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Week of  August 26-September 2, 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


ELITIST AND PROUD OF IT: What, exactly, is wrong with being elitist? "The 'E' word is the great bugbear of American art museums today. Elitism is a source of cold-sweat dread among administrative bureaucrats and their bean-counting boards of trustees, who now dimly equate gate receipts with success. It even intimidates much of the curatorial cohort, who should know better. Elitism is the cockroach in the art museum pantry that scurries into hiding when the lights go on. Their horror is a cause for despair among those for whom art is more than diversion ('more' meaning that the diversion is fervent, not idle)." Los Angeles Times 09/02/01

THE MUSEUM CRISIS: What has happened to the idea of "museum"? These days "it hardly matters what they contain, if anything. They are our new theaters of conscience, memorials to suffering, choreographed places of ritual genuflection, where we go to contemplate our fallibility and maybe even weep a little while admiring the architecture. They offer packaged units of morality, unimpeachable and guiltlessly entertaining. They presume to bring us together, physically and spiritually." The New York Times 08/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPEAKING AND WRITING: Why are good writers sometimes terrible speakers and great speakers awful writers? "The great leading distinction between writing and speaking is, that more time is allowed for the one than the other; and hence different faculties are required for, and different objects attained by, each. He is properly the best speaker who can collect together the greatest number of apposite ideas at a moment's warning: he is properly the best writer who can give utterance to the greatest quantity of valuable knowledge in the course of his whole life. The chief requisite for the one, then, appears to be quickness and facility of perception - for the other, patience of soul, and a power increasing with the difficulties it has to master." The Guardian (UK) 09/01/01

MAKING SENSE OF CHANGE: "The 20th century placed a high premium on Making Things New - on innovations and shocks and determinedly eccentric perspectives - and much of that 'newness' has grown mighty old." This is not to long for a safe conservative past, but aren't we bored yet by change for the sake of change? Washington Post 08/26/01

WHAT KIDS THINK: A year ago the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette began running reviews of movies and music by kids on the newspaper's website. "I was not shocked to find that teen critics see things from a different perspective. What surprised me was the innate ability of some young writers to articulate complex ideas, their independence and willingness be honest in print and their maturity and dedication to the project." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/26/01


DROPPING BALLET FOR MODERN: So Scottish National Ballet has killed off its classical ballet and plans to reinvent as a modern company. Why? "Money is suspected to be the motive. No-frills contemporary dance, with its smaller forces and taped music, costs less to do than ballet, with its spectacle, corps de ballet and orchestra. Plus, I fancy, there is a vague feeling that Scotland is a culturally go-ahead place (as the Edinburgh Festival annually reinforces) and certain influential people chafe against ballet's old-fashioned values and senior audiences." The Telegraph (UK) 09/01/01

  • SCOTLAND'S DEBATE OVER DANCE: Scottish Ballet's plans to abandon being a classical dance company and take up modern dance are being challenged by prominent members of Scotland's dance community. The troubled company has been plagued by money woes, and its American-born director was recently told his contract would not be renewed. The Scotsman 08/28/01

MONEY FOR NEW DANCE: New York's Joyce Theatre announces a new $1 million program to commission new dance works. The New York Times 09/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)

AUSTRALIAN BALLET'S NEW DIRECTION: David McAllister hasn't wasted any time putting his mark on Australian Ballet. He's hired new dancers, plans to hire more and expand the company. He wants to dance more Australian fare and take the company touring. The Age (Melbourne) 08/30/01

STAR GUESTS: Guest-star invitations aren't just for stars anymore. Increasingly, members of big companies are asked to come and guest with smaller dance groups. For lesser members of big companies, such invitations give them opportunities to grow. The New York Times 08/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)


SUMMER MOVIES - WHY THEY WERE SO BAD: Studios get up to eighty percent of the first week take from a movie; after that, their percentage drops. So less effort goes into making a good movie than into creating an atmosphere in which "people have got to see the movie the first weekend they can. After that, the frenzy is over." The Irish Times 08/28/01

  • SUMMER MOVIES - BETTER THINGS ARE COMING: "October is the start of Oscar season, that all too-brief 10-week window when the studios shed their ripped-T-shirted summer wardrobe, put on their holiday tuxedos and opt for class over crass. From Oct. 5 to year's end, not a weekend will go by without at least one Oscar-friendly film hitting the theaters." Los Angeles Times 08/28/01

LONELY FOR SOMETHING BAD: More than half the residents of the UK say they would be "lonely" without their televisions, says a new poll. "In the 597 representative households questioned, more than 40% had the TV on for at least six hours a day. But the survey also showed how, despite this dependence, most people - 67% - believed there is often nothing worth watching." BBC 08/28/01

WORLDWIDE ROOTLESS: Globalization is seen by many as a homogenizer of movies. But increasingly art-movie makers are enthusiastically embracing globalization as a way to get projects done - but "the stories themselves increasingly display symptoms of what the Soviet authorities used to anathematize as 'rootless cosmopolitanism'." International Herald Tribune 08/29/01

THE DIGITAL RADIO GAMBLE: The whole idea of digital radio is a giant gamble. Unlike cell phones, home computers or VCRs (which all started small and quietly snowballed across the country), the digital radio people are starting very, very big. They launched a multimillion-dollar satellite. They’re installing antennas (like those you find for cell phones) across the country. They’ve hired the likes of Wynton Marsalis and Quincy Jones. They got George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic to make their commercials for them. Then they’ll ask consumers to shell out a bunch of money in the hopes that they really do want to hear something different." Will it fly? New York Press 08/30/01

HIJACKING HIS NAME: Canadian artist Freeman Patterson has had his name hijacked for a pornographic website. When visitors click on the artist's name as expressed as a web address, they are directed to a porn site. The site offers to "sell" the address to anyone willing to offer more than $550. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/29/01

TV, TV, AND MORE TV: This week Canada gets 47 new cable TV specialty channels. But the available audience is small, the cost is high, and many wonder how much consumers will be willing to spend on niche offerings. "The CRTC may have approved 283 digital licences, but no one knows exactly if or when they will make it to air." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/01/01

ART OF PUBLICITY: Some of the most powerful people in the film business are publicists - they manage stars and the press, trying to make the numbers (a polite way to say 'money') work out. And they'll go to any lengths... The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/01/01


ORCHESTRAS IN TROUBLE, PART I: The Shreveport Symphony in Louisiana is on the verge of going out of business. Ticket sales and contributions have declined and the orchestra's board meets Sept. 10th to decide whether to begin the season or declare bankruptcy. The orchestra has a projected deficit this year of at least $400,000. The Shreveport Times 08/28/01

  • ORCHESTRAS IN TROUBLE, PART II: The Florida Orchestra has trimmed $500,000 from its budget, cut a few musicians and staff and scaled back its operations to deal with a $400,000 deficit. St. Petersburg Times 08/24/01

WHEN LIBERACE MET BOND: Does opera really have a future? Far too often composers wanting to write for the opera don't have a feel for it. A recent opera composition competition attracted some fairly unoperatic - make that undramatic - ideas: "operas about the decline of American farming, and about figures such as Rasputin, Mandela and Stephen Hawking. One composer wanted to write about a meeting between Liberace and James Bond; another wanted to do an opera about a lottery draw." The Guardian (UK) 08/29/01

THE HEARING IMPAIRED: A new study says that the modern symphony orchestra is so loud, musicians should wear earplugs. "Some pieces cause musicians more pain than others - 79% reported pain while performing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture or Verdi's Requiem." National Post (Canada) 08/23/01

CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC: Last year at this time universities were trying to figure out ways to restrict students' trading of music files over the internet. Napster was so popular that students were gridlocking campus computers downloading music. This year there's no Napster, but dozens of music file-sharing programs are flourishing and schools are having more difficulty blocking the downloading. Wired 08/27/01

SAVING BERLIN: Berlin is broke - and it has looked for some time like the city's impressive cultural institutions would suffer in a big way. But some recent developments suggest that all is not so bleak as some suggest. Andante (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) 08/25/01

REDEFINING A CLASSICAL TRADITION: What does 'classical music' mean today? If the term is to retain anything like its old aplomb, it must refer to a moment now past: to a genre and its attendant prestige and influence. In fact, we can already look back on classical music as a cultural phenomenon peaking in the nineteenth century and declining after World War I. What comes next in these post-classical times?" Andante 08/27/01

SOUTH AFRICA ORCHESTRA CANCELS: The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra has canceled its season for lack of funds, only days before the start of South African Music Week. The orchestra was formed four years ago after the National Symphony went out of business. South Africa's traditional Western arts organizations have struggled to stay alive in recent years as arts funding has dried up. Daily Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 08/27/01

THOMAS EDISON - GENIUS, YES, BUT NOT IN EVERYTHING: Thomas Edison might have been the one to invent a recording machine in 1877, but it was up to others to recognize vocal talent to record on the device. In an attempt to catch up, he launched "an unprecedented recorded talent search throughout Europe, with the hope of finding outstanding artists for his own company. More than 300 singers answered a call to [audition] their voices." Yet Edison was unable to identify a potential recording star among them. Washington Post 08/30/01

MUSICAL CHAIRS: It's that time of year when orchestra music directors wrap up their seasonal assignments and make their moves to other orchestras. Andante (AP) 08/30/01

UNDERPAID LATIN: "Latin music is hot, but some musicians say their compensation is far inferior to that of mainstream artists. The US Congressional Hispanic Caucus has invited several Latin labels to San Antonio for a Sept. 8 hearing - three days before the Latin Grammys show in Los Angeles - to draw attention to the payment gap. 'They've been making big bucks at the Tejano and Latin artists' expense. We are going to hold them accountable'." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (AP) 09/01/01

THE PIANO-PLAYING COMPOSER: Artur Schnabel was one of the greatest pianists of the 20th Century. But he always considered himself foremost a composer. "And he was no dabbler; his catalog of works is substantial, including three symphonies, five string quartets, a piano concerto, songs, piano pieces, trios... The New York Times 09/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)


FRANK EMILIO FLYNN, 80: Blind pianist Frank Emilio Flynn has died in his home town of Havana. With the Symphonic Orchestra of Havana, he performed music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven which had been transcribed into Braille. He was best known, however, as a pioneer of Latin jazz. Nando Times (AP) 08/29/01

DECIDING ARCHER'S ART: Playwright and British MP Lord Archer is in jail for perjury, and he's facing big claims on his fortune. Does this mean he'll lose his art collection, reportedly worth tens of millions of pounds? The Art Newspaper 08/24/01

SCHNABEL, 92: Legendary piano teacher Karl Ulrich Schnabel died Monday in Connecticut at the age of 92. "Schnabel taught master classes in Europe, Asia and in North and South America. He began teaching at age 13, preparing students who wanted to study with his father." Nando Times (AP) 08/28/01

BASICALLY BARENBOIM: Conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim has had a controversial year. Prodigiously busy musically, he's also been embroiled in spats from Berlin to Israel. Though critics increasingly pick holes in his musical interpretations, "he remains one of the most discussed musicians of our age — not least because, among his Protean gifts, is a talent for stirring up controversy that borders on genius. That is evident from the battles he has fought over the past few months." The Times (UK) 08/28/01


DEFINING THE READER: Is being a reader cool? Nah - "It's like being called a eunuch or an old maid; one always hears that faint sneer of disdain and condescension mixed with pity. To be bookish is to be mousy, repressed, a shy wallflower, incapable of getting along with people, dreamy and poetic, helpless in the real world." Washington Post 08/26/01

BAD HISTORY: Five years ago a prize was set up in Australia for outstanding history-writing for kids. Trouble is, for the second time in five years the jury has declined to name even a shortlist of finalists for the prize, saying no books met the standard of excellence and that "many of the works were mired in a monocultural vision of Australia." So why is this so hard? Sydney Morning Herald 08/29/01

E-BOOK HACKER INDICTED: "A Russian computer programmer and his employer were indicted Tuesday on charges of violating digital copyright protections. Dmitry Sklyarov and ElComSoft Co. Ltd. were charged for writing a program that lets users of Adobe Systems' eBook Reader get around copyright protections imposed by electronic-book publishers. The indictment was the first under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which forbids technology that circumvents copyright protections." Salon 08/29/01

READING THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN MARKET: For decades, large publishing houses in the US paid scant attention to the interests of African-American readers. Then in 1992, everything just changed. That year, Terry MacMillan published Waiting to Exhale, and for a time, she, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker were simultaneously top-selling authors." Since then "seven publishing imprints dedicated to books by black authors have been created or revived by major publishing houses." Christian Science Monitor 08/28/01

THE NEXT BIG THING GUY: Jonathan Franzen is being set up by the publishing establishment as literature's Next Big Thing. In the run-up to his next book, the New York Times Magazine is publishing an excerpt this weekend, he's got an essay in the next New Yorker, and the film rights were just auctioned off for a ton of money. "So would it make a difference if someone told you that Franzen isn't just another self-conscious young author with a hip, po-mo sensibility; that he is an assured, seriously funny writer with a generosity and breadth of vision unusual for his generation?" The Globe & Mail (Canada0 08/28/01

ANY BOOK FOR FREE: Napster-type programs now make downloading books easy and free. "It took a National Post reporter 30 minutes to navigate Gnutella, find Stephen King's 1984 work Thinner on the network and download the novel. Printing the book required another 15 minutes. In addition to best-sellers written by such authors as King and Rowling, the most widely pirated books online are science fiction novels and computer manuals." National Post 08/30/01

REMEMBERING DAME EDNA: She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and one of the few who made a lot of money from it. Admirers, editors, and lovers lined up for her. She was a stunning, charismatic figure once regarded as a giant of American letters. Today she's nearly forgotten, a footnote. A couple of new biographies attempt to revive her reputation. The New York Times 08/30/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TO BUY A MOCKINGBIRD? "'To Kill a Mockingbird,' the book chosen by the Chicago Public Library for all Chicagoans to read in September and early October, is moving up the best-seller lists at two major Internet bookstores. reported that the mass market paperback edition of 'Mockingbird' jumped Wednesday to 67th on its best-seller list from a ranking the day before of 324th, out of more than 2 million titles carried by the company. Meanwhile, at Barnes&, that same edition of 'Mockingbird' held 63rd place out of more than a million titles in the store's inventory." Chicago Tribune 08/31/01


GETTING IN TOUCH: The art of theatre "has for a while now, with rare exceptions, been stupendously out of touch" with popular culture. But if some recent projects are any indication, that may be changing. The New York Times 08/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ANNIE CAN'T FIND AN ANNIE, AND CLOSES: Having taken off with Bernadette Peters, nearly crashed with Cheryl Ladd, then soared to new heights with Reba McIntyre, the revival of Annie Get Your Gun is running out of gas on Broadway. The producers hoped to get Dolly Parton to take over the lead. She said no. They're saying good-bye. New York Post 08/29/01

FAME OR THEATRE: Playing Star Trek's Jean Luc Picard made Patrick Stewart a household name. But it took him away from his real love - the theatre. Now he's resolved to make theatre the center of his career - and he's a lot happier for it. The Guardian (UK) 08/29/01

THE MEANING OF CHEKHOV: Chekhov is so popular in Britain he could be considered the country's national playwright. "Why this British love affair with Chekhov? Are there unusual similarities between post-war British and pre-revolutionary Russian society?" The Independent (UK) 08/28/01

FOR THE BIRDS: How one Chekhov (and Meryl Streep) fan invests 36 hours, a looong bus ride, and sleeping out on the street overnight to score some "free" tickets to the Central Park star-studded production of The Seagull everyone's trying to see this summer. Is it worth it? How could it not be after such and investment? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/28/01

REINVENTING THE GUTHRIE: Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre is planning for a new three-stage theatre complex on the banks of the Mississippi. But it is also looking to reinvent itself - both in the region as well as on the national scene. Minneapolis Star-Tribune 08/26/01


AGENTS TO THE NAZIS: A five-year study of Switzerland's conduct during World War II concludes that Swiss art dealers sold art plundered from Nazi victims to Hitler for his private collections. The report concludes that "Switzerland was a trade center for looted assets and flight assets from Nazi Germany and the occupied territories." Basler Zeitung (Switzerland) 08/31/01

THE GEHRY THING: Is Frank Gehry not only our finest architect, but our best artist as well? "The notion that he might be points to the new centrality of architecture in cultural discourse, a centrality that goes back to some of the early debates about Post-Modernism in the 1970s." London Review of Books 08/23/01

CRACKING THE SPANISH THEFT: The $65 million theft of paintings in Spain a few weeks ago, the biggest art theft in Spanish history, still has police puzzled. "The thieves apparently had a shopping list of what they wanted to take from Spain's finest private art collection. The Spanish Ministry of Culture has said that many of the 19 works figured on an official list of national treasures, and it has called for a special effort to recover them. The police have offered a reward, hoping that underworld informers will betray the thieves." International Herald Tribune 09/01/01

THE AUCTION WARS: Amid rumors of a possible sale of Sotheby's to Phillips, the auction house wars heat up. Competition and scandals have squeezed profits at Sotheby's and Christie's, while costly aggressive maneuvering by No. 3 Phillips has cost a small fortune or two. It's possible in the not too distant future that all three houses could be French-owned. The Economist 08/30/01

LATIN COLLECTION FINDS A HOME: "One of the world's great collections of Latin American art is set to go on permanent display in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. . . The Museum of Latin American Art or 'Malba' will feature more than 220 works valued at some $40m (£27m), from artists ranging from Mexico's Frida Kahlo to Colombia's Fernando Botero." BBC 08/31/01

REPATRIATING ART: Major British museums are about to return hundreds of artifacts to their original cultures. "At least 40 institutions are believed to be preparing to give back all or part of their collections. The biggest beneficiaries are likely to be the Australian Aborigines and native Americans who have been campaigning for the return of such objects for decades." The Telegraph (UK) 08/27/01

REDEFINING THE BRITISH MUSEUM: The British Museum has some 4 million objects that the public never sees because of lack of space. Now museum officials have put together plans for an £80 million redo of a 12-story post office building as a study center for objects. This isn't just re-warehousing, they say - they hope the new space will allow the museum's researchers to bring new context to the museum's vast collection. The Guardian (UK) 08/27/01

ART AS A BUSINESS - IT'S BAD: Australia's Bureau of Statistics did a survey of art gallery economics and made some dismal discoveries. "Overall, the gallery industry told the bureau it had a pretax profit margin of 7 per cent - a return that suggests dilettantes would be better off playing the stock market. Galleries had total sales worth $218 million, of which $36 million was for Aboriginal art." Sydney Morning Herald 08/30/01

RETURN TO SENDER: Why did Fort Worth's Kimbell Museum return a $2.7 million Summerian statue to a New York dealer seven months after it was bought? "You don't do that in the art world. If you've changed your mind, sell [the piece] back on the open market. This is not like a sweater boutique in a department store, where they would take something back in the name of good customer relations. Why should the dealer take it back?" Fort Worth Star-Telegram 08/23/01

BUT "ARTS" WILL ALWAYS GET TOP BILLING: In some art circles, "crafts" is a dirty word. At their best, crafts are treated as if they were the ugly step-sisters of the arts. "Like realist painting and sculpture, though, crafts never fade away. They continue to be practiced out of the spotlight until another generation in the arts discovers them." Chicago Tribune 08/26/01

IT'S NOT SCIENTIFIC, BUT DURHAM'S TOPS WITH BBC LISTENERS: What building do English listeners to BBC4 like best in Britain? According to a BBC poll, Durham Cathedral. "Other buildings also rated highly by the 15, 819 people who voted included more modern structures like the Eden Project, in Cornwall (22.5%), London's Tate Modern (11.96%) and Stansted Airport (7.02%)." And the most-loathed structure? Heathrow Airport. BBC 08/28/01

WHY NOT JUST CALL IT MUSIC? "Increasingly, museum- and gallery-goers are being asked to both look and listen to the art on display, as an emerging generation of artists explores a new territory between music and art that is known, generally, as audio art. So if an artist is interested in sound, why not become a musician? Many audio artists like to distinguish between music and noise, placing their allegiances firmly in the latter camp." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/30/01

COURTING IN THE SOUTHWEST: Los Angeles' Southwest Museum has an important collection of Native American artifacts. But the museum is poor and is contemplating acquiring a wealthy partner. The suitors are a movie cowboy museum or an indian casino. "But a partnership with either the Autry or the Pechanga Band raises new questions. Some Indian groups have criticized the Autry proposal as a none-too-subtle attempt by the cowboys to take over the Indians, culturally speaking, while some in the art world have expressed concern about whether a casino would really be an appropriate overseer for a major collection of Indian artifacts." The New York Times 08/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)


DMCA HERE TO STAY, SO FAR: Despite acknowledging concerns from libraries, politicians, and consumers, the U.S. Copyright Office has decided to let 1998's Digital Millenium Copyright Act stand as is. DMCA was the legislation that paved the way for the recording industry's assault on services like Napster, and led to new forms of digital and online copyright protection. Wired 08/30/01

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING FESTIVAL: The Adelaide Festival is Australia's premiere arts festival. But the Adelaide has had some tough times in the past year, including an unforeseen deficit from the last festival. American Peter Sellars is artistic director for next year's edition, and says he's refocusing the event. But the festival was recently cut by a third, with Sellars justifying it by saying "the shorter period suited his integrated program." Others wonder about the impact of Australia's premiere arts event shrinking... The Age (Melbourne) 08/28/01

THE DEFINITIVE CRITIC: Should a critic go back and "correct" judgments that were "wrong?" "It's not always easy for the reviewer to remember that he is (or should be) hired because he supposedly knows enough about his field to exercise informed and independent judgment. When everyone else is up there in the rooting section - 'Rah, rah for Toni Morrison!' - it can feel more than a little weird to be on the other side of the field giving the Bronx cheer. The pressures to get with the program - to sacrifice independent judgment and march with the herd - are exceedingly strong and difficult to resist." Washington Post 08/27/01

ABOUT A CULTURAL FOUNDATION: Earlier this summer the German government proposed creating a new national foundation of culture. Maybe it's a good idea, but getting it to happen is about more than good ideas. It's about power, states' rights and matters of what art means. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/30/01

RECORD EDINBURGH: The Edinburgh Festival, Europe's largest, has just ended, posting record attendance this year. "A record 256,694 tickets were bought from the Fringe box office, an increase of 31 per cent on last year. Sales amounted to £1,967,863, up just under £500,00 on 2000." The Scotsman 08/27/01

  • VINTAGE EDINBURGH: Critics love to pick on Edinburgh, with its myriad quirks and blemishes. But this year is definitely a vintage edition, writes one critic. The Times (UK) 08/28/01


SYMPHONY CALLING: Most musicians consider cell phones a horrible intrusion into the concert hall. But American composer Golan Levin is writing a "symphony" for the chirping little buggers. He "is confident the concert will resonate well with the audience and eliminate some public pessimism surrounding the mobile phone. 'The mobile phone's speakers and ringers make it a performance instrument. The buttons make it a keyboard and remote control. Its programmable rings make it a portable synthesizer'." Wired 09/01/01