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VISUAL ARTS - May 2001

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Thursday May 31

THE (GIFT)(TROJAN) HORSE SYNDROME:The Smithsonian is probably not going to turn down a $38 million gift to finance a special exhibit. On the other hand, "is this the kind of exhibit that the Smithsonian's professional staff would have chosen if the gift had come with no strings attached? If not, what is the curatorial rationale for a permanent exhibit that seems to open the door for commercial and corporate influence at one of the capital's keystone institutions?" The New York Times 05/31/01 (one-time registration required for access)

FINDING FAKES: Is more fake art offered for sale in Australia than elsewhere? Some experts say that fakes are bought in Europe and passed Down Under. "At every big art auction, paintings are withdrawn and although the salerooms rarely say why, often the reason is that the pictures are not the real thing. Despite their five-year guarantees of authenticity - which, they say, is why they hit buyers with a hefty fee - the international auction houses have been caught time and again." The Age (Melbourne) 05/31/01

COMPLAINING FOR SUCCESS: The short list for the Turner Prize has been announced, but "complaints about short lists and and form only serve to confirm the larger truth ­ that the debate is fully engaged. Modern art and artists are widely discussed, in a way that they were not 20 years ago. The shock value is reduced ­ but the huge success of, say, the Tate Modern is a tribute to the success of the prize. Modern art, with all its disputed warts and lumps, is on the map. The Turner Prize has helped to put it there. The Independent (UK) 05/31/01

BUILDING CREDIT: How much of an idea or concept does an architect have to provide on a project before earning credit? An architect sues to get credit on a New York hospital project he worked on in the 1980s. The New York Times 05/31/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE NEW MUSEUM: "Museums have traditionally trafficked in the economy of objects. But now, like everyone else, these institutions traffic in the economy of attention, an inevitable step in their evolution from respected repositories of prized objects to entertainment centers and contested social engines. In the process, museums compete for our divided interest and must persuade us of their relevance. They have become political entities. How can they not be political today?" The New York Times 05/31/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A RECORD CANADIAN: A painting by Group of Seven Canadian Lawren Harris has fetched a record price for a Canadian painting. "Baffin Island, painted circa 1930, sold for a hammer price of $2.2-million after a dramatic volley of bids that raised the price from its conservative preauction estimate of between $600,000 and $700,000." Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/30/01

Wednesday May 30

IS THE SMITHSONIAN FALLING APART? Robert Fri runs the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Its attendance has jumped 50 percent since he arrived five years ago, and with 9 million annual visitors, it's the most-visited museum in the world. But Fri has become the fourth Smithsonian museum director to resign this year; he says he's uncomfortable with Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small's controversial reorganization. Washington Post 05/30/01

  • Previously: WILL EXHIBIT FOR MONEY? Smithsonian director Lawrence Small is in trouble again. A group of scholars at the National Museum of American History has written to the Smithsonian's board of regents to complain that Small has made questionable deals with donors that compromise the integrity of the institution. They charge that Small has allowed donors to determine content in return for money. Washington Post 05/26/01

A BIENNALE THAT MEANT SOMETHING: Last winter's Shanghai Biennale was not, by international standards, cutting-edge. "But in a country where contemporary art continually struggles against the public's indifference and a restrictive government, the exhibition was an important marker." It indicates a new openness to contemporary art in China. The New York Times 05/30/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TURNER TIME AGAIN: This year's finalists for the Turner Prize include a film maker and a photographer. Artists on the all-male short-list compete for a £20,000 prize; the winner will be announced December 9." BBC 05/30/01

RESTORING A MEDIEVAL TEXT, AND A MEDIEVAL CAPITAL: A wax and wooden psalter from the eleventh century, discovered and nearly demolished by archaeological students, is being painstakingly restored in Novgorod, Russia. Like the psalter, Novgorod itself is slowly being put back together after centuries of domination by Moscow. Time 06/04/01

THE MODERN AT TEN: The Irish Museum of Modern Art is ten years old. "The institution has been enormously important in the Irish cultural fabric, not least in serving as a focal point for projects designed to raise the profile of modern art in Ireland, and to raise the profile and standards of contemporary Irish art." But there have been missed opportunities too. Irish Times 05/25/01

RUSSIAN SENSE OF ART - OR IS IT HUMOR? Andy Warhol "visited Moscow once in 1978 and said he could see no beauty in a place that had no McDonald's." Despite that - or perhaps because of it - several Moscow institutions are cooperating in an Andy Warhol retrospective from now through July. The Moscow Times 05/29/01

THE OBVIOUS HEADLINES ARE IN BAD TASTE: He is an artist, touring with his BraBall in a pink 1963 Cadillac. She also is an artist, and finds his tour offensive; she has applied for a copyright on her BraBall, calling it "a monument to women." He accuses her of "soliciting bras under false pretenses, and inciting gender anger." Only in America... National Post (Canada) 05/29/01

Tuesday May 29

DIS-COLLECT: Did the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art offer Heinz Berggruen $400 million for his Picasso-rich collection of modern and Post-Impressionist art? Berggruen says so, but "museum director David Ross vehemently denied the museum had made any offer at all. And Ross said it was a self-aggrandizing statement on Berggruen's part. 'He threw out such a high figure in hope of getting more for the work he put up at auction'." San Francisco Chronicle 05/29/01

ARTISTS - WHAT AILS YE? Australia is embarking on a study of the state of the country's visual arts. "Increasingly the sector is just stretched to breaking point, both in terms of infrastructure and in working conditions for artists." Sydney Morning Herald 05/29/01

NOT JUST ANOTHER TEAR-DOWN: The United Nations has criticized Spain for its "£45 million plan to extend its most famous museum, the Prado, by tearing down 17th century cloisters." The Telegraph (UK) 05/29/01

HIP-HOPPING ALONG: San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center makes a museum show out of hip hop culture. "Art museums have become a little too confident of their ability to package moments of a society's cultural life. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Hip-Hop Nation reminds us that it cannot be done." San Francisco Chronicle 05/29/01

  • ART OF HIP-HOP: "Hip-hop has been called a folk art by some and postmodern by others. Even though it is not foremost a visual art, its possibilities as the subject of a show in an art museum (as opposed to a music or historical museum) are rich." San Jose Mercury News 05/29/01

BUILDING MORE GLAMOR: From new airport structures to the new Disney concert hall, Los Angeles is the latest city to spruce up with a series of glitzy new building projects. The Times (UK) 05/29/01

ALL IN THE FAMILY: When Rene Magritte was a young struggling artist, his younger brother often bought his paintings as a way of helping the artist out. Now that collection is about to be sold. The Telegraph (UK) 05/29/01

Monday May 28

THE GRAND UNVEILING: Australia's National Gallery unveils its controversial new acquisition - a Lucien Freud painting purchased as a point of national pride. "When a curtain was pulled away to reveal the $7.4 million work, there was at first a stunned silence, but the room quickly filled with spirited, perhaps nervous, chatter from members of the public and dignitaries alike." The Age (Melbourne) 05/28/01

WILL EXHIBIT FOR MONEY? Smithsonian director Lawrence Small is in trouble again. A group of scholars at the National Museum of American History has written to the Smithsonian's board of regents to complain that Small has made questionable deals with donors that compromise the integrity of the institution. They charge that Small has allowed donors to determine content in return for money. Washington Post 05/26/01

REBUILDING PETERSBURG: St. Petersburg, Russia is trying to reconstruct its historic city center, a project that will cost billions. But progress is slow because of corruption. Nonetheless, the World Bank has authorized a $150 million loan to help boost the project. The Art Newspaper 05/26/01

DEATH BE NOT PROUD: "To many, mausoleums may seem like an anachronism, reminiscent of the days of the Pullmans and the Carnegies. But they're popular again, as are elaborate cemetery monuments, with designers, craftsmen and artisans all having a hand in creating these permanent memorials that have become a means of artistic expression." Chicago Tribune 05/28/01

HANGING OUT IN MONTREAL: Photographer Spencer Tunick has been traveling all over North America getting people to strip naked in groups so he can photograph them This weekend he was in Montreal photographing "2,200 people of all ages and colours" on the streets of the city creating one of his nearly 50 "human sculptures, each one created by photographing large groups of naked people in different places around the world." Montreal Gazette 05/27/01

MY NEW ARTISTIC LIFE: Michael Stone was "one of the most notorious terrorists in Northern Ireland." But since getting out of jail he says he's become an artist. His supporters are threatening to demonstrate against a Belfast gallery if it won't show Stone's work. Sunday Times (UK) 05/27/01

Sunday May 27

WRIGHT ANGLE: The works of Frank Lloyd Wright have become so omnipresent that it would seem there is little left to say about him. Not so: a new exhibit makes the case that Wright was not only one of the 20th century's greatest architects, but one of its finest stained glass designers as well. Chicago Tribune 05/27/01

REBUILDING POTSDAM: Fifty years ago, Potsdam's Old Town Hall (which was really more of a palace) was levelled by Allied bombing attacks, along with most of Germany. Now, a new exhibition of surviving artifacts has locals talking about a restoration effort. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/25/01

BIG BUCKS IN BOSTON: "Two years after the [Boston] Museum of Fine Arts announced plans for a large-scale expansion, the trustees yesterday approved a $425 million campaign to fund the first phase of the project." Boston Herald 05/26/01

Friday May 25

MARBLE WALL RETURNED TO CHINA: The US Customs Service has returned a stolen 10th Century marble panel to China. "The relic, which stands about 4 feet high, depicts a warrior holding a sword with a phoenix on his shoulders. Thieves allegedly used dynamite to access and remove the 480-pound marble relief in 1994." It was being offered for auction at Christie's last year before the Customs Service confiscated it. 05/25/01

WHO ME COMPETE? Newly released memos between Christie's and Sotheby's reveal a cozy relationship. "The arrangements — beyond the already admitted collusion of fixing the commission fees paid by sellers — paint a picture of competitors operating not so much as cutthroat rivals but almost as cozy partners, happy to consult each other on matters big and small to the detriment of their customers." The New York Times 05/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ARE YOU A STUCKIST? "Stuckists want to put painting back on its pedestal, they want to see brush strokes on canvas and recognisable objects. Down, they say, with all the detached, 'clever' stuff that these days passes as art." The Age (Melbourne) 05/25/01

OUT OF THE SHADOWS: Why did women artists married to famous artists take so long to develop careers? "Did Lee Krasner have no choice but to wait for alcohol to kill Jackson Pollock? Did Elaine de Kooning need to separate from Willem, Helen Frankenthaler to divorce Robert Motherwell before their talents could really develop?" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/25/01

FUNDING YES, BUT FOR WHAT? The National Gallery of Australia gets funding from the Australian government for a major expansion, but the plans for that expansion have come under attack from a number of architects and critics. Sydney Morning Herald 05/25/01

WHAT ABOUT LATIN AMERICAN? Though Latino musicians seem to be gaining popularity in the US, art by Latin American artists hasn't caught on. Why? 05/24/01

Thursday May 24

ART AS INVESTMENT: A new business index tracks the value of art from 1875 to the present. "Starting from a baseline value of 100, the market peaked in 1990 at 2,476 before dropping 20 percent over the next four years. By last year, art prices had fully recovered, reaching a level of 2,566, although the Impressionist works still lag behind their top performance, according to the index." New Jersey Online (AP) 05/23/01

ART THEFT TRIAL: The trial of 10 men charged with the theft of three Renoir and Rembrandt paintings from Stockholm's National Museum begins next week. "Only one of the paintings has been recovered, leaving much of the mystery unsolved." CNN (AP) 05/23/01

FINALLY FREE: After long debates, the last two British national museums have agreed to make admission to their galleries free. "The Natural History Museum bowed to the inevitable and voted to scrap the £9 adult admission charge. Their decision was followed within hours by the National Maritime Museum. The British culture secretary, Chris Smith, who described free admission as 'a bit of a personal crusade', was exultant." The Guardian (UK) 05/24/01

NO, THE CAMERA DOESN'T LIE, BUT..."In our image-glutted culture, our connection to photographs — and especially to those that record atrocities, wars, and other manmade disasters — resembles a bad but inescapable marriage in which one unhappy partner distrusts yet depends upon the other. Such photographs show us that great misery exists in the world. But they cannot tell us what we most need to know, which is why." Boston Review 05-06/01

PRICES ARE UP, BUT FOR HOW LONG? "[T]he reality is that the art market has softened, and buyers and sellers alike are wary... the presence of new, younger collectors is distorting the market. Rather than researching the dealer price for work by hot artists, these younger buyers purchase the same pieces for inflated prices at auction." Forbes 05/23/01

Wednesday May 23

ART IN IRAN: Iran's artists seem to be coming out to play again. "While there has been liberalisation in the past five years, it has taken the form of a general loosening of control rather than a principled move away from strictness. Discretion is the hallmark of the newest Iranian art — or at least of its presentation. Timing may well be all." The Times (UK) 05/23/01

NOT-SO-VIRGIN MARY STAYS PUT: Catholic activists were infuriated when a collage featuring the Virgin of Guadalupe in a bikini was included in an exhibit at a Santa Fe museum. After considering the controversy, museum officials have decided not to remove the piece, but the entire exhibition will come down earlier than originally planned. BBC 05/23/01

PETITIONING ABOUT LEONARDO: More than 30 art scholars are protesting the Ufizzi's plans to work on a Leonardo painting. "Several petitioners said their main concern was the vulnerability of the Leonardo painting (1481-82), which in its unfinished state is too fragile to undergo the rigors of a restoration, or consolidation and stabilization in the language of art restorers." The New York Times 05/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TERRA LAWSUIT SETTLED: A lawsuit filed last year over the future of the Terra Museum in suburban Chicago has reportedly been settled. The terms of the settlement require that the Terra stay in Illinois - a potential move was the reason for the suit - but would allow the museum's collection to be merged with another area institution. Chicago Tribune 05/23/01

IN THE MONEY: Painter Katie Pratt has won the UK's richest award to contemporary painters - the £30,000 Jerwood prize. BBC 05/23/01

Tuesday May 22

MONUMENT ON THE MALL: Despite loud and persistent criticism, the US Congress has voted to erect a monument to World War II on the National Mall in Washington DC. "The turf war is over one of the most visible and hallowed pieces of territory in America: 7.4 acres of the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument." The New York Times 05/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

RUSSIAN HARD LINE: "According to German sources, a recent international conference on looted art held in Moscow failed to make any progress and, in the view of some, demonstrated a Russian reluctance to return art works (taken in World War II) to Germany, Hungary, Poland, and other countries." Radio Free Europe 05/21/01

OUTSIDER ART COMES IN: The $22 million Museum of American Folk Art opening this December is "the first major art museum in New York since the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1966. Its centerpiece is the Contemporary Center, devoted to the exhibition and research of contemporary self-taught artists. Business 2.0 05/21/01

HOW TO REMAKE BOSTON: Boston's $14 billion project to bury the main freeway through its downtown - the largest public works project in the United States - has many dreaming of new parks and open space. If only it were that simple. Washington Post 05/21/01

NEW MAN AT THE BMA: The British Museum gets a new chairman - Sir John Boyd, master of Churchill College, Cambridge. Boyd defends the museum in the face of a possible investigation as to how the museum used the wrong stone on its new £100 million portico. The Times (UK) 05/22/01

POOH BEAR ON THE BLOCK: Two letters written by Winnie the Pooh illustrator E.H. Shephard under the name of that famous bear, and decorated with the ultra-familiar visages of the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood, will be auctioned off this week in England, and will likely go for more than $20,000. BBC 05/22/01

  • TROUBLE IN TOONTOWN: "The first drawings of Mickey Mouse have failed to sell at auction, leaving the museum which owns it in serious financial trouble... The Florida-based International Museum of Cartoon Art offered the Mickey drawings and hundreds of other items in an effort to repay nearly $2 million of debt." BBC 05/22/01

Monday May 21

LOOT OR COMPENSATION? The Russians are reluctant to return art they took from Germany in World War II. Now a new Russian policy: "Beginning immediately, the European cultural treasures taken to Russia as war spoils by army brigades in the postwar period will no longer be regarded as 'looted art'. Instead, they will be termed 'compensation' for losses suffered. Those in power now plan to garner the greatest possible benefit from the art looted in that era." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/21/01

IN JOURNALISM THEY CALL IT PLAGIARISM: Net photographer Michael Mandiberg is challenging notions of originality with his latest work. His new show "features his scanned reproductions of photographs taken by the respected artist Sherrie Levine. The catch: Levine's originals, shot in the late 1970s, are head-on photos of black-and-white documentary photographs of Depression-era Alabama sharecroppers, which were shot in 1936 by the legendary Walker Evans." Wired 05/21/01

ARREST IN PICASSO CASE: A member of the Turkish parliament has been arrested for trying to sell two stolen Picasso paintings. The Art Newspaper 05/18/01

Sunday May 20

STAR POWER: Clients are rushing to sign up the biggies in architecture - the brand names - because they think doing so will help them get donors and publicity and, maybe, more exciting buildings. 'Signature buildings' is another term you hear, as if architects signed their work like painters." Boston Globe 05/20/01

DEAD ART: An exhibition of dead bodies in Berlin has caused much debate about their value as "art." "Without visiting this extraordinary circus of plastic dead people, it's hard to understand why such a grim concept could be so popular. Disgust soon gives way to fascination: a group of teenagers queue up to get a chance to hold a real city dweller's lung, mottled with black spots, or feel the gallstones of a middle-aged liver." The Observer (UK) 05/20/01

MICKEY MOUSE AUCTION: The debt-ridden International Museum of Cartoon Art hoped sellng its original drawings of Mickey Mouse would bail the museum out from under its $2 million debt. But the auction failed to generate anything close to that and the drawings remain unsold. Washington Post 05/20/01

Friday May 18

SINGING GEHRY'S PRAISES: Is Frank Gehry the world's greatest architect? No surprise - the Guggenheim thinks so. Financial Times 05/18/01

  • MAYBE THEY'RE RIGHT: A critic takes a look at the Guggenheim's fawning Gehry retrospective, and finds himself agreeing with the museum's assessment of the architect's career. Los Angeles Times 05/18/01

THE HOT NEW... Christie's New York sale of contemporary art breaks record for contemporary sales. The New York Times 05/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MUSEUM IN THE CENTER: A new national museum for Scotland is being planned as the centerpiece of an ambitious new £1 billion urban redevelopment program in Edinburgh. The Scotsman 05/17/01

HARD TO MISS: "A giant sculpture by New York artist Frank Stella will be installed outside the East Building of the National Gallery of Art by late summer. More than 30 feet high, it looks like a whirlwind of curving aluminum and painted fiberglass forms anchored to the ground by steel trusses and cables." Washington Post 05/18/01

Thursday May 17

HOW TO ABUSE A GENEROUS OFFER: Joe Brown owns the best collection of Australian art still in private hands. He wants to give the $60 million collection to the Australian government. "The 400 paintings date from the moment of white settlement to the present" and the collection includes 50 sculptures and 3500 art books. So why has the government not jumped at the opportunity? The Age (Melbourne) 05/17/01

STAY OF EXECUTION: A house in Illinois thought to have been Frank Lloyd Wright's last creation was saved from demolition when the buyer who planned to knock it down walked away from the deal. But there is no guarantee that a buyer can be found to keep the house intact. Nando Times (AP) 05/16/01

CONTEMPORARY BATTLES: There's a battle going on over the future of Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art. "It has all the hubristic elements of great drama - ambition, vanity, greed, bitterness, upthemselves-osity etc - plus a characteristic specific to Sydney. In this case, it's the catastrophic tendency of this city to tangle public heritage, private gain, personal vendettas and political ambition into a knot, which I fear will lead to us having no MCA at all." Sydney Morning Herald 05/17/01

RUN LOLA RUN: The Canadian art magazine Lola has, in only four years, risen from a no-budget 'zine to one of the influential voices in Canadian culture. It is simultaneously slick and substantive, and caters largely to a young demographic, but without resorting to the sulky tone of so many other similar publications. In fact, more than anything else, Lola seems, well, happy. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/17/01

HOLDING ACCOUNTABLE: "A British art dealer living in New York went on trial near Paris yesterday on charges of possessing a 17th-century Dutch masterpiece that had been stolen from a French family on the orders of Hitler during the Second World War." The Times (UK) 05/17/01

ANDY GETS ANOTHER 15 MINUTES: "As the stock market leaped upward yesterday, so did the art market. At Christie's sale of postwar art last night, works of modern masters ranging from Warhol and Calder to Sam Francis and Gerhard Richter brought prices far above estimates. Warhol was the undisputed star of the evening." The New York Times 05/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MONKEY'S PAW: Jeff Koons' sculpture of Michael Jackson and his pet monkey Bubbles was sold at auction in New York for $5.6 million, a record price for a Koons. BBC 05/16/01

O'KEEFFE PROJECT CANCELED: A long-anticipated movie biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, which "was to have starred Linda Fiorentino as O'Keeffe and Ben Kingsley as Alfred Stieglitz, has been canceled, after Fiorentino didn't show up for shooting and producers were unable to find a replacement. Producers are suing the actress. The Art Newspaper 05/17/01

ALL ABOUT THE KIDS: "The National Arts Centre in Ottawa is establishing an open-ended trust to support the artistic development and art appreciation capabilities of young Canadians." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/17/01

Wednesday May 16

THE GREAT POWERFUL OZ: The Sotheby's/Christie's indictments have blown away the facade of the privileged world of art auctioneering. "Their customers, many of them, are so rich and careful of their reputations that trust is presumed to be at the core of their activities. This has always been fantasy, of course. But all illusions have been blown apart by the strong-armed methods of the judicial system in the United States." Sydney Morning Herald 05/16/01

DOING VERMEER: There's something of a mini Vermeer industry going on - a major exhibition, new books..."To read about Johannes Vermeer and to look at his pictures is sometimes to think you have entered a fairy-tale domain. There’s an Arabian Nights flavor about a painter who leaves so few traces of himself (we have no knowledge of his working methods, or who if anyone he studied with, or if he had any pupils); dies fairly young (at forty-three, in 1675); and is represented by a remarkably small body of pictures, each of which is somehow a precious link in the story." New York Review of Books 05/31/01

HELP WANTED. STEEPLEJACK. MUST DO WINDOWS: Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts will open late this year. Its most striking architectural feature is a canopied roof made of glass, which covers a full city block. That's more than four acres of glass, and already people are wondering: How are they going to keep it clean? No one seems to have figured that out yet. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/16/01

THE TWO SIDES OF AUSTRALIAN ART: The rest of the world recognizes Australian aboriginal art, but at home Australian scholars have focused on art out of European traditions. So a new book that considers the two from equal footing is being called a fresh look at the country's art history. Sydney Morning Herald 05/16/01

Tuesday May 15

THE MET'S NEW BLOCKBUSTER: The Jackie Kennedy show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is breaking records. And racking up sales. "The Kennedy show's catalog, $50 in hardcover and $35 in paperback, has been selling at the rate of 600 a day and has gone into a second printing. A CD of Mrs. Kennedy's favorite music, including that of "Camelot," has sold 2,000 copies." The New York Times 05/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)

STILL STANDING: Many dotcom companies financed with millions of dollars have gone out of business in San Francisco, while the city's art galleries, pressed and squeezed by soaring rents caused by the dotcoms, are still around, and finding their rents returning to more reasonable levels. San Francisco Chronicle 05/15/01

SIZING UP THE CONTEMPORARY: Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art is trying to build a new building. But will it be successful? "Sydneysiders seem to be a rather lazy lot - they will amble into the MCA at street level, provided it's free, but will they travel more than once up to the fifth floor to see it? On evidence, they don't make much of an effort now - will they in the future?" Sydney Morning Herald 05/15/01

DUMPING GROUND: The Museum of London is like that shelf at the back of your closet that stores anything you can't quite bear to throw out, but don't particularly want to see daily. "Sentimental memorabilia, keepsakes, relics, tokens and reminders of times past as well as the city's trophies of an ancestral archaeological yore, the museum is, alas, housed in a postwar building remarkable only for its hostile ugliness." London Evening Standard 05/15/01

MICHELANGELO ON SALE: A Michelangelo drawing found last year in England is expected to sell for £8 million at auction. "The three-quarter length drawing in pen and brown ink is called Study of a Mourning Woman and will be auctioned in London by Sotheby's." BBC 05/15/01

RACE AGAINST THEFT: "Renovation may save the colonial churches of Brazil, but it will be tough to save their sacred art. Since the 1970s, crime has been increasing at churches around the country as religious art became more popular among collectors. With little security at churches and no specialized police force, art thieves have been able to work relatively unhindered." BusinessWeek 05/14/01

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Were the pyramids inspired by meteorites falling from the heavens? A British scientist argues that "from evidence of the orientation of the pyramids - always to the northern pole star - and from the names given to estates to finance funerary cults, and the shape of the pyramids themselves, that they could be seen as launch pads for the pharaoh's journey to the afterlife among the stars." The Guardian (UK) 05/15/01

Monday May 14

ART SLUMP? A Picasso expected to sell for $30 million failed to sell at all last week. "Despite the record of the highend art business defying market slumps, the big money is not out there this time. The mixed quality of the paintings also meant that collectors were not rushing to sell, experts said, because they feared the value of art works had been eroded." Irish Times 05/13/01

RAISING MONEY THROUGH ART: Should charities be able to sell off their artwork in order to raise money? In England, a court will rule this week on whether a charity can sell its prized collection of "150 paintings, including works by Hogarth and Gainsborough." The Independent (UK) 05/13/01

SELLING MICKEY: The International Museum of Cartoon Art in Florida says it will have to sell off one of its prizes to keep creditors at bay - the original first drawings of Mickey Mouse, done in 1928. "The museum will offer the drawings and hundreds of other items for sale to defray nearly $2 million in debt, most owed to a bank which holds the museum's mortgage." New Jersey Online 05/13/01

Sunday May 13

HOPING FOR CALM: In a city as artistically saturated as Vancouver, there are bound to be a few ongoing arts-scene soap operas. The Vancouver Art Gallery has been embroiled in one of them for years, with the central controversy being the fact that the gallery goes through directors the way most of us go through t-shirts. The newest appointee seems bound and determined to end the cycle. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/12/01

TAKING ON THE TURNER: The Turner Prize has become one of the most controversial arts awards in the world, thanks to the last several winners, which included a dead and bisected calf, a mattress soaked in bodily fluids, and other such traditionally off-putting material. One London newspaper is on a crusade to find out how the winners are chosen, when nominations are supposed to come from the general public. London Evening Standard 05/11/01

TORONTO DOES SOME INTROSPECTING: Toronto is a difficult city to define: a U.S.-style metropolis in many ways, but with much in common with European cultural centers. So as the city looks for the right men and women to lead what it hopes will be an architectural renaissance, questions about what such an overhaul should look like arise. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/12/01

SPENCER AT THE TATE: Stanley Spencer did not fit in the narrow pigeonholes of the 20th century art world, and that may be why his work remains so provocative, even as much of what passed for innovation in the last hundred years slips into obscurity. Spencer's paintings, currently on display in London, embraced a strange and beautiful set of contradictions, not the least of which was the intertwining of religion and sex. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/11/01

INCHING TOWARDS HUMANITY: "Artist and University of California at San Diego art professor Harold Cohen has been working on the art-creating program, "Aaron," since 1973. It's roughly 1.5 megabytes of LISP code, and this ever-evolving project has spawned articles, college lectures and an entire book analyzing just what Aaron is and does." Wired 05/12/01

"OVERALLS" ALL OVER BEFORE IT BEGINS? Cedar Rapids, Iowa, plans to get into the cows-on-parade-inspired public art craze with some fifty statues of the couple from Grant Wood's famous "American Gothic" painting. But the project, which is called "Overalls All Over," is running into trouble from representatives of Wood's heirs, who may have a right to royalities. Washington Post (AP) 05/11/01

UP NEXT - THE DALAI LAMA EATEN BY A DINOSAUR: The artist who caused outrage all over Europe with his installation depicting the Pope being crushed by a meteorite has come to America. The controversial piece will be auctioned this week at Christie's in New York. The New York Times 05/13/01 (one time registration required for access)

THE HEALING POWER OF ART: "A remarkable program at an Ontario hospital has put original artworks into the wards. Its aim: to bring tranquillity to patients and staff." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/12/01

Friday May 11

TATE IS TOPS: The Tate Modern is celebrating its first birthday, and the attendance numbers tell quite a success story. Some 5.25 million visitors crammed into the fledgling museum in the last year, nearly twice the number officials expected. The blockbuster year makes the Tate the most popular modern art museum in the world. BBC 05/11/01

SALES UP OVER DOWN UNDER: Recent art sales in Australia have galleries and auction houses cooing over a sizable buying boom. "The fears of an imminent recession that were evident earlier this year have clearly evaporated and people with disposable incomes are looking for new forms of investment." Sydney Morning Herald 05/11/01

  • BUT DISAPPOINTING SALES IN NEW YORK has the art world worried there. "The sales came amid a string of other lackluster art auctions in the first stretch of the all-important two-week spring sale of Impressionist, contemporary and modern art." Washington Post (AP) 05/10/01

SOLVING THE SPACE CRUNCH: More and more, museums and the trustees who love them seem to be concerned about the amount of artwork locked away in storage. So now come calls in Edinburgh to build a new museum to house some of the 90 percent of objects in storage at the National Museum. The Scotsman 05/10/01

WHAT LIES BENEATH: A new exhibit of paintings by Piet Mondrian does more than show off the finished product. Mondrian was famous for changing his artwork to suit new situations and his own changing tastes, and the exhibit uses various technologies usually only used by collectors and curators to allow the public to view the original aspects of the works that Mondrian later covered up. Boston Globe 05/11/01

SEGALOT STEPS DOWN: "After running Christie's contemporary art department worldwide for three years, Philippe Ségalot has decided enough is enough. But contrary to rumors, he is not leaving the auction house. Rather, he will work with Christie's top clients and direct special projects about contemporary art." The New York Times 05/11/01 [third item] (one-time registration required for access)

Thursday May 10

A TALE OF TWO AUCTIONS: Sotheby's got a much-needed boost this week in New York when an auction of 20th century artworks from a private collection earned $54 million, better than expected. But a scant few blocks away, at Christie's, major paintings by Picasso, Degas, and Cezanne failed to sell, and the auction took in only slightly more than half the money it had expected. Nando Times (AP) 05/09/01 & BBC 05/10/01

DEFINING MODERNISM: "The definition of modernism seems to be inseparable from its genealogy: Where and how did it originate? Who were its progenitors and who are its legitimate heirs? The formation of early collections of modern art in the United States helped to validate and thereby shape the historical perspective through which American modernism has been assessed." American Art 05/01

ANY EXCUSE FOR A PARTY: "Institutional birthdays aren't often measured in quarter-centuries. But the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which considers 1876 to be its founding year, isn't waiting for a centennial to throw its next big party. The museum will launch its 125th anniversary celebration at 11 this morning at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park, the museum's first home." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/10/01

PICTURES OF A TRAGEDY: A Washington, D.C. gallery has teamed up with New Mexico's Sandia Pueblo tribe to present a new exhibit of 19th century photographs documenting the effects of U.S. policies on Native Americans. The photos are both historically and artistically significant, having been taken by some of the most noted photographers of the era. Daily Oklahoman (AP) 05/09/01

Wednesday May 9

BETWEEN LAW AND DIPLOMACY: Germany has yet to fully untangle its responsibilities and claims for art looted by the Nazis. But resolving conflicting claims will take something between the law and good diplomacy. So why'd it take so long? Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/09/01

ART TO THE PEOPLE: As part of a plan to bring artists into non-traditional spaces, some British regional arts councils have put artists on trains, sketching passengers and talking about art. The Times (UK) 05/09/01

Tuesday May 8

SLOGGING TO VENICE: Now that there are some 55 international art biennales chasing the art crowd for attention, what is the role of the Venice Biennale? How to stay fresh and interesting and not be just another stop on the art slog? Artforum 05/01

THE HITLER PAINTINGS: Since World War II the US government has locked away a set of watercolors painted by Adolph Hitler. "But the need to keep them hidden is challenged in a lawsuit that has been making its way through the courts for 18 years," and was heard in court this week. The New York Times 05/08/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LET IT ALL HANG OUT: The typical museum only has a fraction of its collection on display at any one time. That's changing though - "In the last decade the idea of letting the public roam freely through what a library would call open stacks, and what some museums have called open study centers, has been winning converts among major museums." The New York Times 05/08/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SORTING OUT THE DESIGNS: Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art is choosing a design for its new building. The finalists' designs are controversial, and now the museum has released details of the designs it rejected. Sydney Morning Herald 05/08/01

  • WHAT WENT WRONG: So what's wrong with the designs that didn't make the cut? Sydney Morning Herald 05/08/01

BLAME IT ON CHICAGO: Chicago's placement of decorated fiberglass cows on its streets two summers ago was such a financial success, by now every city in America is littering its streets with critters. Last summer Chicago tried again with decorated ping pong tables - they were less successful - but isn't about to stop trying to recreate the magic. This summer's object(s) is furniture - sofas, ottomans, televisions, chairs... Nando Times 05/07/01

Monday May 7

WAR RESTORATIONS: Negotiations between Russia and Germany for the return of artwork the Soviets took from Germany during their occupation after World War II have become more heated and difficult. One old-style Russian diplomat says: "the atrocities committed by German aggressors on Russian soil automatically disqualified Germany from any form of legal redress." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/06/01

THE POLITICS OF INDICTMENTS: It took a long time for prosecutors to finally indict execs at Christie's and Sotheby's in the price fixing investigations. “I think that prosecutors generally felt that art was a corrupt business, that there were a lot of things going on that were not appropriate: tax evasion schemes, smuggling, all kinds of stuff. Now they have made it a price-fixing case.” The Art Newspaper 05/04/01

THE WILL TO SURVIVE: Last fall the Barnes Collection sent out an SOS and the Pew Charitable Trusts and the J Paul Getty Trust stepped forward with some emergency help. Pew and Getty explain their support, but some critics worry that the Barnes is reinventing contrary to the provisions of its founder's will. The Art Newspaper 05/04/01

ST. PAUL OVERHAUL: Minnesota's capital city has undergone drastic changes in the last decade. Neighborhoods have been cleaned up, a downtown skyline has appeared, and a local organization has erected some twenty works of public art. They hope for fifty more by 2005, and the Snoopy On Parade statues don't count. St. Paul Pioneer Press 05/07/01

NO FINGER PAINTING HERE: A New Jersey elementary school teacher conceived of "Art Night" as a way to get her students interested in the arts on a personal level. She never imagined that the works they created would draw crowds of thousands, and become one of the community's most anticipated events. Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine 05/06/01

MORRIS GRAVES, 90: Artist Morris Graves, a founding member of the Northwest School of art and the last of the Northwest Mystics, has died at the age of 90 in Northern California. New Jersey Online 05/06/01

Sunday May 5

MORE PROBLEMS AT THE V&A: "The architect behind the Victoria and Albert Museum's controversial spiral extension, costing £80m, has been asked to reduce the cost of the project. German architect Daniel Libeskind has been told the extension is not top priority, and that it may be delayed while other work is done." BBC 05/06/01

WRONG TURN IN ART? Is modern art a sort of intellectual mistake? A French philosopher argues we've made a wrong turn. "In the case of modern art, one of the fundamental villains is the same as one who has been fingered - by the philosopher Karl Popper - in the matter of Marxism. The guilty man was Plato, who held that everyday, visible items such as chairs and people are merely inadequate derivatives of the 'real', abstract concepts of furniture and folks." The Telegraph (UK) 05/05/01

ART IN A WEAK ECONOMY: "Despite stock fluctuations - the NASDAQ has declined more than 50 percent from its March 2000 high - art dealers haven't seen major shifts in sales, said Marc Porter, international managing director of auction house Christie's." Taipei Times (Bloomberg) 05/05/01

Friday May 4

FEARS IN FIRENZE: The Ufizzi's plan to restore Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi has drawn criticism from experts who fear the painting will be damaged in the process. "After 10 years of research by our experts on how to save the painting, it's astonishing these people have decided to raise their objections now, and to do so through the press." National Post (AP) 05/04/01

DRESSING DOWN: The Metropolitan Museum's new show on the fashions of Jacqueline Kennedy is a "ludicrously overproduced biopic of a dress show. Museums are becoming outposts of the E! channel. And recent events at the Metropolitan give us the clearest imaginable demonstration of the power of the fashion marketers." The New Republic 05/01/01

BITTER BIENNALE: Last year the Ukraine announced it would fund the first Ukrainian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. But the project has "unleashed a vicious mud-slinging match between two of the country’s leading contemporary curators and the artists they represent." The Art Newspaper 05/04/01

Thursday May 3

AUCTION HOUSE INDICTMENTS: The former chairmen of Christie's and Sotheby's auction houses have been indicted by a grand jury in New York. Christie's ex-chair says he has no intention of returning to New York to face charges. Sotheby's ex-boss denies charges, but faces hefty fines and possibly three years in jail. The Telegraph (UK) 05/03/01

LIVING LARGE IN LONDON: Surely London is the most fun place to see art these days - and to be an artist. Even New Yorkers are beginning to acknowledge as much. And it's not just about the Tate Modern... The New York Times 05/03/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BIG ON ART: Art seems to be getting larger and larger. And with it the enormous new gallery spaces museums are building to accommodate it. "An off-the-cuff canvass of art historians and artists suggests that today's whoppers can trace their origins — at least in part — to the federal programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency. Hired by the government to make murals and other adornments for official buildings, artists enlarged their studios, got used to working in bold scale and kept right on going." The New York Times 05/03/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SAVING RUSSIA'S ART TREASURES: The Hermitage in St. Petersburg houses one of the world's largest collections of art. It's also an uncatalogued and endangered collection. The Canadian curator who was asked for advice fell in love with the place, quit his job, and now regards saving the Hermitage collection as a crusade. Ottawa Citizen 05/02/01

FREE RESISTANCE CRUMBLES: The few remaining British national museums holding out against making their admissions free are giving up their opposition. The crumbling of resistance is seen as a validation of government culture secretary Chris Smith's policies. The Guardian (UK) 05/03/01

IT'S AUCTION HYPE SEASON: Ah, it's May, and the twice-yearly art auctions are here with their inevitable predictions of record prices. So is the Cezanne that No. 3 auction house Phillips is planning to put up going to fetch a record price for a painting? Some say it'll get $82 million. Some say Phillips is just trying to grab attention and that such conjecture is usually just fodder to hype interest in the sales. 05/02/01

BE KIND TO ARTISTS: A homeless artist in Bath, England, had a couple of his pictures chosen for inclusion in a show at the Tate Britain. There an American couple saw them, tracked the artist down, and bought him a boat to live on. The Times (UK) 05/03/01

Wednesday May 2

PLEASE, CAN I BORROW THE KEYS TO THE CAR? Being curator of the Whitney is a dream job that many people believe they could do better than the incumbent - whoever that happens to be. Current curator is Lawrence Rinder. But maybe it isn't such a dream job after all - lousy pay, lots of criticism and unable to have final say on what shows you'll do. Then there's this tidbit from the man who's in charge of plotting the museum's aesthetic course: "We can't have art in our offices. Only the director can. It's too dangerous because the work could get damaged." Uh-huh. The New York Times 05/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LURE OF THE NEW: Why is controversial contemporary art so popular today? "Politicians, fear-ridden arts bureaucrats and sensation-seeking media have got it wrong: the main reason that exhibitions of contemporary art keep on being popular is, I suggest, because they are answering public needs. That is, at least some of the art is engaging with the most important issues of our time, and doing so in full-blooded ways." Sydney Morning Herald 05/02/01

AN AWKWARD FIT: After an agonizing process, Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art chose an architect and a design for a new building. But the winner doesn't really fit the space, and besides, with costs soaring to $100 million, is it it likely the thing will ever get built? Sydney Morning Herald 05/02/01

ESCHEWING THE MUSEUM AS ART: Museums planning new buildings or additions seem to feel the building needs to make a bold art statement to attract attention. But Renzo Piano's plan for a $200 million addition to the Art Institute of Chicago is more modest. "What the museum and its architect are offering instead is a subtle late modern statement that promises to strike just the right balance between architectural spectacle, as exemplified by Gehry's triumph in Bilbao, and architectural sobriety, as seen in Chicago's stolid, uninviting Museum of Contemporary Art." Chicago Tribune 05/02/01

BEHIND THE FACADE: When it opened just over a year ago, Los Angeles' Latino Museum seemed to have everything going for it. "But below the surface, everything was in turmoil. The museum was racking up debt. Operations and exhibitions were run on credit; employees were not being paid and morale was plunging. As a stopgap, the California Legislature reallocated $1.6 million in educational and capital grants for salaries and daily expenses. But Gov. Gray Davis vetoed the plan." Now the museum has closed. The New York Times 05/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)

AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM PROPOSED: In the US Congress, legislation to create a new African American Museum on the National Mall. The plan "resurrects an intense and vocal effort from the '80s and '90s to get the Smithsonian Institution to dedicate a structure on the Mall exclusively to the story of black Americans." Washington Post 05/02/01

THE JUDGE AS ART CRITIC: Gary Saderup sold T-shirts with his drawing of The Three Stooges on them and the Stooges' estate sued, charging infringement of trademark. The Supreme Court of California ruled against Saderup: "In deciding what is truly art, a judge must determine whether it contains enough creativity to 'be transformed into something more than a mere celebrity likeness or imitation.' Experts said the case is likely to influence courts across the nation and may force judges to become art critics." Los Angeles Times 05/01/01

WHAT, THEM WORRY? The downturn in the economy has auction houses worried. The high-profile Impressionist Impressionist, modern and contemporary sales beginn in Manhattan next week, and "the mood within could best be described as jittery. Among them these three auction houses are to offer more than $600 million worth of art, a considerable sum given the rocky economy and the auction business's dependence on the mood of buyers whose split-second decision determines the stability of the market." The New York Times 05/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE FIRST CITY IN THE AMERICAS: About the time the Egyptians started building the pyramids, ancient Peruvians were building Caral, the first city in the New World. "Other early cities around the globe show traces of outside influences, but Caral was 'not being influenced by anything earlier or anything bigger, so it may offer our first view of pristine development of complex society'." New Scientist 04/27/01

Tuesday May 1

TALLEST SCULPTURE: What is thought to be the tallest sculpture in the world has been installed in Dublin. "Dozens of workmen and three cranes took several hours to put the 116 ft-tall Irish Wave in position in a business park. The 20-tonne structure, a twisted vertical spiral, took more than two years to build." The Telegraph (UK) 05/01/01

SCOTTISH MUSEUM ATTENDANCE SOARS: Attendance at Glasgow museums has soared in recent months, and officials are wondering if the foot-and-mouth disease scare in the countryside has encouraged people to take in city attractions. Glasgow Herald 04/30/01

SETTING THE DATE: Britain's Victoria & Albert Museums have announced that November 22 will be the date when visitors may begin wandering the galleries for free. The plan had been in the works for some time, and the date was selected to correspond to the opening of the Museums' much-anticipated "British Galleries." BBC 05/01/01

JUST ADD A STARBUCKS®: The Detroit Institute of the Arts is the latest in a string of American museums to announce that massive renovations will be necessary for it to continue to draw the public to its exhibitions. "Once reflecting an academic atmosphere, today's museums are attempting to become modern-day meeting places for informal discussions about art, history and science." Detroit Free Press 04/30/01

KIDS RULE! Even as most museums scramble to attract enough visitors to pay their costs, children's museums are experiencing an unprecedented boom. The U.S. has nearly six times as many children's museums as it did a quarter century ago, and attendance has exploded in the last decade, with 33 million people visiting one of the nation's 215 such museums in 2000. Washington Post 05/01/01

THE ART OF RESTORATION: Conservationists restoring an English Cheshire estate have turned to a painting done in the 1730s for a record of how the estate looked originally. "The paintings provide the only authentic record of how the estate looked at the time, and thankfully they are a very fine source from which we can recreate the geometric avenues of yesteryear." The Independent (UK) 04/30/01