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Week of  September 3-9, 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


INSIDE FROM THE OUTSIDE (OR THE OTHER WAY 'ROUND): Writer VS Naipaul, 69, has "always sought to position himself as a lone, stateless observer, devoid of ideology or affiliation, peers or rivals - a truth-teller without illusion. As Edward Said says, 'He's thought of as a witness against the postcolonial world because he's one of "them"; that there's an intimacy with which he can tell the truth about their pretensions, lies, delusions, ideologies, follies.' Yet how convincing are these claims? And how far does the writer's vision transcend the prejudices of the man?" The Guardian (UK) 09/08/01

THE GREAT WWII ART CON: At the end of World War II a Yugoslav con man talked Americans supervising the return of art stolen during the war into turning over 166 art objects to him. Ante Topic Mimara claimed he represented the Yugoslav government, but shortly after he was given the art, he - and it - disappeared. Now it has turned up in museums in Belgrade and Zagreb... ARTNews 09/01

WHEN SCIENTISTS POKE ABOUT IN PHILOSOPHY: A poll of 1000 philosophers ranks Darwin's The Origin of Species as the third most important tract on the human condition. One critic brands "the choice 'mad' and blamed Darwin's inclusion on the plague of 'retired Nobel prize winning scientists now poking about in philosophy'." The Guardian (UK) 09/07/01


A MAN'S WORLD: From the outside, the dance world looks overwhelming female. But according to a new study of 25 dance theaters and festivals in New York last season, 147 male choreographers were produced and only 85 female choreographers. Of publications writing about dance - including The New York Times and The Village Voice - and the fund- raising letters of two major producing organizations last fall, while 70 men were written about, only 25 women were. The New York Times 09/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MIKKO IN BOSTON: The new artistic director of Boston Ballet is 39-year-old Finnish dancer and choreographer Mikko Nissinen. He seems to be "a born impresario, whose dream of leading a major troupe could give Boston's stumbling dance company the energy and elan it needs. Nissinen... will commute between Boston and Calgary until his contract with the Alberta Ballet runs out next June." Boston Globe 09/07/01

  • MIKO'S BIG PLANS: He thinks the Ballet should be a leader among dance companies in the United States, performing repertory that cannot be seen elsewhere. He wants the Ballet to tour internationally, and he would like its school to become an example for others across the country. He also intends to cultivate choreographers from within the company. Boston Herald 09/07/01
  • STORMY PAST: Nissinen, 39, has had a stormy tenure with Alberta Ballet. "His appointment makes him the youngest artistic director of any American or Canadian troupe of comparable size." National Post 09/07/01

THE DIFFICULTY OF DANCE: Why is ballet such a difficult art to warm up to? "The problem is that we are most comfortable with art that achieves its effects verbally. It's no coincidence that the mass art forms are literature, cinema, pop, television and theatre. Even with a Beethoven or Mozart symphony, it's comforting to have a programme or sleeve note revealing what the piece is "about". With dance I always felt as if the audience had to provide mental subtitles for a silent movie. Some choreographers compensate with the use of mime, but this further repelled me, mime being the only art form lower on my list than ballet." The Guardian (UK) 09/08/01


THE ARTS GHETTO: The BBC declares that niche broadcasting is the road to the future. So arts programming - better, more arts programming - ought to get its own digital channel. Critics are skeptical: "Whether we watch highbrow programmes in droves or not, we prefer them to be available to all, not hived off to the other side of the digital divide and held up to ransom." The Telegraph (UK) 09/08/01

DIGITAL RADIO IN THE UK - NO SALE: Technically and artistically, digital radio is a terrific idea. Economically, not so. The former director of radio at the BBC explains that "listeners really believe that radio is free. The average UK household owns five radio sets, scattered around the house or in the car. We might just conceivably be persuaded to pay a slight premium to replace one of them — but all five? No thanks." The Times (UK) 09/07/01

SO GOOD SHE'S BAD? Pauline Kael was a great film critic. But was she so good she was bad for film? "The long-term result of such an influential critic ignoring so much worthwhile foreign work is that just about every other mainstream critic has followed suit. This has dampened the desire of filmgoers to see foreign movies (since they rarely hear about them), with the upshot that distributors - who pay more attention to critics than you might think - are much warier of picking them up than they were in the 1970s." The Guardian (UK) 09/07/01

OLD HABITS DIE HARD: From Birth of a Nation through Gone With the Wind, Hollywood was accused of fostering racial stereotypes. But hasn't the big West Coast Fantasy Factory learned its lesson? Not really. Minorities are still underrepresented in the movies, and "the lack of minority images in the movies is even more destructive than the stereotypes. When minorities do appear, critics say, they tend to be in the background, or cast as expendable sidekicks to white male star." NPR 09/06/01

MAD AS HELL AND CONTINUING TO TAKE IT: Has the entertainment industry become so dedicated to appealing to the lowest common denominator that it is dragging the nation's critics down into lowbrow hell? "I find myself constantly reading favorable reviews of lousy films. . . written by estimable critics who have been around a long time and who, 10 or 15 years ago, wouldn't have had any patience with any of these movies. But like everyone else, critics have been conditioned to give in and go along -- or be branded a 'drag' and left behind." Sacramento Bee 09/04/01

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, TELL A STORY: There's good news and bad news about the increased capability and lowered costs of special effects in the movies. The good news is, small companies can now compete with the big ones. The bad news is, companies big and small are subordinating story to technical wizardry. "I think it's very important to have a message. Storytelling is not just 'this happened and this happened and this happened'." Wired 09/05/01

ROGER DOES TORONTO: The Toronto Film Festival is one of the world's busiest. Roger Ebert tries to sort it out: "The opening three days are so insanely front-loaded that critics go nuts trying to map out their schedules; they stand in the lobby of the Varsity, crossing screenings off their lists." National Post (Canada) 09/08/01

THE MEANING OF (ELECTRONIC) ART: The Ars Electronica Festival is a "mecca for Internet artists, computer-music composers and others working in the digital realm." The Festival awards a prize for best electronic art. But what exactly qualifies as digital art? Software code? Music? Videos? It's a question even the artists are confused about. The New York Times 09/03/01 (one-time registration required for access)


THE FAN WHO SAVED OPERA: When Washington DC classical music radio station WGMS decided to drop weekly broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, one outraged opera fan vowed to get it back. He organized opera fans, petitioned other stations, and convinced one - WETA - to bring back the opera. The Idler 09/05/01

THE EXPLOITED ROCK STARS? Music stars converge on Sacramento for Legislative hearings on how long recording companies can tie artists to contracts. Courtney Love and Don Henley argue that record producers exploit successful artists, while the companies say their risks with unknown musicians justify restrictive contracts. Salon 09/07/01

DEATH RATTLE: "As a business opera is doing very well. There are more performances today than ever. From Tokyo to Tel Aviv, you can be sure to find Puccini and prima donnas. Opera has become the opium of a rich and educated minority, a launch-pad for millionaire singers who jet from one hemisphere to the other, garnering bouquets of adulation for their silken-lunged arias. But they're all singing an old tune. Forget the composer - today, the interpreter is king. Look at the programme of any number of opera houses. Of the 22 operas to be performed in the new season at Covent Garden in London, just one was written in the past half-century." Financial Times 09/07/01

OPERA COMING ON STRONG: In the UK opera audiences are small, but growing fast. "Although only 6.4 per cent of the population attended an opera in 1999/2000 - compared with 11.6% who attended a classical concert, 23.4% plays, 21.5% art exhibitions and 56% films - only film audiences are growing faster than opera. Between 1986 and 2000 the number of opera goers increased by 25.6%." The Guardian (UK) 09/03/01

THE PRODIGY GAME: The music prodigy business is booming. "The increasingly tough competition scene is driving a growing market of 'music factories' and professional tuition providers." Sydney Morning Herald 09/07/01

ASSESSING A NEW SHOSTAKOVICH: In 1939 Shostakovich was commissioned to write a piece that the Soviets intended to use on the occasion of their defeat of Finland. The Finland thing never happened of course, and the music was forgotten. Now it's had its premiere; and what's it like? "Shostakovich can hardly have expected the suite to be a propaganda tool in a military campaign; if he did, he made sure there was nothing triumphalist in it. More likely, he wanted the Party men off his back, and threw them a bit of jobbery to keep them happy." The Telegraph (UK) 09/06/01

TROUBLE IN SAN JOSE: The San Jose Symphony has seen its deficit zoom in the past four months to $2.5 million. The orchestra's top executive says the symphony will have to downsize. San Jose Mercury News 09/30/01

  • PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS: Orchestra's unpaid CEO struggles with band's spiraling insolvency. "Beneath the financial woes are nagging personnel issues, questions about the orchestra's musical appeal and deep uncertainty about its ability to cultivate broader community support." San Jose Mercury News 09/02/01

FOUR STRADS UP FOR GRABS: A truly great set of instruments can do wonders for a string quartet's sound, but most young chamber musicians can only dream of acquiring even one of the million-dollar group of instruments, let alone a matched set of four. This week, though, the Library of Congress announced that its 40-year affiliation with the Juilliard Quartet would end next year, freeing up the library's collection of Stradivarius instruments for other quartets' use. The residency through which the instruments are "shared" will continue, but with a new quartet every couple of years. Gramophone 09/04/01

AYE, MORPHEUS: A new file-sharing software program lets users download anything on the net. It's fast, efficient, and since there's no centralized computer system (like the one that hosted Napster), it's impossible to shut down. Free movies, music, pictures, books? it's all there. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/03/01


PAULINE KAEL, 82: Film critic Pauline Kael has died at the age of 82. "Kael was probably the most influential film critic of her time. She reviewed movies for The New Yorker from 1968 to 1979, and again, after working briefly in the film industry, from 1980 until 1991. Earlier, she was a film critic for Life magazine in 1965, for McCall's in 1965 and 1966 and for The New Republic in 1966 and 1967." The New York Times 09/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A FALLING GIANT: Last year at the first Latin Grammys, producer Emilio Estefan was named Person of the Year. "Such has been Estefan's impact on the industry that admirers and detractors alike ascribe him almost supernatural power." But this year his top artists are pulling out of his company, and the 2001 Latin Grammys, set to be held in Miami, his home town, pulled out at the last minute. Miami New Times 09/06/01


YOUR AD HERE: They do it in movies - why not in books? Product placement, that is. Why should it be just a plain jewelry store when it could be a Bulgari jewelry store? International Herald Tribune 09/04/01

WILL ANYONE USE A GREAT LIBRARY? Alexandria Egypt has spent the better part of two decades and $200 million building a library reminiscent of the city's ancient fabled library. "But while no expense has been spared, the library's cultural significance, and indeed its political prestige, appears lost on the vast majority of Egyptians, who have little interest in their country's pre-Islamic past. The likelihood of their ever being able to use it seems, in spite of refutation, undeniably slim." New Statesman 09/03/01

THE ART OF A BESTSELLER: A book review editor is reading an advance copy of a new book, when he notices the book has already scaled the Bestseller lists. How can this be? It's all in the art of advance marketing a hot property. Christian Science Monitor 09/06/01

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Expectations couldn't be higher for James Franzen's new novel. So how are the reviews? "Though often self-indulgent and long- winded, the novel leaves the reader with both a devastating family portrait and a harrowing portrait of America in the late 1990's — an America deep in the grip of that decade's money madness and sick with envy, resentment, greed, acquisitiveness and self-delusion, an America committed to the quick-fix solution and determined to try to medicate its problems away. The New York Times 09/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

WRITING FASTER THAN YOU CAN READ: A Vancouver publisher is sponsoring a writing competition, with the winner having her/his work published nationwide. The catch? All works submitted (and they must be full-length novels) must be written entirely in a single three-day period. National Post (Canada) 09/04/01

REPEALING HOMEGROWN: For 20 years the British Columbia government had bought up to $150,000 worth of books by homegrown BC writers for each school in the province. Now the new Liberal government, looking for ways to save money, has canceled the program. CBC 09/05/01

ADOPT-A-BOOK: Do you long for the days when artists and writers were supported by their own personal impresarios, benevolent moneymen who bankrolled every new play, treatise, and opera that ever flowed from a visionary's pen? Well, you're in luck: "For amounts ranging from $250 to $50,000, book lovers can become art patrons -- patrons of the art of literature. They can adopt a particular book by a particular favorite writer and guarantee that it will always stay in print. Or, like a literary Santa Claus, they can donate an entire set of great works at cut-rate prices to a school or library." Chicago Tribune 09/05/01

ANOTHER MIDDLEMAN IN THE AUTHOR-TO-READER CHAIN: Not very many people seem to be buying e-books, but more and more people are getting ready to sell them. Latest to join the marketplace is Yahoo! Inc, which has signed contracts with Penguin Putnam, Simon & Schuster, Random House, and HarperCollins. Yahoo officials say it gives "publishers a neutral ground, so to speak, in which to sell their books, and allows them some direct contact with online buyers." 09/06/01


WHAT'S NEW? The new Broadway season is set to go. Lots of new musicals, including the ABBA invasion ready to take on The Producers. Lots of plays too, but proactically no new plays...The New York Times 09/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THEATRE WITH A POINT: "Political theatre has not fared well of late. It has, over the past few years, acquired all the style of chintz curtains, the charisma of a scout master and the intellectual independence of the Catholic Church." New Statesman 09/03/01

A BREAK FROM THEATRE: Village Voice theatre critic Michael Feingold is taking a break from the critical grind. Why? "If writing and thinking about theater becomes a grind that needs relief, the problem may be the extent to which it isn't at its best. That's no surprise. To cite Shaw, 'The theatre is, was, and always will be as bad as it possibly can'." Village Voice 09/04/01

HEY, IT WORKED FOR THE PRODUCERS: Sylvester Stallone says on his website that he's planning to bring a musical version of his movie Rocky to Broadway. He won't star, but he's planning to write the script. Chicago Tribune 09/03/01

CAMERON'S LONDON: Theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh has slammed London and defended National Theatre director Trevor Nunn. “No other country in the world does everything in its power to stop the public from visiting its centre. More go to the theatre and cinema that football matches, yet the whole place is grinding to a halt…" 09/04/01

THE FANTASTICKS WILL CLOSE AFTER MORE THAN 17,000 PERFORMANCES: It's the longest running musical ever, playing for forty years. But finally, the seemingly indestructible The Fantasticks is closing, ending its off-Broadway run on January 6 next year. The problem, as usual, is finances. Don't feel too bad for the producers: in a 153-seat theater, The Fantasticks has grossed over $23 million. Nando Times (AP) 09/15/01

THE OVERTIME PENALTY: When a kid's show ran over its alloted time in LA's Ford Theatre last week, the sound suddenly went dead on stage. “We were running a little long. Apparently the [Ford’s] managing director told the show’s director to stop the show. She said, ‘No, we have eight minutes left.’ So he instructed his crew to stop running the sound." LA Weekly 09/07/01


ART ON TV: An ambitious new PBS series Art21: Art in the 21st Century debuts this week. "Art21 rewrites the possibilities for art on television. Its true subject is inspiration, and its method scraps all the formulas by getting rid of narrators and allowing artists to tell us in their own words how they work and why they do what they do." The New York Times 09/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • HOW WE DO IT: "The series features 21 contemporary artists, famous and little-known. It's refreshingly free of artspeak. The artists have been encouraged to talk plainly about what drives them to make their art and to show how they go about it. The series avoids traditional art terms that might help explain some of the work at the price of distancing viewers from it. Here there's no choice but to consider the art on its own terms without the security blanket of labels." San Jose Mercury News 09/09/01

JEWISH MUSEUM OPENS: Berlin's Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum opens tonight (Sunday). "The opening is being celebrated as a state occasion, attended by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Johannes Rau. Berlin's great Jewish tradition will certainly be mentioned on Sunday, not only because the new Jewish Museum grew out of the Jewish department of the Berlin Museum, but above all because it also reinforces the city's status as the old-new capital." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09/09/01

INCONCEIVABLE: What's wrong with conceptual art? "The sad and very pertinent fact is this: Conceptual artists haven't escaped the confines of media. They've simply chosen a very crude and rudimentary form of media—the artist statement—and they've chosen to channel all of their 'pure' ideas through that thin and puny medium. Without the artist statement, the concept simply ain't shared." *spark-online 09/01

CLIPPING A CLASSIC: Eero Saarinen's swooping TWA terminal at New York's JFK airport is one of the city's architectural wonders. But a proposal to expand and preserve it by fitting an enormous bland collar around it is a defacement of criminal proportions. "The oafish design being proposed must be reconceived top to bottom: TWA can't be isolated as an object but has to be lived in - arrived at, walked through, flown from." New York Magazine 09/03/01

PERUVIAN PYRITE: Over 20% of a Lima museum's prized 20,000-piece collection of Incan and pre-Incan gold is fake, according to a government investigation. How the fakes found their way into the collection is not known, but the museum is removing the offending pieces for "further investigation." BBC 09/04/01

STRAIGHT-UP TRADE: A new program promotes exchanges of art between regional French and American museums. "The American museums have been given the kind of access to the French system hitherto available only to major museums and, at the same time, are learning to cooperate regionally in this country themselves. The French museums are learning about the great cultural diversity of American collections, which range from antiquities to contemporary art (as well as about American-style fund-raising)." The New York Times 09/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SELLING ART TO LIVE: The Church of England has decided it must sell a valuable collection of art. The church says its "financial problems means it has not much option but to sell the collection of paintings by 17th Century Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbaran." Some fear the paintings will be sold outside the country. BBC 09/03/01

WEIGHING THE RISKS: London's National Gallery is opening a show that reunites the surviving panels of a 1426 altarpiece by Masaccio, one of the most important painters of the early Renaissance. The panels are being loaned from four museums, but a leading art historian charges that "the risks in transporting the works far outweigh any benefit to the public." National Post (AP) (Canada) 09/03/01

BLOCKING A LOAN? Italy's undersecretary of culture says Italy might prevent panels by the 15th century painter Masaccio from being loaned to Britain's National Gallery because "it would amount to 'sexual tourism' in which art was abused. Other paintings would be banned from travelling to the UK unless its museums and galleries became more generous in lending artworks to Italy, he said." The Guardian (UK) 09/03/01


EXITING, STAGE LEFT: As Bill Ivey leaves as director of the National Endowment for the Arts, he reflects on his term and the role of America's arts agency. "The NEA is the only agency that wakes up every day and thinks about how the arts are doing and how the nation's cultural heritage is faring." Hartford Courant 09/09/01

KENNEDY CENTER AWARDS: This year's Kennedy Center awards will go to Jack Nicholson, Julie Andrews, Quincy Jones, Luciano Pavarotti, and Van Cliburn. Washington Post 09/06/01

SIZING UP (MORTIER'S) SALZBURG: Gerard Mortier's reign as head of the Salzburg Festival was hardly revolutionary. Yet as he leaves, "one thing is clear: Thanks to Mortier, art is at last being discussed and taken seriously again in Salzburg." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09/04/01

LEARNING TO LOVE CONCRETE: London's concrete Barbican Centre has been described as "off-putting on the outside, labyrinthine on the inside and underperforming all round." It's the public building Londoners love to hate. Yet in a retro kind of way, it is becoming fashionably admired, and now the Britain's minister of arts has "slapped a preservation order on the brutalist complex once described as 'not so much a concrete jungle as a concrete bungle'." The Guardian (UK) 09/06/01


AS SLOW AS POSSIBLE - LITERALLY: A performance has begun in a German town of John Cage's Organ2/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible). The piece was originally a 20-minute piano piece, but organizers of the performance have inflated it to 639 years. "The audience will not hear the first chord for another year and a half. All they will get is the mellow sound of the organ's bellows being inflated." BBC 09/06/01