor of rap music showed up to speak. Nando Times (AP) 07/25/01

PUT A METER ON THAT JUKEBOX: "The US is set to compensate European songwriters and composers for millions of pounds worth of lost revenue. The musicians have won their fight against a US law which let bars and grills avoid paying royalties for playing their music on TV or radio. Music groups have estimated royalty losses at $27m a year. " BBC 07/26/01


EUDORA WELTY, 92: "She was one of the finest Southern writers of the 20th century. She could be as obscure as William Faulkner. As violent as Flannery O'Connor. As incisive as Richard Wright. But more genteel and straightforward than just about anyone. And at 92 she outlived them all." Washington Post 07/24/01

DOWNFALL OF A PATRON: What happened to Shanghai's best-known arts patron? He's in jail, and it looks like he'll be there a long time. "Though little is known about the charges against him, Bonko Chan, 37, is known for spending lavishly on financing operas, buying oil paintings and offering rides in his corporate jet, activities that gave him an unusually high profile in a town where circumspection is the norm." The New York Times 07/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

QUESTIONS OF GREATNESS: Conductor Riccardo Muti is 60 this year, a milestone at which great conductors are supposed to be arching to greatness (if they're ever going to). Is Muti that great conductor? The mixed evidence suggests... Philadelphia Inquirer 07/29/01

FUTURE UNCERTAIN FOR JÄRVI AND DSO: Neeme Järvi's recent illness was in fact a stroke, according to family members. The music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was stricken at a music festival in Estonia; he now is recuperating at a hospital in Helsinki, Norway. It still is unknown - and perhaps unknowable - whether he will be able to return to the DSO and his career. Detroit News 07/25/01


BLACK NOVELISTS HITTING THE BEST-SELLER LIST:"African-Americans buy books that are relevant to their experience in greater numbers than have ever been imagined by most publishers. It also appears that book consumers are becoming more sophisticated, that they want a good yarn well told, and that's more important than whether the characters are black or white. So there's more and more crossover readership." The New York Times 07/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

IT'S STORY TIME. BRING YOUR OWN LAWYER: The intellectual rights arguments have centered lately on e-books and Napster, but the next arena may be your friendly neighborhood public library. Libraries see the digital rights revolution as a limitation on their ability to serve the public; publishers see it as an intrusion on their copyrighted material. "As the two sides circle each other warily, each is awaiting guidance from that long-delayed Copyright Office study." Time 07/24/01

BEST-WHAT? Does anybody really pay attention to Bestseller lists? "Nowadays a 'bestseller' is more normally one of three things: a how–to — usually, either about how to more efficiently grub for money or how to lose weight while eating without pause; a memoir by somebody really despicable; or a barely literate thriller where gruesome things happen to people while they're having sex just after drinking brand–name beverages." MobyLives 07/23/01

TYPECASTING: Why do books have to conform to a genre, to be assigned to a category? "Surely a piece of writing ought to be allowed to convey its own generic intentions, and surely readers can be expected to divine them without help?" Poets & Writers 07/01

THE ILIAD FOR REAL? An expert on ancient Greece "combines archeological evidence with hypotheses from various disciplines and attempts to prove that Homer's Iliad was not the product of one man's poetic imagination, inspired in the eighth century B.C. by a few mysterious ruins from the dim and distant past." Instead, he claims it is "the first written record of an unbroken chain of oral tradition passed down in hexameters, preserving the memory of a historical Trojan war that occurred during the Bronze Age." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 07/26/01

BEAUTIFUL WRITERS WANTED, NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY: "Increasingly often, it would seem, attractive young writers are offered huge advances for their books. Publishing today seems to be as much about who you are, as what you write. But where does that leave older writers?" BBC 07/26/01


CONSUMPTIVE DISORDER: "New York and London have a lot in common: the same long-running musicals, even a shared pool of actors, directors and designers." But as for how they consume theatre - they're different worlds. The Guardian (UK) 07/28/01

PROTESTING A LESBIAN ROMEO: Protests have greeted a production of Romeo and Juliet in Birmingham that features the couple as lesbians. "People are becoming heartily sick of this sort of thing being offered up as entertainment. What a pity we have to see this sort of sensationalism in an attempt to fill seats." The Age (Melbourne) 07/25/01

SCOTTISH NATIONAL THEATRE: The Scottish Arts Council is supporting the establishment of a National Theatre. "Its 'main objective' would be to commission companies, directors and performers to put on productions at home and abroad, as well as encouraging a strong network of regional theatres." BBC 07/25/01

PRODUCING THE SCALPERS: Tickets for Broadway's The Producers are so hot, they've created a buzz among scalpers. "Internet brokers who operate elsewhere are getting between $300 and $425 for mezzanine and balcony seats in August and September. Better locations are more pricey, passing the $500 mark." Ottawa Citizen (CP) 07/23/01


PROTECTING THE HOME TEAM: The director of Australia's National Gallery warns that Australian galleries better invest in Aboriginal art or it will be bought by foreigners and taken out of the country. "We'd better wake up. We are seeing before our very eyes one of the great movements of our time in contemporary art." Sydney Morning Herald 07/27/01

IF ONLY SOMEONE COULD SOLVE THE "PIGEON PROBLEM": "Outdoor sculpture collections serve varied purposes and constituencies. By definition, more people will see them than will ever enter a museum. The sheer numbers of visitors mean the contents of these parks must be carefully thought through; too many of them end up as surveys starring the usual suspects. And those in charge must not knuckle under to the temptation to settle for the middlebrow so as not to offend a general audience." Boston Globe 07/25/01

AS HARD TO DEFINE AS ART ITSELF: In New York, as in other cities, there's creativity everywhere. The question is, which parts of it are art? "The term 'outdoor sculpture' may have outlived its usefulness. And 'public art' or 'outdoor art' are only slightly more commodious, partly because of outside pressure. No matter what you call it, the category has expanded, but it is often overshadowed by the rising tide of what might be called accidental or inadvertent art." The New York Times 07/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BRITS FALL BEHIND: British museums are cash-strapped, underfunded by comparison to American and European institutions. "In Britain, museums and galleries have been left stranded between successive cost-cutting governments that no longer see art purchases as a priority and private sector funding that is well below that in the United States. "We have slipped from being in a position in the 19th century like the Getty to being among the poor men of Europe." The Telegraph (UK) 07/23/01

THINNING THE HERD: "Does France have too many monuments? The situation of many castles and churches is extremely precarious, and there isn't enough money to keep them all up. Here is a modest proposal: Tear down 100 of the cathedrals. After all, who needs that many, and aren't a lot of them awfully ugly? Call it patrimonial euthanasia. In with the new!" International Herald Tribune 07/21/01

BACK TO BASICS: "Perhaps any talk of artistic 'rules' sounds anachronistic these days. But to go by the majority of artists featured in the graduate and postgraduate shows of the Royal College of Art, the Royal Academy Schools, and the Slade, the rules are being not only learnt, but positively embraced." The Times (UK) 07/25/01

SURE BEATS A BOX FULL OF PENNIES: UNICEF will be the beneficiary of an upcoming auction of modern paintings valued at $40 million from the collection of the late journalist René Gaffé. The items to be auctioned include Picasso's 1908 cubist Étude pour Nu dans une Foret and two large Joan Miró paintings, as well as works by Renoir, Magritte, and Braque. BBC 07/25/01

ART IN FASHION: "Can fashion — by nature both ephemeral and functional — be on a par with fine art? Can an ad campaign be counted as culture?" London dealer Jay Jopling has recycled photographs seen in ads in magazines and made a show of them in his gallery. The Times (UK) 07/25/01

DID GAUGUIN CUT VAN GOGH? Did Van Gogh really cut off his own ear in a fit of madness? Maybe not. A German art expert says that "Gauguin, his fellow artist and a keen swordsman, sliced it off when an alcohol-fuelled row degenerated into violence." Sunday Times (UK) 07/22/01

RENTING FOR DOLLARS: SFMOMA's rental gallery has long been a way to get art into people's homes at low cost and to give artists a trickle of income. Over the years, the gallery has earned $10 million in fees for artists. But the museum has big plans for the gallery and some Bay Area artists are upset. "They want it to be bigger and produce more income." San Francisco Chronicle 07/24/01

A FIBROUS DUFY: The Paris Museum of Modern Art has discovered that Raoul Dufy's giant 1930s mural La Fee Electricite is coated on the back with asbestos fibres. "The fibre will be removed from the back of the 250 wood panels that make up the 6,450 square foot masterpiece." 07/26/01


MULTICULT FALLOUT: In many ways, multiculturalism defined American arts of the 1990s. "Most important, it reversed old patterns of exclusion and brought voices into the mainstream that had rarely, if ever, been there before. But limitations became apparent. The ideal of diversity — of mixing things up, spreading the wealth, creating a new Us — never quite happened." And, it came with some unexpected problems. The New York Times 07/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

CRACKING DOWN ON COPYRIGHT: The US government is taking copyright infringement more seriously. "The Senate has earmarked $10 million for copyright prosecutions, enough money for 155 agents and attorneys in the fiscal year starting in October. That's up from a current $4 million allocated for 75 positions." Wired 07/29/01

CORPORATE SPONSORS: FEEL ME, TOUCH ME: One side says, "The company is taking an active role with children. I don't see any harm in that." The other side says, "The corporation has an obligation to give back to the community. Do it, shut up, and don't expect anything in return." At immediate issue is McDonald's 20-year, $5 million sponsorship of Philadelphia's Please Touch Museum for children. Philadelphia Inquirer 07/26/01

OF ARTS FUNDING AND MEDICAL RESEARCH: "Dear friends, you made a deal with the devil. You knew they were narrow-minded and stupid when you took their money. You made a deal with the devil. You probably wrote a play about how evil the devil was in Vietnam or Nicaragua or Waco. Now the devil acts like the devil. There is a solution: Don't take the money. Alas, the government has made cash junkies of too many people and institutions, and there's nothing more hypocritical than the whining of a junkie." San Francisco Chronicle 07/24/01

THE VICTORIAN COPYRIGHT SOLUTION: So you think our battles over copyright are something new? Some 160 years ago Charles Dickens was crusading over the value of copyright. In the days before copyright was universal, publishers in America were ripping off Dickens and other authors with impunity. Industry Standard 07/23/01

HANDICAPPING THE NEA: Speculation in the press about who George Bush might appoint as the next chair of the National Endowment for the Arts has intensified. Does this mean a decision is near? The Idler handicaps the field. The Idler 07/23/01

HOW WE SPEAK: "Language is not living, not growing, and not a thing; it is a vast system of social habits and conventions, inherited from our forebears, and showing every sign of being an artifact rather than an organic growth." 07/01


THE JUDGE WHO TALKED TOO MUCH: A record company exec paid £200 to register one of his label's jazz groups for the Mercury Music Prize. Then the chief judge for the competition said on BBC radio that major label jazz had "become another sort of easy listening music. Those records are not the sort that are going to grab Mercury prize judges' attention." Now the exec wants his money back. BBC 07/26/01

BODY SCULPTING: Plastic surgeons have engaged a sculptor to work with them on their body reconstructions. "One of the surgeons at the end of the course said you can do plastic surgery quite easily but sculpting is really hard." BBC 07/23/01