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Week of July 15-21, 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


JACKHAMMERING ANTIQUITIES: Greece has been trying for years to get Britain to return the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum. Now the Greeks are building a swank museum at the base of the Parthenon to house the marbles and want to make it "so magnificent that Britain will finally bow to its demand to return" the statues. But to build the museum, authorities are destroying "a unique archaeological site" including "the impressive remains of an ancient Christian city and Roman baths, dating from the late Neolithic era to the post-Byzantine period. At the foot of the Acropolis. As bulldozers continued razing buildings surrounding the site yesterday, some 300 prominent Greek archaeologists and architects, and other leading lights in the arts and sciences, denounced the 'cultural vandalism' in a petition." The Guardian (UK) 07/15/02

CULTURE? IT'S JUST CULTURE... The battle between "high" and "low" culture has been raging for some time. But is anyone paying attention anymore? ?The curious thing about this conflict - a savage, no-holds-barred struggle to anyone professionally caught up in it - is that nine-tenths of the population barely know that it exists. Pavarotti and Puccini, the Beatles and So Solid Crew - it is all simply 'music' to the specimen radio browser or megastore CD rack sifter. The vast cultural chasm that supposedly exists between a Tchaikovsky symphony and Andrew Lloyd Webber is a matter only for the arts police." New Statesman 07/15/02

CLICK TO LEARN: It's called Net thinking. "a form of reasoning that characterizes many students who are growing up with the Internet as their primary, and in some cases, sole source of research. Ask teachers and they'll tell you: Among all the influences that shape young thinking skills, computer technology is the biggest one. Students' first recourse for any kind of information is the Web. It's absolutely automatic. Good? Bad? Who knows?" Washington Post 07/16/02


CITY BALLET FALL: A consensus seems to be building among the critics - New York City Ballet is in a state of alarming decline. Why? "The problem at City Ballet lies partly in what’s being danced. Not only is there less and less Balanchine on view, but much of what’s replacing him comes from a very different, often antagonistic, aesthetic." New York Observer 07/17/02

DANCING SOUTH AFRICA: "South African dance is the latest global trend to capture the attention of British audiences. Whether it's been Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe's ritual dances of possession, or Gregory Maquoma's wittily constructed statements of personal and political uncertainty, South African dance has seemed to display an identity refreshingly different from our own." But coming out of a culture of Apartheid, South African dance is in a precarious state, warns one of its leading practitioners. The Guardian (UK) 07/15/02

CHOREOGRAPHER KILLED: Noted Russian choreographer Yevgeny Panifilov was found stabbed to death in his apartment. "Panfilov, 47, became popular in the early 1980s when he was among the first to create a Russian modern dance group. He was particularly well known for his choreography of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet, which has been performed in major Russian theaters and around the world under his direction." Nando Times (AP) 07/15/02

AUSTRALIA'S GREATEST DANCER: Russell Page was only 33 when he died suddenly this week. Thursday he was eulogized as "perhaps the most talented dancer Australia has produced, skilled in both the old traditional dances and contemporary forms." A fiery principal dance with Bangarra Dance Theatre "Page was an amateur daredevil and a truly 'deadly'footballer, often sneaking off from dance practice to play touch footy with Redfern's street kids." Sydney Morning Herald 07/19/02


ROLL OVER, HOLLYWOOD: So you think the American movie juggernaut is rolling over all other types of film? There are signs that Hollywood is losing its grip on the world market. "The thirst for film has never been greater, but a new reality shapes the tastes of the young people watching the screen's best and worst. In Europe alone, the market share for American movies fell from 73 per cent to 65 per cent. European film is about to enjoy a renaissance of hope among a generation now wearying of the formulaic American 'product'." London Evening Standard 07/18/02

THE "GOOD WAVE": Latin-American economies might be on the ropes, but a vibrant new wave of films has emerged. The new cinema is called "la buena onda" (the good wave), and it's finding international audiences. But just as success comes, some wonder whether la buena onda is selling out to a globalized American vision of culture. The Guardian (UK) 07/19/02

LOOSENING THE CENSOR'S GRIP? In Great Britain, film ratings are not just advisory, as they are in the U.S., and children under certain designated ages are not allowed in to films with varying levels of sex and violence. But the outgoing director of the British Board of Film Classification is predicting that the U.K. will scrap the mandatory ratings within a decade, and that the country will move to a U.S.-style system as public tolerance for movie action continues to evolve. BBC 07/21/02

EMMY NOMINATIONS: Emmy nominations were announced this morning in LA, with "a first-year program, HBO's Six Feet Under, emerging to lead the field with 23 nominations. The series about a family of undertakers will literally provide some stiff competition to two-time best drama winner The West Wing." Los Angeles Times 07/18/02

SO THE KEY IS EVEN MORE REGULATION? Why does it matter that Canadian TV networks aren't producing more dramas? "A country without a healthy diet of continuing, homegrown drama is lacking in the fibre of contemporary storytelling. In every country that has even the vaguest notion of a culture and identity, there is a distinct link between the idea of itself and the fictive imagination. A country is simply inauthentic if its stories are not reflected back to itself. That's why Canadian publishing is subsidized and Canadian television is regulated." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/18/02

HOME OF THE BRAVE: Some US Republican lawmakers, concerned that a Sesame Street Muppet portrayed as being HIV-infected for the South Africa version of the show might be incorporated into the American version, wrote to PBS president Pat Mitchell to express their concern. They wrote that they "didn't think it would be appropriate to bring the Muppet to the United States." Mitchell assured them the Muppet wouldn't be introduced in the US. Washington Post 07/18/02

IS THE BBC TOO BIG? The BBC has surging ratings and dominates the broadcast life of the UK. "The corporation is a many-tentacled monster that would be unrecognisable to wireless entrepreneurs of the early 1920s. It has staff numbers that would dwarf many a small city and an annual income of £3.16 billion that, if it was a country, would make it a rival of the GDP of Iceland or Mongolia. Plainly the BBC has more global clout than either country." But does it have too much power? The Guardian (UK) 07/17/02

"RECKLESS" BREACH: In October 2000, the Australian TV show 60 Minutes aired an interview with actor Russell Crowe. During the interview Crowe pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit up. Now the Australian Broadcasting Authority has ruled that the segment and subsequent re-airings of it constituted promotion of smoking, violating Australian law. "Although there is no evidence that the interview was intended to promote smoking ... the footage in fact promoted those things, in that it encouraged smoking. In the ABA's view it is not unreasonable to expect that viewers may be influenced by Mr Crowe's behaviour and may believe that it is desirable to adopt Mr Crowe's behaviour, including smoking Marlboro cigarettes." Sydney Morning Herald 07/18/02

NO LONGER A LICENSE TO PRINT MONEY? American TV network execs are gloomy. "Only two broadcast networks - NBC and CBS - are expected to turn a profit this year. General Electric's NBC, which finished the season in first place in the ratings, expects more than $500 million in profit from the network; CBS, owned by Viacom Inc., expects network profit this year to top $150 million." Fox and ABC both expect to post big losses. Los Angeles Times 07/16/02

AT THE MOVIES: While many things in the pop culture universe seem to be riding a downward spiral (broadcast TV, cd sales, concert attendance) the movies are in the passing lane. "So far this year, box-office revenues stand at $4.71 billion, up an eye-popping 19 percent over last year's record pace. It seems nearly every weekend sets a new milestone." So why are people taking to the movies theatres? Dallas Morning News 07/14/02


ARE CONCERTS PASSE? Violinist David Lasserson has some concerns about the static nature of classical music concert. "If the life of the performance is in its sound, why should everyone face the same way, in a darkened auditorium before a lit stage? How could the mind fail to wander in such a situation? The classical concert has retained 19th-century performance protocol in providing an unchanging, formal setting for music. In the debate about how to attract young audiences to the concert hall, we have to ask questions about the concert hall itself. Is our culture too visual to support this activity? Is the end in sight for the static concert?" The Guardian (UK) 07/19/02

ATLANTA OPERA CUTS: "Feeling the sting of an unstable economy, the Atlanta Opera is laying off staff members and dealing pay cuts to top administrators to keep its $823,000 deficit in check." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 07/18/02

DETROIT LOSES ITS LAST CLASSICAL MUSIC RECORDINGS STORE: "Harmony House Classical stocks tens of thousands of CDs, videos and DVDs, ranging from the latest by composer John Adams to the obscure operas of Alexander Zemlinksky. The store has been a locus for classical music in metro Detroit for more than a decade, offering not only a huge selection but also the welcoming feel of a neighborhood tavern." Detroit Free Press 07/18/02

THE ART OF SOUND: "The borderlines among sound art, experimental music and contemporary composition used to be clearer, policed by mutual disdain. Sharing the same tiny ghetto in the rear-corner record store bins and 2-to-5-a.m. airwaves, the practitioners of these various strains of what a friend once summarized colorfully as "unlistenable, self-indulgent crap" gradually began to realize that they were playing to the same audience." LAWeekly 07/18/02

KICKING OFF THE PROMS: The BBC Proms in London may be the world's most successful large-scale classical music festival, and it kicked off again this weekend. "The 75th BBC proms features 73 concerts over two months, culminating in the famously patriotic Last Night." From crossover artists to football chants to contemporary music to the standards of the repertoire, the Proms usually has something for everyone - especially if everyone enjoys waving flags and tea towels and belting out 'Rule, Brittania" in drunken fashion. The Guardian (UK) 07/19/02

A BIT OF BACH FOR EVERYONE: Leipzig, Germany, is not a large city, but ever since the great Johann Sebastian Bach served as kapellmeister at one of its churches, the town has been a revered dot on the musical map. And since the mid-20th century, Leipzig has been home to one of the most extensive, and exclusive, libraries of scholarly material on the composer. Now, the library's Harvard-educated director wants to open up the institution's vast holdings for public perusal, rather than continuing to restrict the majority of the material for scholarly use. Funding is tight, but interest is high. Andante (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) 07/21/02

MORE REASONS WHY YOU CAN'T HAVE A STRAD: In America, the largest roadblocks to a musician gaining access to one of the world's great instruments are prohibitive cost and hoarding collectors. In Russia, the biggest stumbling block may be the cost of insurance. Rates for coverage of a Stradivarius violin or Amati viola can run thousands of dollars per year, and even the concept of insuring valuable instruments is fairly new in the former Soviet bloc. Moscow Times 07/19/02

MANY ORCHESTRAS WOULD KILL FOR THIS PROBLEM: The Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra in Mississippi is seeing its concert hall get a complete overhaul at no cost to the orchestra. Great, right? Well, it seems that the renovation includes the removal of some 200 seats, which will likely leave the GCSO with fewer seats per performance than it has ticket buyers. The orchestra isn't objecting to the plan officially, but privately, officials are worried about the financial and public relations impact. The Sun-Herald (Biloxi, MS) 07/21/02

PROTESTING ABOUT PAYNE: Prominent figures in Britain's opera world are protesting the English National Opera's dsmissal of director Nicholas Payne. In a letter to the Times, nine prominent conductors and directors, including three ex-ENO leaders, wrote that "the ENO’s treatment of a great experimenter was as dangerous for the future of opera as it was shabby. Payne is the most experienced professional still working in British opera. His sin....seems to be that he has taken too seriously ENO's tradition of being at the forefront of operatic experiment." The Times (UK) 07/18/02

DEATH OF THE ICONOCLASTS: The recent deaths of American composers Ralph Shapey and Earle Brown recall a long-gone era in American music. "Musical New York in the 1960s - when both men were casting long shadows, and mine was considerably shorter - was wonderfully astir. New names carried new hopes: Pierre Boulez, Lincoln Center, the National Endowment. Every month, or so it seemed, there was something new from Shapey... LAWeekly 07/18/02

VINYL CAFE: An increasing number of pop artists are releasing their music on vinyl. "Australian Record Industry Association figures show that unit sales of 12-inch vinyl, which plunged to an all-time low in 1998, had more than doubled by the end of 2000, since which time sales have steadied. In the same period, CD sales also rose, although more moderately, while cassettes faded into obscurity." Some audiophiles insist vinyl sound is superior to CDs (and the cover artwork is better, besides). The Age (Melbourne) 07/17/02

WORLDWIDE REQUIEM: In commemoration of the toppling of the the World Trade Center last year, there are plans for a worldwide Mozart Requiem. Each performance will take place at 8:46 AM in each time zone, beginning at the international date line. "So far, 30 choirs from Europe, Asia, Central America and the United States are scheduled to perform the piece and as many as 125 are considering participation in what organizers are calling the 'Rolling Requiem'." Nando Times (AP) 07/17/02

MONEY UP, NUMBERS DOWN: Concert grosses in the US were up 17 percent in the first half of 2002. But that's only because ticket prices are up. The average ticket price is now $51. The "top 50 concerts combined sold about 10.6 million tickets, down 300,000, or 3 percent, from last year. In 2000, 12.9 million tickets were sold in the first half of the year. 'When you've lost essentially 2 million ticket buyers in the space of a couple of years, you have to wonder where those people went and what it will take to bring them back'." Baltimore Sun (AP) 07/16/02

THE MONSTER MASH: The latest thing in music? "DJs and tech-savvy geeks are using the latest music-manipulating software to merge two original, often classic songs into a single new tune with a wild sound. Fresh enough that no one has quite settled on a name, this newest musical species is called a 'mash-up' or 'bootleg.'The resulting concoctions are strange – simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. As a market event, the mash-up signals a music-industry sea change that's toppling old-world notions of control and ownership." Dallas Morning News 07/14/02

WHAT IS LOST: The English National Opera is foolish to let Nicholas Payne, its general director, get away. "Over the past four years, the house has been producing risk-taking, energetic theatre; the place has had blood pumping through its veins. Payne may not have done a perfect job, but it is hard to think of anyone who could do it better - even split down the middle into separate artistic and managerial roles, as is now being proposed." The Guardian (UK) 07/15/02

IS CLASSICAL MUSIC DYING? If classical music is dying, then "how do you explain the surging popularity of live opera performances? Or the widespread excitement generated by organizations like the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic? Or the increase in concert attendance nationwide?" San Francisco Chronicle 07/15/02


YOUSUF KARSH, 93: The Canadian photographer died in Boston of complications resulting from an operation for diverticulitis. "The formal portrait photographer, whose lens captured the who's-who of the 20th century, sold or donated all 355,000 of his negatives to the National Archives in Ottawa and they will form the core collection of the Portrait Gallery of Canada, which is to open in 2005 across the street from Parliament Hill." Toronto Star 07/15/02

NOT PRODUCING: Henry Goodman was the victim of one of the most public firings in Broadway history when he was removed as Nathan Lane's replacement in The Producers last spring. So what happened? “Personally, I think they blew it. Of course they’d say, ‘No, no Henry, you blew it’. I just wanted the freedom to deepen my character, make him darker, more like Zero Mostel (who played the part in the original 1968 film). Just look at these letters” — he chucks down a sheaf of fan mail — “the bookings were fine. The fact is, 60,000 people saw me and no one asked for their money back. But they wanted a clone of Nathan and I wasn’t prepared to give them that.” The Times (UK) 07/16/02

LOOKING TOWARDS HOME: James Conlon is that rarest of all musical beasts: an American conductor with a global profile and the trust of European musicians. Conlon, who left America for Europe two decades ago after surmising that American orchestras do not like to hire American music directors, is looking to come home as his tenure in Cologne and Paris comes to an end. Rumor has him at the top of the list of candidates to succeed Christoph Eschenbach as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's summer festival at Ravinia, but Conlon is likely to have many options for employment the minute he makes his return to America official. Chicago Sun-Times 07/18/02


A FAME LESS FAVORED: Publishing for the scholarly world can bring the satisfaction that your peers will see your ideas. But it's a small audience and a limited fame. "Academics grumble all the time about the public's neglect, the slow pace of scholarly reviews, and the feeble publicity efforts of university presses.' So you might think that a scholarly writer would be delighted to be reviewed in the general press - the New York Review of Books, or the New York Times, say. But not always. "Scholars are justly indignant when, after spending five years mastering a subject, five months formulating a thesis, two years writing a manuscript, and another two years waiting for a press to accept and produce the book, they read a review of their work by someone who has never done research on the material." Chronicle of Higher Education 07/19/02

WRITERS' BLOAT: Writing programs have proliferated at American colleges. "In 1992 there were 55 master's of fine arts graduate programs in creative writing in American colleges. Now there are 99. The number of universities offering creative writing degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level is 330, up from 175 a decade ago." Why so many? And do they really do much for the cause of good writing? Chicago Tribune 07/14/02

WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? The New Yorker is riding a crest of reinvigoration since David Remnick took over as editor. There's no question the magazine has improved under his tenure. But in one respect the NYer is delinquent. Where are the women writers? "As it turns out, there have even been issues of The New Yorker this year where the magazine's table of contents featured no women at all, or where the only contribution by a woman was a single poem." Here's an issue-by-issue tally for the year. MobyLives 07/16/02

STEALING TO THE BEAT: Not that it's scientific, but "the books published can be examined as a sort of insight into a society's psyche. So, too, can the choice of books stolen. Which means that different categories of books are ripped off in different parts of the country, and often neighborhoods within the same city can be identified by the genre of books lifted." The New York Times 07/18/02

GET A JOB! What happens when a society turns out too many writers as writers? Their experience is narrow. How does one write cogently about the world when one's world view is narrowly born? "That these people don’t know anything about how 80% of the world gets along isn’t important. Nor is it important that, one suspects, they don’t even know anyone who knows. What is troubling is the fact they don’t seem particularly interested. The labouring classes certainly aren’t very interested in contemporary fiction, and so contemporary writers in turn ignore them. This has led to a great closing of the literary mind." GoodReports 07/17/02

MAKING READING MASCULINE: Let's face it: book clubs are a largely female phenomenon. And it's not that there's anything wrong with that, but there are men in the world who like to read and discuss books too, and some of them have apparently been having a hard time finding forums to do so. Why book clubs seem to be required to be single-gender affairs is anyone's guess, but a Canadian library is on the verge of launching Men With Books, a club designed to lure the y-chromosome crowd with "a stack of testosterone-fuelled reading material chosen to help ease men into the chatty intimacy of a book-club environment." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/20/02

SOME KIND OF SHOPLIFTER: Barnes & Noble keeps some books off its shelves and behind the counter. Why? No it's not censorship. Sometimes a book gets held behind the counter because it's just so gosh darn popular, and the good folks at B&N know their customers don't walk all the way to the far ends of the store to find them. The other way books get behind the counter is if they make the most-stolen list. But really - Martin Amis? JD Salinger? That's some kind of shoplifter. MobyLives 07/15/02


BRITISH THEATRE DISCRIMINATION: A new survey reports that British theatre institutions discriminate against Asian and black administrators. "Carried out in 2000 and 2001, the survey of more than 75 arts organizations and 65 black and Asian performing arts administrators and managers found that 86 percent of those questioned had personally experienced racism in their careers and within arts organizations." Yahoo! 07/17/02

HIP-HOP GOES LEGIT, YO, WITH PLENTY OF CRED: Traditionalists may not like it, but the hip-hop movement has officially invaded nearly every aspect of American culture. From its humble beginnings as a two-turntables-and-a-microphone experiment to today's multi-billion-grossing empire of superstars, hip-hop is influencing music, art, poetry, and theatre just as rock did back in the Beatles' heyday. The latest infiltration is on the so-called "legitimate" stage, where DJ's are replacing orchestras and the theatrical nature of rap performances is being incorporated into the relatively tame world of drama. The hope is that such crossovers will help to stem the tide of gray among theatre audiences. Washington Post 07/19/02

THE MAKING OF A HIT? Is Hairspray the next The Producers? Some are beginning to think so. The Seattle tryout earned rave reviews. "By the end of the Seattle run, the tickets are sold out in town; the audiences keep getting better-and-better-dressed as it becomes more of an event. On the strength of the reviews, the New York advance sales numbers are creeping up to $5 million - not the $14 million advance of The Producers, but a strong showing nonetheless." The show opens on Broadway this week. New York Magazine 07/15/02

HAVING IT ALL: Is there a difference between musical theatre and opera? If so, where's the line? "To explore that point, the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York presented a rather daring experiment earlier this year: the first act of an opera performed twice — by a musical theater cast before the intermission, and then by an opera cast. If lobby chat and questionnaires filled out by the audience reveal anything, most people preferred the beauty of the opera-trained voices and the passion and movement of the theater cast. They wanted it all, and why not?" The New York Times 07/14/02


ARCHITECTURE OF FEAR: Los Angeles is redesigning LAX, its airport. It's a long-overdue makeover. And yet it reflects the nation's apparent paranoia about security after last September 11. The plan "signals a significant shift in how we view the public realm. It sacrifices freedom of mobility for the illusion of invulnerability and the demands of continual surveillance. As such, it represents a new architecture of fear." Los Angeles Times 07/19/02

PAINTING ON THE ROPES? "Judging from the two big international shows in Europe this summer, one might almost conclude that painting is no longer a viable art form. There's barely a canvas to be seen in either Documenta 11, the latest version of the global survey that takes over Kassel, Germany, every five years, or its no-frills, equally earnest doppelgänger, Manifesta 4, a short train ride away in Frankfurt. Instead, video — that sleek, cost-efficient, hypnotizing successor to installation art — and photography rule the international survey circuit. Perhaps quixotically, museums in two other European cities have taken the opposite tack, mounting exhibitions devoted to painting alone." The New York Times 07/21/02

CLOSING THE PRICE GAP: "For the first time in recent auction history, the huge gap separating Impressionist and Modern paintings from Old Masters was almost bridged last week at a Sotheby's sale, where a Rubens set a record for the Flemish master at £49.5 million ($76.6 million). In fact, it could be argued that Old Masters are running ahead since the sale." An isolated anomaly, or a sign of auction reality to come? International Herald Tribune (Paris) 07/20/02

ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL: The fault for the decidedly substandard proposals for New York's memorial to the victims of 9/11/01 does not lie with the city's developers alone, says Joel Budd. "Because of many conflicting pressures, the Development Corporation has not been allowed to make its decisions in peace. The families of those killed on September 11 have formed two pressure groups - September's Mission, and the Coalition of 9/11 Families - to try to prevent development on the site. They are opposed by three local organisations" which want mixed-use development on the site. In other words, politics has once again overshadowed real progress, but that doesn't change the basic reality that the six design proposals are just not good enough. The Telegraph (UK) 07/20/02

THE PEEP SHOW: Toronto's Harbourfront Centre has something of a PR problem on its hands following the gallery's efforts to shield its more sensitive patrons from a painting it feared would spark controversy for its explicit sexual content. The painting in question (which depicts a sexual act with racial and political overtones) was not removed from the Centre, but placed "on display" in a closed case with a small peephole in it, along with a warning about the content. The artist, surprisingly enough, is not thrilled with the arrangement. Toronto Star 07/21/02

GREAT WALL IN PERIL: Experts warned this week that the Great Wall of China is endangered by increased tourism, graffiti, and unauthorized construction. "Peddlers have put up unauthorized ticket booths and ladders and collect money from Chinese and foreign tourists venturing to its wilder sections." Discovery 07/17/02

THE RAPHAEL BEHIND THE PAINT: A Renaissance painting of a Madonna by a disciple of Raphael was in fact directed by the master himself. Scientists used an infrared device to peer behind the paint and discovered "the outlines of a picture almost identical to a Raphael sketch owned by Oxford's Ashmolean Museum. The original idea for the painting, its conception and the layout of the figures is almost certainly Raphael's." BBC 07/18/02

HARVARD CANCELS MUSEUM PLANS: Harvard has canceled plans to build a new museum which was to have been designed by Renzo Piano." It's a body blow to the mood of robust expansion that had prevailed among Boston-area museums - at least until the recent dive in the stock market. It greatly weakens recent signs the Boston area was on the verge of becoming a significant center for contemporary art. It makes the new Harvard administration look like philistines and the community that opposed the museum look parochial and petty." Boston Globe 07/17/02

FOUR CONNECTICUT MUSEUMS TO CLOSE? Because of huge state budget cuts, four Connecticut historical museums may have to close. "The approximately 44 percent reduction in state aid means either the museums, which employ 12 people, or the Connecticut Historical Commission's preservation division will have to close. The preservation office works to protect the state's cultural resources and has 10 staff members." Hartford Courant 07/17/02

THE NBT'S (NEXT BIG THINGS)? So what is to take the place of the YBA's since the Young Brit Artists aren't so young anymore and their ideas are getting a bit too familiar? Richard Dorment thinks the Whitechapel Gallery's new show is a door to the future. "All five of the artists in the show are terrifically talented, but one in particular, 29-year-old Gary Webb, is the most original young artist I've come across in almost 15 years of writing art criticism." The Telegraph (UK) 07/17/02

UNABLE TO ACQUIRE: Britain's major museums have slashed their budgets for acquisitions of art. "Twenty years ago the five museums and galleries we examined received £7,897,000 in grant-in-aid specifically for acquisitions. This year they are allocating just £855,000—down nearly ten times. The fall in real terms is even greater, because of inflation. Art prices have probably tripled, which means that government grant in aid for acquisitions was effectively nearly 30 times higher two decades ago than it is today." The Art Newspaper 07/14/02

MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY PICTURE: An astonishing 5.5 million visitors go to the Louvre each year to see the Mona Lisa. It's a great painting, sure. But its fame is the product of many things... The New Republic 07/15/02

TO OWN A HITLER: Hitler was a painter - but one with modest talent. Nonetheless, "there is a busy and lucrative trade in Hitler's artwork mostly watercolours, a few oils, lots of hand-painted postcards (some of which were actually sent and include birthday salutations and wish-you-were-here vacation greetings on the flip side), and a few 1-by-2-inch miniatures that reveal an obsession with architectural detail. What does it mean now, half a century later, to own a Hitler, to hang it in a place of honour in your front hall, to want it so badly that you fight the government for decades for the right to call it your own?" The Age (Melbourne) 07/15/02


BUZZING THE BUZZWORDS: "Two keywords - innovation and challenge - dominate the discussion of contemporary art the world over. But both shy away from the real issue. The big question is this: what makes a work of art really good - really profound, beautiful, moving, serious? Instead of directly addressing this great issue, there is a tendency to concentrate on secondary matters. Like whether what the artist is doing has been done before or whether it stands in opposition to what is taken to be popular belief. It's not that innovation and challenge are in themselves bad. It's just that they don't make much headway in helping us to understand how art can matter to us." The Age (Melbourne) 07/19/02

SNOB APPEAL: Joseph Epstein traces the roots of snobbery in America in his new book. "The phenomenon, he argues, was more or less nonexistent before the early 19th century, despite the proliferation of kings and dukes all over the map. Snobbery feeds on social uncertainty, and in a rigidly organized society with clear and mostly hereditary class distinctions, no one could hope for upward mobility or fear the loss of status failure." Salon 07/18/02

WHY NOT CLEVELAND? Cities from San Francisco to Seattle to Boston have proven that the arts are an investment that comes back to reward the larger economic climate of a region handsomely. So why are some cities so hopelessly unable to master the concept? In Cleveland, arts advocates are struggling with old attitudes and embarrasingly transparent ploys. "Many of the city's students and young workers can't develop careers here because Cleveland's dull image doesn't attract enough activity in their chosen fields. Isolated neighborhoods and marooned campuses discourage their efforts to form collaborations and a sense of community. Worse, perhaps, some of Cleveland's attempts to make itself enticing are so outmoded that hip, in-demand workers are writing the city off as clueless." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 07/21/02

BUMPING UP CULTURE: The British government propses to give arts and culture a funding increase of £75 million next year. Along with the funding came a pledge to "maintain free access to Britain's national museums, saying attendance at museums had risen by 75% since the government abolished entry fees last year." Under the proposal, "funding to culture, media, sport and tourism would rise from £1.3bn in 2002 to £1.6bn by 2006." BBC 07/15/02

HOUSE VOTES NEA INCREASE: The US House of Representatives voted an increase in the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts Wednesday. "In a 234-192 vote, the House agreed to increase the NEA budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 by $10 million, to $126 million. The same amendment to a spending bill for public lands programs and cultural agencies boosted funds for the National Endowment for the Humanities by $5 million to $131 million." Nando Times (AP) 07/17/02

10. FOR FUN 

BUYING REJECTION: Some very big publishers and recording companies are selling writers and composers the "opportunity" to be considered for publication by professional editors and producers. Wait - isn't that the job of editors and producers to look at new material? "I guess this is an improvement over the Famous Writer's School and Famous Artist's School of my childhood," writes Kurt Andersen, but surely it's just a setup for rejection. Public Arts 07/18/02