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Week of  January 7-13, 2002

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


HOW THEATRES GREW UP: A study of Venice's La Fenice Opera House gives some idea of the evolution of theatres adapting to social customs. "During the 18th century, the theater was one of the most important meeting places in public life. In the boxes and the camerini allocated to them - Marcel Proust described these as 'small living rooms minus their fourth walls' - people ate meals, made love and hatched intrigues before, during and after the performances." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/07/02

CANADA'S FAILING ARTS: A Canada Council report studying Canada's largest arts institutions comes to a depressing conclusion: "that the big arts groups have reached the limits of their growth in a society that increasingly can find no more public nor private money to pay for them." Attendance is static or falling, public funding has dropped, and private fundraising hasn't kept up. "Do we need the debt-laden Toronto Symphony? Should we tell the Stratford Festival that, with a $2-million surplus to its credit, it no longer requires public subsidy? Will the National Ballet still be worthy of the name when it has only 35 dancers and never tours?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/10/02


THE FACE OF DANCE: "Those of us who love dance are sometimes haunted by the memory of a particular face on stage. What force is it that, without close-ups to simulate intimacy or words to aid communication, imprints the dancers' personalities into our consciousness? Do the thousands of hours of sweat and self-criticism that mold the dancer's body also mold the face? Or is there an essential presence that is inborn? One thing sure is that the charismatic dance face is not achieved through a deliberate effort but mysteriously springs from some deep connection between mind and body." The New York Times 01/13/02

TURNING POINTE: "The Association of Blacks in Dance meets later this month in Brooklyn. The association is a service organization that has helped bring dance by black choreographers and performers to new public prominence in the 15 years since its formation. Founded by three savvy matriarchs of black American modern dance, the association faces a turning point typical in the histories of successful grass-roots organizations." The New York Times 01/13/02

THE NEW DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM: Dance Theatre of Harlem has a new name: "Arthut Mitchell's Dance Theatre of Harlem." "And no one was more surprised by the announcement than Mitchell, artistic director and founder of the company." Los Angeles Times 01/13/02

DANCE MAKES A SOFT LANDING IN SF: A little more than two years ago, at the height of the Dotcom real estate craze in the Bay Area, The San Francisco Dance Center found out it had to find a new home. The Center is "a major artery if not the pulsing heart of the Bay Area dance scene, offering more than 400 classes to 8,000 adult students a month. Much like the larger-scale Steps on Broadway in Manhattan, SFDC brings together aspiring young choreographers, established dance figures and weekend amateurs in drop-in sessions on everything from jazz to flamenco." Now the Center has a brand new home and some big challenges in trying to support itself in a new space. San Francisco Examiner 01/07/02

NEW NEW NEW: "True to its founding fathers, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, New York City Ballet remains the foremost creative ballet troupe in the world. No other classical dance company presents as many new works. One reason is the number of ballets produced by the Diamond Project festivals in the last 10 years with 6 to 12 choreographers commissioned at a time. More important, the company has developed choreographers within its ranks." The New York Times 01/08/02

PHILADELPHIA - DANCE MAGNET? "With more than two dozen dance companies, Philadelphia has become a dance magnet, drawing performers from other states and building a reputation as one of the top five dance cities in the country. Yet many people in the area are not aware of this." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/11/02


PLAY ME AGAIN SAM: Now there's no need for old actors to die on screen when they die in real life - they can just be digitized and live forever. The practice is growing in movies and in TV commercials. "With technology being where it is, hearse-loads of dead people could get in on the act. Computer graphics imaging (CGI) can create very convincing replicas of specific human beings. At the same time speech generation software replicates voices so successfully that to our merely human ears the sound is an exact duplicate." Sydney Morning Herald 01/11/02

THE RE/SELF-EDITED MOVIE: Fans are editing commercial movies on their own computers. A new artform, as some claim? Nope. "Digital technology may make it easier to appropriate and reinterpret existing art. But the tendency itself, the urge to do so, is a psychologically crucial element of contemporary thinking, and has more to do with zeitgeist than with technology. Quite simply, reappropriation is what we do these days, in high art and mass media: It's part of postmodernity." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/12/02

GETTING TO THE THEATRE ON TIME: It has a script, then it doesn't have a script. It has a $20 million budget, then it has a $6 million budget... how do movies ever get made? Here's the chronicle of one movie-making experience. The Guardian (UK) 01/12/02

DIGITAL IS YESTERDAY'S NEWS: The past two years, "digital" was the word at the Sundance Festival. "But the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, which opens here Thursday, looks to be relatively free of new-tech buzz. Press releases trumpeting the latest digital video innovations - a fax-jamming feature of Sundances past - have slowed to a trickle, and the Sundance press office seems to be barely keeping track of which films are digital and which aren't." Wired 01/10/02

BACKING AWAY FROM THE FAMILY: Family-friendly programs been a centerpiece of TV programming since day one. But no more, at least not at NBC. "We don't see them as really the kinds of shows that are in our wheelhouse," says the network's west coast president. As for those successful family shows on Fox and ABC, "They don't have the upscale demos that we want that would allow us to keep them on the air." Nando Times 01/09/02

SAGGING SPIRITS: "Hollywood's actors union, The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has announced plans to re-run its hotly disputed presidential contest. Former Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert was elected president last November by a large majority over rival actress Valerie Harper, who starred in Rhoda. However it has since emerged that the vote violated the union's constitution." BBC 01/09/02

DVD'S ARE HOT: "The number of films sold on DVD more than doubled last year, to more than 37 million, according to industry figures. Almost 2.4 million DVD players were also bought in the past year, 550,000 of them in the run-up to Christmas, the British Video Association (BVA) says." BBC 01/06/02

DIGITAL RADIO: Will people pay for radio? Apparently: Digital radio is hot. "Since its national debut in mid- November, XM Satellite Radio has sold 25,000 to 30,000 subscriptions to its new national radio service, XM Radio. In the same period, consumer electronics stores sold nearly an equal number of the specialized radios necessary to receive the signals, making national satellite radio one of the fastest-growing new products the audio industry has seen in years." The New York Times 01/07/02

BEST FILM OF 2001: The National Society of Film Critics voted Mulholland Drive as the best movie of 2001. "Robert Altman's satirical Gosford Park came in second as best picture, while the fantasy hit The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was third." Nando Times (AP) 01/06/02


SAN DIEGO GIFT: The San Diego Symphony, which once went bankrupt and is perpetually in financial difficulty, is in line for a major gift - perhaps the largest-ever individual gift to an American symphony orchestra. "The money - thought by some in San Diego's arts community to be as much as $100 million - eventually could place the organization's endowment near the top 10 of U.S. orchestras and bring unprecedented stability to the 92-year-old institution." San Diego Union 01/09/02

DOOMSDAY SCENARIO (OR THE SKY IS FALLING?): A panel of recording-company executives at a conference on the future of the music business depicted an industry in dire shape. "A major-label album needs to sell at least half a million copies to break even and only 10 percent of albums ever recoup their investment. Marketing and promotion costs are high: good placement in retail stores can cost up to $250,000, and promoting a single Top 10 hit to radio stations can cost millions." Besides that, digital copying is ruining sales, and how are musicians ever going to make a living? The New York Times 01/10/02

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR REFORM: "Legislation to force music industry reforms ranging from limits on artists' contracts to bolstering consumer access to digital music is unlikely to pass Congress this year, a top Democrat said Tuesday. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said he supported some reforms but did not expect Congress to take action as long as the House remained under Republican control. Conyers' assessment was likely to disappoint Internet music companies and recording artists who have called on Congress to reform what they see as a musical landscape unfairly dominated by the five major recording companies." Wired 01/08/02

SAME OLD TIRED IDEAS: The Toronto Symphony, having just (barely) staved off bankruptcy a few months ago, is trying to broaden its appeal by offering pops concerts. But "two fake palm trees, the billboard-sized words 'Club Swing,' two lounge tables and a dreary raconteur who reels off showbiz names just don't work on this stage in this venue. And asking the TSO to metamorphose into a red-hot swing orchestra is asking for a manned spaceflight to Mars this year. Playing the nostalgia card at this stage cannot be considered wise." Toronto Star 01/08/02

FIRED CONDUCTOR STARTS RIVAL ORCHESTRA: Conductor Grzegorz Nowak was told this week that his contract as music director of the Edmonton Symphony wouldn't be renewed. The next day he announced he'd put together a group of supporters and will start a new orchestra in the city. The plans are ambitious: "an immediate 45 per cent increase in concerts, a growth in orchestra size from 56 players to 93, a near-doubling in musicians' salaries over six years, and annual recordings and/or tours beginning in 2002." The new orchestra "would be based on a quite different attitude," says Nowak. "The new orchestra would put musicians' concerns first and would present more concerts with higher-paid musicians." Edmonton Journal 01/10/02

ART VERSUS INTERPRETATION: Is an opera production a "work of art?" "Missionaries for opera keep touting it as the greatest art form, simply because it supposedly subsumes so many others. Drama and music and painting, maybe even sculpture and dance: top that, if you can. Actually, the essence of opera, even for Richard Wagner, who dreamed of an 'artwork of the future' based on just this model, remained what it had been since Monteverdi: drama embedded in music. In a classic Platonic sense, this constitutes the work (in more fashionable parlance, 'the text'). On the other hand, a performance, along with its physical trappings, falls under the heading of interpretation, commonly held to be a creative function of the second order, though it does not have to be." The New York Times 01/13/02

SAN JOSE SYMPHONY MIS-USED DONATIONS: As the now-suspended San Jose Symphony struggled to survive in the past year, the orchestra improperly used more than $1.7 million that had been donated for a new concert hall and education center to pay operating expenses. "The diversion of the donations, and a further disclosure that $77,000 of youth symphony money was used to pay general symphony expenses, could provoke a legal inquiry from the office of the California attorney general." San Jose Mercury News 01/11/02

BRITAIN'S TOP SINGERS: Who are Britain's top ten opera singers? A poll of English singers ranks Bryn Terfel on top. The Independent (UK) 01/07/02


THE DIVA OF LINCOLN CENTER: Beverly Sills has always been a diva. But heading up Lincoln Center is proving to be a rougher playground than the opera stage was. Why does she stay? "Sills long ago grew accustomed to being the center of attention, the cynosure of a colorful and melodramatic whirl. But when her vehicle was a real opera, there were flowers and shouts of 'Brava!' at the curtain call. When she finally leaves the soap opera at Lincoln Center, that may not be the case, and some of the people around her think that she is only now coming to painful terms with that." The New York Times 01/06/02

ART OF TRAITORS: Anthony Blunt was one of England's most notorious spies. He was "a diligent, cool-headed traitor for two decades, yet this was the smaller part of his life. His overt expertise was in French art and architecture. He was (legally) recruited first by the Warburg Institute in London, then moved to its rival the Courtauld, where he eventually became director." The New Yorker 01/07/02

THE SELLING OF RENEE: Soprano Renee Fleming is said to have the most beautiful voice on stage today. "Though singing may be a private orgy, it is also a business, and if Fleming has become America's sweetheart it is because, behind her soft smile, she so shrewdly understands the country's values: the need to balance pleasure and profit, self-expression and the ambitious manoeuvrings of a career." The Observer (UK) 01/06/02

VARNEDOE LEAVES MOMA: Kirk Varnedoe has been chief curator of the Museum of Modern Art's department of painting and sculpture since 1988. But as MOMA prepares for a major expansion, Varnedoe is leaving the museum to go to Princeton. "Many people regard me as a raging postmodernist, says Mr. Varnedoe, who has also been accused of an emphatic bias against contemporary theory. 'I'm more of a pragmatist than anything else, a Darwinist, I suppose, as opposed to having a teleological vision of a great race of isolated geniuses who pass the baton on to one another'." The New York Times 01/06/02


MOVEABLE SLUSH PILE: Publishers are inundated with thousands of manuscripts each year. Of those, only a few ever see their way into print. More and more the onus on filtering out manuscripts is falling not on publishers but on agents. "Formerly, writers toiled in garrets and sent their work to publishers, who eventually gave the thumbs up or down. As publishers' resources have shrunk and been redirected, they have abdicated that crucial gatekeeper's task to others: agents, mainly, a small number of award judges, and manuscript assessment services." Sydney Morning Herald 01/09/02

AMBROSE - TOO PROLIFIC TO BE ORIGINAL? As accusations about plagiarism mount against popular historian/author Stephen Ambrose, checking out Ambrose's books has become a cottage industry. He's written a lot of books - too many too quickly, say some critics, to be reliable. "In seven years, Ambrose has published nine books of history, plus the eighth edition of a co-authored survey of American foreign policy. In the last two years alone, he's published four books, including The Wild Blue and Nothing Like It in the World. Many of his books have become bestsellers." Washington Post 01/11/02

  • DID HISTORIAN AMBROSE STEAL SOMEONE ELSE'S WORK? Stephen Ambrose is "perhaps America's most popular historian and one of its most prolific." His most recent book, climbing the New York Times' Bestseller list, focuses on a B-24 crew in World War II. Weedkly Standard columnist Fred Barnes contends Ambrose copied passages of the book from a 1995 book by Thomas Childers. Weekly Standard 01/04/02
  • THOSE OTHER SHOES KEEP DROPPING: Poor Stephen Ambrose. People keep accusing him of lifting material from other sources for his own books, but not giving credit. Charges three and four complain that his book, "Citizen Soldier, and Part 3 of his Richard Nixon trilogy, contain passages similar to those in other texts." Ambrose was reported to be unsure whether any of his other books - he's published more than 20 - have similar problems. Washington Post 01/10/02
  • MORE AMBROSE ALLEGATIONS: "A second book by best-selling historian Stephen Ambrose is being cited for having material that was allegedly copied from another text. is reporting that Ambrose's Crazy Horse and Custer contains sections similar to Jay Monaghan's Custer. A representative for Ambrose said Tuesday there would be no immediate comment. Anchor Books, which publishes the paperback edition of Crazy Horse and Custer, also declined immediate comment." Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 01/09/02

NY'S DISAPPEARING BOOKSTORES: What's happening to Manhattan's independent book stores? They're closing, that's what. "Whatever the factors—rent spikes, chain domination, reading-allergic citizenry, publishers' high price tags—it was hard for a bookstore lover not to notice all the closings in 2001." Village Voice 01/09/02

THE WANDERING PRIZE: "In the starry firmament of literary prizes, from the distant twinkling of Somerset Maugham to the intergalactic majesty of Orange, to the autumn brilliance of Booker, Whitbread is the wandering planet: wreathed in vapour, beyond radio contact and thrillingly weird, the object of fascinated annual terrestrial speculation." The Observer (UK) 01/13/02

NEWSFLASH - PEOPLE LIKE THEIR BOOKS TO INCLUDE PAPER: It would be nice to say that it seemed like a good idea at the time, but in truth, the "e-books" phenomenon has been one of the economic downturn's most predictable casualties. Dozens of companies, from global publishers to internet-based startups, leaped into the e-book fray a couple of years ago, with all the usual pronouncements about how the new tehnology would change everything about the way we read. These days, the small companies are gone, the big ones are downsizing, and e-books are considered a vast money pit. Publishers Weekly 01/07/02


FANTASTICK FINISH: After a stunning 42-year run, New York's longest-running musical is closing. The Fantasticks is arguably the most successful musical of the 20th century, and the closing took the theatre community somewhat unaware. "During it has been made into a television special and a feature film, employed actors who went on to win Tonys, Emmys and Oscars, and had its melodies recorded by the likes of Harry Belafonte and Barbra Streisand." The New York Times 01/09/02 (one-time registration required for access)

THINKING SMALL: A rash of new one-person and small-cast shows is taking over America's theatres. "The attraction for one-person shows is obvious. Financially, they're cheap. Less payroll, less housing, less wine and cheese at the cast party. And when fiscal times are tight, the push for these shows can be seductive, especially if they can be marketed in some new way. But with the number of one-person or tiny-cast shows proliferating, one wonders if anyone is thinking big anymore. Is anyone thinking even moderately? Or have we just created a new type of boutique theater that might amuse or distract - but hardly excite - us?" Hartford Courant 01/13/02

ATTENBOROUGH TO ALMEIDA: Michael Attenborough, one of the Royal Shakespeare Company's guiding lights over the past decade, has been appointed artistic director of the Almeida theatre in north London. "The choice shocked the theatrical world, being another blow to the Royal Shakespeare Company as it goes through one of the biggest upheavals in its history." The Guardian (UK) 01/11/02

  • THE BEST THEATRE JOB IN BRITAIN: "Three things have made the Almeida the most exciting theatre in Britain. First, an eclectically international programme: everything from Molière and Marivaux to Brecht and Neil LaBute. Second, top-level casting that has given us Ralph Fiennes in Hamlet and Ivanov, Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh and Juliette Binoche in Naked. Third, a territorial expansion that has seen the Almeida colonise the Hackney Empire, the old Gainsborough film studios and even a converted bus depot in King's Cross." Now it's all Michael Attenborough's to run. The Guardian (UK) 01/12/02

TEAR IT DOWN: The Royal Shakespeare Company has been harshly criticized for saying it will tear down its theatre in Stratford-upon Avon. But some British MP's are loudly encouraging the demolition, deriding it as a "monstrous carbuncle. Pull it down - it's a hideous building. I've only ever been in the gods there and I've ended up seeing about a third of the play." The Guardian (UK) 01/09/02

OF POLITICS AND THEATRE: "For most of the 20th century, especially after the Un-American Activities Committee hearings, American theater - apart from Miller - has not been very politically engaged. Which is why it's remarkable that today we have two very politically oriented playwrights in August Wilson, with his panoramic cycle of the 20th century black experience, and the emerging Tony Kushner." New York Post 01/06/02


TWICE AS MANY GO WHEN IT'S FREE: Museum attendance has doubled in the UK since museum admission was made free last month. "The biggest rise was at the Victoria & Albert in London, where a combination of the free entry and the opening of its spectacular British galleries led to a fourfold increase in visitors. A total of 174,249 people passed through its portals in the run-up to Christmas, traditionally a fallow period for museums and galleries." The Guardian (UK) 01/07/02

TOUCHY SUBJECT: When it comes to restoring Nazi-appropriated art to its rightful owners, many of the world's top museums have been forced to confront the delicate fact that not every claim has equal merit, and some museums and collectors appear to be trying to turn the situation to their own advantage. Latest case in point: two UK galleries are disputing Polish and Ukrainian claims on a collection of Dürer masterpieces that were looted by the Nazis, then returned and resold by the original owners. BBC 01/08/02

SOTHEBY'S FOR SALE? Speculation is increasing that Sotheby's is for sale. "It is widely expected that the 257-year-old auction house will go on the block following the conviction on December 5 of Alfred Taubman, the former chairman and controlling shareholder, on price-fixing charges." Top contenders? Bernard Arnault, owner of No. 3 auction house Phillips, and E-bay, the online auctioneer. Not surprisingly, given Sotheby's woes and lack of profitability, "no candidates have publicly shouted their interest." Financial Times 01/08/02

THE MAXIMUM MINIMAL MEMORIAL: What should a memorial for the World Trade Center be? "I have a guess. A memorial, as part of a mixed-use project, will in some way turn out to look Minimalist. Minimalism, of all improbable art movements of the last 50 years, having become the unofficial language of memorial art. What used to be men on horses with thrusting swords has morphed more or less into plain walls and boxes. Once considered the most obstinate kind of modernism, Minimalism has gradually, almost sub rosa, made its way into the public's heart. And now those bare walls are blank slates onto which we project our deepest commonly held feelings." The New York Times 01/13/02

OUTSIDE IN: The term "outsider art" has always been problematic. It encompasses so many different styles and genres, and it conveys the tinge of condescension. "The larger outsider art's audience grows, the more vehemently people within the field object to the term outsider, and the more complaints we hear about the very idea of such a category." The New York Times 01/13/02

YEP, THAT WOULD MAKE YOU SUSPICIOUS: The Chicago Art Institute took a major hit on the investment of its endowment recently. Two events alerted the museum something was wrong. "One was a visit last autumn from FBI agents seeking information on museum dealings with Integral Investment. The other was an October letter in which Integral Investment told investors that, due to a steep fall in markets after September 11th, the liquidation value of one product, the Integral Hedging fund, would probably 'reflect a loss of over 90%'." The Economist 01/03/02

TURNING DOWN ART FOR ITS OWN GOOD: A rare exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum opening this March presents "four centuries of Italian sculpture in terracotta - fired modelling clay - with loans from museums around the world, many leaving their countries for the first time. It includes works by some of the most famous names of the Italian renaissance, including Ghiberti, Donatello, and Verrocchio." But the V&A turned down the loan of a rare Canova offered by a museum in Venice because of the risk of its destruction. The Guardian (UK) 01/09/02

MODERN PROBLEMS IN IRELAND: It's not been a good year for the Irish Museum of Modern Art. First, the museum's director was fired - he sued, won $520,000 and got to keep his job. Then when his contract was up, the board hired Brian Kennedy from Australia's National Gallery. Board members resigned and Kennedy turned down the job. "Now that the dust has started to settle, the problems seem self-evident: a director who overstayed his welcome, a voice for change that rubbed people the wrong way and an institution still struggling to create a relevant role for itself and to forge links with Irish artists." The New York Times 01/09/02

MORE RAVES FOR THE FOLK MUSEUM: The new American Folk Art Museum is perhaps "New York's finest new building since Wright's Guggenheim," writes Martin Filler. "Its intelligent equipoise between architectural excitement and genuine attentiveness to the works of art that it displays is exemplary, as is its equally appropriate balance between physical grandeur and spiritual intimacy. I do not doubt that this physically small but conceptually colossal structure will become a new paradigm for museum design as we enter an era very different from the one that Bilbao so perfectly epitomized." The New Republic 01/07/02

  • A TRIUMPHANT LEAP: The museum cost a modest $22 million. "Its facade, covered in 63 dull bronze panels, is forbidding. Once inside, though, this austerity is replaced by spaces that slowly unfold as one explores. Admittedly, the museum is not big, but the changes in scale make it feel much bigger than it is." Financial Times 01/09/02

THE GREAT MUSEUM DIRECTOR SEARCH: Madrid's Prado and Paris's d'Orsay Museum both have new directors (and both arrive in clouds of controversy). Meanwhile, London's National Gallery is scouring the earth for a new leader (one obstacle to hiring an American is that directors' salaries in the US tend to be "two to three times" what they are in the UK). The Art Newspaper 01/08/02

ART THAT DIVIDES: The Binational Mural Project is making a portion of the US/Mexico border into art. "The 2-mile-long mural, on the U.S. side of the border wall, involved the work of close to 2,000 volunteers over three years. In its scale and dedication it ranks with the AIDS Memorial Quilt as one of the country's most significant and ambitious community-involved public art works of the past 20 years." San Francisco Chronicle 01/08/02

REALLY BENT PROPELLER: Alexander Calder's sculpture dug out of the ruins of the World Trade Center has been hauled to a storage yard beneath the New Jersey Turnpike. "Those who have seen the tangled pile of steel beneath the turnpike find themselves strangely moved by the horror that has been fused into each piece." Washington Post 01/07/02

OF ART AND MERCHANDISE: The US Supreme Court has refused to hear a case in which artist Gary Saderup was told to pay heirs of the Three Stooges for drawing their likenesses T-shirts. "Now Saderup must pay the $75,000 he made from the products to the heirs and cover their legal fees. The court said Saderup's renditions of three unsmiling stooges, including two with their eyes open wide, were merchandise, not art." Nando Times (AP) 01/07/02

AFGHAN DOCTOR DOCTORED PAINTINGS TO SAVE THEM: An Afghan physician spent months last year doctoring paintings in Afghanistan's National Gallery, trying to save them from being destroyed by the Taliban. "With a paintbrush and watercolors, Asefi saved more than 100 paintings from destruction by the puritanical regime, which decreed that any art depicting human or animal images was un-Islamic. He drew colorful bouquets of flowers to hide women's heads, blended pedestrians seamlessly into gray cityscapes, and made horses vanish into brown mountain landscapes." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/06/02

PROTESTING A DEFECATING POPE: An exhibition at the Copia Museum in California features "defecating ceramic figurines of the pope, nuns and angels." Catholic groups are protesting. The museum says the figures are "caganers" or "figurines are part of Spain's Catalonian peasant tradition dating back to the 18th century." But a Catholic spokesman says: "When it's degrading, everybody knows it except the spin doctors who run the museums." Nando Times (AP) 01/06/02

BACK TO PAINTING: After years of artworld conceptualizing, there are more and more signs that painting is "in" again. Or at least in with the "in" crowd. "Painting is familiar as an old road map. We have been acquainted with its images since earliest childhood. We know how to read them. Its vocabulary seems so immediate it almost runs in our blood. And perhaps it is precisely because painting holds this basic power that, at a time when the art world isn’t quite sure which way it’s going, we can turn to this medium to provide a way ahead." The Times (UK) 01/07/02


THE WHY'S WHY OF SMART: Even people who made the "top intellectual" list are skeptical about it. After all, why consider Thomas Friedman but not Maureen Dowd? Why say you don't count novelists (who have an iffy claim on intellectual status anyway) if you then include Toni Morrison and Aldous Huxley? The New Republic 12/31/01

  • WHAT'S IT TAKE? "Let us now stipulate that it is a goddamned outrage that [your name here] and/or [your friends' names here] were not included, and that [your enemies' names here] were. Restitution can and must be sought in the courts." Slate 01/07/02

ARTS CLUB RAIDED: New York's venerable 104-year-old National Arts Club was raided by police last Friday. Police "arrived at the crack of dawn with a search warrant and orders to raid the club’s administrative offices as part of an investigation into possible grand larceny and tax evasion. The club has been rocked by controversies in recent years, and some members fear that "some of the club’s sizable art collection, which the 1997 audit said had an appraised value of $4.9 million, could be sacrificed to pay for the club’s legal bills." New York Observer 01/09/02

DECLINE IN ARTS FUNDING FROM UK LOTTERY? The arts' tremendous building boom in the UK in the past seven years has been largely the result of big slugs of cash from the National Lottery. But the lottery's take in the past six months is down five percent, falling to £668 million for the half year, down from £708 million in a similar period the year before. The arts stand to get about 16 percent of the total, and this is the third year in a row that lottery revenues are declining. The Art Newspaper 01/08/02

ADELAIDE MAKEOVER: Having purged Peter Sellars as director of this year's Adelaide Festival, the festival has revealed a new lineup that keeps some of the Sellars fare and adds new performers. Still at the heart of the festival is John Adams' El Nino directed by Sellars. The Age (Melbourne) 01/07/02

10. FOR FUN 

OOPS: "Dealer Guy Morrison astounded the art world at Sotheby's on 29 November when he bid a phenomenal £9.4 million - £2 million over the published auction estimate - to win Sir Joshua Reynolds's celebrated portrait of Omai, the young Tahitian 'noble savage' brought to England by Captain Cook in 1774." But it turns out Morrison spent £2 million more than his client had authorized, and two months later the painting is still sitting at Sotheby's. London Evening Standard 01/07/02

THE BBC'S MISSING ART: Hundreds of artworks are missing from the offices of the BBC. The Corporation wants them back. "No doubt many paintings and artefacts have found their way into people's homes for the good reason that there was nowhere else for them to go when offices were refurbished." So an amnesty is being offered. BBC 01/06/02