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Week of  January 14-20, 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


FBI VISITS MUSEUM: Houston's Art Car Museum recently got a visit from the FBI: "They said they had several reports of anti-American activity going on here and wanted to see the exhibit. The museum was running a show called Secret Wars, which contains many anti-war statements that were commissioned before September 11." A museum docent gave them a tour: "I asked them if they were familiar with the artists and what the role of art was at a critical time like this. They were more interested in where the artists were from. They were taking some notes. They were pointing out things that they thought were negative." Later, "a spokesman for the FBI in Houston, says the visit was a routine follow-up on a call 'from someone who said there was some material or artwork that was of a threatening nature to the President'." The Progressive 01/02

BIOLOGY, NOT AESTHETICS: Why do some works of art seem to have universal appeal? Are they just that much better than other art? Maybe not. "A flowering scientific movement suggests that art appreciation and production starts in the brain, not the heart. All visual art, from execution to perception, are functions of the visual brain." That art which we most respond to may trigger some physiological truth. San Diego Union-Tribune (AP) 01/14/02


REACQUAINTANCE WITH THE DANCE COLLECTION: The remarkable Dance Collection at Lincoln Center's Library of the Performing Arts has finally reopened after the library finished a three-year renovation. "It is the largest dance archive in the world, with holdings that date back to 1460." The New York Times 01/18/02

MOVING WITH THE TIMES: Yuri Grigorovich, for 30 years the master of the Bolshoi Ballet, wielded absolute power during his reign. In post-Soviet Russia he was ousted from his perch. "Clearly he saw the writing on the wall in terms of his future with the Bolshoi; as a principal cultural powerbroker in the old Soviet regime, he was a natural target for housecleaning." But he quickly put together a new company, made up of young dancers from the leading schools. The company is now in America for an impressive tour. Chicago Sun-Times 01/16/02

  • 100 CONCERTS IN 27 CITIES: The company's 90 dancers are impressive, but performances in Detroit are uneven - the company is "in the midst of a 27-city, 100-performance tour that has them spending an astounding amount of their waking time on buses." Detroit Free Press 01/16/02

APPRECIATING DANCE: How does one teach the aesthetics of dance as an artform? "All students have seen dance movement, if only music videos on MTV or Broadway musicals. But appreciating dance as an artform requires some understanding of the cultural status of works of art. What makes ordinary movement different from artistic movement? What makes social or ritualistic dance different from theater dance?" Aesthetics-online 01/02


AND THE WINNER IS... "Personal Velocity, a movie trilogy about three women confronted with momentous life crises, won the Sundance Film Festival's grand jury prize Saturday, taking top dramatic honors at the 11-day independent cinema showcase. Sundance jurors gave the documentary grand jury prize to Daughter From Danang, which follows an Amerasian child of a Vietnamese woman and U.S. soldier who searches for her natural mother years after she was adopted by an American woman." Nando Times (AP) 01/19/02

THE GLORIES OF NEPOTISM: How do you get a job of have a movie made in Hollywood? You gotta know someone. "In fact, Hollywood happens to be one of the more democratic places to make it, so eager are they for the next big thing, so willing to believe that you could be It, or you, or you. It's standard practice in L.A. that no phone call goes unreturned (even if it means rolling calls, deliberately returning them when they know you'll be out), because everybody could end up working with anybody at any time." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/18/02

THE DECLINE OF DISNEY? "After a renaissance in the mid-80s and for much of the 90s, Disney has been sliding. Its movie business is scoring fewer hits, attendance at theme parks has been disappointing of late. The company had its fingers severely burnt online and was forced to close an ambitious internet portal early last year and dissolved what was a separate new-media division." The Guardian (UK) 01/15/02

GOING TO PRAGUE: Where are all the movies going? To Prague. "A multi-million-dollar film industry has made Prague, the Czech capital, a European moviemaking mecca, second only to London. Since the fall of communism 11 years ago, hundreds of foreign productions have come here to take advantage of its extraordinarily low costs, highly skilled technicians, and stunning locations." Christian Science Monitor 01/16/02

CLAIMS FOR FLOP INSURANCE: Banks financing Hollywood movies are going to court to try to collect on insurance claims worth more than $1 billion for movies that were flops. "Hundreds of cases are stacked up on both sides of the Atlantic, as London's insurance market resists paying out on a slew of cinematic turkeys. Banks had lent money for productions with "shortfall insurance" - "policies that pay up if a film fails to make its projected revenue within (typically) two to three years." Financial Times 01/14/02

RIPPING OFF EGYPTIAN MOVIES: Video piracy isn't only a problem for American movies. Egyptian filmmakers estimate they lose $15 million in revenues a year due to video pirates. "Pirates manage to get a copy of a movie as soon as it is released, either on video cassette (mostly from Saudi Arabia) or on imported laser discs, sometimes recording them from the cinemas directly using a camcorder. These are then duplicated and distributed to the 2,000-odd video rental stores and clubs that specialize in selling pirated cassettes." Middle East Times 01/11/02

TAX BREAKS FOR HOLLYWOOD: California governor Gray Davis proposes tax breaks for movie companies shooting their productions in California. "Hollywood's unions have pushed for years for state and federal incentives to fight runaway production. Canada's weak dollar, combined with government incentives, make shooting there about 25% cheaper. Roughly one in four U.S.-developed productions shoot in foreign countries, mostly Canada. Los Angeles Times 01/13/02


SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY GETS ITS $100 MILLION - AND THEN SOME: Qualcomm Inc. founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan were going to give the San Diego Symphony $100 million, but at the last minute kicked in another $20 million. It's the largest gift ever to a symphony orchestra. "The additional money is to go to the symphony's operating funds - $2 million a year for the next 10 years. Thus, the symphony will get $7 million a year over the next 10 years, with $5 million each year going into an endowment. The Jacobses have also pledged $50 million to be paid upon their deaths." Orange County Register 01/16/02

FIRING THE CHORUS: The Baltimore Symphony has announced it will cut loose its volunteer chorus, after 32 years of service. "We have a very good chorus, but it is not a world-class chorus. And it couldn't be one because we don't support it as we should. To fix the problem would be expensive." Baltimore Sun 01/16/02

  • WHAT'S IN A CHORUS? Financial concerns aside, for one of America's top 25 orchestras to disband its decades-old chorus, as the Baltimore Symphony is doing, is a controversial and wide-ranging decision. A full-size chorus is more than a convenience - it's a community of volunteers more committed to classical music, and to their own orchestra, than the vast majority of subscribers that symphony organizations try so hard to bring in. Baltimore Sun 01/20/02

MUSIC TO THE PEOPLE: Digital music and file sharing isn't just about making copies and getting music for free - it is changing the music industry in a fundamental way. "The advent of new and accessible technologies has made the independent route much more possible. The 1960s aesthetic which caused some theatre practitioners to abandon the stage for the street, and visual artists to seek an audience outside formal galleries, has now visited popular music in a much more radical way than it did back then. The possibilities the Internet and related technologies offer to bypass major record labels and give the artist direct access to a potentially mass audience have changed the music industry forever." Irish Times 01/15/02

THE YOUNG CONDUCTORS: A new crop of young conductors is making a mark on the world stage. Still in their 20s, they're getting big jobs early. "So Philippe Jordan, at 27, has the world at his feet." Still, "the marketing of young conductors is only problematic when they're sold as something they're not - as great interpreters. Age and experience may be out of fashion, but they remain essential ingredients of a wise reading of a masterpiece." Financial Times 01/16/02

SOME PEOPLE REALLY ARE TONE DEAF: There's even a technical name for the problem: amusia. Usually, it's the result of head injury, or an illness. But some people are just born that way. All Things Considered (NPR) 01/16/02

  • UNDERSTANDING PERFECTION: Scientists are trying to determine why some people have perfect pitch - the ability to identify notes without other reference notes. "Based on the evidence so far, most scientists believe that genes do play at least a subtle role, perhaps by keeping a developmental 'window' open wider and longer during early childhood, when note-naming ability generally takes shape. Still, some experts argue the quest for an absolute pitch gene is akin to searching for a gene for speaking French; it doesn't exist." San Francisco Chronicle 01/15/02

IS ALL MUSIC THE SAME? "Especially in post-modern times where categories are being redefined, it is easy for many to assert that a tango, a rock tune, and a Beethoven symphony are all the same except perhaps for the musical parameters that define the style. This can have its positive as well as negative ramifications. The positive perhaps being that all types of music are understood as having similar importance, the negative that everything is considered in many ways as being the same." NewMusicBox 01/02

RIGHT OF WAY: The BBC has made a costly mistake. The corporation filmed an expensive version of Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors that was set to air Christmas eve - "until it was found at the last minute that no one had checked who owned the copyright, and the programme had to be pulled." Seems an American company owns the film rights, and the company is not inclined to grant permission for another version. The Observer 01/13/02

WHY DOESN'T LONDON HAVE A GOOD CONCERT HALL? "London’s lack of a world-class concert hall is beginning to get embarrassing. It is arguable that London has lacked this prime requisite of a world city ever since the 2,500-seat Queen’s Hall, on Regent Street, was destroyed in the Blitz, and that the Festival Hall, for all its democratic public spaces, never quite made up for that. Which raises the question: if we started from scratch now, rather than tinkering around with the variously flawed big halls at our disposal, could we do better?" Sunday Times (UK) 01/13/02

OPERA'S IRON MAN: "As of last week (and he keeps track), [Placido Domingo] had given 3,045 performances, not even including those as a conductor. He will turn 61 on Monday and already has commitments through 2005. He has sung 118 complete opera roles. He holds the record for opening nights at the Metropolitan Opera: 19 as of this season. (Enrico Caruso is in second place with 17.)" Now he's released a set of the entire Verdi repertoire for tenor, an amazing feat by itself. The New York Times 01/15/02

TENOR'S NIGHTMARE: It's the kind of scenario that causes performers to wake up screaming at night: for whatever reason, a singer suddenly loses his ability to sing, on stage, with thousands in attendance. It happened this week in Toronto to legendary Canadian tenor Ben Heppner, who was forced to halt a recital halfway through when he could not stop his voice from cracking repeatedly. Toronto Star 01/18/02

HOPE FOR THE DYING? Okay, so 2001 was a terrible year for the classical recording industry. The worst, in fact. "Still, if one looks hard enough, some promising signs can be gleaned from the cards dealt to recorded classical music, both in the major and independent sectors. Having survived the Tower debacle — in which the cash-strapped retailer demanded drastically extended payment terms from most of its independent accounts — a distributor like Harmonia Mundi might actually end up stronger, having now culled back its inventory and overhauled its retail sales/stock process. Universal Classics Group — a key industry barometer — finished the year not only with a bevy of crossover hits but also with the highest number of top-selling "straight" classical offerings, according to Billboard." Andante 01/15/02

HISTORY OF A BACKSTAGE FRACAS: Just what the heck is going on in Edmonton, anyway? Since when do fired conductors start their own competing orchestras? And what kind of musicians are prepared to follow such a heretic? The answers are the stuff of bad TV dramas and David Mamet plays. Edmonton Journal 01/20/02

VICTIM OF MONEY: The Welsh National Opera is one of the UK's finest. Except recently. "WNO's management appears to have conceded power to the accountants, allowing the company to be run not according to its highest artistic standards - which Wales should be roaringly proud of - but the logic of the balance sheet. In this brave new world, why not make 10 per cent of the chorus redundant too? Why not forget about anything except the safe box-office bets of the Mozart-to-Puccini repertory? Why bother subsidising opera at all when raggedy companies from Eastern Europe can go through the motions at half the price and a quarter of the quality?" The Telegraph (UK) 01/14/02

WHERE ARE TODAY'S COMPOSERS? Why, at the start of the 21st Century, are our "mainstream musical tastes are still stuck so completely back then, in the 19th century. Not that there's anything wrong with listening to Wagner or Chopin, or even Mendelsson. But it is strange - isn't it? - that an absolute majority of the music performed by all the American symphony orchestras this season will be by just four guys. Four guys who were all composing music during the same hundred-year period that ended more than a hundred years ago: Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky. Who are our Brahmses and Tchaikovskys, the historically important composers of this time? Why don't we know their music? Why don't we even know their names?" Public Arts (Studio 360) 01/11/02


MUSIC MEDICI: "Alberto Vilar has become the biggest benefactor in the history of classical music. Whatever the critics make of his philanthropic style, it has endeared him to many of the world's top directors, conductors, and singers, not to mention the managers who must pay them. He has few other cultural interests (he hates movies) and - unlike the Medicis - isn't interested in expanding the repertory; he doesn't commission new work and has no soft spot for small, struggling companies." New York Magazine 01/14/02

CHAILLY LEAVING CONCERTGEBOUW: Riccardo Chailly, who's been chief conductor of Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra since 1988, is leaving the orchestra to head up the Leipzig Opera in Germany, in 2005. Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 01/16/02

LARKIN'S MONEY GOES TO CHURCH: Poet Philip Larkin, who "declined the poet laureateship a year before he died in 1985, remains best known for his reverently agnostic poem Churchgoing. He also said: 'The Bible is a load of balls of course - but very beautiful'." So his friends and fans were amused recently when £1 million of his legacy was willed to the Church of England. The Guardian (UK) 01/12/02

NOBELIST CAMILO CELA, 85: "Spanish writer Camilo Jose Cela, winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize for literature, has died in Madrid from respiratory and coronary failure. With his first novel, published in 1946, Cela became a leader of a straightforward style of writing, called tremendismo, which clashed with the lyricism that had characterised writers of the previous generation in Spain." BBC 01/17/02


S'BETTER TO LOOK GOOD? "Why are so many people paying hard-earned cash for books they can barely begin to understand? Part of the answer, surely, is vanity. A Hawking or Greene sitting on the coffee table--preferably with a few pages conspicuously bent back at the corners--sends a powerful message to visiting friends, prospective dates, and (above all) to oneself, that an intellect is present in the house. Whether or not you read them, possession alone looks good. Intellectual vanity is as potent a force as the sartorial variety." Los Angeles Times 01/13/02

MAKING RARE BOOKS ACCESSIBLE: "Octavo Corp. and its staff of eight have revolutionized the conservation and accessibility of rare books, using technology in the service of history. This month they're starting work on the most famous book in the U.S., the Library of Congress' pristine copy of the Gutenberg Bible. Through a combination of hardware - lights, cameras, and a lot of servers - and software, the company produces digital reproductions of rare books, which it then sells to consumers." SFWeekly 01/17/02

WHY STEALING'S ALWAYS BAD: Historian Stephen Ambrose has been caught plagiarizing in at least four of his books. This is a very serious offense, so it's off to the penalty box for him. The media has made a big deal of this, but historians haven't condemned him with the vehemence one would expect. Why? Several reasons, but "a comparison of the Ambrose and Monaghan books found that, despite picking up sentences here and there, Ambrose wasn't wedded to Monaghan's work. He had synthesized material from many sources and was producing his own version of Custer's life." Chicago Tribune 01/16/02

  • WHY PLAGIARISM MATTERS: The charges of plagiarism are mounting against historian Stephen Ambrose. " Ambrose's patriots can't fall back on the factory defense anymore: Two of the cases occurred when Ambrose was an obscure professor, before he became Stephen Ambrose Industries. Ambrose is more defiant than apologetic. Ambrose's assertion that he's not a thief is ludicrous. One plagiarism is careless. Two is a pattern. Four, five, or more is pathology. You can bet that historians jealous of Ambrose (that is, all historians) are this minute combing the rest of his corpus for more evidence of sticky fingers." Slate 01/11/02
  • CHILDERS ON AMBROSE: Historian Thomas Childers speaks out on Stephen Ambrose's plagiarism of his work: "I was surprised and disappointed. I was bewildered, at first, as to how he would have the chutzpah to do this. He didn't have to do this, and I wasn't flattered. My wife, Kristin, was angry enough for the both of us." But Childers decided to say nothing: "Do I really want to be the scholarly guy rapping the famous guy on the knuckles in a schoolmarmish way?" Philadelphia Inquirer 01/16/02
  • GETTING IT VERY WRONG: World War II vets aren't as upset about the copying as they are about all the mistakes about the war in Ambrose's books. "The real problem is that Ambrose gets key things about World War II wrong all by himself. That Ambrose, America's most popular war historian, has published eight books in five years is seen by them as not so much an excuse for the alleged errors as the reason." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/15/02
  • MORE AMBROSE: Yet another book has been added to the Stephen Ambrose plagiarism list. "Despite Ambrose's continued dominance of the bestseller lists, 2002 is shaping up as a year to forget for America's favorite celebrity historian. He apologized immediately for not putting quotation marks around the purloined Wild Blue passages; since then, as the other five books have been identified one or two at a time, he generally has declined to comment." 01/17/02
  • CAREER EFFECT? Some book world people doubt that publicity about Ambrose's plagiarism, though embarrassing for Ambrose, would hurt sales of his bestselling history books. Indeed, it "might actually end up boosting sales by attracting more attention to his books. In any case, the best-selling historian will remain a hot literary property. 'Any agent or publisher would be glad to grab him'." 01/11/02

THE PROBLEM BEQUEST: A small library in Massachusetts gets a million-dollar bequest from a letter carrier who died in 1940 to buy books. But the library is stuffed full and has no room to put any new volumes. What it really needs is to expand - but should the terms of the bequest be broken? National Post (AP) 01/16/02

LARKIN'S MONEY GOES TO CHURCH: Poet Philip Larkin, who "declined the poet laureateship a year before he died in 1985, remains best known for his reverently agnostic poem Churchgoing. He also said: 'The Bible is a load of balls of course - but very beautiful'." So his friends and fans were amused recently when £1 million of his legacy was willed to the Church of England. The Guardian (UK) 01/12/02

A LESSON IN HUMILITY: "To write The Best Book Ever Written is not a ridiculous aspiration. Ridiculous would be to aspire to write a 'flawed, two-dimensional and structurally awkward' novel. 'Pretentious twaddle' is not the kind of star to which a wagon can be very usefully hitched. Mid-list leaves something to be desired as a career goal. There is much to be gained by setting out to write The Best Book Ever Written, not the least of which is that once every millennium, somebody might actually do it. However, as commendable as it is to aim high, and as useful a motivator as unreasonable ambition may prove to be, the kind of literary pride that makes writers think that readers will drop everything to read them is rarely helpful once a book is published. For all but the rare exceptions, publication is a crash course in humility." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/11/02

WHAT'S LEFT OVER: Most books at some point get remaindered. "The common misconception is that remainders are 'bad' books. Some may be, but the reality is almost every author - Booker and Giller winners, and names like Atwood and Urquhart - have titles that have been thrown into the bins. And they're the gems that voracious readers eagerly forage for.Remainders are an important part of our business, accounting for at least 10 per cent of overall sales " The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/11/02


CLASSIC MUSICALS DOMINATE OLIVIERS: The Olivier Awards, British theatre's most prestigious awards, have named this years nominees. The list is dominated by revivals of classic musical theatre. "The revival of Kiss Me, Kate got nine nominations, while My Fair Lady was given eight, including one best actress nod for former TV soap star Martine McCutcheon." BBC 01/18/02

END OF THE ROAD: The announcement that Cats would close in London signals the curtain on Andrew Lloyd Webber. "Like a gambler who has enjoyed a fabulous winning streak in a casino, then seen his luck turn, he is now down to his last chip: The Phantom of the Opera. What a comedown for the man who, during the heyday of his career, had as many as five musicals running simultaneously in London's West End and almost as many on Broadway." The Age (Telegraph) 01/17/02

ARTS COUNCIL TO RSC - STAY ON BUDGET: The Royal Shakespeare Company is to get £50 million from the Arts Council of England to develop a new "theatre village." The RSC has to raise another £50 million to fund the project, and the Arts Council says it won't contribute anything more if the costs rise about the £100 million budget. BBC 01/16/02

NINE LIVES AND THEN SOME: The second-highest grossing musical of all time will end its record run in London this spring after 21 years and nearly 9000 performances. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats has never been popular with critics, but audiences have gravitated to it consistently wherever it has opened. The Broadway production of the show closed in 2000 after an 18-year run. BBC 01/15/02

GOODBYE FANTASTICKS: After 17,162 performances, The Fantasticks closes in New York, the longest-running play in the city. The show was a career starter for many actors in its 42-year life. The New York Times 01/14/02

STARLIGHT DIMS: After 7,406 performances in 18 years, Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Starlight Express closed in London. Lloyd-Webber's whose long-running shows have been closing one by one in the pasty year in London and New York, says he'd like to take Express on the road. BBC 01/13/02


BRITISH MUSEUM WOES: The British Museum is in financial difficulty and will have to cut its staff. "The museum also revealed yesterday that it has cut opening hours for almost a third of its 100 galleries. Staff were told at a mass meeting that the museum must make 15 per cent savings on its £45 million budget because of inadequate Government grants and a fall in tourism numbers following last year's foot and mouth outbreak and the September 11 terrorist attacks. The museum is the country's most popular attraction with 4.6 million visitors last year and the cuts are likely to embarrass the Government. The Telegraph (UK) 01/16/02

THE STUCK STELE: Sixty years ago "Italian invaders" removed a 1,700-year-old stone stele regarded as a national monument, from Ethiopia. It has sat in a piazza in Rome ever since. The Ethiopians have long wanted it back, and in 1997 Italy agreed to return it. Four years later it still hasn't, and Italy's deputy culture minister objects to its return. The Ethiopians, who consider the stele's return a national issue, are unhappy. "The Ethiopian people's patience ... is being tested to the limit and it's wearing thin. Ethiopia wants the agreement implemented.'' Yahoo! (AP) 01/17/02

V&A DIRECTOR URGES DEAL ON PARTHENON MARBLES: Mark Jones, the new director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, has broken ranks and urged the British Museum to work out a deal with Greece for custody of the Parthenon Marbles. "It is not necessarily a case of transferred ownership or of giving the Marbles back for good, but when people believe things are really important, as the Greeks and the British Museum do in this case, that is actually a good thing. Apathy is our great enemy." The Observer (UK) 01/13/02

  • MP's BACK MARBLES' RETURN TO GREECE: A group of 90 British members of parliament have formed a group to put pressure on the British Museum to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics. The Guardian (UK) 01/16/02
  • BMA TO GREECE - NO RETURNS, NO DEPOSITS: The director of the British Museum flatly turns down any idea of loaning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, or returning them. He considers the BMA as a "world museum" and says the museum "saved" the marbles from destruction by taking them. "The British Museum transcends national boundaries; it has never been a museum of British culture, it is a museum of the world, and its purpose is to display the works of mankind of all periods and of all places. The idea of cultural restitution is the anathema of this principle." The Guardian (UK) 01/15/02

CONTROVERSIAL MEMORIAL: A plan to erect a bronze statue of three firemen raising a flag at Ground Zero in front of a Brooklyn firehouse has sparked controversy. The statue is based on an iconic Associated Press photo widely reproduced after September 11, but the artist has changed the firefighters from being all white to one white, one black and one latino. Some critics don't like the tampering with the image. ''The problem with realist sculpture is that it narrows options and interpretations. The power of that photograph wasn't in the three firefighters, but in the flag. To change the firefighters' races puts that issue to the forefront, replacing the flag.'' Boston Globe 01/16/02

APPARENTLY HE DOESN'T LIKE CONCEPTUAL ART: Ivan Massow, chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, says the British art world is "in danger of disappearing up its own arse ... led by cultural tsars such as the Tate's Sir Nicholas Serota, who dominate the scene from their crystal Kremlins. Most concept art I see now is pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat that I wouldn't accept even as a gift." The Guardian (UK) 01/17/02

SMITHSONIAN CHIEF BACK IN THE HOT SEAT: "Lawrence Small, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution criticized for leading the museum into a new era of commercialization and corporate sponsorship, was attacked by a group of 170 scholars, authors and academics yesterday. In an open letter to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who is the chancellor of the Smithsonian's Board of Regents, the group contended that Small was 'unwilling or unable to carry out the mission of the Smithsonian, or to safeguard its integrity'." Washington Post 01/17/02

REMBRANDT FOR SALE: A Rembrandt painting - the most valuable ever on the market, is going to be offered for sale at this year's Maastricht Art Fair. Minerva is said to be worth about £40 million, and will be displayed at a booth at the fair. "The painting, once owned by the Swedish inventor of the Electrolux vacuum cleaner and then by Baron Bich, the Bic ballpoint pen magnate, is one of only two other historic scenes by Rembrandt held in private collections - both the others are in Britain." The Observer (UK) 01/13/02

CHANGE OF BID: The auction house's have had a rough year. But rougher times may be ahead. "In what shape and size auction houses will survive is anybody's guess. But change they must. In a nutshell, quantity isn't there any more to feed their vast bodies. Art supplies are all too visibly running thin, making the auction business barely profitable." International Herald Tribune 01/13/02

LEADING LONDON GALLERY CLOSING: Saying that "you no longer need an expensive gallery" to sell art, the owner of London's Alex Reid & Lefevre, London's leading gallery of Impressionist art, is closing the gallery. "The gallery was one of the last of the great Post-War art dealerships with direct links back to the post-Impressionists. It was founded in 1926 by the Glaswegian Alex Reid, a friend of Van Gogh who introduced his work to this country, and to his main rival the London dealer Lefevre. The closure of Alex Reid & Lefevre is a major blow to the London trade lamented by both auctioneers and dealers alike." The Art Newspaper 01/11/02


REINSTATING AN OLD ART FORM: Soviet communists, in their zeal to stamp out religious influences, stripped their nation's churches. Almost the first things to go were the bells: they were melted down to make power cables and tractor parts. Now, with a resurgence of religion, there's a demand for replacements. So Russian metal-workers are trying to relearn the old art of casting bells. The Moscow Times (AP) 01/18/02

BAD SIGN FOR THE THEATRE? "In a new survey of 1,002 adults ages 18 and older, the Gallup Organization found that the overwhelming majority of Americans prefer home-based activities to a night on the town. In fact, only 10 percent said they'd go out." Christian Science Monitor 01/16/02

THE AESTHETICS OF ART: Artists tend to be repelled by aesthetics, for a number of reasons. Many are suspicious that too much analyzing of their art will harm their creativity; it will encourage them to develop their rational ego at the expense of their creative unconscious. Or they suspect that aesthetic analysis will have no effect on them, that thinking about art in this way is simply useless. Aesthetics-online 01/02

NY CUTTING BACK CULTURAL SPENDING: New York's cultural institutions are preparing for big cutbacks in funding from the city. City departments have been asked to plan for budget cutbacks of 25 percent. "Since no one wants to go back to the days when they didn't paint the bridges, cultural projects will be at the bottom of the list. And when they get to the bottom of the list, there's going to be nothing left." The New York Times 01/16/02

MAYOR LEAVES ART TO CRITICS: New York's Jewish Museum is opening a show in March that looks at the growing artistic use of symbols from the Nazi era. But while religious leaders are bound to protest, don't look for coercion from the city's new mayor Unlike previous mayor Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg plans to stay out of debates over art: "I am opposed to government censorship of any kind. I don't think the government should be in the business of telling museums what is art or what they should exhibit." The New York Times 01/14/02

EDUCATION SPENDING CONTINUES TO RISE: As the economy has slowed in the US, so has spending on higher education. A survey of states says that appropriations for higher education are up this year by 4.6 percent, the "smallest such increase in five years." Still, adjusted for inflation, state spending on higher education rose by 2.7 percent going into 2001-2. Chronicle of Higher Education 01/14/02

10. FOR FUN 

AND THE BOOK BUSINESS IS INTELLECTUAL, RIGHT? Lest anyone forget, the book business is run by individuals - people who can be as petty, self-serving, obtuse and wrong-headed as the rest of us. MobyLives nominates 2001's most misguided figures. MobyLives 01/14/02

LARKIN'S MONEY GOES TO CHURCH: Poet Philip Larkin, who "declined the poet laureateship a year before he died in 1985, remains best known for his reverently agnostic poem Churchgoing. He also said: 'The Bible is a load of balls of course - but very beautiful'." So his friends and fans were amused recently when £1 million of his legacy was willed to the Church of England. The Guardian (UK) 01/12/02