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Week of  September 10-16, 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


IN TIMES OF CRISIS: First we look to political leaders. Then to spiritual leaders. Eventually though, we turn to artists to "tell the stories of our collective experience". "We don't know how to save lives like a doctor would, or rescue people like a fireman would, but we do know how to reinvigorate the human spirit. That's our job." Hartford Courant 09/16/01

  • ARTISTS TALK ABOUT ART AND TERRORISM: Robert Brustein: "This is a time when art is most important because it complicates our thinking and prevents us from falling into melodramatic actions such as those we're about to take. But this is the time when art is made tongue-tied by authority and when it's a very small voice among hawkish screams. ... The greatest thing that art can do in a time of crisis is to make us aware, not to turn us into our enemies." Boston Globe 09/15/01

INTERPRETING INTELLECTUAL: In our new information-on-steroids world, what is the role of the writer, the public intellectual? Edward Said ponders roles and responsibilities. The Nation 09/17/01


DANCING IN THE LIGHT: Is dance ready to sell out in return for larger audiences? "Contemporary gallery and museum art glows with attention and lucre while modern dance, surviving on a diet of instant noodles and staticky sound systems, is as pale and wan as ever. Now that they're willing, why don't choreographers get to be must-see sensations with big, hip followings? Why do you have to be a 'dance lover' to love downtown modern dance?" The New York Times 09/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A HOME OF THEIR OWN: Mark Morris's new dance home opens. "The Morris Dance Center — perhaps the most lavish dance center in New York, created at a cost of $6.2 million — has become something of a symbol. For Mr. Morris and his dancers, it is a place to call home. For other dance companies, it is a place to envy, a place where dancers have their own cubicles, their own physical therapists, their own mailboxes." The New York Times 09/12/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A BARBIE BALLET: Barbie is sponsoring the English National Ballet's production of Nutcracker this year. "Mattel said the £85,000 sponsorship deal, due to be officially announced on Tuesday, was designed to encourage young girls to become more interested in ballet." BBC 09/10/01

NOT DANCE ON THE CHEAP: Is Scottish National Ballet abandoning classical dance in favor of going modern because it wants to do dance on the cheap? Not at all, says the company's board chairman. Our commitment to quality remains. Scotland on Sunday 09/16/01


LET THE BAD TIMES ROLL: The terrorist attacks have provoked some changes and delays in plans for violent movies and TV shows. But how long will that last? "Few producers, actors, or outside observers expect Hollywood to holler 'Cut!' In fact, some believe cinematic treatments of violent episodes such as terrorist attacks may actually increase." It needn't be that way, of course; it's possible to hope for "something that travels thoughtfully beyond the panoramic rubble, and obvious individual and collective pain, to greater universal truths that define us as a society." Boston Globe & Los Angeles Times 09/14/01

BBC'S NEW CULTURE CHANNEL: The BBC is granted three new channels, including "BBC4, a new channel devoted to culture, the arts and ideas, and two new children’s channels." The government's culture minister says that BBC4 is "a distinctive, well defined service intended to create a forum for debate." The Times (UK) 09/14/01

  • Previously: ATTACKING BBC ON ARTS: Has the BBC abdicated its responsibility for arts programming? One critic thinks so: "Proms attendances are going up and just try to get into the Tate Modern on a Saturday afternoon - but that is not reflected on BBC One." BBC 09/12/01

WATCHING ONLINE: Downloadable movies are about to be practical. "A new format, DivX, makes it possible to compress any film down to about 600MB - small enough to fit on an ordinary data CD but still high enough quality for comfortable viewing. For people with broadband connections, watching films online is within reach." Will movie companies be any smarter about digital downloads than music producers were? The Telegraph (UK) 09/11/01

VENICE WINNER: The grand prize at this year's Venice Film Festival has been won by an Indian film, Monsoon Wedding. "The film, directed by Mira Nair, is a comedy about an extended family reuniting from around the globe for an arranged marriage in India's capital, Delhi." BBC 09/10/01


IS IT LIVE? Back in 1990 there was a scandal when it was revealed that Milli Vanilli had lip-synced their ways though songs. Now, pretty much any major music act faces questions about whether or not they perform their own work. "There's not a major band or singer out there today that people don't say it: 'Are they really singing?' People like to dish and gossip about it – it's like 'Are those ... [breasts] real?' " Dallas Morning News 09/16/01

GOING HOLLYWOOD: "The L.A. Opera has never been on the radar internationally. For the most part, it's not even on the radar nationally. The arrival of Kent Nagano, a young, good-looking conductor at a company now headed by one of the best-known musicians in the world, gives the opera its first chance to make waves everywhere - to become a big, world-famous group, with a distinct Southern California identity. Because the company is young - this season is its 16th - the possibilities are still open in a way they're not at an august house like the Metropolitan Opera in New York or at the sturdy companies of Europe. And none of them have the glamour of Hollywood, which the company wants to cloak itself in." NewTimes LA 09/13/01

HOLSTERING THE FLAGS: The last night of the Proms in London are usually a grandly patriotic affair with patriotic music and plenty of flag waving. In the wake of the terrorism in New York, the Prom last night will go on, but absent the patriotic displays. "We're not going to actively ban flags, but it's clearly inappropriate. There's no sense of joviality or celebration that the flag waving has become a part of." The Guardian (UK) 09/13/01

THE FUTURE OF RECORDING? "Since the German businessman Klaus Heymann founded Naxos in 1987, the major labels have reacted to it with a mixture of disdain, resentment, and efforts to buy it out or beat it at its own game. All the while Naxos has survived and prospered, seemingly indifferent to the threats facing the classical recording industry — shrinking sales figures, declining market share, abandonment of artist development and so on." Is Naxos a model for the future? Andante 09/10/01

OPERA ON A BUDGET: Belgium's La Monnaie Opera is an international force. "Opera is about so many things other than just music theatre. It embraces corporatism, elitism, snobbism and, above all, money. Which is where La Monnaie is so remarkable. It seats a mere 1,152 people, about half of the capacity of the Royal Opera House. Its top price is just over £50, compared to £150 at Covent Garden." New Statesman 09/10/01

HAVE ORCHESTRA WILL TRAVEL: The Australian Chamber Orchestra was once described by The London Times critic as the "best chamber orchestra on earth." The orchestra tours more than any other Australian arts company, and it is aggressively promoted. It's also run up a large deficit and grappled with the idea of merging with another organization to stabilize. But now things seem to be looking up... Sydney Morning Herald 09/11/01

BRITISH BUY MUSIC: British consumers buy more recorded music per capita than music lovers in any other country. UK residents buy an average of four cds per year, according to a new report. Gramophone 09/07/01

MICHAEL JACKSON RETURNS: Fans paid as much as $2,500 a ticket for Michael Jackson's Madison Square Garden concert this weekend. Actually, it was less concert than a contrived (and awkward) coronation. The New York Times 09/10/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NAPSTER OFFERS TO PAY: In a turnaround, Napster proposes paying recording labels for music downloaded over its service. Wired 09/09/01


THE ANONYMOUS CHAMPION: Bobby Fischer won the world chess title 30 years ago, then disappeared into obscurity. Now, a grandmaster believes Fischer is playing chess anonymously on the internet. "Nigel Short, Britain's most celebrated grandmaster of chess, is convinced he has played 50 speed games of chess against Mr. Fischer through the Internet Chess Club, a service that allows players worldwide to play each other online." National Post (Canada) 09/10/01

RETURNING OSCAR: Actor Kevin Spacey was the anonymous buyer who paid $150,000 for an Academy Award up for auction. He'll return it to the Academy. ''I strongly feel that Academy Awards should belong to those who have earned them - not those who simply have the financial means to acquire them.'' Chicago Sun-Times (AP) 09/15/01

MISSING DIGERIDOO-ER: Australia's most famous digeridoo player is missing. Is he dead? "His community has become caught up in a supernatural rumour mill and both black and white spiritualists claim to be in contact with him. David Blanasi is said to have wandered off to collect wood to make digeridoos on August 6." Despite an extensive search, he's still missing. The Australian 09/11/01

ART, DEATH AND TAXES: At the time he died in 1992, Sydney Nolan was Australia's best-known artist. "Nolan was knighted in 1981, but a decade later, despite his fame, his prolific output and success at marketing his work for more than 50 years, he owed the British tax office a considerable sum. The subsequent death duties are believed to have increased the amount to more than $3 million." Now the remaining 95 paintings in his estate are to be auctioned to pay taxes. The Age (Melbourne) 09/14/01

CONLON LEAVING PARIS: "James Conlon, chief conductor of the Paris Opera since 1995, said he will leave his job at the end of his contract in July 2004." Andante (AP) 09/12/01

CRITICISM FOR TOO MUCH AND TOO GOOD: Joyce Carol Oates has just published her 94th book. "Her recent Oprah pick, We Were the Mulvaneys, was the author’s first No. 1 best seller and has sold 10 times more than any other book she’s written." Yet she's criticized by some for her prolific output. Newsweek 09/17/01


FRENCH COURT RULES LES MIZ SEQUEL IS OK: "A French court denied a request by descendants of Victor Hugo to have a newly published sequel to Les Miserables pulled from bookstores on the grounds that it betrayed the spirit of the 19th-century classic. In its ruling, the Paris court said that Hugo, in his lifetime, had not wanted his descendants to exercise control over his literary legacy. The court cited Hugo as once saying he did not agree with the premise that 'descendants by blood were also the heirs of the spirit'." Nando Times 09/12/01

HIGH ON HIGH ART: The New Criterion is 20 years old. "It remains one of the liveliest and most controversial cultural journals in North America. To its many admirers, the monthly magazine is a brave defender of the beleaguered values of high art in a cultural environment poisoned by political correctness. To an equally large number of detractors, The New Criterion is the dour and dyspeptic voice of cultural reactionaries who inflexibly reject new developments in art." National Post (Canada) 09/13/01

BOOK COLLECTING AND THE ART OF INTERNET: Second-hand booksellers aren't exactly hurting these days - if - they're willing to adapt. The internet has radically changed the way book collectors collect. "It's close to revolutionised what we do - not necessarily for the best." The Age (Melbourne) 09/11/01

GIVING IT AWAY INCREASES BOOK SALES: Most publishers are worried that online distribution of their books will kill their sales. But one publisher that has put everything it prints on the web finds that sales have actually increased. Why? "From our perspective, the Web is already the best dissemination engine ever, which has the side benefit of providing vast new markets and audiences for our work." Chronicle of Higher Education 09/14/01

PLACING PRODUCT: So why all the fuss over B-list novelist Fay Weldon's product-placement deal in her latest book? "It's much ado about absolutely nothing. The 'sacred name of literature' - whatever in God's name that may be - hardly has been besmirched by Weldon's little caper, nor has the 'freedom of the writer to do as he pleases' been compromised. Literature is a lot bigger than all the little people who claim to labor in its name, and it will survive the petty transgressions of them all." Washington Post 09/10/01

NAME THAT CHARACTER: To raise money for a foundation that helps provide medical care for victims of torture, a group of writers is auctioning off literary immortality. "Writers Margaret Atwood, Pat Barker, Ken Follett, Robert Harris, David Lodge, Ian McEwan, Terry Pratchett and Zadie Smith have all agreed to name a character in their forthcoming books after those prepared to pay most for the privilege." BBC 09/10/01

COMMON READ: With citizens of Chicago all reading the same book (To Kill a Mockingbird) together (at least that's the claim), other cities are trying to choose books of their own to read. Taste being what it is, agreeing on a book isn't so easy. Toronto Star 09/09/01

BOOK COLLECTING AND THE ART OF INTERNET: Second-hand booksellers aren't exactly hurting these days - if - they're willing to adapt. The internet has radically changed the way book collectors collect. "It's close to revolutionised what we do - not necessarily for the best." The Age (Melbourne) 09/11/01


KILLING NY THEATRE: Broadway producers are worrying that the World Trade Center attacks may help kill the good times Broadway has enjoyed for the past decade. New York theatre depends heavily on the tourist trade - that was already down this summer from last year's record levels, and is "likely to dry up now that New York City 'has a big bull's-eye painted on its face'." New York Post 09/14/01

ORIGINAL SHAKESPEARE: A rare almost-perfect first folio edition of Shakespeare plays is about to be auctioned. "It's an awesome thought that if this book had not been published, most of what we know of Shakespeare would have disappeared from the world. None of the cue copies and prompt copies survives." The Guardian (UK) 09/11/01

NEED FOR THE NEW: Birmingham Repertory Theatre's director recently resigned saying he'd "run out of ideas" about how to revitalize the theatre. Perhaps "if Birmingham has a problem, it is that its audiences haven't been exposed to the new theatre written over the past 10 or even 20 years." The Guardian (UK) 09/12/01

COLLABORATIVE STAGING: London's legendary West End is one of the world's dramatic centers, and playwrights count themselves lucky to have one of their works put on at one of the district's many theaters. But a dot-com company has come up with a bizarre idea to have its users write, as a group, the latest play to premiere at the Soho Theatre. BBC 09/10/01

ANOTHER MAJOR AWARD FOR ARTHUR MILLER: American playwright Arthur Miller "is among five recipients of the Japan Art Association's 2001 Praemium Imperiale International Arts Award, which is intended to honor lifetime achievement in categories not covered by the Nobel Prizes." With all his prizes and honors, Miller, at 85, might seem like a man who has figured things out. He says not. "I don't have any big answers offhand," he insists. "I struggle with everything, just like everyone else does." USAToday 09/14/01

REWRITING A CLASSIC: Playwright David Henry Hwang's Flower Drum Song rewrite "will likely send musical comedy purists into a C-major fit. In Hwang's story, San Francisco's Chinatown circa 1960 is glimpsed through the prism of a Chinese opera theater struggling with its off-night success as a Westernized nightclub, run by the tradition-bound owner's James Dean-styled son. The show's song list remains largely the same—A Hundred Million Miracles, I Enjoy Being a Girl, even Chop Suey. The new libretto removes the original's quaint arranged marriage complications, however, in favor of a brash backstage musical romance." Los Angeles Times 09/16/01


WHY ARCHITECTURE MATTERS : "Destroying architecture for political reasons is nothing new. The more important and powerful its symbolism, the higher a building is likely to rank on the target list of a bitter foe. The reasons are always the same. Architecture is evidence - often extraordinarily moving evidence - of the past. Buildings - their shapes, materials, textures and spaces - represent culture in its most persuasive physical form. Destroy the buildings, and you rob a culture of its memory, of its legitimacy, of its right to exist." Washington Post 09/13/01

CARING FOR A MONUMENT: LA's Watts Towers have "endured a litany of indignities ranging from a 10,000-pound stress test—conducted by supporters in 1959 to prove that it wasn't a public hazard—to vandalism, inept restoration, political corruption, bureaucratic indifference and natural disasters." Since 1994 the towers have been closed after earthquake damage. But as they reopen, the question of who will look after them remains open. Los Angeles Times 09/16/01

OLD TRUTHS: How did great artists create masterpieces of enduring vitality when they were old? Mostly it was an abiding curiosity. "This curiosity about art assumed various guises. Some artists addressed their loss of physical prowess by changing their medium. When painters like Degas found themselves without the ability to masterfully wield a brush, they turned to sculpture. In turn, the sculptor Rodin turned to drawing." Christian Science Monitor 09/14/01

ANTI ART-EATING: Bugs are causing so much damage of museum collections, the British Museum is convening a major conference on what to so about the problem. "Moths, flees, booklice, woodlice and termites are among bugs that thrive on organic matter. Entire objects — even entire collections — have been lost in museums and libraries." The Times (UK) 09/17/01

TURNING AROUND THE V&A: The Victoria & Albert Museum has a problem with leadership. "It recruits directors like Henry VIII took wives. It bashes them around. Then it spits them out. Either the curators gang up on them, or the trustees do. Somewhere in the V&A’s seven miles of labyrinthine corridors a wicked fairy must lurk. Not for nothing is the place known as the Violent and Angry Museum." But the new V&A director believes he can turn things around. The Times (UK) 09/12/01

CAN WE AFFORD OUR MUSEUMS? Artistic quality of our museums is increasingly measured in terms of its popularity. But "can we maintain the daily, costly and wide-ranging operation of our museums? Should individual items be sold off from collections to finance operations? Should we finally consider art collections as nothing more than a fund - a type of savings deposit - to be activated when necessary for superficial and alluring exhibition events?" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09/12/01

VENICE UNDERWATER: "The mean sea level in Venice is 23 cm higher than it was a hundred years ago, partly due to subsidence, partly due to a rise in the water level of the lagoon. By the end of this century, due to climate change sea levels generally are expected to rise by 20 to 60 cm." This means the city will be under water and uninhabitable unless something is done. The Art Newspaper 09/10/01

GETTING BIGGER TO KEEP UP: Sotheby's moves into enormous new quarters in London. "Millions of pounds have been spent on leasing and altering the premises in an attempt to win back lost ground in the middle market. Sotheby's needs to do this because it wasted time and huge amounts of money on an ill-judged internet auctions project, while Christie's traditional sales at its mid-market South Kensington saleroom increased by seven per cent to £99 million last year." The Telegraph (UK) 09/10/01

DEPARTING DIRECTOR TAKES SHOTS: Outgoing British Museum managing director Suzanna Taverne says the museum is in trouble and may have to "cut opening hours, restrict access to certain galleries and call off exhibitions because of a cash crisis." She also said her short tenure at the museum was due in part to outdated views by BM curators and board members about how the museum should be run. Sunday Times (UK) 09/09/01

REAL FAKE/FAKE REAL: Of two Rembrandt self portraits, one was considered authentic and the other a copy. But ten years ago, an expert concluded that the real portrait was the copy and the copy was real. Now they're sitting side by side in a Nuremberg museum so the public can judge for themselves. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09/10/01

TATE WAKES: "When it opened last year, Tate Britain tried its best not to be a great art museum. Thematic displays set aside nearly the entire collection in favour of a thin and unenthusiastic sample." Now the Tate has gone back to a conventional chronological presentation and the Tate seems to have greater confidence in its collection. The Guardian (UK) 09/12/01

HOLBEIN DISCOVERY: The Victoria & Albert Museum discovers it has a Holbein it didn't know it had. "This is an extremely important discovery in the context of the subsequent development of the English portrait miniature. When we cleaned the picture we realised it was of extremely fine quality." The Telegraph (UK) 09/17/01

SINGLES NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art has reinvented. Forget art. While "in the past the MCA has been in the news mainly because of its hard-fought battles against financial ruin, now it suddenly seems to have become the new hot spot for the city's hip young singles." Sydney Morning Herald 09/17/01

A QUARTER-BILLION DOLLAR HEADACHE IN SEOUL: The National Museum of Korea was designed to be the world's fifth-largest, and was scheduled for completion next year. But, "In the wake of a highly critical parliamentary report, NMK... is undergoing a comprehensive review. The report... called on the government to re-examine the entire project, stating that construction work so far had been shoddy and calling into question hastily-made decisions on the museum’s design and construction." The Art Newspaper 09/13/01

ODD TIME TO QUIT: London dealer Anthony d'Offay is one of the most successful, unpredictable and powerful international art dealers. "One thing no one had foreseen was that, last Tuesday, the 50 or so artists represented by his gallery - who include Howard Hodgkin, Rachel Whiteread, Michael Craig-Martin and Ron Mueck - would each receive a pro-forma letter, delivered by courier, announcing their dealer's intention to shut up shop at the end of the year." d'Offay intends to shut his four London galleries. Financial Times 09/11/01

HOW TO BE A STAR: How does star architect Norman Foster turn out so many high-profile projects? It's the team, he says. "Employing 590 people, with a turnover of £35 million, the practice is currently working in 18 countries from its offices in London, Berlin and Singapore." The Telegraph 09/12/01


THE POWER OF ART TO COPE WITH GRIEF: "From Homer's tales of Troy to Picasso's Guernica, from Tchaikovksy's Pathétique to Bill T. Jones's Still/Here, from the bloody dramas of Sophocles and Shakespeare to Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial, artists have always combated grave tragedy with grave beauty. Critics of The New York Times reflect on how art in all its forms has girded us to go on grieving and living." The New York Times 09/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)

POWER OF ART: The arts aren't just events to be gone ahead with or cancelled after a tragedy. One of the powers of great art is to try to make sense of difficult things. Globe & Mail critics look at the power of artforms - Dance, Music, Visual art, Literature, Theatre - to help people cope with tragedy. Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/14/01

AH YES, THE VISION THING: London's South bank arts center is squalid and unworkable and needs to be rethought. Everyone agrees on that. But numerous failed attempts to figure out what to do have resulted in nothing. "What is at issue is not just which architect the centre wants, but what it wants them to design, and exactly where it wants them to build it." The Observer (UK) 09/16/01

THE ARTS IN SCHOOL: After years of back-to-basics programs that decimated arts education in California schools, the arts are making a comeback in the classroom. But even appreciating the value of arts education, schools are having difficulty reintroducing arts; finding qualified teachers is just one of the problems. Los Angeles Times 09/10/01

COMBATING BLANDNESS: "While admitting it was bland and passive during the past decade, [Canada's] National Arts Centre has unveiled a new plan to restore its glory days." National Post (Canada) 09/11/01


AND YOU THINK YOU KNOW CULTURE? A Toronto design firm is looking for employees. But first you have to pass the Bruce Mau Culture Challenge. From the Beatles to Joseph Beuys, theosophy and the origins of the "end of history," here's a test that will put hair on your chest. National Post (Canada) 09/14/01

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Violinist and national ArtsCentre Orchestra music director Pinchas Zukerman takes criticism personally: "If I hear some really outlandish feedback from subscribers, I pick up the phone and call them. I say 'What the f--- did you mean by that?' And they go, 'Oh my God! Is that you?' And I say, 'Yeah, it's me. What do you think I should be doing here?' And usually they say, 'I didn't mean it like that' or 'I was misunderstood'." Saturday Night (Canada) 09/15/01