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Week of May 27-June 2, 2002

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


ADRIFT IN A SEA OF AESTHETIC (ANASTHETIC?): "In these years post-turn-of-the-century, we're awash in so much choice in entertainment, so much competition for our attention, that we risk losing a sense of our basic selves. Art exists, partly, to articulate identity. Greek drama reinforced that society's basic myths. Medieval Gothic architecture expressed, in towering grandeur, the superstitions and heavenly dreams of that world. Through much of the 20th Century, painters, dramatists, novelists and filmmakers borrowed from and mirrored one another, and an eager consumer could take solace in sampling a little bit of all of them." Chicago Tribune 06/02/02

TO CATCH A THIEF: William Simon Jacques is one of the great book thieves in history. Since 1990 he stole hundreds of rare books from some of Britain's great libraries. "The total value of the books Jacques stole is around £1.1 million. Many were damaged in an attempt to disguise their origins. Whole collections within those libraries have been devastated. Hundreds of the books have still not been recovered." Here's how he was caught. The Observer (UK) 05/26/02


FRANKFURT KILLS DANCE: In what it hopes will be a money-saving move, the city of Frankfurt has decided to close down Ballett Frankfurt, the city's acclaimed contemporary dance company. The company is led by choreographer William Forsythe and has earned an international reputation. Says Forsythe: "Ballett Frankfurt has the highest income rate in relation to public subsidy of any cultural institution in Germany. We have a 96 per cent attendance rate at our performances, and I have earned this city 40 million marks [about £12 million] with my touring. What single other person has contributed that kind of money to the city?" The Telegraph (UK) 05/30/02

REINVENTING THE ENGLISH NATIONAL: Why is the English National Ballet's Matz Skoog trying to reinvent the company? Why not? "Ever since it was founded in 1950 (as Festival Ballet), it has played second fiddle to the Royal Ballet. Not only does it receive a fraction of the latter's funding - £5m from the Arts Council as opposed to well over £9m - it has less access to the best dance talent." The Guardian (UK) 05/30/02

THE BOLSHOI'S MARKET FORCES: For much of its 200+ year history, the Bolshoi has set its budgets based on artistic need rather than theatre economics. This meant ticket prices could be low. Now things are different, and the Bolshoi has implemented a new ticket pricing scheme that more properly reflects the marketplace for its efforts. "This new ticket-sales system increased ticket revenue by 82 percent in its first month. Further price increases, made possible by a new distribution system with many sales points, should push up ticket revenue to $10 million—almost three times higher than last year’s figures—in the 2001–02 season." McKinsey Quarterly (registration required) 06/02

BALLET VS OTHER: The School of American Ballet (SAB) at Lincoln Center and the La Guardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts across the street both enroll the city's best dance students. But their styles are entirely different. "While their styles differ, the two schools have long had an amiable relationship. SAB is strictly a dance academy; students there must go elsewhere for high school courses. La Guardia, a public institution with a reputation for strong academics, has been a popular choice. But the dust has barely settled on a controversy that raises questions about the perpetuation of racism and elitism in the dance world, and the power of the private sector over public education." Village Voice 05/28/02

MEASURING SUCCESS: Australia's Chunky Move dance company is exploring success and failure. So it sent out a survey to people around the country "asking them to indicate their favourite and least preferred dance movements - flexed feet, you may like to know, did not score well outside Tasmania - music, costumes and choreographic style. On the basis of a statistical breakdown of the survey results, [choreographer Gideon] Obarzanek has created Australia's most and least wanted dance work." The Age (Melbourne) 05/28/02

SCOTTISH BALLET CHOOSES NEW LEADER: The beleaguered Scottish Ballet has named a new artistic director - Ashley Page, the choreographer and former principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. The company has been rocked since announcing it was ousting its former director and reinventing as a contemporary dance troupe. The Scotsman 05/30/02


THE END OF FILM? There are many practical reasons to like digital filmmaking. And many are predicting the end of film, as more theatres begin projecting digital movies. But not so fast - "it appears that we're in for a long coexistence, since most cinematographers are not about to abandon shooting on film and digital projection is still in its infancy." Los Angeles Times 05/27/02

"REALITY" IS RELATIVE: The problem with the spectacular digital effects in movies? The real people in the scenes look fake. So they're taken out and replaced with computer graphics. "Interaction is much more believable when digital characters are interacting with digital effects. In the future, to get work actors will need to be trained how to act and interact when no-one is there." Sydney Morning Herald 05/28/02

MINORITY REPORT: After being criticized for their record on including minorities in their programming, American TV network executives say they're doing better. "Executives at ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox last week pointed out how most of the new dramas and comedies coming this fall feature at least one minority character, and several new ensemble dramas feature minorities - primarily African Americans - in key roles. Minority groups disagree. "We were looking for growth, and there isn't any. We have concerns to the extent that there are no central or lead minority characters on the new shows. Yes, there are blacks and Latinos on some of the shows, but the numbers on Asians and Native Americans are dismal." Los Angeles Times 05/27/02

A RECORD MOVIE YEAR? It's been a great winter and spring for the movie box office, with revenues way ahead of last year. And "with Spider-Man and the new Star Wars as lead-ins to a huge summer film lineup, the season is shaping up to break last year's domestic revenue record of $3.06 billion from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day." Nando Times (AP) 05/26/02

MAYBE IT RUNS ITSELF? The Australian Broadcasting Company has had a rocky year as it's struggled to find a new managing director, after former top boss Jonathan Shier left. But it turns out the TV network has had one of its most successful periods ever in the ratings, with a substantial boost in viewership recorded in the latest ratings period. The Age (Melbourne) 05/27/02

OUR VIDEO FUTURE: "Despite the recession, a prolonged technology slump and Sept. 11, sales of video game hardware, software and accessories increased 43 percent last year, to a record $9.4 billion. A number of industry executives and analysts say that the current economic wave is rooted in both the cycle for new generations of video game players and the demographic shifts that have taken game playing out of the realm of cult status and into the mainstream." The New York Times 05/23/02

CLEAR CHANNEL'S BLURRY FUTURE: No company is more powerful in the world of American radio than Clear Channel Communications. The company owns more radio stations in more markets than any other company, and is more or less responsible for the generic, predictable, nationally repetitive formats that consultants say are guaranteed to pull in listeners. So why is Clear Channel losing money hand over fist? Washington Post 05/29/02

THE DEATH OF INDEPENDENT FILM? "Making movies is not the same as it used to be. The golden era of '80s and early-'90s American independents, in which directors like Jim Jarmusch, John Sayles, and Good Machine-nurtured auteurs such as Hartley, Lee, and Todd Haynes flourished, is no longer possible. Where there once was funding for innovative newcomers through foreign financing and the burgeoning video market, overseas funders are now scarce, video sales are down, and there is an increased reliance on foolproof bets. And like the burst of the dotcom bubble, the very success of the independent film has led to its gradual decline, with studio systems co-opting some of the brightest new talents (David O. Russell, Christopher Nolan) and the challenging economics of the film business excluding so many others." Village Voice 05/28/02

THE ACTION COMIC BOOK MOVIE: Why are they so popular with movie studios? "Above all, these movies are bankable. The audiences are pre-booked. Whatever the critics say, brand loyalty will assure the all-important first weekend take. They'll go to ACBM2 because they went to ACBM1. And if the critics say 'don't go', they'll walk right over the critics on the way to the best seats." The Guardian (UK) 05/31/02

WORST CANNES EVER? This year's Cannes Festival was as overhyped as a filmfest can get, and the howling of the critics could be heard worldwide as a result. But was this year's installment of the world's most prestigious film festival really its worst effort, as some have charged? Not likely. "Though the hype continued unabated, the naysaying of the first week proved to be an overreaction. While lacking in masterpieces of the epic variety, the second half of Cannes showed what film is all about--devious experimentation, political films of the moment, and severe art films with little commercial viability in sight." City Pages (Minneapolis/Saint Paul) 05/29/02


MUSICIAN, INC, PART I: "Concert ticket prices are skyrocketing – especially for bands born in the anti-materialist '60s. Concert ticket prices have shot up 54 percent in the last five years, compared with only 24 percent for movie, sports and theater tickets. The Rolling Stones are charging a jaw-dropping $350 for the best seats to their U.S. tour; the top tickets on Paul McCartney's just-ended tour sold for $250. And as prices rise, so does tension between disgruntled music fans who cry "sellout" and the musicians who say they're just going by supply and demand – that if they don't charge these prices, scalpers will." Dallas Morning News 06/02/02

  • MUSICIAN, INC, PART II: More and more big-name musicians are choosing not to sign (or re-sign) with large music labels, instead recording and producing on their own labels. "It just goes to show you that we basically traded in a larger machine for a more well-tooled machine. It's like all small businesses. You do more specific targeting and cut out waste." Chicago Tribune 06/02/02

DIGITAL PROMOTION: Eminem's new album shipped early because the music was already available over the internet in pirate digital copies. Indeed, music from the album was so widely traded on the net, that Eminem's recording company feared sales of the album in stores would be way off. But the album has debuted at No. 1 in record time, adding to the argument that file-swapping on the internet promotes sales of recordings, not discourages them. Nando Times (AP) 05/30/02

COPIES HELP NOT HURT: "The big record companies' complaints about your new CD burner and file-sharing services like Napster, Kazaa and Music City are hogwash. The big record companies have built their case on what seems a logical premise. They contend that if you can download the new Ashanti song for free from the Internet or borrow your friend's copy of the new Bonnie Raitt CD in order to burn one for yourself, then they've lost a sale. No doubt some music fans behave this way. But not most. That's the point of a study by Jupiter Research, a leading Internet and new technology research firm. Jupiter found that people who use file-sharing networks to obtain free music or who make homemade CDs are likely to maintain or increase their spending on music." Boston Herald 05/31/02

EXPLOITING THE YOUNG? The 60 music students from the Royal Academy of Music who agreed to play for free in an orchestra to accompany Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney and Tom Jones at a £4 million charity concert in Buckingham Palace gardens next week, are being exploited says the British musicians union. "People will be making money out of this event, whether it is record distributors, dealers or publishers. Clearly this concert is a great opportunity to showcase young talent, but we argue young talent should be treated equally." The Guardian (UK) 05/29/02

CUTTING OUT THE MIDDLEMAN: The most frustrating part of buying a stringed instrument for any musician is navigating the deceptive and self-serving world of dealers who can set prices with impunity, and often charge buyers three to four times what they paid for a given instrument. But a new culture of online instrument auctions is gathering momentum, and, given time, it may well change the way all but the wealthiest musicians shop for the tools of their trade. Andante 05/30/02

CROSSING OVER TO WHAT? Classical crossover music is a hot category these days, but why? "Is crossover - the name given a recording by a classical artist venturing into a non-classical area of music and aimed mainly at non-classical record buyers - a healthy means of bridging the gap between the classical and non-classical markets, or a crass ploy to kick new life into sagging sales? Is it creating new audiences for classical music, or merely fueling the demand for more crossover? In today's anxious, Internet-battered market, nobody has any definitive answers." Chicago Tribune 06/02/02

SIZE MATTERS: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Uh, rent it out, actually, just as dozens of small groups and high schools do every year, their modest performances sandwiched between the world's greatest classical ensembles. The rental concerts generally draw small crowds, but a group of New Jersey school kids are anticipating quite a crowd for their Brahms German Requiem this week. The interest can be chalked up to the scale of the thing: the orchestra will contain 150 musicians, and the choir, which will spill over into the seating area, will number 250. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/30/02

SPOLETO USA IN THE BLACK: "When the Spoleto Festival USA announced last summer that it intended to raise $25 million for programming, an endowment, and restoring a building, it also said it already had raised $18 million. Now the annual Charleston, S.C., arts festival, which opened Friday and will end June 9, is in its 26th year with $23 million collected or promised. That is not the kind of news people expect from a festival that has struggled with money from its first year." Philadelphia Inquirer (Knight Ridder) 05/29/02

RISE AND FALL: It's the 50th anniversary of the singles charts for records. "But it's hard to pretend that it isn't now dealing with an irreparably tarnished institution. A once richly varied and hard-fought battleground on which rival talents would engage in titanic struggles for weeks on end to attain that coveted No 1 slot, the pop-singles chart has degenerated into a dismal procession of formulaic releases, each recklessly catapulted to the top – and then to hell – with equal dispatch." The Independent (UK) 05/27/02

WEBCASTING FOR FUN AND NO PROFIT: Music was supposed to be fun, so we were always told. But with the radio and recording industries now so corporate-driven as to make most stations and releases indistinguishable, webcasting was developed as a way to get exposure for music never heard on today's ultrasanitized Top 20 countdowns and generic music video channels. So why all the brouhaha over webcasting royalties? It seems that the corporate music monolith isn't enjoying the competition. Chicago Tribune 05/29/02

CUTTING INTO FRANKFURT: The city of Frankfurt has a quota of performances it expects from its opera company in return for city funding. So along comes a budget crunch and the city cuts millions out of the company's subsidies. What kind of sense does this make? It barely saves money, since canceling productions still means that contracted performers have to be paid. "Perhaps only a psychoanalyst can understand the soul of Frankfurt. Why does everything always have to go wrong? Once, people would have called it a curse. Today, we speak of a virus: the short-sightedness of always cutting the budget by sacrificing art and culture." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/26/02

SURVIVOR: The St. Petersburg Philharmonic has long been one of Russia's cultural jewels. But since the USSR went away, money for culture has been tight. From nearly unlimited budgets harnessed to the orchestra's product, the orchestra has in recent years had difficulty just paying its musicians. "But aid is coming in. American friends of the orchestra have given money for new instruments, and an oil magnate whom [music director Yuri] Temirkanov knows has donated enough cash to double the orchestral wages." The Telegraph (UK) 05/27/02


PORTRAIT OF A PHILANTHROPIST: Jean-Marie Messier is the charismatic head of Vivendi Universal, the world's second largest media company. In France he is a controversial figure, but in New York, where he moved eight months ago, he's become immersed in the city's cultural life, joining prestigious boards of major cultural institutions. "Mr. Messier's smooth entree into New York is one of the clearest examples of how an outsider with financial resources, status and connections can penetrate the city's inner circle of culture and philanthropy, even as his corporate leadership comes under severe attack." The New York Times 05/28/02

BROWN STEPS DOWN: J Carter Brown, former head of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, for 23 years, "a trustee at Brown University, chairman of the jury for the Pritzker Prize, the prestigious architecture award, and a member of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, among other positions," has resigned from "the many arts, education and historic preservation boards on which he serves," because of severe bad health. Washington Post 05/31/02

FRAUGHT WITH FREUD: Lucien Freud is widely considered Britain's best living painter. Next month he'll get a major retrospective of his work in London. "As many of his sitters have found, having Lucian Freud recreate you in paint is not an unrelieved joy. Jerry Hall's portrait turned her into an amorphous lump of pregnant fleshy blubber. The Queen's portrait, unveiled last December, provoked a tirade of abuse for its unflattering delineation of a blue-chinned nightclub bouncer in a fright wig and a filthy temper." The Independent (UK) 05/30/02

"ROMANIAN CULTURE IS TWICE IN MOURNING": A former principal dancer with the Romanian Opera House commited suicide after her partner died last weekend. "Irinel Liciu, 74, took an overdose of sleeping pills after the death of celebrated Romanian poet Stefan Augustin Doinas, 80. They had been married for more than 42 years." Nando Times (AP) 05/28/02


A FEW NEW STATISTICS ON READING: A new Scottish study reports that people spend an average of only 11 minutes a day reading novels. "Fiction has now been overtaken by newspapers as the most popular reading material, research by the Orange Prize for Fiction has claimed. It also said 40 per cent of the population do not read books at all. Researchers said that people spend only six hours a week reading, compared with three hours a day watching television." The Scotsman 05/27/02

INFERIORITY COMPLEX? British writers have been protesting the decision to open up the Booker Prize to include American writers. Writers from the Commonwealth need something of their own, they say, and the Americans would dominate the competition. But such arguments "tell us more about a certain British cultural inferiority complex than about the nation's literature. The notion that American writers exist in another league is fatuous, cringing. The protestation of British inadequacy, said Robert McCrum, literary editor of the newspaper the Observer, is 'quasi-philistine, provincial and rather embarrassing'." San Francisco Chronicle 05/28/02

IN PRAISE OF PAPER: Paperbacks used to be the publishing industry's "B" team. But "sales of paperbacks have outpaced those of hardcovers over the past several years, growing steadily even when hardback purchases have dipped. Anchor and Vintage, the two paperback-only imprints of Random House, have seen their sales volume increase more than 500 percent since the early 1990s. The surge has been driven partly by the boom in 'superstores' - chains like Border's or Barnes & Noble - but but also by big independent outlets." The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 06/02/02

WALSER CONDEMNED/DEFENDED: Critics are condemning Martin Walser's new book as anti-semitic. "The book is about a wounded author's supposed murder of a high-profile Jewish book reviewer, obviously modeled on the prominent critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki." Walser's publisher has "rejected the suggestion that it is an obvious roman à clef," saying that "comparing literature to reality has nothing to do with literary criticism, only with malice." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/30/02

JUMPING ON JONATHAN: Jonathan Foer's debut book has become a literary sensation. But is the hype all because of his age (25) and the astounding advance ($400,000) he got? "A backlash was inevitable: the bookselling website Amazon is full of vicious comments saying Foer's success owed little to talent and much to his youth and excellent connections (his brother is an editor for the New Republic magazine, his creative writing teachers were literary luminaries Joyce Carol Oates and Russell Banks, both of whom provided fulsome quotes for the blurb). The publishing industry was accused of over-hyping Foer, at the expense of others." The Telegraph (UK) 05/31/02

BRINGING JOYCE BACK TO IRELAND: Ireland's National Library has bought a collection of 500 papers by novelist James Joyce. "The rare collection, believed to be the largest of its kind - includes unseen drafts of the classic book Ulysses." BBC 05/30/02


THE GOAT/MILLIE TAKE TOP TONYS: Go figure - Thoroughly Modern Millie wins Best Musical at Sunday night's Tony Awards, but "the critically acclaimed but offbeat Urinetown: The Musical won for direction, score and book of a musical." So the ingredients for Urinetown were better, but Millie still made the better salad? The New York Times 06/03/02

BROADWAY DOWN: After a decade of solid gains, Broadway saw a decline in business for the season just ended. "The total taken for the entire season stood at $642.5m (£438m), $22.9m less than in the previous year. The year 2000-1, by contrast, had seen a big yearly increase of 10.4%. The number of people buying tickets dropped almost one million to 10.9 million, below the 11 million mark for the first time since 1995-96." BBC 05/30/02

BROADWAY - WHO AM I? "These days ... Broadway's most conspicuous malady seems to be less its economic vulnerability — though that certainly remains a concern — than a severe personality disorder. Seeking to stay healthy in an age ruled by technology and mass-produced images, the mainstream New York theater has never seemed so desperately eager to please or less sure of how to do so." The New York Times 06/02/02

REVIVAL FEVER: "Yes, we're living in the 21st Century. But if you look at this season's Broadway marquees - or at the nominations for tonight's 56th annual Tony Awards - you'll see Broadway remains obsessed with reviving old shows, turning movies into musicals and beefing up its box office by trading on a movie star's appeal. Whatever happened to new plays and playwrights? Challenging work? Actors committed to the stage?" Miami Herald 06/02/02

POWERED BY COKE: London's West End theatres are alive with references to cocaine. "With so many coke references in front of you in the theatre, you begin to wonder just what's going on backstage. For centuries, acting - like journalism - was one of the great drinking professions. Actors and alcohol have traditionally gone together like Burton and Taylor. Yet the eclipse of the stage-drunk by the stage-junkie suggests something has changed." The Telegraph (UK) 05/30/02

REGIONAL THEATRE IN DECLINE: What happened to America's regional theatre movement? It all started so promisingly... Robert Brustein says its gone "downhill slowly but steadily, fueled by the disintegration of public finances for serious art, by dependence on the tastes of an indiscriminate subscription base, by an incursion of commercial fare into regional theaters, by the loss of a basic understanding that nonprofit theater was meant to be different than commercial theater. Over the years, nonprofit-theater executives began acting more and more like commercial producers, bringing to their communities not so much Shakespeare, Chekhov and Ibsen - not to mention new generations of playwrights - but the best of Broadway and off-Broadway." Hartford Courant 06/02/02

LONDON'S AMERICAN ACCENT: American plays and performers have invaded London's West End, dominating this summer's offerings. "It's hard to generalize about the reasons for this, but in a London too often forced to rely on revivals, there is a great hunger for energetic new writing. The spicy, stinging dialogue of so many contemporary American plays appeals to the British, as does the size and scope that the nation's drama appears to have reacquired since it emerged from the back porch in the 1980's and early 1990's." The New York Times 06/02/02

STRATFORD'S GOLDEN YEAR: Canada's Stratford Theatre Festival redefined what theatre could be outside of the world's urban centers, and this year, it turns fifty. The sleepy farming town in western Ontario has become Canada's answer to Cannes, and the golden anniversary is making headlines across the country. Edmonton Journal 05/29/02

  • IT COULD'VE BEEN FLASHIER: Stratford's 50th anniversary is the type of national event that should have been celebrated with champagne corks popping, crowds of delirious fans, and plenty of self-congratulation. "Instead, Monday's bash had all the glamour and excitement of a community centre fundraiser. The mood was feel-good in a peculiarly restrained, understated lords-and-ladies-of-Upper-Canada-on-their-best-behaviour kind of way." Toronto Star 05/29/02

AN ODE TO CHICAGO: Chicago has more than 200 theatre companies. This year's Tony award nominations were dominated by productions which had their start in Chicago. "Theater in Chicago has reached critical mass after growing steadily in size and quality since the 1980's. The Tony nominations are only the latest indication of how important this city has become as a feeder of plays not just to New York but also to other cities and countries." The New York Times 05/28/02


PRICELESS? IT'S JUST A WORD: Recent high prices for paintings gets one reporter thinking about how the value for great works of art is set. "If 'priceless' is a real concept to a museum curator, it's just a word - and a false one at that - in the calculating marketplace, where everything has a price." What would be the real-world price of some of the Art Institute of Chicago's most famous pictures? Chicago Sun-Times 06/02/02

NO SMALL MATTER: Smithsonian chief Lawrence Small has roiled the institution like none before him. "Since Small's arrival, markers of an institution in turmoil have popped up almost monthly: Directors of six museums submitted their resignations. Congress had to step in to save pioneering scientific research. A benefactor withdrew $38 million after her ideas were ridiculed by staffers. And more than 200 academics protested the "commercialization" of the Smithsonian--even faulting its decision to award the cafeteria contract at the National Air and Space Museum to McDonald's." Los Angeles Times 06/02/02

ART OF THE MEETING: Documenta is the once-every-five-years assemblage of contemporary art. "Documenta is not this year's only group show, but Kassel is definitely Rendezvous 2002 for museum directors, curators, dealers, gallery owners and collectors. They will be there because everyone will be there." The New York Times 06/02/02

TURNER SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED: The list of four finalists for Britain's controversial Turner Prize has been released. Last year, the £20,000 prize was won by Martin Creed for an empty gallery space with a flickering light. The Turner is designed to spark interest in and conversation about contemporary art, and it always manages to do so, even if much of the talk is criticism of the winning work. A sampling of the nominees' work can be found here. BBC 05/30/02

  • THIS YEAR'S LOW-OCTANE TURNER: The Tate's Turner Prize is calculated to be controversial - how better to draw attention to contemporary art? "This year, however, the judges have selected four rather cerebral, unflashy artists who are unlikely to create tabloid headlines. Of course, they are quite unknown to anyone outside the small world of contemporary art, and not one is a painter: once again, in a nation that celebrates Hockney and Freud among working artists, the judges have somehow been unable to uncover in the past year one decent show by a painter under the age of 50." Financial Times 05/31/02

TATE MODERN'S OVERDUE ANNOUNCEMENT: Vicente Todoli's appointment as the new director of Tate Modern this week caught many by surprise. Not that Todoli's not up for the job. It's just that "the job has been open so long, since founding director Lars Nittve left a year ago to head the national museum in his native Sweden, that there was some speculation that the Tate might even manage without a director." The Guardian (UK) 05/30/02

DON'T LET MUSEUMS OFF THE HOOK: In Britain, artists are protesting the way the government values art. But at least one critic believes museums and galleries are complicit in the problem. "In my view, the main problem facing these valuable national institutions is not so much their lack of money as their distorted priorities. At present these collections are not giving the pleasure and inspiration that they could. This is because their traditional functions of presenting and interpreting great works of art are undervalued in today's cultural policy circles." The Independent (UK) 05/28/02

SECURITY HOLE: What does the theft of hundreds of works of art from small European museums by a lone thief say about the museums' security measures? Most museums protect themselves against gangs and sophisticated thieves, not lone visitors who walk in and steal. "In a way, small museums are better protected at night than in the day. The buildings are usually well secured, but the objects themselves are often very poorly secured, or not at all." The New York Times 05/29/02

POLITICS OVERSHADOWS ART: A London curator was asked last year to put together a show on human rights during the Israel Festival in Jerusalem. "I chose to focus on those artists whose work had addressed identity, place and issues of displacement in other parts of the world. They, I thought, could provide models that might resonate here." He chose international artists - no Israelis, no Palestinians. But by the time the show was ready to open recently, one by one the artists had withdrawn. "Each artist offered one excuse or another. For some it was simply fear of suicide bombers. Most of the excuses were rooted in politics, or possibly ideology covering for anxiety. It is hard to argue a defense when feelings run so deep." London Evening Standard 05/28/02

ROME AWAKES: After decades of architectural slumber in which contemporary architects bypassed the city of Rome, the Italian capital has finally begun building again, and with first-class international architects. "Not all Romans welcome this new renaissance. Some decry what they call the "Los Angelization of Rome". Wired 05/27/02

SAO PAULO - ART OF DISCORD: Physically, the São Paulo Biennial is "the largest celebration of art in the world, exceeding even its better-known counterpart in Venice. But organizing such a show has always been a process fraught with controversy and adversity, and the 25th biennial has proven no exception." The controversy began long before this year's edition opened, and only intensified after the exhibitions went up. The New York Times 05/27/02


COURT - LIBRARY FILTERING ILLEGAL: A US federal court has ruled that a law forcing public libraries to install filtering software on computers available to the public is unconstitutional. The filters are meant to screen out pornographic websites, and the law required libraries to use the software or see their federal funding stopped. Librarians had opposed the law. The "court unanimously said that a federal law designed to encourage the use of filtering software violated library patrons' rights to access legitimate, non-pornographic websites." Wired 05/31/02

THAT GIANT SUCKING SOUND? Dallas is raising $250 million to build a new performing arts center. "But not everyone on the local performing arts scene considers it a friendly giant. For some, it's a voracious juggernaut set to gobble up most of the city's limited cultural money and attention. And its leftovers are unlikely to be enough to go around. Supporters of the center, and representatives of some of the smaller arts groups, argue that the attention focused on the performing arts center is a boon to the cultural scene as a whole." Dallas Morning News 06/02/02

TOO MUCH AMERICA? American TV shows are all over British television, American plays clutter London's West End, and American movies clog the cinemas. Way too much America, writes Michael Billington. "Whole weeks now go by in which, as a critic, I see nothing but American product and I learn far more about life in Manhattan or the midwest than Manchester or Midlothian. But that is merely a symbol of a far wider phenomenon in which our cultural and political agenda is increasingly set by the world's one surviving superpower. You think I exaggerate?" The Guardian (UK) 05/30/02

SPENDING DOUBLED IN A DECADE: According to data from the National Association of State Arts Agencies, state appropriations for the arts doubled between 1993 and 2002. Spending rose from $211 million in 1993 and peaked in 2001 at $447 million before declining to $419 million last year. "However, appropriation declines of $21 million in California and $5 million in New York account for nearly all of this decrease. When they are removed from total appropriations, the aggregate remains flat at zero percent change." The total should decline dramatically next year as numerous states have proposed cutting arts budgets in recent weeks. National Association of State Arts Agencies 05/02

10. FOR FUN 

FROM WILL AND GRACE TO GERMAN TV: Where do old LA sitcom writers go when they can't get work in Hollywood anymore? To Germany. "This is, evidently, one of the unexpected byproducts of a global electronic village: You can be 53-year-old Lenny Ripps or 58-year-old Ed Scharlach or 58-year-old Paula Roth, and still matter, creatively, by entertaining German television viewers." Los Angeles Times 06/02/02