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VISUAL ARTS - March, 2001

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Friday March 30

AUCTION ENVY: There was heavy security at Sotheby’s in London this week for the display of one of the greatest private collections of 20th century art to ever hit the auction block. American millionaire Stanley Seeger’s collection will be sold in New York in May, is valued at up to £45 million, and includes works by Picasso, Braques, Francis Bacon, Miro, Egon Schiele, Jasper Johns, and a 1938 self-portrait by Max Beckmann hailed as "the most important German painting to come up for auction in living memory." The Guardian (London) 3/30/01

Thursday March 29

A NEW LOUVRE DIRECTOR: The French Cabinet has named Musée d'Orsay director and Degas expert Henri Loyrette as the new president of the Louvre. Loyrette will replace Pierre Rosenberg, who after 39 years at the helm of the world’s largest museum is retiring to manage the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. "The task now facing Loyrette is by no means an easy one. With its staff of 2,000, the Louvre is not only a giant culture machine, its very size makes it vulnerable." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 3/29/01

A GERMAN BACKWATER? Nineteenth Century Germany gave us Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms - their music that has dominated our concert halls ever since. But visual art? "Our own most influential modern artists, critics and museum curators have tended in the 20th century to look upon 19th-century Germany as a backwater as far as the visual arts are concerned." New York Observer 03/28/01

TITIAN ON TOP: The history of Western art is usually traced back to Vasari or Giotto, or even, as some would argue, to 13th-century Rome or Serbia. "But here's another proposal: the grand tradition of oil painting, as is develops through Velazquez and Rembrandt down to our own day, springs not from Florence, Rome or Kosovo, but from Venice. And Titian, more than anyone else, is the patriarch at the head of that family tree." Herewith a take on a newly published book of his complete paintings… The Telegraph (London) 3/29/01

REBUILDING THE BUDDHA: Buddhists in Sri Lanka are trying to raise money to build a replica of the Bamiyan Buddhas demolished by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia. "We have had a very good response so far, not only from Buddhists. Many Muslims have said they are keen to help us because this is not just a religious matter. It's a part of our world heritage." The Times of India 03/28/01

DRAWING A MUSEUM LINE: "What is the distinction... between a natural history museum and an art museum? We tend to think of these two institutions as vastly different, but increasingly nowadays they are looking remarkably alike, displaying man-made objects in similar ways and telling similar stories about human culture." First item. Discover 04/01

THE PHYSICS OF WINSLOW HOMER: "In Homer's day, thermodynamics was not merely a branch of physics. It was also an instructive social theory central to the works of a wide array of prominent novelists, historians, and philosophers. Perhaps the most explicitly thermo-dynamic of Homer's pictures is The Gulf Stream, in which power is ubiquitous and man is reduced to an appliance in the naturalist machine." American Art Spring 2001

DISSING JEFFERSON DAVIS: Graffitti from 140 years ago, uncovered on the wall of an old Virginia courthouse. "May he be put in the northwest corner [of Hell] with a southeast wind blowing ashes in his eyes for all eternity." CNN (AP) 03/28/01

Wednesday March 28

THE END OF DIGITAL ART? Digital art has hit the big time in terms of recognition now that major museums are showcasing it. But "just as was always a fatuous category, lumping together media, corporate services, and infrastructure companies into one 'industry,' digital art is a category of convenience that should be retired." Feed 03/27/01

GIOTTO INTERRUPTED: After 12 years of restoration, a Giotto crucifix damaged in the 1966 floods that swept Florence was "due to be returned to its original centre spot in the Florentine church of Santa Maria Novella on April 7." But a new Italian law has interfered with the plans. Financial Times 03/27/01

RING OF UNCERTAINTY: Korea had planned to build a massive "gate" 200 metres in circumference to mark the turn of the millennium. But now the government has reduced the amount it is willing to spend on the project, and a slow economy is making private fund-raising difficult. Korea Times 03/28/01

WE PREFER SHAKESPEARE'S DESCRIPTION: Of Cleopatra, that is. He wrote, "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety." According to a new exhibition at the British Museum, she was short, fat, and unattractive. Discovery 03/26/01

Tuesday March 27

"010101" PAYS OFF IN SAN FRAN: "The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has received a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, making it the only U.S. art museum to receive an NEH Challenge Grant for 2001." San Francisco Chronicle 03/27/01

GOING BRIT: British artists have become a force in the current New York art scene. “These people are important and the pictures will become gold later on. It will be like looking back on the Warhol crowd.” The Times (London) 03/27/01

Monday March 26

MORE PICASSOS FOUND IN TURKEY: Officials in Turkey have arrested several men who attempted to fence stolen works of Pablo Picasso. Eight Picasso paintings have now surfaced in Turkey in the last year, although some experts have questioned their authenticity. BBC 03/26/01

FIGHTING THE BLOCKBUSTER CULTURE: Art experts are concerned that museums are being forced to become slaves to their own visitor numbers. Where once a museum's success was judged by the quality of its collection, it is now considered a failure unless it can pack the maximum number of people into its halls. BBC 03/26/01

  • WALK RIGHT IN: "I went to a museum the other day. I can't think what came over me. One minute I'm on a crowded street, fully engaged with the great issues of the day: What was Julia going to wear and who would Russell have on his arm now that Meg is no longer in the picture? The next thing I know, I'm alone in a darkened, silent room populated with 14 ancient, carved, Chinese figures, none of whom have just got out of limousines." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/26/01

FAR TOO SERIOUS: "There is no world so humourless as the world of art. No one so brain-meltingly self-regarding and serious as the artist. Think, if you can bear to, of Tracey Emin. I can scarcely conceive of a human being endowed with less humour. Yet all the while, art and comedy have become virtually indistinguishable." The Observer (London) 03/25/01

MARBLES STAYING PUT: British Prime Minister Tony Blair on prospects for returning the Elgin marbles to Greece: '' 'The marbles belong to the British Museum . . . which does not intend to return any part of the collection to its country of origin,'' Blair said in an interview published Sunday in the Athens daily To Vima." Toronto Star (AP) 03/25/01

A NATIONAL STORY: The National Museum of Australia has opened after 25 years of planning and debate. "This is a museum which very explicitly tells a number of stories, the most uncomfortable and most durable of which being the expropriation of land by the whites and the marginalisation of the Aboriginals." The Art Newspaper 03/24/01

PROTECTING INDIA: India is finally taking steps to help protect and conserve its architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries. "Britain has half a million listed buildings. In India, a country with 14 times the land mass, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protects (theoretically) about 5,000 monuments and the different State archaeological departments together protect perhaps another 2,000. The overwhelming bulk of historic buildings in India are unprotected." The Art Newspaper 03/23/01

OUT OF O'KEEFFE'S SHADOW: Alfred Stieglitz is perhaps best known in the wider culture for having been married to the great American painter Georgia O'Keefe, but his career as a photographer, and a great artist in his own right, has recently started to get the attention it deserves. A new exhibit on display in the unlikely town of Doylestown, Pennsylvania does much to flesh out the Stieglitz legacy. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/25/01

CANADA ONLINE: Canada's Minister of Culture launches a new Virtual Museum of Canada. "It contains an art gallery with more than 200,000 images, including paintings from the Group of Seven, Inuit sculpture and photographs." CBC 03/25/01

AFRICAN CULTURAL QUANDRY: British explorer David Livingstone left a collection of letters, sketches, books, Journals and maps when he died in Zambia in 1873. Now "the museum that houses Livingstone's legacy is crumbling, fast becoming a case study of the struggles faced by Africa's cultural institutions." The New York Times 03/26/01 (one-time registration required)

Sunday March 25

THE CELEBRITY MUSEUM: Cities across America are building flashy new museums. "That avant-garde architecture is playing such a leading role in marketing these projects—both to potential benefactors and to the public at large—is a sea change in the culture." Newsweek 03/23/01

PHOTOGRAPHY IS KING: "For better or worse, photography is the New New Thing in the art market. Over the last two years, with fortunes being won and lost on bets about our digital future, the most searching visual invention of the 19th century has been charting upward like a 1999 Internet stock." The New York Times 03/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TAKING THE PLUNGE: The Meadows Museum in Dallas has always been content to be nothing more than what it has been: a small university museum with a top-notch collection of mostly Spanish art, well-known to art experts the world over, but largely ignored in its own city. But today, Meadows will inaugurate its new, much-larger building, and hopes to use the greater visibility to get Dallasites as interested in its collection as outsiders have always been. Dallas Morning News 03/25/01

ALTERING THE LANDSCAPE: Claude Cormier creates landscapes. More than that, he creates altered realities. His vision of a perfect expanse of open land is as likely to include plastic pink flamingoes as not. "In 1996-97, for example, Cormier dyed parts of the lawns at Montreal's Canadian Centre for Architecture vibrant blue as part of its The American Lawn exhibition because, he says, 'the North American obsession with perfect grass deserved celebration.'" The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/25/01

REARVIEW MIRROR: Magdalena Abakanowicz has always been fascinated with the human form - specifically, the back of it. Her massive sculpture projects, which often consist of huge numbers of backward-facing figures that can fill a gallery or hillside, are often even more powerful for their lack of the traditional focal points of human sculpture. Los Angeles Times 03/25/01

Friday March 23

RECKLESS RETRIBUTION: The prevailing explanation for Afghanistan’s destruction of its Buddhist art has been that it was necessary to prevent idol worship. But the Taliban’s 24-year-old ambassador tells another story - one of retribution to UNESCO for using all its aid to save monuments, and not children. "I know it is not rational and logical to blow the statues for retaliation of economic sanctions, but this is how it is." Salon 3/22/01

OUT TO PROVE IT: Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders briefly reopened Kabul’s National Museum (which has been closed to the public since August 1999) on Thursday, in order to prove that they had followed through on their promise to destroy all the pre-Islamic relics in the collection. "We will let you see inside the museum to show that we have destroyed all the statues that were there." Prior to their takeover, the museum had housed a priceless collection of artifacts spanning Afghanistan’s 50,000-year history. International Herald Tribune 3/23/01

MOVING TO MIDTOWN: Christie's East, the "bargain basement" franchise of the famous Christie's auction house in New York, is selling the building it has called home since 1979. The company is moving the "Christie's East" sales to its main headquarters in Rockefeller Center, where a good deal of space was apparently going unused. Art-loving New Yorkers are in a tizzy over the move, (which will also include a name change,) as only New Yorkers can be. New York Times 3/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SLASH AND DASH: The 19th-century French painting "Pool in a Harem" by Jean-Leon Jerome was sliced out of its frame and stolen from St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum. "The painting was not a masterpiece, but a well-known work that would be impossible to sell." St. Petersburg Times 3/23/01

Thursday March 22

PRESERVING THE NEW ART: As digital and technological art becomes more and more prevalent, the thoughts of collectors and museums are turning to the issue of how to preserve the works once the technology becomes obsolete, which will happen quickly. "The Guggenheim's Variable Media Initiative is an unusual proactive program that asks new media artists to devise guidelines for translating their artworks via alternate media, once their current formats expire or disappear from the market." Wired 03/22/01

PLAYING TO THE CROWD: You've got to say this for Bostonians - they can turn anything into a sporting event. This weekend, four architectural firms will compete to become the designer of the city's new waterfront Institute of Contemporary Art. And, in a sharp divergence from the closed door way in which these things are usually done, the public is invited to the finals, and will have a chance to voice its opinion. Boston Herald 03/22/01

SCULPTURE AWARD: Australian sculptor Karen Ward has won the $105,000 Helen Lempriere Award for sculptors. The prize is intended to raise the visibility of sculptors. The Age (Melbourne) 03/22/01

Wednesday March 21

THE THUNDERING HERD: The fiberglass art animals are taking over. From a humble exhibit on the streets of Zurich in 1999, the artist-decorated Animals-on-Parade concept has swept the US. Why? Some say it's because the public has fallen in love with them. Others contend it's for the money (Chicago raised a reported $3 million selling its cows) But maybe someone should take a hard look at the so-called neutral Swiss. They may appear harmless, but... 03/21/01

ARCHITECTURAL FREE-THINKER: Shigeru Ban is making a name for himself in architecture by doing the unexpected. "He has proved, for instance, that wood is an effective fire retardant. He has designed a floor that curves half-way up a wall... and has shown that recycled paper tubes make impressive structural frames that grow stronger over time." Globe and Mail (Canada) 03/21/01

SACKLER/FREER DIRECTOR LEAVING: The director of Washington DC's Sackler and Freer galleries is leaving the job. "Milo Beach has left his mark. The adjacent collections of mostly Asian art form a single institution. More than anyone else, it was Beach who made them a cohesive whole. Beach is the second Smithsonian art museum director to announce his retirement this year." Washington Post 03/20/01

Tuesday March 20

LOOMING CRISIS FOR UK MUSEUMS? Has lottery cash ruined museums? "The huge expansion, bringing science, environment and art-based attractions and extensions to museums, left the sector with an extra £29m a year bill for increased costs in a static or declining market." It's a recipe for disaster, says a new report. The Guardian (London) 03/19/01

  • Previously: TOO MANY MUSEUMS? A new study says that the UK has too many museums, and too many are doing poorly. The solution? Some of them must merge or close. "A coherent national museums' policy is now essential, for without one it will be impossible to test what should be saved and what should go." BBC 03/19/01

FREE DEBATE: Free admission to British museums is coming, but not without a fight. Some museums are resisting. They feel that "unless the public is made to pay for admission to museums they won't fully appreciate what they are being allowed to see. The confrontation is as much ideological as financial, with many of the charging museums wedded to Thatcherite dogmas of maximising revenue and marketing, while the opposing camp, led by the Tate and National galleries, stress the importance of public service, access and education." The Guardian (London) 0320/01

IMAGINE THAT: At a museum in Birmingham, visitors enter a blank gallery and asked to imagine the art based on short descriptions. "There is a history of producing artworks that are purely descriptive - it's a questioning of what art is all about." BBC 03/20/01

DESIGN IS ART/ART IS DESIGN? "Shopping is no longer just a pleasurable activity, but a quest for aesthetic images and brands that extend beyond clothing labels and logos to bricks, mortar, paint and lighting, and to the brand name of the architect as well." New Statesman 03/19/01

DIGITAL GOES MAINSTREAM: It wasn't many months ago that art critics were turning up their noses at digital art. Some suggested there really wasn't yet such a thing. Now digital art is hot. "Digital artists are about to break down another boundary: the one between them and the art world's upper echelons. The Whitney's 'BitStreams' exhibition, which opens March 22, is the first show devoted to such work at a major New York museum." New York Magazine 03/19/01

LONDON W/O THE THAMES: What if the Thames didn't run through London? It would be more than just the lack of water - the culture of the place would be different. "The images are claustrophobic, the city reduced to a futile parade of buildings. It's like coitus interruptus, a joke without a punchline. There's a tremendously strong sense of liquid being disastrously absent from a place where it is sorely needed: think of a pub without any drinks." Evening Standard (London) 03/20/01

Monday March 19

EXPLAINING THE DESTRUCTION: Taliban leaders decided to destroy artwork after a delegation visited and offered money to help protect the giant Buddhas. "They said, `If you are destroying our future with economic sanctions, you can't care about our heritage.' And so they decided that these statues must be destroyed. The Taliban's Supreme Court confirmed the edict. The New York Times 03/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SOTHEBY'S DOWN/CHRISTIE'S UP: After a year when both auction houses were embroiled in price-fixing settlements, Sotheby's sales are down 14 percent. Christie's is up 12 percent. The Art Newspaper 03/16/01

TOKYO MUSEUM CRISIS: Last year Tokyo's Museum of Contemporary Art hung up a "deficit of ¥1.6 billion (then worth $15.2 million) during the financial year ending in March 2000." Attendance also plummeted. Now the museum is considering some radical moves, including selling off some of its art. The Art Newspaper 03/16/01

A CRISIS OF FAKES: A former curator at the Getty Museum contends some of the museum's drawings attributed to Renaissance masters are fakes. The Getty denies the claims, but refuses to produce evidence it says it has that they are not. Museums "The implications of this controversy are far from trivial. Each year, tens of millions of museumgoers walk through the entrance of the Getty, or the Metropolitan or the Prado or the Hermitage, and never consider the possibility of having to arbitrate for themselves the authenticity of what they have come to see." The New York Times Magazine 03/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TOO MANY MUSEUMS? A new study says that the UK has too many museums, and too many are doing poorly. The solution? Some of them must merge or close. "A coherent national museums' policy is now essential, for without one it will be impossible to test what should be saved and what should go." BBC 03/19/01

  • OVER-EXPANSION: “Museums need an additional £29 million each year to pay the increased running costs of lottery-funded new buildings and extensions. Part of the problem was the increased competition from other attractions and static visitor numbers." The Times (London) 03/19/01

LONDON TOWERS: London has never been dominated by tall buildings. And those skyscrapers it has had have not been particularly inspiring. But now, a new generation of tall spires is about to rise in the English capital. Will they be bland and ugly, or create a picturesque cityscape? The Guardian (London) 03/19/01

EYE-WITNESS PROOF: Taliban leaders say they may let journalists see the destroyed remains of the giant Buddhas they destroyed as early as Wednesday. The New York Times 03/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • UNDERSTANDING THE TALIBAN: Difficult as it is for the rest of the world to understand why the Taliban would destroy artifacts so old and precious, a question arises: "In the deepest, broadest sense, did the Taliban really have any idea what they were doing? The movement's leaders are mostly young sons of illiterate peasants, raised on mine-strewn battlefields and stark refugee camps, and educated in rote sectarian blinders. Do they understand that this act, more than anything else, will be how the world remembers them?" The New York Times 03/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday March 18

THE POLITICS OF LENDING: A rare exhibition of 92 drawings by the Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli illustrating Dante's "Divine Comedy" which opened in London last week, refused a stop at New York's Metropolitan Museum because of fears by the Vatican (which owns some of the drawings) about a California court case. New York Times 03/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

COMING SOON - CELL PHONE ART! The explosion of new technologies over the last decade has meant an ever-increasing range of options for artists looking to explore new mediums. The "digital age" is starting to crystallize into a definable movement, but there is still plenty of room for expansion. New York Times 03/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES: A unique collaboration is unfolding in a gallery in Evanston, Illinois, and the organizers aim to educate visitors about the growth of Native American stereotyping in the U.S. This is nothing new, of course, but the method may be: the Chicago Public School System is one of the collaborators, and the children's impressions of mass media portrayals of minorities is a large part of the exhibit. Chicago Tribune 03/18/01

A GALLERY THAT MATTERS: London's Whitechapel gallery is 100 years old. "Before Tate Modern was a glint in Nicholas Serota's eye, the Whitechapel put on shows that made other British galleries look tame. Almost all the most influential modern art exhibitions in post-war Britain happened here." The Guardian 03/17/01

WRIGHT AGAIN: Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was nothing if not self-serving, and a reenactment of one of his famously rambling speeches underscores the point in humorous fashion. But "The Art & Craft of the Machine" also reveals a shockingly accurate set of predictions about the technologies that were yet to come, including computers and the internet. Chicago Tribune 03/18/01

MONET IN MINNESOTA: A flower show in the Twin Cities has taken on the challenge of recreating Claude Monet's famous gardens in an auditorium of a downtown Minneapolis department store. The intricately detailed (if somewhat downsized) summer gardens are quite a feat, considering that the Upper Midwest is still in the clutches of winter. Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/17/01

ROSS BOUNCES BACK: Remember David A. Ross? The top man at the Whitney Museum in New York who for nearly a decade never saw his name in print without the words "embattled director" before it was practically run out of Gotham on a rail in 1998. But Ross has found new life as the director of San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, and the gallery's newest exhibit is his proudest accomplishment. Los Angeles Times 03/18/01

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS AN OLD MAN: In the world of French Canadian abstractionists, few artists can approach the legacy of Charles Gagnon. A soft-spoken man with a thirst for knowledge and new experience, he has produced some of the last century's greatest abstract paintings. Now, as he reflects on his life and his career, the sharp twists and turns of his evolving style become less mysterious. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/17/01

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE PROCESS: Seven German artists are bringing the spectacle of creating art to the public with a seven-day marathon Internet broadcast. "Art lovers around the world can go to and watch one participant a day paint, develop or sculpt an original work to be completed within seven hours in a studio at the Museum of Fine Arts in the western German city of Celle." Nando Times 03/18/01

Friday March 16

THE MOST DANGEROUS RELIGION (HINT: IT'S NOT ISLAM): The world has watched in horror as Afghani fundamentalists willfully destroyed cultural treasures. But destruction of art is only a piece of a larger cultural battle going on here. Is international cultural conflict replacing political Cold War conflict? 3/16/01

PROVOKING THE BULLIES: Most of the world has been outraged over the Taliban's destruction of the giant Buddhas. Now Pakistan's foreign minister urges other nations not to shun the Taliban, fearing the regime will use international hostility as an excuse to make life even more difficult for the Afghan people. Pakistan is one of three countries that offically acknowledges the Taliban regime. The Times of India (AFP) 3/15/01

DUTY TO PROTECT: Destruction of Afghani art certainly didn't begin with the Taliban's assault on the giant Buddhas. The Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage (SPACH) has been fighting to save artwork in Afghanistan since 1994 (without much luck). "Monuments were being neglected, if not badly damaged by the war, historic sites had been and were still being illegally excavated and, most importantly, the Kabul Museum, which houses an important collection, was being damaged and plundered." Purabudaya 2000

PRESERVATION AT ALL COSTS? In an effort to protect the deteriorating Giotto frescoes in Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel, visitors are now only allowed into the chapel for scheduled 15-minute visits, and must view the work from glass enclosures. It alters the experience. "Maybe we should at least consider the radical notion that masterpieces - like so much else in this mutable world - have a life-span, and ask ourselves if preserving them is worth making it so unpleasant to experience them." The Atlantic Monthly 04/01

THE PROSECUTION RESTS: Indecency charges against London’s Saatchi Gallery, raised over a current exhibition of child photos by Tierney Gearon and Nan Goldin, were dropped Thursday after the Crown Prosecution Service concluded a conviction in the case was highly unlikely. BBC 3/15/01

FINDERS, KEEPERS? An urgent appeal to raise £7.5 million has been launched by the National Galleries of Scotland to prevent a drawing by Michelangelo from being sold on the open market. The 500-year-old drawing - considered the most important Michelangelo discovery in living memory - was found last October in a scrapbook in a castle in North Yorkshire. If the money is collected, the work will go on permanent display in Edinburgh. The Telegraph (London) 3/16/01

MAKING A POINT: Italian architect Renzo Piano has released his initial drawings of the 1,000-foot glass tower to be built above London Bridge, which would make it the largest building in Europe. "The tower would bring the city's stumpy, lumpy skyline to a refined point. I can't see why it shouldn't be built, except fear, and a city cannot live on fear." London Evening Standard 3/16/01

DRIPPER'S LEGACY: Ed Harris's riveting portrayal of one of the 20th century's most fascinating artists has earned "Pollock" an Oscar nod and critical raves. But art historians have been irked by Harris's decision to make it seem as if Jackson Pollock's innovations were nothing more than an outgrowth of his descent into madness. "Pollock's epiphany likely didn't arise out of locking himself in a Greenwich Village walkup for three weeks, as the film suggests. Abstract Expressionism built on European modernist painting." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/16/01

Thursday March 15

UK JOINS EFFORT AGAINST ART THEFT: After years of campaigning by museums and archaeologists, the British government has agreed to join a worldwide convention allowing cultural treasures to be recovered if they turn up in member countries. The Times (London) 03/15/01

THE FINE LINE OF ART AND... Tierney Gearon's photographs of naked children displayed at Charles Saatchi's gallery brought out Scotland Yard last week. Do the pictures qualify as child pornography, as the police charged? Where is the line between art and exploitation? The Scotsman 03/13/01

ART WITHOUT LABELS: There's a charity "blind auction" of art in Edinburgh - all of the art sells for £200. But the identity of the artist is hidden. You might be bidding on a valuable work or it could be an amateur photo - you takes your chances. "There is endless potential for art snobs to be wrongfooted - picture the art 'expert' who, convinced he has cleverly spotted a rare abstract work by a world famous artist, ends up going home with a child’s finger painting. The Scotsman 03/15/01

A NEW BRAND OF RUSSIAN ART... AND ARTIST: Mikhail Chemiakin once was hounded by the KGB; now he's buddies with Russian President and former KGB officer Vladimir Putin. He's a litany of contradictions. "Critics are disdainful, but he is adored by art buyers in Middle America and among Russia's new rich. His fans describe his work as mystical, supernatural and exotic. 'Chemiakin's work is the kind of stuff you don't need a fancy art education to appreciate,' one British critic sniffed." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 03/15/01

Wednesday March 14

GALLERY GETS A REPRIEVE: The threat of an immediate police seizure of controversial photos from Charles Saatchi's London gallery has been lifted after Scotland Yard announced that a legal decision on the matter was unlikely before the gallery reopens for business Thursday. The police had earlier said they would prosecute the gallery under the 1978 Protection of Children Act, which made "indecent photographs of children" a crime - yet says nothing to clarify what ‘indecent’ should be taken to mean. "The law has never been used against art exhibitions in its 22 year history." The Guardian (London) 3/14/01

WASHINGTON STAYS IN WASHINGTON: Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington will stay at the Smithsonian. The painting, on loan from a British collector, was to have been sold at auction if the Smithsonian couldn't come up with $20 million. Now a Las Vegas foundation has donated money to keep the portrait where it is. Washington Post 03/14/01

ATTENTION GETTER: The world is still trying to figure out why the Taliban destroyed their art. Was it just to get attention for a country the rest of the world has been ignoring? "For Mullah Omar, who had spared the statues in the hope of improving relations with the West, the increased pressure indicated he had nothing left to lose. His response to the rest of the world: If you want the monuments to survive, then recognize us as we are." Newsweek (MSNBC) 03/13/01

DUMPING CHARGES: Ontario's McMichael Gallery is set to dump as many as 2000 works of art from its collection now that the government has ruled the gallery can return to its Group of Seven roots. But the province's art community is "worried that such an unprecedented disposal could flood an 'extremely fragile' market, devalue certain artists and send a discouraging message to scores of donors. There's even talk of possible lawsuits against the province from those affected by the changes." Ottawa Citizen 03/14/01

Tuesday March 13

ART OR PEOPLE? Who can explain the Taliban's destruction of art? "For example, why are they doing so? Was the destruction of statues a stupid act, or was it a shrewdly calculated move to attain international attention? Then, who created the Taliban? And who is pushing them against the wall now? After the world's reaction over the statue issue, many in Afghanistan might ask whether the stone statues were more important than millions of starving human beings." Middle East Times 03/12/01

GUGGENHEIM ON THE STRIP: Another new Guggenheim Museum is on the way, in, of all places, Las Vegas. The (naturally) outsized new gallery is sure to draw plenty of interest, but it is drawing plenty of unfriendly fire as well, from critics and artists who wonder, "When you've already got Manhattan in your palm, why should you stoop to playing Vegas?" The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/13/01

NEW WINDS OF ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN: "Of all the notions that have gained currency in the last two decades, this has been perhaps the most damaging: the suggestion that clarity is the enemy. It left us with critical writing and built projects that were oppressive and leaden—worse yet, that wore their drudgery as a badge of honor—and a slew of schemes that sought to reflect rather than transcend the unsteady nature of what became known as 'decentered', 'postindustrial' life." But now a new notion of design. Metropolis 03/01

THE VANISHING: Leonardo's "Last Supper" is damaged almost to the point of obscurity. Nonetheless, restorers have spent the past 20 years trying to lighten and brighten the images. Now the controversial results are revealed - here are comparisons between pre-restoration and after. University of Chicago Press 03/12/01

Monday March 12

HOW THEY KILLED THE BUDDHAS: "After failing to destroy the 1,700-year-old sandstone statues of Buddha with anti-aircraft and tank fire, the Taliban brought a lorryload of dynamite from Kabul. A Western observer said: 'They drilled holes into the torsos of the two statues and then placed dynamite charges inside the holes to blow them up'." The Telegraph (London) 03/12/01

  • SMUGGLED OUT OF HARM'S WAY: A wave of art has been smuggled out of Afghanistan and is being sold on the black market in London. It's a trade that has been active for some time, but the Taliban destruction has upped the stakes. The Observer 03/11/01

DISAPPROVAL FROM THE TOP: Britain's Culture Minister gets into the issue over the police raid of Charles Saatchi's London gallery. "We must be very careful in this country before we start censoring things that are happening, either in newspapers or in art galleries." The Independent (London) 03/12/01

  • GALLERY RESISTING: "Despite the police warnings that the pictures must be removed by Thursday, the gallery said it had no plans to take down the photographs. 'We have received legal advice from barrister Geoffrey Robertson and been told that the police have used the wrong definition of what is indecent'." The Observer (London) 03/11/01
  • Previously: SAATCHI GALLERY RAIDED BY POLICE: Scotland Yard has raided Charles Saatchi's London gallery and said that it would seize images from the show if they were not removed before the gallery reopened. Police say they will do so under anti child-pornography legislation. "The exhibition features the work of a group of artists and photographers selected by Charles Saatchi himself and taken from his personal collection of photographs and paintings." The Guardian (London) 03/10/01

COPIES THAT SAVE: Spain's Altamira caves contain some of the best examples of prehistoric paintings. But "throughout the 1950s, '60s and '70s, throngs of tourists flocked to the cave to seek a connection with early humans" and the 14,000-year-old paintings were threatened. So next door in another set of caves, high technology is being used to make exact copies of the paintings for visitors. Wired 03/11/01

NEW VERMEER? A rediscovered Vermeer has been certified as a 36th surviving work by the master. "Vermeer’s surviving works are so rare, with only 35 fully accepted paintings, that any new addition to his oeuvre will generate great excitement." The Art Newspaper 03/10/01

MAASTRICHT'S OLD MASTERS SHRINKING: The number of Old Master paintings for sale has been dwindling. As a consequence, "although it is known mainly as an Old Masters fair, Maastricht has expanded its other categories in recent times and this year includes some stunning Impressionist and 20th-century pictures." The Telegraph (London) 03/12/01

SEVERED HAND MISSING: A marble hand from an ancient Greek statue has been stolen from the British Museum. Nando Times (AP) 03/12/01

LIFE SHREDDING: Artist Michael Landy has finished shredding and granulating everything he owns. People found the "artwork" appalling, and gave Landy's cat presents since Landy maintained he couldn't own anything at the end. "The thousands of visitors to the event seemed more traumatised than Landy himself. Many I spoke to were suspicious of his motives - the term 'self- indulgent' cropped up several times - but all expressed a kind of appalled envy." Sunday Times (London) 03/11/01

OF MYTH AND POLLOCK: The new bio-pic of Jackson Pollock has a lot to cram into it. But, beautiful as it is, it's not possible to fully put into perspective the artist's life, legend and myth. Herewith an attempt at clarification. The Idler 03/12/01

Sunday March 11

MUSEUM VISITS DOWN: The American economy isn't the only thing slowing - since October museum attendance across the country has been down - Boston's MFA, for example had 22 percent fewer visitors compared to the same period last year. Minneapolis Star-Tribune (WSJ) 03/11/01

SAATCHI GALLERY RAIDED BY POLICE: Scotland Yard has raided Charles Saatchi's London gallery and said that it would seize images from the show if they were not removed before the gallery reopened. Police say they will do so under anti child-pornography legislation. "The exhibition features the work of a group of artists and photographers selected by Charles Saatchi himself and taken from his personal collection of photographs and paintings. It has been running for eight weeks and has been reviewed in most of the broadsheet papers and magazines from the Tatler to the Telegraph, without any public complaints to the gallery." The Guardian (London) 03/10/01

BUDDHA WAS RIGHT: So now the giant Bamiyan buddhas have been destroyed. The Metropolitan Museum had offered to buy and transport the statues to New York in order to preserve them "It's hard to imagine a more perfect or succinct misunderstanding of the issue. Absence is absence, no matter if the Buddhas become dust in Afghanistan or dusted objets d'arts in some far away museum. That this seemed, if briefly, a plausible solution indicates what is truly at stake here, and that it is not so simple as preserving 'the world's cultural heritage'." Killing the Buddha 03/08/01

  • STAY-AT-HOME ART: "In recent years, the dispute over the right to antiquities has tended to favor those who argue that art treasures belong near their origins, rather than in collections continents away." But the Taliban destruction has changed some thinking on the issue. "Museums [in the West] are saying, 'We should have protected this material.' " Los Angeles Times 03/10/01
  • WRONG ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS: Islamic intellectuals in Los Angeles have objected to the Taliban's destruction of art. "In a unanimous statement, the eight intellectuals said the Taliban's destruction of statues violated the Koranic requirement to tolerate those of other faiths. The Koran's sixth chapter, for instance, tells Muslims: 'We have not set you as a keeper over them, nor are you responsible for them. . . . Abuse not those whom they worship besides Allah, lest they out of spite abuse Allah in their ignorance'." Los Angeles Times 03/09/01

SPOTTING THE FAKES: It's not such an easy matter - how about knockoff art created 1000 years ago, or mass-produced copies? The art of finding the fakes. Toronto Star 03/11/01

  • THE ENDURING FAKE: What becomes of fake art once its exposed as fraudulent? Some wind up in classrooms where they are studied. "A few become 'famous fakes': Museums sometimes organize shows displaying them. And some deceived collectors even decide to keep their fakes - for sentimental reasons or because the works have become valuable in their own right as clever copies." Christian Science Monitor 03/09/01

A FIASCO AT THE MALL: Why is the issue of memorials on Washington DC's National Mall so charged? The latest proposal - for a $100 million World War II memorial is being pounced on by critics. "As presently envisioned, it is an aesthetic disaster, a prime example of bureaucratic high kitsch style not implausibly described as watered-down Albert Speer by a few critics." The New York Times 03/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE ART OF SCIENCE: Recently artists have been vigorously taking up science as fodder for their art. Why? "Ever since art uncoupled from its traditional concerns it has been in search of a subject. What better subject than science, to help us address our place in the universe? My hope is that science-art collaborations will become so accepted that people will stop regarding them as unusual." The Telegraph (London) 03/10/01

ANIMALS ON PARADE (ANGELIC VERSION): Los Angeles had planned to populate its downtown streets with 6'4"-tall angels, decorated by artists. "But due to rain, red tape, tardy artists, cash-flow problems and the logistics of carting the 500-pound artworks (a 100-pound angel on a 400-pound base), Community of Angels is taking flight more slowly than project organizers had hoped. Los Angeles Times 03/10/01

WHITNEY CLOSES STAMFORD: The Whitney Museum closes its outpost in Stamford Connecticut. The museum says it can't afford to stay at the Stamford gallery it has occupied for almost 20 years." Stamford Advocate 03/10/01

Friday March 9

ALTARPIECE MYSTERY SOLVED? An Antwerp policeman claims to have solved one of the most enduring mysteries in all of art history: the missing panel of van Eyck’s 15th-century Adoration of the Lamb altarpiece, which was stolen in 1934. "The 12-panel polyptych is considered to be one of the most important works in Western painting; over the centuries it has also earned itself the reputation of being the world's most stolen masterpiece." The motives for the theft have never been established, but theories are rampant… The Telegraph (London) 3/09/01

GOODBYE, MONET: For the first time in six years, no Impressionist exhibition featured among the top 20 shows in the world last year, according to the Art Newspaper’s latest survey. Surprisingly, a London exhibit on the image of Christ was the most popular in all of Britain and came in fourth in popularity worldwide. Sydney Morning Herald 3/09/01

THERE GO THE RELIGIOUS GROUNDS: Rudy Giuliani's attack on artist Renee Cox's "Yo Mama's Last Supper" proves he knows less about the religious issues he claims to defend than does Cox. But "falling back on free speech to defend one's art from political attack is tantamount to saying that art transcends politics. A lovely sentiment, but not very likely. The only thing high art transcends is the debate the rest of us who express ideas accept as part of public discussion." Killing the Buddha 03/03/01

PRICE OF THE IRISH... Everything Irish is hot these days - after years of weakness, the Irish economy is one of the hottest in all Europe. Paintings too. Irish art is the fastest-rising sector of the art market. "Fifteen years ago the top Irish price was $30,000; currently the most expensive Irish painting, Lavery's 'The Bridge at Grez' of 1883, sold for $2.4 million." Forbes 03/19/01

MACHU PICCHU THREATENED BY LANDSLIDE: Earth beneath the ruins of Machu Picchu is shifting rapidly; geologists warn that the lost city of the Incas could be split in two by a landslide at any time. Hidden on a spur a mile and a half high in the Andes, Machu Picchu was the last refuge of the Incan empire; it was discovered in 1911 by a US archaeologist. UNESCO lists the city as a World Heritage Site. The New Scientist 03/07/01

MAYBE THEY COULD FOCUS IT ON CRITICS: It seemed like a great idea - a dazzling sculpture to attract attention at a playhouse in the British city of Nottingham. The giant concave steel mirror, set up in front of the playhouse, will reflect the sky. Unfortunately, for about four months of the year, it will also reflect sunlight. Focus it sharply, in fact. So sharply that it could instantly barbecue birds flying overhead. ABC 03/07/01

MCCAUGHEY LEAVES YALE MUSEUM: Patrick McCaughey, Director of the Yale Center for British Art, is leaving that post to "do research and writing and seek other opportunities in the arts." McCaughey, formerly director of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, increased attendance at the Yale Center, and oversaw extensive renovations to the building. His departure comes as a surprise to most observers. The Hartford Courant 03/09/01

Thursday March 8

D.O.T. GIVES KENNEDY PLAN A BOOST: The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a report recommending a massive $269 million expansion of Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center. The purpose of the expansion would be to alleviate the center's physical isolation from the rest of the district by building an 11-acre plaza over several nearby highways. Director Michael Kaiser is, naturally, thrilled with the report. Washington Post 03/08/01

COMPUTING ANGLES: Computers have been part of the architect's studio for a full generation now, but "until the last few years they were mainly tools that helped make conventional architecture easier to produce." Now, "software that is affecting the creation of new designs. Computers produce shapes of extraordinary complexity, with swoops and bends and twists so baroque that no structural engineer could ever have figured out how to build them." The New Yorker 03/05/01

WHY OH WHY? So what is the religious justification for the Taliban's destruction of the giant Buddhas? "The deed is being perpetrated in the name of Islam, in which there is no basis for such vandalism. Indeed, the Islamic world has admired the two sculptures almost from the day Islam became entrenched in the area around the ninth century." International Herald Tribune 03/07/01

EARLY DESTRUCTION OF ART: Egyptologists are debating whether to restore a toppled 3,200-year-old 50-foot-high statue of Ramses II or leave it on the ground in pieces where early Christian monks felled and dismembered it to discourage idolatry. "The face was attacked, as the early Christians often did, and traces of hammering can be found all over the place, clearly showing that the destruction was willed." Middle East Times (Egypt) 03/07/01

MUSIC GETS A NEW LOOK: The University of Illinois has unveiled an exhibit that focuses on the visual side of the music world. "Between Sound and Vision" is no high-tech, cutting-edge, multimedia effort - what the creators of the exhibit have done is take the truly "inside baseball" parts of the contemporary music world (scores by John Cage, unconventional in the extreme, make up the lion's share of the exhibit) and displayed them as artworks that stand on their own. The idea is to explore the ever-expanding definition of music. Chicago Tribune 03/08/01

BEHIND THE SCENES: Audio artist Janet Cardiff has been awarded Canada's $50,000 "Millenium Prize," one of the largest arts awards in the history of the country. Cardiff's latest piece, "Forty Part Motet," consists of a massive array of 40 speakers, and very little else. "Each of the speakers emits the sound of a distinct voice singing one part from . . .a 12-minute choral work written by the British composer Thomas Tallis in 1575. During the performers' intermission, we hear the singers chatting, working out difficulties in the score, or discussing their various jobs and interests before the performance resumes again." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/08/01

Wednesday March 7

PHILLIPS REMAKING AUCTION MARKET: Now even Sotheby's board members are selling their art at No. 3 auction house Phillips. Observers say that Phillips is "guaranteeing collectors so much money that neither Sotheby's nor Christie's can come near the offers. As a consequence, the high-end auction world — a cozy gentleman's club until the federal investigation into price-fixing and collusion shattered its decorum — is becoming an ever more free-wheeling, up-for-grabs marketplace, which makes officials at both houses worry that tight profit margins could evaporate completely." The New York Times 03/07/01

SMITHSONIAN HITS THE JACKPOT AGAIN: The Smithsonian American Art Museum will receive a $10 million gift to go towards the $180 million renovation of its main museum building. The donation is the Smithsonian's second $10 million windfall in a month. Washington Post 03/07/01

A VENEER OF VERMEER: What makes a 17th-century painter into a bona fide 21st century superstar? Well, it can't hurt when a couple of high-profile (some might say blockbuster) exhibits inspire four novels, a book of poetry, and an opera. But in the case of Jan Vermeer, to whose legacy all these things have recently been added, scholars are concerned that most of the hype is just that, and that little of the artist's actual life story remains intact in the face of all the tribute. Chicago Tribune 03/07/01

MONEY TRUMPS ENVIRONMENT: Japan's World Expo 2005 was meant to be an environmentally friendy effort. "We wanted to change this country through this Expo. People are so used to destroying nature and installing rows of houses. So through this masterplan we wanted to change this process, and the relationship between this Expo and future town planning in Japan." Unfortunately the whole master plan is unraveling fast. The Independent (London) 03/05/01

GIULIANI WOULD JUST HATE THIS: One of Paris's hottest art destinations is, quite literally, illegal. "Squat du 59, rue de Rivoli" is a commune of artists squatting in a downtown building, and producing volumes of experimental art that have caught the Parisian public's attention. But come spring, when city authorities begin evicting squatters, the commune faces extinction, unless a donor can be found to buy their building. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/07/01

DREAM GARDEN NIGHTMARE: The City of Philadelphia goes to court today to try and save the historic "Dream Garden" mural that hangs in the lobby of one of downtown's oldest buildings. The mural, which is thought to be worth between $5 million and $20 million, is in danger of being moved or demolished by its owners, the estate of deceased art patron John Merriam. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/07/01

CITIES OF TOMORROW: What will cities be like in the future? "Are we in for a Bladerunner future, where an increasingly glamorous aristo-class reclines atop a vast prole-tariat whose members slug it out in the dirty and disenfranchised bilge waters of life below decks? One of the many metaphors for cities proffered by the international experts gathered in Adelaide evoked just such a Titanic image, complete with distracted pilot and impending iceberg." Sydney Morning Herald 03/07/01

THE BRITISH MUSEUM'S NEW AFRICAN GALLERIES: The British Museum's new galleries of African art are gathering fans. "Purists will worry - purists always do worry - that such objects are being shown outside the religious, ritual or domestic contexts for which they were made. But 20th-century artists, from Picasso and Modigliani, taught us to aestheticise these things, and, once something has been seen as art, it is very difficult not to see it that way." The Telegraph (London) 03/07/01

    • FINALLY SOME PROMINENCE: Amounting to more than 200,000 objects, the collection ranks among the most comprehensive surveys of its subject anywhere in the world. The Times (London) 03/07/01

Tuesday March 6

PROUD DESTROYER : Despite condemnation from around the globe - even from their few allies in Pakistan and the UAE - the Taliban’s leader broadcast a message throughout Afghanistan Monday telling his countrymen to be proud of his decision to destroy all the country’s pre-Islamic art and Buddhist sculpture. "The Taliban maintains its action would help create the world's purest Islamic state saying their mission to destroy ‘false idols’ will continue." CNN 3/05/01

    FAITH-BASED VANDALISM: "Christians needn't be entirely smug on the subject of destroying holy images. Iconoclasm (literally, the breaking of images) was the name of an eighth- and ninth-century movement in the Eastern church against the worship of holy pictures… It's partly that, as Saul Bellow wrote, different minds inhabit different centuries. If you take your beliefs seriously, and are consistent in marrying deed to creed, then you may see, with blinding clarity, the need to eliminate blasphemous inconsistencies." Time 3/05/01

INTO THE INNER CITY: Facing low visitor turnout and the ongoing difficulties of drawing arts patrons outside the city, the Barnes Foundation is contemplating a move from its historic suburban home to a site in Philadelphia’s center. "Underlying the pressures to transform is the view that wealthy donors and foundations are reluctant to open their wallets and portfolios to an institution whose access is so limited. Given its secluded location and burdensome 60-day advance reservation requirements, the collection draws only 85 percent of its visitor quota." New York Times 3/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE ART OF TOMB ROBBING: "When I first started out in this business, many of the objects I handled crumbled to pieces. They were too fragile. Now, I have a more scientific approach...The first rule of tomb-robbing is never take anything home and never put anything in your car. If the police find you in possession of anything, you're in trouble... I love history. If I had studied, I'd be a great archaeologist...I've taken my son out with me three or four times, but he's not really interested in tomb-robbing. There's no passion." The Art Newspaper 03/06/01

YO MAMA, YO PATHETIC: The Cardinal of New York slammed the Brooklyn Museum of Art as being publicity hungry and artist Renee Cox - who posed as a nude Christ figure in a 1996 photograph - a "pathetic individual." The museum is currently showing Cox's work "Yo Mama's Last Supper" and New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has also criticized the work. New York Daily News 03/05/01

IT ISN'T JUST FOR SUBWAY CARS ANY MORE: Graffitti-inspired commercial art is "in" right now, and the originators aren't happy. At least, their scholars aren't: "The downside occurs when an artist takes his work out of its underground context and begins to produce commercial work. Then the elements that made his work unique can conspire to make it over-familiar, and in danger of crossing the line from tag to logo." spark-online 03/01

MONEY TALKS: Engravings on old Confederate bills reveal a great deal about slavery. "We hear a lot these days about how the Confederacy was really about states' rights and not slavery. But the currency itself tells the truth. It shows how they saw us, and how they wanted to keep seeing us." The New York Times 03/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TOO MANY PICASSOS: The State Painting and Sculpture Museum in Ankara is delighted with its trove of Picassos. But are they real? "Even an ordinary person would understand that these are not the real pictures but very bad copies that look like they were made from postcards. Even the signature of Picasso on the back [of one] is a copy of a signature from another period." Washington Post 03/05/01

Monday March 5

TOP ART THEFTS: What were the top art thefts of the 20th Century? Theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911 ranks high. Here's a list of the top ten... 03/05/01

FALLOUT FOR SOTHEBY'S/CHRISTIE'S: Fallout from Sotheby's and Christie's auction house legal woes is mounting. Sotheby's website has been a money sinkhole, there're those big settlements to pay, and it looks like customers are turning to other sellers. And look, there's No. 3 auction house Phillips in the passing lane... The Economist 03/03/01

DEAD BODIES AS ART? "In a show that pushes the boundaries of the controversial, a German doctor is displaying real cadavers. Skinned and dissected, the preserved bodies, which were donated by fully informed volunteers, are recomposed in abstract and representational forms for aesthetic effect. 'I don't show pure anatomy, it's more something like anatomy-entertainment'." Washington Post 03/05/01

FOUNDER BEGINS DISMANTLING ART COLLECTION: Last year the Canadian provincial government of Ontario wrested control of the McMichael Collection, a public art collection, away from its board and gave it back to its founder, Robert McMichael. Now "the founder has described 3,000 of the works out of the gallery’s collection of 6,000 as 'unsuitable', but that he, nevertheless, might focus his initial energy on 12 pieces 'that he really dislikes'.” These he will dispose of. The Art Newspaper 03/03/01

ARTS PATRON: Chicago is getting an architectural makeover, led by mayor Richard Daley. "So firm is Daley’s grip on power that he has conflated the traditionally separate roles of patron and planner into a single autocratic whole. He reviews every single major project built in his city (bad news for Modernists, because the mayor is no fan of steel and glass). He also is a public-works fanatic who scribbles notes to his aides as he rides around the city in his chauffeur-driven limousine—fill this pothole, fix that streetlight, trim that tree. Plenty of architects can’t stand him; but the vast majority of voters love him." Metropolis 03/01

ARCHITECTURAL SHOOT-OUT: Two high profile building projects are in the planning stages in New York. An interesting competition between the two is possible. "Let's see who can build not only taller or faster but who can build best. An architectural free-for-all on the East River: that's my idea of fireworks on the Fourth of July." The New York Times 03/05/01 (one-time registration required for access)

CUBAN FAKES: "Rapidly escalating prices for paintings by Cuban masters have led to a notorious parallel market for fakes. Damaging the artists' legacies, the fakes have turned up in the United States, Spain and Latin America. Many forgers are aided by Cuba's political isolation and the scarcity of resources and experts on Cuban art who can certify a work's authenticity." Miami Herald 03/05/01

WESTERN MUSEUMS TO MERGE? Los Angeles' Southwest Museum and the Autry Museum of Western Heritage are considering merging and creating a new National Center for Western Heritage, which would function as an umbrella for the two museums. Los Angeles Times 03/05/01

Sunday March 4

AFGHAN ART DESTROYED: "Taliban Information Minister Quadratullah Jamal announced that, in apparent defiance of international condemnation and pleas to preserve the world's tallest standing Buddha statue and other ancient artifacts, two-thirds of the country's statues had been smashed. 'They were easy to break apart and did not take much time,' he said." Washington Post 03/04/01

    WILLFUL DESTRUCTION: Last Monday Afghanistan's Taliban leaders were assuring a delegation that they had no intention of destroying art treasures. By Thursday they were methodically obliterating them. "They set about what was once Afghanistan's most famous tourist attraction - two enormous statues of Buddha, 38 and 55 metres high, carved into a cliff-face. Using tanks and rocket launchers they began to destroy the two works, which had survived since the second century AD." The Guardian 03/03/01

    OUTSIDE OFFERS: New York's Metropolitan Museum offers to buy the giant Buddhas and other artifacts. Meanwhile, the trade of smuggled Afghani artifacts has increased in recent weeks. The Times (London) 03/03/01

SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED: Seattle is a hotbed of glass art, with dozens of internationally known glass artists working there. They didn't fare so well in last week's 6.8 earthquake. Galleries lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of glass art, and several large installations by Dale Chihuly were destroyed. Who pays for damage? Mostly the artists - most galleries didn't have quake insurance. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 03/02/01

THEY'RE CALLING IT LONDON'S EIFFEL TOWER: Of all of London's projects marking the turn of the millennium, perhaps the most popular is the Eye - a giant ferris wheel in the middle of the city that began turning about a year ago. Whereas the Millennium Dome was richly funded and bombed with the public, the Eye was financed on a shoestring and has come to help define the city's skyline. The Telegraph (London) 03/03/01

INFLATED NOTORIETY: Let's take a step back from knee-jerk reactions over controversial work like that in the current Brooklyn Museum/Giuliani flap. Celebrity conveyed by such disputes is unreasonable and unwarranted. "With so many things competing for the public's overburdened, shortened attention span, any sort of distinction is positive for an artwork. Remember the salesman's motto: 'If you can't make a good impression, make an impression'." Chicago Tribune 03/04/01

MUSEUM AUDIENCE GROWS WHILE MUSEUM CLOSED: In the month before it closed for a five-year renovation, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art attracted 54,000 visitors. A year later - in the same month - the museum received almost 60,000 visitors online to see its artwork. "Online visitors can see a lot more than what used to hang on the walls. For example, the museum could display fewer than 1,000 photos, paintings, sculptures and other artifacts. During the renovation, online visitors can download 16 virtual exhibits and 4,000 objects at any time." New Jersey Online 03/04/01

Friday March 2

WRITING A WRONG: What do most authors do when they get a bad review? Well, absolutely nothing, other than maybe complaining to friends and moping. "But there's still an enduring category of author who feels that a bad review is no mere difference of opinion, however ill-informed and wrongheaded the reviewer's take may be. It's an injustice that must be remedied." But, calling critics at home? Offering bounties? Threatening legal recourse? Come on… Salon 3/02/01

WORTH A REFUND: As part of the massive settlement of Christie’s and Sotheby’s price-fixing scandal, the auction houses have agreed to refund foreign art dealers and collectors the fees charged on their transactions over the last six years. The Age (Melbourne) 3/02/01

NEW APPROACHES IN AN OLD GENRE: Landscape painting has been around forever, it seems. Early cave drawings were, in a sense, landscape art. But landscapes have changed greatly in the recent past. Environmental destruction. Pollution. Industrialization. Black-top. A new breed of landscape painters is producing art that notices. ArtNews 03/01

STARBUCK'S ON THE NILE? The Egyptian Railway Authority plans to convert Cairo's historic train station into a shopping mall, "to increase the revenue of the station and thus allow us to upgrade the whole system." No, argue preservationists. Its "a historical catastrophe... a national disgrace... doing away with history in return for a few bucks." Al-Ahram (Egypt) 02/28/01

VAN GOGH'S ASTRONOMY: It's not unusual to know the year a famous painting was done, but the exact hour? Van Gogh's "White House at Night" has been pinned down quite precisely: 7 PM on the 16th of June, 1890. The information comes, not from Van Gogh, but from astronomers who studied the position of Venus in his nighttime sky. New Scientist 02/28/01

RETHINKING THE MUSEUM: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Director David Ross is largely responsible for SFMOMA’s new computer generated-art show, "010101: Art in Technological Times." He’s also a vocal proponent of incorporating new technologies into museums. "The contemporary museum's role today is no longer purely as a vehicle for showcasing art, but also as a space to discuss the contrast of values and ideas." Wired 3/01/01

Thursday March 1

DESTROYING ART IN AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan's ruling Taliban run an oppressive regime. Now the country's Ministry of Vice and Virtue has announced plans to destroy every statue in the country, including the world's tallest Buddha, almost 2,000 years old. Why? "Worshippers might be tempted to pay homage to the idols, the Taliban's youthful leaders have decided, even though Afghanistan is devoid of Buddhists." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/01/01

THE DOME. NOW LEEDS. WHERE HAVE THE TOURISTS GONE? Leeds museum was the the first attempt to run a British National museum as a business. A private contractor was brought in, along with displays from the Tower of London. Initial estimates were for a million visitors a year, more or less. Less is what they got. Last year, 180,000. Consequently, the Royal Armouries "took over responsibility for running the museum.... leaving the private company to retain some services: catering, car parking and corporate hospitality." The Art Newspaper 03/01/01