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VISUAL ARTS - January 2000

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  • MODERNIZATION: Christie's turns some new corners under new leadership and modernizes its London headquarters. London Telegraph 01/31/00
  • WE LOVE BIMBOS: New generation of women artists are the "so-called Bad Girls, the latest cool school in the art world. Defying the rules of sisterhood, they elevate high-school stereotypes - the slut, the bimbo, the messed-up chick - into the realm of art." New York Times Magazine 01/30/00 (One-time registration required for entry)
  • MASTERS OF THE NEW WORLD: Prices and sales of Old Master paintings are rising in New York. Many London dealers of Old Masters have opened branches in Manhattan, leading to speculation the Big Apple may surpass London as the center of the trade. New York Times 01/31/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • SUMMING UP THE CARNEGIE: The impact of international art surveys like Pittsburgh's Carnegie International showcasing installation artists has been diluted by the proliferation of such shows and a somewhat static cast of artists. Still, there was much to ponder at this year's edition. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 01/30/00
  • CANADA DECIDES to write the history of its art. The question is: what, and whose history should it be? CBC 01/31/00
  • FLASHING MAD: English museums increasingly allow visitors to take pictures, maintaining that camera flashes don't damage artwork. Is this true? Not exactly - at minimum it ruins the possibility of a contemplative moment. And the cumulative physical effects of ultraviolet light are uncertain. London Telegraph 01/29/00
  • DAYS OF RECKONING: No one disputes Peter Eisenman's talents as an architect. But "Eisenman has defined his position in theoretical, abstract and academic terms that defy comprehension by a general audience. The audience, in turn, has responded by wondering why it should care." Six new designs should tip the balance of his reputation. New York Times 01/30/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • THE GURU OF MINIMALISM: John Pawson is the king of reductive design. "His work, which ranges from the high Zen Cathay Pacific lounge in the Hong Kong airport to the groovy chic of the Wakenabe and Wagamama restaurants in London, is so reduced to the essential, it ventures beyond the old Mies van der Rohe saw 'less is more' into a kind of New Age sacred space." Toronto Globe and Mail 01/29/00
  • ONLINE CLUB: Venerable Sotheby's got the Dotcom bug last week and went online. But galleries sell elitism, says one gallery director. “It’s a very, very private club intended not to let people in, and if it gets too big, collectors won’t want to be a part of it any more.” A risk of taking the business online? The Economist 01/29/00
  • JUST WHEN DID THE MEDIA START HATING ARTISTS? Was it art's "difficult characters?" The big-money 80's art markets? "The biggest part of the problem may be the front-of-the-book/back-of-the-book structure that ghettoizes all arts coverage, whether news or reviews, in the back pages or special sections. But news is news, and the art(s) worlds are huge industries that demand far more sophisticated news coverage than they receive." Media Channel 01/28/00
  • NEW CURATOR FOR WHITNEY: Lawrence Rinder, a respected Bay Area curator who directs the exhibitions program at the California College of Arts and Crafts, has been named curator of contemporary art at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, succeeding Lisa Phillips, who left the Whitney to become director of the New Museum in Manhattan. San Francisco Chronicle 01/28/00
  • HAS ABSTRACTION LOST ITS EDGE? "The practice of abstractionism has failed to engage creatively with the radical change in human experience in recent decades; it has, seemingly, been unwilling to re-invent itself in relation to the systems of artistic expression and viewer expectation that have developed under the impact of the mass media." Like their confreres elsewhere in the world, abstractionists in India are asking themselves an overwhelming question today: Does abstractionism have a future? Art News In India 01/00
  • ART IN THE SERVICE OF POLITICS: Hilton Kramer's had an advance peek at a description of some of the art to be included in the upcoming Whitney Biennial. And he's not amused. Or maybe that's exactly what he is... New York Observer 01/27/00
  • FROM DRAB CIVIL SERVANT TO CULTUREHOUSE: Somerset House in the heart of London was an extravagant public gesture built at the end of the 18th Century to house civil servants. Now it is being transformed into a public drawing room of culture. London Telegraph 01/27/00
  • WITNESS TO HISTORY: Madame Chiang Kai-shek was known for her shrewdness, imperious style and the power she wielded in her late husband's Nationalist Chinese regime. She's now 103 years old, and was, as it turns out, a pretty good painter in the traditional Chinese style. A show of 20th Century Chinese artists at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum includes a collection of her art. San Francisco Chronicle 01/27/00
  • DESIGN DEBACLE: Celebrated Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron were hired in 1998 to design the $70 million Blanton Museum at the University of Texas at Austin. But after drafting their ideas, the architects quickly realized that university regents had no interest in innovation - they wanted a grand design copied from the campus' existing Mediterranean style. After several volleys, the architects abandoned the project and left town. A missed opportunity, lament critics. Architecture Magazine 02/00
  • STOKED WITH INNOVATION - BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Eight years ago Ireland's Arthouse multimedia center was set up to be "one of the gleaming flagships of artistic innovation" in Ireland. But lack of funding, confusion over what it should be and a revolving door of leadership - three directors already - have pretty much everyone confused about what multimedia means. Irish Times 01/26/00
  • BETTING ON TECHNOLOGY: Youngstown, Ohio's Beecher Center, long a friend to American painting, takes a plunge on technology with a new wing to celebrate the digital artistic side. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 01/26/00 
  • KEYS TO THE CASTLE: After 27 years at the banking giant Citicorp/Citibank, ending up as vice chairman and chairman of the executive committee and nine years as the second-in-charge at Fannie Mae, America's largest investor in home mortgages Laurence Small took over the top job at the Smithsonian this week. For the Smithsonian's 6,000 employees, a "hard-knuckled business type is a shift from the long line of scientists and scholars." Washington Post 01/25/00
  • LOW-END ART: London's TAG Sales, founded five years ago, "make lips curl in the upper echelons of the art market, but they have found their niche. They are part of a growing market in affordable art aimed at people with a limited knowledge of art and even less confidence about buying it from traditional galleries, but who have vacant wall space and disposable income." London Telegraph 01/24/00
  • QUAKEPROOFING FOR ART: A $150 million retrofit of San Francisco's old public library for a museum of Asian art is the Bay Area's most ambitious museum reaction to its earthquake problem. San Francisco Chronicle 01/23/00  
  • ARTBRIDGE: The Milwaukee Art Museum is building a new landmark bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava designed to boost the museum's profile. With a length of 231 feet, topped by a 192-foot tower, the free-floating span is said to be an enineering feat of immense proportions. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 01/23/00 
  • FOR THE SOUL OF A CITY: "Joining a debate as old as the reunification of Germany itself, the President of the Berlin Chamber of Architects, has called on the city to abandon "reactionary" plans to rebuild the Emperors' Palace on Unter den Linden and instead build a future-oriented and community-friendly structure. Rebuilding the Stadtschloss, the Hohenzollern palace blown up by the East German government in 1950, would, he said, produce a fake Disney-esque facade that might become a tourist destination but would leave a hollow heart in the city." Die Welt 01/23/00
  • LIFE AS A FLAMBOYANT POSEUR: Was Salvador Dali a great surrealist painter and draftsman or merely a buffoonish public charlatan and poseur? A new 60-painting show at Connecticut's Wadsworth Atheneum begs the question. Hartford Courant 01/23/00
  • RECONCEIVING BERLIN: A new plan for Berlin's Museum Island with its five great museums marks the reorganization of Berlin’s museum holdings. The plan "advocates a return to the Hegelian universalism that underpinned the creation of the island in the nineteenth century. The five buildings, which are to be connected by a series of underground passageways, will together present an overview of European painting and sculpture from its beginnings to the nineteenth century." The Art Newspaper 01/21/00
  • ELGIN MARBLES DEBATED: All was civil at this conference until just before the end... The Art Newspaper 01/21/00
  • GUGGENHEIM AUSTRALIA? Plans for latest branch outside Melbourne. The Art Newspaper 01/21/00
    • Previously: WORLD DOMINATION: With Bilbao a hit and expansion planned for Venice, the Guggenheim eyes its next move. This time the focus is on South America. Sao Paulo, perhaps? ARTnews 01/00
  • OVERBUILDING? A dozen major arts buildings are scheduled to open around Britain this year - £400 million-worth of new museums, including the new Tate Modern - built with lottery funds. But most of them are behind schedule and half are over budget. And when they do open there are fears there might not be audiences to support them. BBC 01/20/00 
    • Tate Modern being carved out of a derelict former power station in a rundown part of London for $223 million. Expected to open in May and rank alongside New York's Museum of Modern Art and Paris' Pompidou Centre as one of the great modern art museums. Chicago Tribune 01/20/00 
  • ONLINE ART: Even a year ago trying to buy art online probably meant having to endure a cheesy experience. No longer. Online galleries and artsellers have proliferated and now represent a wide cross-section of the art world. Here's a survey. Chicago Tribune 01/20/00
  • WEBART: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art creates a $50,000 prize for web art to encourage artists to work in the medium. New York Times 01/20/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • A GOOD YEAR FOR GIVING: 1999 was a particularly good year for donations to Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, which acquired some high-quality works for its permanent collection. Los Angeles Times 01/20/00
  • JUST WHAT IS CONTEMPORARY: A writer in the New York Times recently dated the contemporary period in art as beginning in 1970, writes Hilton Kramer. Oh really? And just how are we defining "contemporary?" New York Observer 01/24/00
  • I-DON'T-GET-IT ART: "I often think the art we don't understand falls into three loose categories. First, there's the art we don't understand and hate, secretly wishing it would disappear.The other two categories are more complicated. First there's the art you don't understand and like, maybe even love. Finally there's art you don't understand or are ambivalent about, while being somewhat intrigued by or passably interested in it—at least enough to make you not dismiss it outright, though sometimes you wish you could." Village Voice 01/19/00
  • REDESIGNING BOSTON'S MFA with London's defining architect. Boston Globe 01/19/00
  • "I HATE TALKING ABOUT MY WORK." CLICK: Australian artist Tracey Moffatt's slick images could be easily dismissed by the artworld. But since an exhibition of her work at New York's Dia Center in 1997 her career has taken off. Last year she had solo shows at major institutions in Copenhagen, Paris, Boston and Barcelona. In London, she's represented by the powerhouse Victoria Miro Gallery, and in New York, she's with dealers Matthew Marks and Paul Morris. Toronto Globe and Mail 01/18/00 
  • SAATCHI'S NEW CREW: Though one might not appreciate Charles Saatchi's taste in young artists, usually there's some attitude to sink your teeth into. But the group of Europeans gathered in Saatchi's new show, are a puzzling lot. What exactly is so "ground-breaking" about them? Indeed, they seem derivative, portentous and dull, writes one critic. Financial Times 01/18/00
  • COLOR FOR KOSOVO: Coloring books drawn by well-known British artists for the children of Kosovo have become a bit hit. London Telegraph 01/16/00
  • SAVING BECKMANN: Newly released letters and telegrams reveal how Munich art dealer Günther Franke continued to support banned artist Max Beckmann through the Hitler years; how he arranged for Beckmann's painting to be smuggled from Amsterdam into Nazi Germany, sent payments to the artist and even mounted a secret exhibition. The Art Newspaper 01/14/00
  • ARTIFACT BAN: US bans import of certain Cambodian artifacts. Monuments and sites in Cambodia such as Banteay Chhmar, and Angkor, a World Heritage site, are being damaged and destroyed by the removal of sculpture and architectural elements from ancient Khmer temples for the illicit market, the US Information Agency has found. The Art Newspaper 01/14/00
  • HOLOCAUST MUSEUM CHAIRMAN RESIGNS: Miles Lerman, a businessman who fought against the Nazis in southern Poland during World War II, joined planning committees for the museum in 1978 and has been chairman since 1993, raised nearly $200 million to build the museum just off the National Mall. He directed the transition from proposal to the present full-fledged museum, which has had 14 million visitors in 6 1/2 years. Washington Post 01/14/00
  • SETTING IT RIGHT: Preliminary work to take some of the lean out of the tower of Pisa has been completed. Chicago Tribune (Reuters) 01/14/00
  • THE SCIENCE OF ART: Until recently picture conservation has been a somewhat sensual, hands-on and almost medieval craft. No longer. New scientific methods unlock secrets. "When Rembrandt painted white preparatory ground on his canvases, little did he realise that some 350 years later a scientist would be interested in the tiny fossils it contained." Financial Times 01/13/00
  • RETHINKING THE 20TH CENTURY: The Royal Academy's fascinating new show looking at what was happening in art at the turn of 1900 recreates the famed Exposition Universelle, that most glamorous of art fairs in Paris. "The idea is to show what was happening in Tokyo and Melbourne, Helsinki and New York at the very moment when Monet was painting Charing Cross Bridge and Picasso was exploring the dives and dance halls of Montmartre." London Telegraph 01/12/00
  • AUCTIONING THE CONSTITUTION: Sotheby's will auction off one of 25 original 1776 copies of the US constitution on its website. The document is expected to bring $4-6 million. Baltimore Sun (AP) 01/12/00
  • EURO-TRASHING: Charles Saatchi's at it again, reaching across the Channel for artists for the next big Sensation. London Times 01/12/00
  • GLOBAL BLANDING: A Tokyo Gap may be indistinguishable from one in New York. But there's still hope to recover from global blandishment. The future of international design, say designers, is local identity. Metropolis 01/00
  • ONLINE ART: Suddenly a number of art sellers have made major investments to get online. Will selling art online be a success? Hard to tell since no one even really has a good idea what the conventional art market is worth. ARTnews 01/00 
  • WORLD DOMINATION: With Bilbao a hit and expansion planned for Venice, the Guggenheim eyes its next move. This time the focus is on South America. Sao Paulo, perhaps? ARTnews 01/00
  • DALI AMONG HIS BELOVED TOURISTS: Not. Ironic in a Salvador Dali kind of way that the artist who hated tourists has a museum of his work in a place luring tourists. Washington Post 01/09/00
  • "SENSATION" CLOSES at the Brooklyn Museum much as it opened - big crowds, protests outside. New York Times 01/10/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • A "CAMPAIGN OF INGENUITY" In 1994 the Metropolitan Museum embarked on a $300 million campaign  for renovation and expansion. Now, with $450 million in hand, the museum has set it sights on $650 million.  New York Times 01/10/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • BEATING UP ON BEAUTY: In the 90s, notions of beauty were stirred around like ingredients in a soup. Does beauty matter any more in art? Salon 01/10/00 
  • EPIC DESIGN CHALLENGE: In remaking Berlin, architects and politicians are facing monumental challenges of history and expectation. So far, so good... Washington Post 01/09/00 
  • A NOTORIOUSLY TROUBLED RELATIONSHIP WITH CONTEMPORARY ART: New York's Metropolitan Museum was set up to be an encyclopedic collection. Nonetheless, its attitudes about art of our times have been complicated. And the museum's leadership are prickly when asked about it. New York Times 01/09/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • NEW RULES: Ground was broken on the Washington Mall last fall for the National Museum of the American Indian, set to open in 2002. Assembling and moving collections into any new facility is an enormous ritualized task. For this museum a whole new set of rules also apply. Los Angeles Times 01/09/00 
  • THE BAUHAUS: Eighty years on, the Bauhaus legacy still reverberates. London Sunday Times 01/09/00
  • SPIRIT OF COOPERATION: Los Angeles' museums are learning that collegiality and cooperation benefits them all when planning new exhibitions. A new wave of sharing erupts. Los Angeles Times 01/09/00 
  • CEZANNE STOLEN LAST WEEK IN OXFORD was not insured. The news underlines concern that many British museums are seriously underinsured. The Art Newspaper 01/07/00 
  • A TALE OF TWO MONDRIANS: It's tax credit time again - that time of year when collectors give away art to institutions (in part) to claim tax breaks. Two such gifts - one in the US, the other in London point up the differences in tax laws. New York Times 01/07/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • THE ART OF DIPLOMACY: The halls of the United Nations are filled with valuable art. But curating the collection is an art in itself. "The greatest problem facing the arts committee is preventing the United Nations from becoming a curiosity shop." Los Angeles Times 01/07/00 
  • CLEAN SWEEP: On the whole, last month's conference on the cleaning of the Elgin marbles in the 1930s was pretty decorous, despite the controversies. Until the last few minutes, of course, when "the Greek press attaché was ordered to shut up, author William St Clair was 'disinvited' from the closing dinner and for a moment it seemed as if scuffles might break out among the warring academics." The Art Newspaper 01/07/00
  • INTERNATIONAL PLEA: Versailles was badly hit by storms in the past week. Some 10,000 trees were uprooted in 90-mile-an-hour winds and the palace roof and windows were damaged. Now Versailles is trying to raise money for repairs. Versailles Storm Damage Report 01/00
  • AND THE AWARD FOR MOST SPECTACULAR... New Year's show has to go to Paris' Eiffel Tower. How'd it happen? "It took five months for a crew of 20 mountaineers and rock climbers to string the 20,000 screw-in bulbs on the 110-year-old tower and an additional month for 47 more climbers and technicians to set 4,800 pyrotechnic launches on 80 specially created tower decks." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/06/00
  • WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO LOOKING AHEAD? At the beginning of the 20th Century the future held excitement and allure. At the beginning of the 21st, we seem to be looking back a lot. Particularly in our housing. "Today's domestic architecture has got stuck in something quaint. It's like reading and rereading contemporary versions of Chekhov or Dickens without ever considering the merits of Margaret Atwood or Raymond Carver." Toronto Globe and Mail 01/06/00
  • AUSTRALIA JOINS ON: Adding to a growing international chorus asking Britain to return Elgin marbles to Greece. Sydney Morning Herald 01/06/00
  • DEATH BY BRONTE: British writer has new theory about the deaths of the Bronte sisters - and it's poisonous. CBC 01/06/00 
  • HEANEY WINS WHITBREAD: Nobel novelist Seamus Heaney wins lit award for translation of "Beowulf" BBC 01/05/00
  • IT'S A HELLHOLE: London's Millennium Dome "turns out to be the biggest fake orgasm in the history of passionate pretence. It must also be the only symbolic monument to be erected without anyone having a clue what it is meant to symbolize. Hence the banal shape, all too indicative of its hackneyed exhibition, every old broiler of an idea in the world of arts and entertainment come home to roost." London Telegraph 01/05/00
    • MAYBE NOT: Here's another critic, a self-confessed cynic who kinda sorta gets into the spirit of the Dome. London Evening Standard 01/06/00
  • NEW DIRECTOR FOR CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART: Katharine Lee Reid, currently director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, is the daughter of the Cleveland's legendary director, Sherman E. Lee, a Chinese-art scholar who ran the museum from 1958 to 1983 and built it into a leading showplace for Asian art. New York Times 1/05/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • REBORN POMPIDOU: After 27 months and a £54 million modernist fix-up, the Pompidou Museum reopens. For the first time, it is possible to properly take stock of the museum's extensive holdings from the 20th Century. London Times 01/05/00 
  • FUROR OVER NEW TRAFFIC RAMP to slice through ruins of imperial villa in Rome. CBC 01/05/00
  • AMONG THE STAID OLD MASTERS GALLERIES clustered on a London street, an upstart arrived a half-dozen years ago. Jay Jopling's Cube Gallery has brought worldwide attention to some of the most talked-about artists on the British art scene, including many of those in the “Sensation” show, which opened at the Brooklyn Museum last fall. His reaction to the Brooklyn flap? “That was great! You’d pay a million dollars to get publicity on that scale!” ARTnews 01/00 
  • ARTISTIC DICTATES: Siberia's Krasnoyarsk Lenin Museum wasn't exactly a cutting-edge institution under the previous regime. But its reincarnation into a modern art museum has been full of imagination. In 1998, the Council of Europe even designated it the best museum in all of Europe.  New York Times 01/04/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • FRANCE OPENS ITS MUSEUMS free to the public the first Sunday of every month. 01/04/00
  • URBAN RENEWAL: Think drug cartel and you probably think Colombia. Probably think Medellin, Colombia. Now Fernando Botero, Latin America's most celebrated living artist, is putting the full force of his renown behind a wide-ranging effort to overhaul the city's reputation and skyline, installing 79 of his paintings, drawings and sculptures he just donated to the Museo de Antioquia. New York Times 01/04/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • CHARLIE BROWN'S LAST DAY: After a quarter-century Charlie Brown says goodbye to the funnies. Philadelphia Inquirer 01/03/00
  • PHILADELPHIA IM-PEDIMENT: Betty Greenwood was a secretary at Atlantic Richfield Oil, a hotline counselor and lover of tennis who died in 1992. She loved a pediment filled with colorful sculptures on the Philadelphia Art Museum, which she passed each day on her way to work. When she died in 1992 she left $1 million to "add to the sculptures in any or all of the uncompleted pediments" around the building. But the job has turned into a bigger one than anyone had anticipated. Philadelphia Inquirer 01/030/00
  • INVISIBLE MAN: Sculptor Frederick Hart died last summer after a bizarre and largely ignored career. "While still in his 20's, Hart consciously, pointedly, aimed for the ultimate in the Western tradition of sculpture, achieved it in a single stroke, then became invisible 'simply because people refuse to see me.' " New York Times Magazine 01/02/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • CEZANNE STOLEN from Oxford Museum on New Year's day may have been stolen to order. BBC 01/02/00
  • UNHAPPY MARRIAGE: Wedding a big piece of public art with an enormous piece of architecture doesn't necessarily improve either for New York building. New York Times 01/02/00 (One-time registration required for entry)