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VISUAL ARTS - January 2002

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Thursday January 31

YA GOTTA BELIEVE IN IT, AT LEAST: The director of London's Institute for Contemporary Art - a hotbed of conceptual art - has called for the sacking of the organization's chairman of the board. A few weeks ago, chairman Ivan Massow derided current conceptual art and many of the artists who practice it as a waste of time. The Guardian (UK) 01/30/02

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

IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM... "In a move which sees traditional business capitulate to the new economy, US online auctioneer eBay says it is collaborating with the venerable UK firm of Sotheby's. The two will work together in the online environment, hoping to put more expensive art on eBay and drive more customers to Sotheby's." BBC 01/31/02

QUESTIONING NATIONHOOD: The new chairman of the National Museum of Victoria in Melbourne suggests the "National" designation be taken out of the museum's name. "Why should the National Gallery of Victoria say it is the national gallery when it isn't? It's the Melbourne Gallery. We have the MCG, Melbourne Park, the Victorian Arts Centre, and they all make sense." The Age (Melbourne) 01/31/02

EXPANSION PLANS IN PHILLY: "The Philadelphia Museum of Art, which ran out of exhibition space in the mid-1970s, is finally ready to expand. It announced yesterday that it had hired a nationally known museum designer to convert a landmark art deco building on Pennsylvania Avenue into galleries and offices... The renovations will take about two to three years and cost $25 million, museum director Anne d'Harnoncourt said." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/31/02

LEAVING FILM BEHIND? Is New York's Museum of Modern Art getting out of its commitment to the art of film? "Employees at MoMA say that the museum’s film department—created by its founder, Alfred Barr, in 1935, and unparalleled in its role elevating film to an art form and the director to the status of an auteur—is being dealt a terrible blow in the name of museum progress." New York Observer 01/30/02

POMPIDOU AT 25: "The Pompidou Centre, one of France's most celebrated cultural and tourist attractions, still has the power to shock 25 years after it first opened its doors. But opinion is divided as to whether it is, or ever was, at the forefront of the country's artistic scene." BBC 01/31/02

Wednesday January 30

REBUKING THE LOUVRE: French culture minister Catherine Tasca has publicly rebuked Henri Loyrette, the new director of the Louvre. Loyrette had earlier lamented that "budget restrictions required the museum to close one-quarter of its galleries every day because of a shortage of security guards." Tasca accused Loyrette of lack of discipline and grandstanding. "Tasca's reprimand has stunned many of France's cultural leaders, not only because bureaucratic power struggles rarely go public here." The New York Times 01/30/02

  • STATUES IN THE LOUVRE: "France and Nigeria have come to an agreement over the provenance of three statues on display at the Louvre museum in Paris. The three 1,500-year-old terracotta figures, known as the Nok statues, were uncovered during a mining operation in Nigeria in the 1990s. Nigeria has agreed to allow the statues to remain in Paris on a 25-year renewable basis in return for France's admission that they are undisputedly the property of Nigeria." BBC 01/30/02

ANCIENT DIVIDE: A prominent New York antiquities dealer has gone on trial charged with dealing in ancient objects said to have been smuggled out of Egypt in the early 1990s in violation of Egyptian law. "The case, seen by many as a test of the American government's resolve on stolen antiquities, has divided the art world. It has sent a chill through antiquities dealers who fear more aggressive policing in an area where proof of provenance can be hard to come by, and it has greatly cheered archaeologists who hope that such prosecutions will help cool the illicit antiquities trade." The New York Times 01/30/02

REPATRIATING KOREAN ART: Most of the controversy over plundered art and artifacts centers on Western nations as the culprits. "But the story of Japan's plunder of Asia and in particular of Korea, where the worst abuses occurred, remains relatively unexplored. While conspiracy theories of hidden troves of gold looted by the Japanese abound, there has been little serious research into the issue of stolen art and artifacts." Time 02/04/02

Tuesday January 29

TURNING AGAINST TURNER: It's not often that Turner seascapes come up for auction, and the market for Turners right now is brisk. So why did JMW Turner's spectacular seascape Sheerness as Seen from the Nore fail to find a buyer at Christie's in New York on Friday? "It is entirely psychological," said one dealer. "It is absurd because it is still the same picture but people feel that if it has been offered around then there must be something wrong with it." The Telegraph (UK) 01/29/02

NEW BUILDING = NEW ART: "The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is deep into a massive building boom, with 11 major capital projects in the works... Because the university has a policy that calls for each major construction project to be accompanied by a major artwork, that means an art binge, too. And that... meant finding a curator for what is growing into an important collection of public art, one that already includes major works by the likes of Picasso and Calder." Boston Globe 01/29/02

JUSTICE MAY BE BLIND BUT NOT ASHCROFT: Washington's Justice Department building has a Great Hall where department events and ceremonies are held. The grand room is decorated in Art Deco style, and the walls feature great figures in history. Also two enormous partially nude statues - "on the left, the female figure represents the Spirit of Justice; the male on the right is the Majesty of Law." But it seems that Attorney General John Ashcroft, known as a "strongly religious and conservative man" is embarrassed by the statues, so the department has ordered the statues be covered up with draperies installed last week "at a cost of just over $8,000." 01/28/02

AT LEAST YOU KNOW WHAT IT'LL SELL FOR: The artist commissioned by the People's Republic of China to design the nation's new currency notes hesitated to accept the assignment, perhaps suspecting that the populace might not be thrilled with yet another slew of Mao Tse-Tung portraits in their wallets. He was right: the new bills are getting panned left and right, on artistic, political, and aesthetic grounds. Washington Post 01/29/02

KEEPING ALICE IN WONDERLAND: "The British government has extended a temporary export ban on a set of rare photographs of the little girl who inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. An unidentified collector from the United States paid more than $4.2 million for letters, manuscripts and photos at a Sotheby's auction last June." CBC ArtsCanada 01/28/02

Monday January 28

MAKING THE SMITHSONIAN SMALL: Milo Beach, former director of the Freer Gallery, joins the growing chorus of those who believe that Smithsonian chief Lawrence Small has ruined the Smithsonian: "Judging from recent words and deeds, the present administration of the institution views the life of the mind with astonishing indifference. The secretary, for example, spoke to the assembled staff of the National Museum of American History and left the distinct impression with many that the day of curiosity-driven research was over at the Smithsonian." Washington Post 01/27/02

FRENCH MUSEUMS SUFFERING: Last year was a disaster for Parisian museums. After September 11, attendance dropped by as much as 30 percent. Aggressive security scared off some visitors, and strikes at some museums meant that even if you did try to visit a gallery, it might be closed. "At the Louvre, visitor numbers for 2001 have fallen to 5.2 million compared to 6.1 million in 2000, down by 13.9%. This includes all the visitors admitted for free during the strikes. If only the paying visitors are compared, numbers are down by almost 25%." The Art Newspaper 01/25/02

FASHION COURT: One of America's top visual arts critics turns his studied eye on sports teams' uniforms. The top? New York Yankees, of course (Peter Plagens is a New Yorker, after all). At the bottom? The Houston Rockets, who have not only the worst uniforms but the worst logo... Newsweek 01/25/02

Sunday January 27

THE WEIGHT OF EXPECTATION: When it opened 25 years ago, Paris' Pompidou Centre was meant to stem a sense of decline in French art. But while the building has been an undeniable success in other ways, the Pompidou "did nothing to reverse that decline. For all its architectural radicalism, it has not infused new energy into French culture. Visitors come to see its outstanding collection of classic modern art - the art of Picasso, Braque and Matisse - or for temporary exhibitions on the same subject. Almost without exception, what is of interest had been created before 1971. The contribution of the Pompidou Centre, and indeed Paris, to art since that date has been minimal." The Telegraph (UK) 01/26/02

WHAT ROCKWELL MEANS TO THE GUGGENHEIM (OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND?): "Until very recently, any art insider would have found the notion of the Guggenheim playing host to a Rockwell show laughable and absurd. Founded as the Museum of Non-Objective Art, the museum promoted abstract art - art that depicts no object - and opposed everything Rockwell stood for." But he brings in the crowds and "it was a win-win situation, so the Guggenheim sold its soul and signed onto the exhibition tour, and in so doing ratcheted up Rockwell's reputation and legitimized a show other museums might have regarded as a dangerously kitschy gamble." Baltimore Sun 01/27/02

BUILDING MONOPOLY: "Should 15 or 20 starchitects be designing all the world's great buildings? What does it mean if every city has its Gehry, its Koolhaas, its Calatrava?" Everyone seems to want them - "starchitects, those celebrity designers whose buildings are as recognizable as a corporate logo or an Armani suit. Everyone from museum presidents to real estate developers is signing them up--in part because they are world-class talents, but also because they get publicity, change images, sell office space, draw crowds and maybe even improve a university's pool of applicants." Chicago Tribune 01/27/02

RUSH TO MEMORY: Why rush to produce memorials for the events of September 11? There are so many proposals and ideas. "This is partly because America's hurry-up, need-it-now culture can't spare the time to let consensus develop organically. We're too impatient to let historical perspective determine what is sufficiently important to cast in bronze. Still we insist on public memorials, even though interest-group politics complicates the process considerably. No public monument can satisfy everyone, but today, it seems, it's difficult for a monument to satisfy anyone." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/27/02

Friday January 25

POLLOCK'S MATHEMATICAL APPEAL: A mathematician contends that Jackson Pollock's drip painting appeals to the logic "not in art but in mathematics, specifically in chaos theory and its offspring, fractal geometry. Fractals may seem haphazard at first glance, yet each one is composed of a single geometric pattern repeated thousands of times at different magnifications, like Russian dolls nested within one another. In Jackson Pollock's drip paintings, as in nature, certain patterns are repeated again and again at various levels of magnification." The Age (Melbourne) 01/25/02

BANKING ON ART: The venerable Scottish bank Fleming's has been sold to American banker Chase Manhattan. "The question is: apart from the bank and the trusts, what would become of the Fleming art collection - the largest and most important collection of Scottish art outside Scotland?" The Scotsman 01/25/02

CLEOPATRA GETS A MAKE-OVER: A new exhibition at Chicago's Field Museum "goes a long way toward rehabilitating the most famous woman who ever lived. In the attempt to separate history from myth, Egyptologists, art historians, and other antiquarians now see [Cleopatra] as a fine stateswoman, a strong queen, and an ingenious politician." Christian Science Monitor 01/25/02

Thursday January 24

PAINTINGS DESTROYED IN FIRE: Paintings by Gauguin, Rembrandt and Tintoretto worth millions of pounds have been destroyed in a fire at the home of an art collector in Croatia. Evidently the art was not insured because the owner "wanted to stop thieves from finding out about them." Ananova 01/15/02

THE SMITHSONIAN PROBLEM: In the weeks after September 11, attendance at the Smithsonian museums plunged 40-45 percent as tourists stayed away from Washington. Over the week between Christmas and New Year's visitor numbers bounced back up, leading to hope that things were getting back to normal. But January has busted again - the second week of January numbers were down 55 percent. "Life at the Smithsonian, said Lawrence Small [the Smithsonian's secretary], is "a dramatically different situation" than last summer, when an attendance record seemed likely." Washington Post 01/23/02

CONTEMPORARY ART THAT HAS TO BE REINVENTED: Documenta is one of the most anticipated forums for contemporary art. This year's edition is supposed to open in Kassel, Germany in May, but even now it's difficult to get a sense of what exactly will open. "It is certainly true that the Documenta has to be reinvented every time. It does not exist in the sense of an institution that can by definition guarantee continuity. Inevitably, curators believe they have to come up with a completely new idea rather than merely gathering all the art world's current representatives together in Kassel." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/24/02

CRITIC'S ART COLLECTION TO BE SOLD: "The private collection of David Sylvester, who helped to create the reputation of artists such as Francis Bacon, is predicted to fetch at least £1m at a Sotheby's auction next month." The Guardian (UK) 01/23/02

QUITE A GLASSY NEIGHBORHOOD: A new exhibition of glasswork taking place in a park in one of Chicago's more dubious neighborhoods is drawing record numbers of visitors and comparisons to the city's 'Cows on Parade' project a few years back. "But the cows, for all their charm, were a public relations stunt, a gimmick to draw the tourists. [Artist Dale] Chihuly is a serious artist and the Conservatory is a serious educational installation. Both hoped their show would draw viewers but no one expected it to touch Chicagoans in the way it has." Chicago Tribune 01/24/02

Wednesday January 23

CHAGALL IN KANSAS: "A painting believed to be a Marc Chagall work stolen last year from the Jewish Museum in New York City turned up at a postal installation in Topeka, Kansas." Nando Times (AP) 01/22/02

NOTHING BEATS PARIS: London's Royal Academy show of art from Paris is a big cliche - but a good one. "There they all are: the artists, the models, the romances and mistresses, the Moulin Rouge and Montparnasse, the demitasse and demimonde, the feuds, the fads, the philosophes. Paris and culture — or modern culture at least — go together like Gauloise and a Gallic shrug. Paradoxically, it was probably because 19th-century France was so obstinately old-fashioned that it became a magnet for modernity." The Times (UK) 01/23/02

DOES NOT PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS: Because artists are often highly individualistic people, artistic collaborations are generally fragile constructions. When, on top of that, the collaboration is national as well as personal, chances are someone will be unhappy about it. That's what happened to the shared Czech-Slovak pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year. Central Europe Review 01/22/02

Tuesday January 22

PARIS ON THE WANE? A new show in London examines the place of art in Paris. "Perhaps it is the problem of Paris - too many echoes, too many connections, too much art and history. Maybe this is why Paris is no longer, in 2002, capital of the arts. 'Why did Paris decline?' is the big, unanswerable question of the exhibition." The Guardian (UK) 01/22/02

  • FADED PARIS: Since national schools of art faded away into globalization, Paris has lost its claims to be central to the world of art. "Paris has surrendered - not without a fight - to New York and possibly even London. Whenever I travel to Paris I have the feeling that I am entering a museum city, a place not only replete with magnificent museums, but a city whose very appearance has been turned into an exhibit. It is difficult to take a photograph of Paris and not produce a visual cliche." Financial Times 01/22/02
  • CLEANING UP THE CLUTTER: Is there too much advertising in Paris - those unsightly signs and billboards disfigure otherwise handsome neighborhoods. Now there's an initiative to clean up some of the visual clutter. The Art Newspaper 01/22/02

TRUCK ON: Artist Ben Long has adopted the back ends of dirty trucks as his medium of choice. "Under his skilled hand, graphic images of people, animals and objects appear in the grime on trucks parked over weekends at New Covent Garden Market, which Mr Long, 23, has turned into his open-air 'studio'." London Evening Standard 01/22/02

TAUBMAN APPEALS: Former Sotheby's chairman Alfred Taubman, convicted in December of price-fixing, has filed a motion for a retrial, saying the case against him was presented unfairly. Among other things, Taubman says the government was "wrongly allowed to read a quotation at trial from Adam Smith to the effect that higher prices invariably result when people in the same trade meet." The Art Newspaper 01/22/02

Monday January 21

REMMING UP: "For years, Rem Koolhaas was famous as an innovative architect who’d built almost nothing but had written the fabulous cult book “Delirious New York.” When he won architecture’s top prize, the Pritzker, in 2000, he still had almost no projects in the United States. But now, look out. Koolhaas’s unorthodox architecture is invading America, starting with the launch last October of a Guggenheim branch in Las Vegas." Newsweek 01/28/02

GUNS INTO ART: Since the civil war in Mozambique ended 10 years ago, some 200,000 guns, grenades and rocket-launchers have been turned into the government, which has in turn given many of them over to artists. The artists have been making sculptures out of the weapons... The Art Newspaper 01/19/02

MOVIE THEATRE ART: In the 1980s, when theatre entrepreneur Garth Drabinsky ran the Cineplex Odeon movie theatre company, he took the unusual step of commissioning 52 large-scale works of art for some of the 2000 theatres the company operated in North America. Now Cineplex has gone bankrupt and the art has been removed; some of it has been sold, and the rest... Toronto Star 01/20/02

Sunday January 20

TRYING TO SAVE THE SOUTH BANK: "What is wrong with the South Bank? For some people, it is a question of the nature of a large slice of central London. Sixties concrete architecture and flawed, confused planning have combined to blight what ought to be one of the most vibrant parts of the city." Now, with the center's director recently resigned, the challenge to complete (and correct) one of the UK's most ambitious cultural projects is greater than ever. The Observer 01/20/02

  • SCORE ONE FOR THE LITTLE GUYS: "According to one of Britain's most respected planners, provincial England is now teaching London a lesson in how to take big, prestige projects of international stature from the drawing board to reality. Sir Peter Hall, northern born and resident of London, says that while the capital is good at talking big, its ability to match cities like Manchester and Birmingham - or the new partnership of Newcastle and Gateshead - with new stadiums, concert halls, art galleries, and bold architecture, leaves much to be desired." The Guardian (UK) 01/18/02

REARRANGING THE DECK CHAIRS: "Long unwilling to recognize that dwindling art supplies threaten their very survival in the long run, auction houses behave like politicians seeking re-election in uncertain times." And while the situation is becoming dire enough that even the biggest houses are making cuts and trimming staff, the whole exercise has the reek of a too-little-too-late fiasco. International Herald-Tribune (Paris) 01/19/02

GIOTTO AL FRESCO: One of the world's most beautiful and innovative Renaissance-era frescoes is nearly ready to be reopened to the public. Giotto's famous masterpiece in Padua's Scrovegni chapel has been undergoing a painstaking restoration for nearly a quarter century, a project which included the passage of new air pollution laws to protect the chamber, and brought together 14th-century artistry and 21st-century technology. BBC 01/20/02

FIGHTING FOR RESPECT: "In terms of worldwide prestige and exposure, there's no denying it. People have been looking to Los Angeles as an alternative art center for at least a decade." So why is it the same old crop of East Coast cities that still hog the spotlight? Washington Post 01/20/02

WHAT HAPPENED TO PARIS? Devoted Francophiles would deny it, of course, but it's been several decades since Paris lived up to its reputation as a capital of the art world. A new exhibition in London reviews the great days of Parisian art in the first half of the 20th century, but such retrospectives make the absence of a similar legacy in any period since the 1960s intriguing. After centuries of producing some of the world's best cutting-edge art, why has Paris now relinquished its enviable place in the world of art? The Guardian (UK) 01/19/02

  • NOTHING HAPPENED, PARIS IS FINE: "Those who dread dark days ahead on the American cultural front owe themselves a visit home [to Paris.] This season, several events should serve to reinforce Franco-American ties, especially those stretching between Paris and New York." The New York Times 01/20/02 (one-time registration required for access)

A FLAWED CONCEPT? You know the row over conceptual art is getting serious when a major gallery chief faces calls for his resignation (and his head) after taking a few shots at purveyors of the controversial style. Specifically, Ivan Massow, head man at the UK's Institute of Contemporary Arts, declared most conceptual art to be "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat... It is the product of over-indulged, middle class (barely concealed behind mockney accents), bloated egos who patronise real people with fake understanding." BBC 01/18/02

CHICAGO'S NEW MASTERPIECE: "Chicago is revered as a city of masterpieces by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, but its design reputation rests in many ways on a foundation of first-rate second-tier buildings -- thoughtfully conceived, carefully detailed structures that bring real quality to the cityscape even if they do not regularly elicit 'oohs' and 'ahs.' The latest in this line of quietly distinguished performers is the UBS Tower, which is named for its prime tenant, the Union Bank of Switzerland, and it is downtown's first multitenant skyscraper in a decade." Chicago Tribune 01/20/02

PUTTING IT ON PAPER: "From interlocking, tubular towers to a building with holes already built into it, about 50 architects and artists are now displaying their visions of how to rebuild the decimated World Trade Center site." Some of the designs are serious architectural proposals, some are whimsical futuristic designs, and some may even catch the attention of New York officials who will eventually decide what will rise in place of the Twin Towers. Nando Times (AP) 01/18/02

Friday January 18

THE PROBLEM WITH BEING LITERAL: The New York Fire Department has announced it will consider "new options" for a memorial to September 11, after the department was criticized for planning to depict three firemen raising the American flag at Ground Zero in a statue. A famous AP picture of the flag-raising showed three white firefighters, but the department planned a statue with one white, one black and one latino firefighter. Washington Post 01/18/02

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

BUT WE WERE ALWAYS FREE... The British Museum is having to reduce hours and lay off workers. "A large number of its greatest treasures closed to the public for most of the day in a bid to recoup some of its £5m deficit. Already 23 of its galleries, including the mausoleum of Halikarnassos, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and its most important Indian collection, are only open for 3 hours a day." The BMA has long had free admission, but while museums who had been charging were recently "given £28m by the government to compensate for the introduction of free admission, the British Museum and the others who stuck by the principle of free admission claim they have been given nothing. Curators are furious that they have been punished for taking a stand the government later endorsed." The Guardian (UK) 01/17/02

THE MUSEUM WITH NO ART: The National Gallery of Victoria closed two years ago for a major redevelopment. It won't reopen permanently again for two more years. But as an Australia Day treat, the public will be allowed inside to see what's been done so far and what's still to be done. There's no art, but... The Age (Melbourne) 01/18/02

UZBEKISTAN PAINTINGS RECOVERED: Five stolen paintings from the Tashkent Museum, worth $2 million, have been recovered by police in Uzbekistan. "The paintings were stolen in October from the Tashkent Fine Arts Museum by thieves who hid in the museum during the day and took the artwork after it had closed. A security guard on duty that night committed suicide after the theft." Nando Times (AP) 01/17/02

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

  • THE TIP OF A POLITICALLY-CHARGED ICEBERG: The Elgin marbles and the Ethiopian obelisk are in the news, but they're only a tiny fraction of the museum pieces at stake. If artIfacts were routinely sent back to their country of origin, most Western museums would be stripped. Are those pieces legitimate art, the property of the possessor? Or are they plunder? And does it matter when the work was taken in the first place? Tough questions. So far, no comfortable answers. BBC 01/18/02
  • Previously: MP's BACK MARBLES' RETURN TO GREECE: A group of 90 British members of parliament have formed a group to put pressure on the British Museum to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics. The Guardian (UK) 01/16/02

Thursday January 17

MP's BACK MARBLES' RETURN TO GREECE: A group of 90 British members of parliament have formed a group to put pressure on the British Museum to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics. The Guardian (UK) 01/16/02

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

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

NEW DE YOUNG MUSEUM APPROVED: San Francisco officials have finally given permission to the de Young Museum to build a new museum in Golden Gate Park. "The latest lingering controversy had been over the building's proposed design - especially the inclusion of a 144-foot tower that will house classrooms, a library, an artists' studio and observation deck." San Francisco Chronicle 01/16/02

BLAME THE ARCHITECTS: The city of Toronto almost had Rem Koolhaas and Santiago Calatrava, two of the hottest architects working today, building buildings in the city. But stewards of the projects managed to chase the pair off their respective projects... what's it take to get a good project built here? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/16/02

GALLERY WANNABES: Traditionally, galleries have sold artists' fresh contemporary work. Auction houses handled resales. "In the past, a clearly defined set of rules governed the activities of both operations but, in the last five years, those traditional boundaries have been blurred as auction moves ever closer to being a primary market in itself." The Art Newspaper 01/14/02

Wednesday January 16

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

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

  • BMA TO GREECE - NO RETURNS, NO DEPOSITS: The director of the British Museum flatly turns down any idea of loaning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, or returning them. He considers the BMA as a "world museum" and says the museum "saved" the marbles from destruction by taking them. "The British Museum transcends national boundaries; it has never been a museum of British culture, it is a museum of the world, and its purpose is to display the works of mankind of all periods and of all places. The idea of cultural restitution is the anathema of this principle." The Guardian (UK) 01/15/02
  • Previously: V&A DIRECTOR URGES DEAL ON PARTHENON MARBLES: Mark Jones, the new director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, has broken ranks and urged the British Museum to work out a deal with Greece for custody of the Parthenon Marbles. "It is not necessarily a case of transferred ownership or of giving the Marbles back for good, but when people believe things are really important, as the Greeks and the British Museum do in this case, that is actually a good thing. Apathy is our great enemy." The Observer (UK) 01/13/02

THE ART OF RETURNS: "The difficulty investors in art have had in bettering the stock market largely explains why there have been few institutional art investors at a time when the amount of funds under professional investment management across The United States and Europe has, over the 1990s, more than doubled to $40 trillion. Does that mean art is an unwise investment for the private individual? Not necessarily." The Art Newspaper 01/15/02

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

GRAVES BEHIND GRAVES: A conservator at the Seattle Art Museum notices a tear in the backing of a Morris Graves painting he was cleaning. Exploring, he finds another completed Graves painting on the back of the canvas he had been cleaning. Seattle Times 01/16/02

Tuesday January 15

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

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

  • FINDERS KEEPERS: "The director of the British Museum has turned down calls for a return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece... A £29m museum is under construction in Athens for their return. The 56 sculpted friezes were sent to the British Museum after their removal from Greece during Ottoman Turkish rule." BBC 01/15/02

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

Monday January 14

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

RETURN OF SURREALISM: It never really went away, but since September 11, surrealism seems to be gaining new steam. "What's interesting is that once again, contemporary art has been ahead of the curve. In an age when plans and agendas rule, the Surrealist idea of truly allowing oneself to discover, to travel into the imagination without a preordained route, is a reminder of how exhilarating freedom can be." New York Times Magazine 01/13/02

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

Sunday January 13

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

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

LOOKING FOR ART IN MILWAUKEE: The Milwaukee Art Museum has a handsome new building. But it's been criticized for the thinness of the art inside. The museum is trying to hire a new curator for contemporary art, but has been unsuccessful. "By waiting on the hire, however, the museum opens itself up to a more general criticism commonly made of museums that go through costly, attention-getting expansions. Museums with great new buildings, destinations unto themselves, often fail to keep art the priority. And that is like false advertising, like a pretty Tiffany's box with Kmart merchandise inside." Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 01/13/02

Friday January 11

SAVING VENICE: Venice is being destroyed by annual floods. Now, after a decade of legislative wrangling, the Italian government has approved a plan to control the flow of water from the Adriatic Sea into the lagoon of Venice. As presented, the plan would plan will cost nearly $2 billion. The Art Newspaper 01/10/02

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

  • Previously: ART INSTITUTE ALLEGES FRAUD: The Chicago Art Institute has accused a Dallas financial firm of maybe defrauding the museum of millions of dollars. "As much as $43 million in museum endowment funds placed with the firm appear to be at risk, the Art Institute said. One fund containing $23 million from the museum is said to have lost as much as 90 percent of its value, according to the complaint." The firm promised "protection from any plunge in financial markets." Chicago Tribune 12/11/01

ANCIENT MODERNISTS: Scientists define "modern" behavior in humans as being able to make art and be capable of abstract thought. "The theory up until now has been that modern human behavior started only around 40,000 years ago," However, engraved bits of stone "found in a cave and dated at 77,000 years suggest ancient humans in Africa developed complex behavior and abstract thought thousands of years earlier than the famed cave painters of Europe. ABC (AP) 01/10/02

HIDDEN MONEY COMES TO LIGHT: "A painting by French Impressionist Claude Monet will be shown to the public on Friday for the first time in more than a century. Prairie de Limetz is being auctioned by Christie's next month and is expected to fetch up to £3m [$4.33m]." BBC 01/11/02

Thursday January 10

WORLD'S LARGEST ANTIQUITIES MUSEUM? "Egypt opened an international design competition Wednesday for a new antiquities museum which Minister of Culture claimed would be the world's largest and would be built near the pyramids. The $350 million, high-tech museum will sit on 480,000 square meters (576,000 yards) and house all 150,000 artifacts that are now crammed in the existing Egyptian Museum." CNN (AP) 01/09/02

FEWER VISITORS=LOWER SALES: "According to a 1999 survey of 1,800 museums by the American Association of Museums, revenue from gift shops and publications accounted on average for 25.5 percent of earned income (general admissions is the next highest source, at 19.8 percent) and 7.1 percent of gross income, a figure that also includes philanthropic gifts, sponsorships and government grants." Now that attendance at museums is down, sales at giftshops are too. The New York Times 01/10/02

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

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

Wednesday January 9

EURO A DUD AS ART: The introduction of the Euro is intended to do wonders for the economy of Europe. But how about the banknotes as art? "Universally derided as characterless and dull, the seven multicoloured denominations have been described by Italy's La Stampa newspaper as 'a bit pale and jaundiced with an unexpressive, slightly anemic appearance.' Britain's The Guardian delivered a similarly withering critique, calling it a 'superbland, superbanal design aimed at offending no one.' It's another instance of the lowest common denominator taking over the world." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/078/02

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

  • A TRIUMPHANT LEAP: The museum cost a modest $22 million. "Its facade, covered in 63 dull bronze panels, is forbidding. Once inside, though, this austerity is replaced by spaces that slowly unfold as one explores. Admittedly, the museum is not big, but the changes in scale make it feel much bigger than it is." Financial Times 01/09/02
  • Previously: JUST FOLKS: The new American Folk Art Museum in New York celebrates the unsung art of plain folks. Who are folks? "Folk are vitiated citizens. They belong to communities at odds with society. They may be set apart on religious principle, like the Shakers; by clannishness, like the nineteenth-century Pennsylvania Germans, who are a special focus of the Esmerian collection; as the result of ostracism, like racial minorities; or because of poverty or other ill fortune. Folk status may crystallize around objects that were once ordinary products of cottage industries but have since become obsolete—exotically old-fashioned." The New Yorker 01/07/02

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

OLD GOLD: "Russian scholars from the State Hermitage Museum have concluded that a discovery of Scythian gold in a Siberian grave last summer is the earliest of its kind ever found and that it predates Greek influence. The find is leading to a change in how scholars view the supposed barbaric, nomadic tribes that once roamed the Eurasian steppes." The gold is in the form of extremely sophisticated works of art, mostly representations of the animals which roamed the Eurasian steppe. The New York Times 01/09/02 (one-time registration required for access)

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

Tuesday January 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUST FOLKS: The new American Folk Art Museum in New York celebrates the unsung art of plain folks. Who are folks? "Folk are vitiated citizens. They belong to communities at odds with society. They may be set apart on religious principle, like the Shakers; by clannishness, like the nineteenth-century Pennsylvania Germans, who are a special focus of the Esmerian collection; as the result of ostracism, like racial minorities; or because of poverty or other ill fortune. Folk status may crystallize around objects that were once ordinary products of cottage industries but have since become obsolete—exotically old-fashioned." The New Yorker 01/07/02

THE FACTORY AS BEAUTIFUL ARCHITECTURE: Volkswagon's new plant in the center of Dresden is an amazing feat of design - on par with the Tate Modern and Bilbao Guggenheim, says one critic. "This futuristic German motown blossoms in a new park in Dresden's Strasburger Platz. Here, for the first time, perhaps, since Matteo Trucco's charismatic Fiat car plant in Turin, built in the 1920s with a race-track on its roof, is a large factory designed to enhance a European city centre. By any standards, the Glaeserne Manufaktur is an impressive achievement, proof that heavy industry - 21st- century style - can be a part of our cities and something to celebrate." The Guardian (UK) 01/07/02

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

Monday January 7

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

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

A MAYOR WHO CARED ABOUT BUILDINGS: Outgoing Cleveland mayor Michael White is passionate about architecture. "He presided over one of the biggest building booms in Cleveland's history, and will certainly be judged on the physical legacy he leaves behind. So how well did he wield the mayoral T-square? There's no question that Cleveland looks far better than it did in 1990, and the mayor deserves much of the credit. In many ways, the city has been transformed." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 01/06/02

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

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

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

Sunday January 6

POLAROID'S HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY: The Polaroid Corporation went bankrupt last fall, and photgraphy enthusiasts are wondering about what will become of the company's extensive collection of photographs. "The collection, amassed over six decades, is a window on American culture, an invaluable tool for anyone tracking the evolution of photography, and a medley of photography's biggest names." Los Angeles Times 01/06/02

BUT HE SAID 15 MINUTES: Fifteen years after he died, Andy Warhol is more popular than ever. Prices for his work have soared, and there are numerous new projects having to do with his work. "Such prices prove that Warhol, 15 years after his death in 1987, has become the hottest commodity on the contemporary-art market. Warhol exhibitions are touring the globe. A retrospective of 82 works, co-organized last year by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of State, is appearing in Eastern Europe, making Warhol the first contemporary American artist ever shown in such countries as Kazakhstan and Latvia. Last year the Warhol Museum organized 39 exhibitions and loans—as many shows as in the three previous years together. What’s more, Warhol’s huge catalogue of films is being restored, and many are being screened for a new generation from Pittsburgh to London." ARTNews 01/02

Friday January 4

EUROPE'S BOLDEST CULTURAL PROJECT SINCE BILBAO? "One of France's richest men unveiled plans for a modern art museum that promises to be Europe's boldest cultural project since Bilbao's Guggenheim and London's Tate Modern. Francois Pinault, whose collection includes 1,000 works by such masters as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Amedeo Modigliani, and Joan Miró, picked Japanese architectural legend Tadao Ando to design the museum, describing the trapezoid building as 'a spacecraft suspended on the River Seine'." The Christian Science Monitor 01/04/02

SLASHED PAINTING RETURNS: A Barnett Newman painting slashed by a vandal in Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum four years ago has been restored and rehung. "To the untutored eye, it is nearly impossible to tell that the 8-by-18-foot dark-blue painting, with a thin light-blue stripe, or zip, as the artist called this signature element, on the right and a broader, more dominant whitish zip to the left, had been repeatedly slashed with a small knife. The damage by Gerard Jan van Bladeren — a frustrated artist who told authorities he didn't hate all art, just abstract art and realism — left conservators with one of the biggest challenges of their profession: how to repair, seamlessly, a large-format, basically monochromatic canvas." The New York Times 01/04/02

UNTITLED IMAGINATION: "These days, artists seem to have about two choices when it comes to titles: Either you refuse to christen your work at all - except as 'Untitled,' the artistic equivalent of 'John Doe' - or you name it so obscurely, the title barely hints at anything the work's about." Washington Post 01/04/01

Thursday January 3

PROTECTING THE TAJ MAHAL: As India and Pakistan threaten war with one another, "Indian officials are working on plans to camouflage the white marble monument, should it accidentally come under fire from Pakistani fighter jets." Yahoo (Reuters) 01/02/02

AFGHANISTAN PLEDGES TO REBUILD BUDDHAS: The new government of Afghanistan says its will restore the giant Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban last year. "The restoration of the Buddhas is one of our top priorities, along with the revival of the media and broadcasting sector." Times of India (AFP) 01/02/02

BUILDING ENVY: What's wrong with the new wave of museum-building? Hilton Kramer writes: "When you add up all these millions and millions of dollars for new museum construction and come to realize that not a dime of it will be devoted to acquiring first-rate works of art for the museums’ expanded exhibition space, you have a vivid sense of the twisted priorities that now govern museums–and not only in this country, of course." New York Observer 01/02/02

TOON STRESS: There are two magazines forever being purchased by folks who insist they "buy it for the articles," when in fact they intend to look only at the pictures. The one of the two you haven't thought of yet is the New Yorker, which for decades has been home to America's finest cartooning. The process of selecting the toons is exclusive, stressful in the extreme, and a bit over-serious for such a light medium. But to the thousands who submit entries every year, it couldn't be more worth it. Chicago Tribune 01/03/02

AN OILY REPUTATION: Jan Van Eyck was famous for a long time for being the inventor of oil paint back in the 15th Century. "Van Eyck's secret became notorious, say the chroniclers, and the paintings he made with it dazzled all who saw them. He passed the formula on to a handful of Flemish followers but they guarded it closely. Stories that explain great historical transformations are as popular today as they were in the 16th century, but the legend of Van Eyck is, sadly, not true. It was accepted as such for a long time, until conservationists found much earlier traces of oil painting." The Guardian (UK) 01/01/02

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS (HAPPILY) UNKNOWN: "Successful, of course, is not synonymous with famous. For famous, you might choose a name such as Riopelle, Thomson, Carr, Pratt or Colville. But Eric Dennis Waugh has likely sold more canvases than all of them -- combined. In fact, he's sold more paintings, by far, than anyone else in Canada (and in most other countries as well). Eric Dennis who? Exactly." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 01/03/02

Wednesday January 2

MUSEUMS RESIST WWII LOOT CLAIMS: Twelve major international museums (including New York's Metropolitan) are resisting claims on two dozen Durer drawings, which were looted by the Nazis in World War II. The drawings were recovered by American troops after the war and turned over to Prince George Lubomirski, who then sold them. The claims center around whether the drawings were returned to their rightful owners. The Art Newspaper 01/01/02

WORLD'S LARGEST ART: An Australian artist by the name of Ando has created the largest artwork in the world, a 4.3-million-square-metre big image of Eldee Man. The work, recently unveiled in time for Australia's Year of the Outback, depicts a smiling stockman in scored earth on the Mundi Mundi plains of New South Wales." National Post 01/01/02

MAKING SENSE OF ART: "Two obstacles face those who hope to enjoy art without spending every waking moment contemplating it. One obstacle is overabundance. Every spring an army of talent breaks out of the art schools and tries to break into art, making the art world a terrifying microcosm of the global population crisis... The other obstacle is that much of what happens in any given year, including 2001, strikes most people as crazy." For 20 years, a Canadian magazine has been helping art fans cut through the clutter. National Post (Canada) 01/03/02