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Friday May 31

HOOD WINS ARCHIBALD: Cherry Hood's portrait Simon Tedeschi Unplugged has won this year's Archibald Prize. The $35,000 Archibald Prize, in its 81st year, is Australia's pre-eminent portrait competition. This year 751 artists entered the competition. Sydney Morning Herald 05/31/02

THIS YEAR'S LOW-OCTANE TURNER: The Tate's Turner Prize is calculated to be controversial - how better to draw attention to contemporary art? "This year, however, the judges have selected four rather cerebral, unflashy artists who are unlikely to create tabloid headlines. Of course, they are quite unknown to anyone outside the small world of contemporary art, and not one is a painter: once again, in a nation that celebrates Hockney and Freud among working artists, the judges have somehow been unable to uncover in the past year one decent show by a painter under the age of 50." Financial Times 05/31/02

  • THE BARBIE BOOBY PRIZE: "Leading arts figures, who delight in mocking the Turner by suggesting four-year-olds could do a lot better, are backing a new children's art prize - which, offering £20,000, boasts the same prize money as the famous Tate Britain award." The competition would be for children ages 4-11. The Guardian (UK) 05/30/02
  • Previously: TURNER SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED: The list of four finalists for Britain's controversial Turner Prize has been released. Last year, the £20,000 prize was won by Martin Creed for an empty gallery space with a flickering light. The Turner is designed to spark interest in and conversation about contemporary art, and it always manages to do so, even if much of the talk is criticism of the winning work. A sampling of the nominees' work can be found here. BBC 05/30/02

TATE MODERN'S OVERDUE ANNOUNCEMENT: Vicente Todoli's appointment as the new director of Tate Modern this week caught many by surprise. Not that Todoli's not up for the job. It's just that "the job has been open so long, since founding director Lars Nittve left a year ago to head the national museum in his native Sweden, that there was some speculation that the Tate might even manage without a director." The Guardian (UK) 05/30/02

  • Previously: TATE MODERN'S NEW BOSS: "Spanish museum boss Vicente Todoli is to be the new director of London's Tate Modern art gallery, taking over early next year [and succeeding Lars Nittve.] Mr Todoli, 43, studied art history at Yale University in the US after getting a degree at the University of Valencia. He was chief curator and artistic director of Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno before joining the Museu Serralves in Porto, Portugal, as its founding director in 1996." BBC 05/29/02

MONUMENT OR MAUSOLEUM? The new Dresden Library is more a monument to the past than the future. "Its architectonic profile seems to prefigure the fate of all the libraries in the Internet age to become wondrously brooding mausoleums, tombs for the books that may even occasionally be taken in hand, if only out of sentimentality or piety. Viewed thus, the hermetic Book Museum, its precious volumes displayed under gently reduced artificial light, would no longer be a tabernacle of the art of Gutenberg, but instead the exquisite sepulchral chapel of literature as we knew it." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/30/02

FRAUGHT WITH FREUD: Lucien Freud is widely considered Britain's best living painter. Next month he'll get a major retrospective of his work in London. "As many of his sitters have found, having Lucian Freud recreate you in paint is not an unrelieved joy. Jerry Hall's portrait turned her into an amorphous lump of pregnant fleshy blubber. The Queen's portrait, unveiled last December, provoked a tirade of abuse for its unflattering delineation of a blue-chinned nightclub bouncer in a fright wig and a filthy temper." The Independent (UK) 05/30/02

Thursday May 30

TURNER SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED: The list of four finalists for Britain's controversial Turner Prize has been released. Last year, the £20,000 prize was won by Martin Creed for an empty gallery space with a flickering light. The Turner is designed to spark interest in and conversation about contemporary art, and it always manages to do so, even if much of the talk is criticism of the winning work. A sampling of the nominees' work can be found here. BBC 05/30/02

LIGHTNING DAMAGES OBELISK: Lightning damaged a 3,000-year-old obelisk in Rome this week. "A two metre chunk of granite toppled from the 24-metre obelisk during a thunderstorm in Rome late on Monday." The obelisk was stolen from Ethiopia by Mussolini in 1937, and the African nation has been trying to get it back ever since. The Guardian (UK) 05/29/02

DON'T LET MUSEUMS OFF THE HOOK: In Britain, artists are protesting the way the government values art. But at least one critic believes museums and galleries are complicit in the problem. "In my view, the main problem facing these valuable national institutions is not so much their lack of money as their distorted priorities. At present these collections are not giving the pleasure and inspiration that they could. This is because their traditional functions of presenting and interpreting great works of art are undervalued in today's cultural policy circles." The Independent (UK) 05/28/02

ART INSTITUTE GETS GAUGUIN: The Chicago Art Institute has landed a gift of 41 watercolors and other works on paper. "The Art Institute is known for its works on paper from the 18th to the 20th century. This expected new influx of old master drawings would place it in the top rank of museums in this category as well. No other museum holds a group of Gauguin's works on paper comparable to that being donated, curators here said. Most depict scenes from Tahiti." The New York Times 05/30/02

SMITHSONIAN TO MEMORIALIZE 9/11: A new exhibit set to open at the Smithsonian on the one-year anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington "will include photographs, video footage, personal accounts and at least 50 objects selected to tell the story of that day. Visitors also will be allowed to share their own Sept. 11 stories through written responses or audio recording." Minneapolis Star Tribune (Newhouse) 05/30/02

Wednesday May 29

TATE MODERN'S NEW BOSS: "Spanish museum boss Vicente Todoli is to be the new director of London's Tate Modern art gallery, taking over early next year [and succeeding Lars Nittve.] Mr Todoli, 43, studied art history at Yale University in the US after getting a degree at the University of Valencia. He was chief curator and artistic director of Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno before joining the Museu Serralves in Porto, Portugal, as its founding director in 1996." BBC 05/29/02

SECURITY HOLE: What does the theft of hundreds of works of art from small European museums by a lone thief say about the museums' security measures? Most museums protect themselves against gangs and sophisticated thieves, not lone visitors who walk in and steal. "In a way, small museums are better protected at night than in the day. The buildings are usually well secured, but the objects themselves are often very poorly secured, or not at all." The New York Times 05/29/02

POLITICS OVERSHADOWS ART: A London curator was asked last year to put together a show on human rights during the Israel Festival in Jerusalem. "I chose to focus on those artists whose work had addressed identity, place and issues of displacement in other parts of the world. They, I thought, could provide models that might resonate here." He chose international artists - no Israelis, no Palestinians. But by the time the show was ready to open recently, one by one the artists had withdrawn. "Each artist offered one excuse or another. For some it was simply fear of suicide bombers. Most of the excuses were rooted in politics, or possibly ideology covering for anxiety. It is hard to argue a defence when feelings run so deep." London Evening Standard 05/28/02

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO FUNCTIONAL ARCHITECTURE? As the number of new, high-profile buildings in North American cities continues to grow, some critics are becoming concerned over what they see as a lack of respect for the people who will have to use the buildings on a daily basis. Form is no longer following function if function interferes with the architect's ego. "These kinds of oversights have become frequent since architects were encouraged to think of themselves as artists rather than master builders. And when sculptural buildings are placed in a dense urban setting such as Toronto, the problems are harder to fix." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/29/02

FEEL THE PAIN: A number of artists make art around inflicting gruesome pain on themselves. Viewers recoil in horror, and the artists claim to be exploring a fundamental side of human existance. But does an artist need to feel the pain to express it? And do viewers gain anything from such displays? The Times (UK) 05/29/02

POPPING INTO ART: In the UK "much of the pop culture of the Sixties came directly out of the art colleges, which were then the principal hotbed of student dissent and a ferment of creative activity far outside the traditional disciplines of fine art courses." Now, it seems pop culture figures are the ones producing visual art, and we're still paying attention... The Times (UK) 05/29/02

Tuesday May 28

POST-BIENNIAL: Manifesta is a European biennial for contemporary art that is a "project" rather than an "exhibition." "This Manifesta is a nontrivial relationship machine. Many give it input, but nobody knows what the output will be. The machine produces an open, networked field of art, a terrain of rapprochement and examination. Video, performance, photography, assemblage, installation: What is shown here is art after the disintegration of all genres and borders. Art products from the present day's conveyor belt - medial, networked, young." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/27/02

DRESSING UP: The exhibition of Jaqueline Kennedy's dresses was such a hit in New York, that the competition to host the show when it comes to Chicago was intense. Three of the city's most prestigious museums found themselves competing with one another - not because the art component was so compelling, but because the show figures to make so much money for whichever museum landed it. Says one director: "I view the competition among our museums as a good thing - it helps us achieve our best. The results ensure a continuous lineup of great exhibits for Chicago and the growing tourism industry." Chicago Tribune 05/28/02

ROME AWAKES: After decades of architectural slumber in which contemporary architects bypassed the city of Rome, the Italian capital has finally begun building again, and with first-class international architects. "Not all Romans welcome this new renaissance. Some decry what they call the "Los Angelization of Rome". Wired 05/27/02

WHAT BECOMES A DEALER? Madonna is currently playing an art dealer in the play Up for Grabs in London's West End. The play "reinforces the common perception of art dealing as a manipulative, seedy, morally corrupt business in which you certainly wouldn't want your daughter involved. It isn't, of course. But art dealing is one of the last unregulated businesses, and from the outside the fixing of prices can seem random and open to manipulation." The Guardian (UK) 05/27/02

Monday May 27

SAO PAULO - ART OF DISCORD: Physically, the São Paulo Biennial is "the largest celebration of art in the world, exceeding even its better-known counterpart in Venice. But organizing such a show has always been a process fraught with controversy and adversity, and the 25th biennial has proven no exception." The controversy began long before this year's edition opened, and only intensified after the exhibitions went up. The New York Times 05/27/02

TURNER'S OPENING ACT? The Tate has opened a show of 74 paintings by Paul McCartney in galleries adjacent to a Turner show. Guess which one's getting more attention? The museum hopes that a few of those tramping through the McCartney show will find their way to Turner. The Guardian (UK) 05/24/02

SEOUL'S NEW MUSEUMS: In the past few weeks two new major museums have opened in Seoul. "Last week, the Seoul Metropolitan Government opened the Seoul Museum of Art (SMA) after relocating it into a modern historic building next to Deoksu Palace in downtown Seoul. Another new arrival on Seoul's cultural map is the Seoul Historical Museum, after seven years of construction. Covering two different subjects, contemporary art and the city's historical heritage, the two institutions are expected to emerge as hot attractions in the downtown Seoul area." Korea Herald 05/23/02

Sunday May 26

PRETTY PICTURES: There are 730 entries in this year's Archibald Prize, Australia's most notorious painting prize. It's "that moment of the year when the country's attention turns to canvas and assorted surfaces, and the arrangement upon them of pigment approximating portraiture. There are other prizes, there are richer prizes, but there's only one Archibald, and there are more artists than ever who are eager to make the most of it." The Age (Melbourne) 05/25/02

SENSE OF PLACE: Artists from Chicago used to call themselves "Chicago artists." But beginning in the 1980s, they began referring to themselves as "Chicago-based" artists. "The implication was that they had become an elevated kind of nomad circling the globe, making and showing art anywhere. Chicago was just the place they had chosen to bed down. That attitude now is widespread. The most contemporary visual artists in London or Paris or Rio de Janeiro or Kabul seldom want to be known as being of those cities." Yes, it's just words - but what does the change mean to how artists perceive their relationships with the places they live? Chicago Tribune 05/26/02

ROYAL MESS: The art inside might be magnificent, but the the new Queen's Gallery is a mess. "Welcome to the toy-sized magnificence of our latest Royal architecture, where friezes, flaccid as putty, portray Homeric allegories of our dear Queen's reign, and where you expect chocolate soldiers to pop out from behind each dwarfish column, or out of each stunted niche. It is a commission calling for subtlety and quiet dignity, but it has received shrivelled pomposity." London Evening Standard 05/24/02

Friday May 24

THIEF - I DID IT FOR THE LOVE OF ART: "In the latest twist to a case that has left the art world reeling, Stephane Breitwieser, who was arrested in the Swiss city of Lucerne last November after stealing a bugle from a museum, told police his six-year spree was driven by a love of art rather than a desire to make money. Many of the 60-odd 16th, 17th and 18th century canvases stolen, including works by Boucher, Watteau and Breughel, are thought to have been destroyed by his mother Mireille, who told French police that soon after her son was arrested she cut them up into small pieces and threw them out with the rubbish 'because the house absolutely had to be wiped clean'." The Guardian (UK) 05/23/02

SELLING OFF NATIONAL HERITAGE: As old German families sell off their collections to raise money, German governments at various levels attempt to buy them so the artwork stays in Germany. Trouble is, cash-strapped German governments can barely afford essential services, let alone art... Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/23/02

Thursday May 23

SECOND-RATE MASTERS? In Australia an exhibition of Italian master paintings, called by the Italian culture minister "the most important exhibition ever to leave Italy," has been blasted in a front page review in a national paper. "Benjamin Genocchio, a Sydney-based critic and art historian who is a citizen of both Australia and Italy, called the show 'a resoundingly average exhibition of minor pictures by second- and third-division artists'. His review on the front page of The Australian, a national daily broadsheet, also charged that The Italians, as the show is popularly billed, was marred by restoration errors and attribution questions." The New York Times 05/23/02

EARNING ITS KEEP: For many arts organizations, fundraising is a constant balancing act between selling the notion that the arts are something worth paying for, and trying not to sound like a charity case. Boston's Museum of the Fine Arts, however, has gone the traditional route one better, commissioning a study which indicates that the MFA is a cash cow for the region, creating new jobs and new businesses, and pumping hundreds of millions into the local economy every year. Why bother with the study? Well, MFA is expanding, and needs something in the neighborhood of $425 million to accomplish it. Boston Globe 05/23/02

MINIMAL SUCCESS: "Scottish artist Callum Innes has won the £30,000 Jerwood painting prize. The Edinburgh-born painter, who has been compared with Mark Rothko, creates large-scale minimalist and monochromatic paintings. Innes, who has been nominated for the Jerwood and Turner prizes in the past, fought off competition from well-established artists Graham Crowley and Lisa Milroy and the recognised talent of Paul Morrison, Nicky Hoberman and Pamela Golden. The Jerwood remains the most valuable single prize awarded to an artist in the UK and attracts submissions from many leading British painters." BBC 05/22/02

MEIER WAY NOT THE HIGH WAY: When Atlanta's High Museum decided to double in size with a $130 million addition, officials didn't even consider asking Richard Meier, the High's original architect, for a plan. Instead, without a competition, it hired Renzo Piano. "It seems very strange not to have consulted or hired the original architect. It's the best building in Atlanta and Meier's first big commission. It would have been interesting to see what he would have done now that he's done a lot of other museums." The New York Times 05/23/02

GENUINE FAKE MASTERPIECES FOR SALE: The Supreme Court in Australia has cleared the way for the sale of a massive collection of fake artwork owned by a deceased art dealer, who appears to have been passing them off to her clients as works by real masters. The dealer's husband had been seeking to have the sale blocked, but the executor of the estate won the right to go ahead with it. Oh, and one more twist: the executor just happens to be the same man who executed the fakes in the first place. Sydney Morning Herald 05/23/02

Wednesday May 22

VIRTUAL BUDDHAS: "It was an act of cultural desecration that shocked the world. The age-old Buddhas at Bamiyan in northern Afghanistan, which had withstood the ravages of Genghis Khan and centuries of invasions and wars, proved powerless against the destructive zealotry of the Taliban regime. Now the Buddhas are making a comeback of sorts, thanks to the efforts of a Swiss entrepreneur and a team of researchers at a Swiss university." The twist is that the comeback is of the digital variety, and employs the very latest in 3D imaging technology. Wired 05/22/02

WE DON'T CARE WHO BUILDS 'EM: Here's a blow to architects' egos. A new poll by an architecture organization reports that "81% of respondents claimed that they were interested in the look and feel of the buildings they use" Good news, yes. But only 16% could name a living architect. Oddly, asked to name a living architect, five percent identified 17th-Century master Christopher Wren. The Guardian (UK) 05/20/02

WHERE ELSE WOULD YOU DITCH IT? When the mother of the thief who stole a billion-plus dollars worth of art decided to dump the art, she drove to a small French town and threw it into a canal. Not a good place. In November the shallow canal is clear, and it wasn't long before the valuable art was spotted. The New York Times 05/22/02

GOING BEYOND 'WASH ME': The winner of a £10,000 contemporary drawing prize in the U.K. may have won the cash, but another finalist appears to have captured the hearts and minds of both public and press. Ben Long creates incredibly intricate drawings in the dust and grime caked to the side of vans and cars, and was named a finalist after submitting videos of himself creating the works. He didn't win, but the publicity being heaped upon him is a pretty good consolation prize. BBC 05/22/02

Tuesday May 21

THE PROBLEM WITH SPIFFING UP: The new Manchester Art Gallery reopens after a major project to double its size and dress it up with all sorts of new enhancements. "Why are museums convinced that the art itself, well presented and well explained, isn't magical or marvellous or interesting enough? Why does art have to be tarted-up and given all this spin? Unless it is done as well as an arcade or console game, the family are going to be convinced that the stuff in the rest of the gallery is second-rate too. They will expect entertainment on every level, and generally they are not going to find it. I believe this kind of thing actually reaffirms the notion that art is dull, dry, dusty and dead. This isn't dumbing down - it is just patronising, and no substitute for good teaching elsewhere." The Guardian (UK) 05/21/02

DIGITAL DIFFICULTY: Why does the artworld seem to have difficulty accepting digital art? "Computers have been seen for the past 50 years as tools of business and science, and more recently, expensive typewriters. Because much of the digital art out there is native to the computer, that's where it is best displayed. People are unaccustomed to writing emails on a platform of artistic expression. Perhaps they are in denial." *spark-online 05/02

Monday May 20

HOOSIER HISTORY: The new $105 million Indiana State Museum opens this week in Indianapolis. "The struggle to create a permanent home to honor the state's past consumed more than a half-century of empty legislative promises." Indianapolis Star-Tribune 05/19/02

ONLINE GALLERY GOES BUST: They were going to change the way people bought art. They were going to put traditional galleries out of business. Actually no. The online artsellers have been going out of business, and Eyestorm, one of the most prominent, is being liquidated. "Art lovers are reluctant to buy works they have not experienced first-hand. To compensate, Eyestorm opened galleries in London and New York — a seeming contradiction to its original premise of allowing buyers to avoid the gallery scene." The New York Times 05/20/02

Sunday May 19

STOLEN BERLIN ART RECOVERED: "Nine expressionist paintings worth an estimated $3.3m that were stolen from a Berlin museum last month have been recovered. The paintings were found rolled up together in a holdall at an apartment in Berlin, said police... Six of the paintings were by Erich Heckel, and one each by Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Pechstein. Most were painted between 1908 and 1920. Eight of them were undamaged, but the Pechstein painting - Young Girl, painted in 1908 - had been slashed." BBC 05/18/02

500 YEARS OF ROYAL ART: "The cream of [Queen Elizabeth's] collection of art and royal artefacts was unveiled on Friday, before going on public show in Buckingham Palace's gallery... It features 450 pieces that have been acquired by the Royal Family over the last 500 years. Sketches by Da Vinci as well as works by Rubens, Vermeer, Rembrandt and Monet are among the masterpieces on show." Also included in the show is Lucian Freud's controversial (and fairly unflattering) portrait of Her Majesty. BBC 05/17/02

  • PLENTY TO SEE: The royal exhibition contains some real gems, according to one critic. "Two small treasure chambers are crammed with priceless objects, including a belt given to Queen Victoria, two of the huge flawless Cullinan diamonds, and a display case full of Fabergé toys including animals modelled on farm pets at Sandringham... The drawings gallery is an unbroken parade of master-pieces - just one wall has two Holbeins, a Raphael, a Michaelangelo and a Leonardo da Vinci." The Guardian (UK) 05/18/02

HONORING CONTEXT AS WELL AS EXTRAVAGANCE: One of the most frequent criticisms levelled at architects of high-profile projects is that they tend to ignore the larger context of the area in which their building is being placed. Too often, a dramatic new skyscraper overshadows everything around it, or clashes with other prominent towers nearby. So it was perhaps understandable that this year's Governor-General awards in Canada seem to be making a special effort to honor architects who respect the landscape around their projects. The awards, which went to a dozen wildly disparate buildings across the country, are not concerned with scope and scale, but with the idea "that architecture should reveal the surrounding landscape." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/18/02

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS SELF-ABSORBED: Artist Tracy Emin's career has always been more or less an exercise in voyeurism, with high-profile pieces ranging from an unmade bed (which was shortlisted for the Turner Prize,) to "a tent embroidered with the names of every man she ever slept with." Emin is at Cannes this month, raising money for the ultimate peep show into her life - a feature film detailing her childhood in Margate, England. BBC 05/19/02

IT'S A DIRTY JOB, BUT... Okay, so it's not exactly curator at the Guggenheim, but Mierle Ukeles likes her job just fine. She is the artist-in-residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation, and has been described by one critic as 'the art world's preeminent garbage girl.' She creates art from trash, art celebrating trash (and the folks who get rid of it for us,) and would prefer to hang out at Staten Island's famous Fresh Kills Landfill than at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But judging from the critical reaction to her work, the garbage theme is no gimmick. For Ukeles, it's a passion. A darned weird passion, but a passion, nonetheless. New York Times 05/19/02

Friday May 17

MOM DESTROYS STOLEN ART: The French art thief spent years traveling Europe stealing art. After his mother heard he had been arrested she destroyed the art he had stolen - about $1.4 billion worth of it. "The case has stunned art experts because the 60 paintings and 112 objects that the police say Mr. Breitwieser has admitted stealing were estimated to be worth at least $1.4 billion. Among the paintings destroyed were works by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Corneille de Lyon and Watteau." The New York Times 05/17/02

  • Previously: SHE DID SEND HIM TO HIS ROOM, THOUGH: An art thief made his way across Europe for much of the last decade, stealing a violin here, a painting there, specializing in taking advantage of low security at small, regional collections, and storing everything he stole at his mother's house in France. Then he was busted taking a bugle in Luzerne. "When his mother heard about the arrest she dumped many of the stolen artefacts in the canal - and later destroyed the paintings, forcing some of them into her waste disposal unit at home." Total monetary loss: $1.4 billion. BBC 05/16/02

SYDNEY'S PEOPLE'S BIENNIAL: The Sydney Biennial isn't a critic-pleaser. But it's sure hooked the tourists. "It is so full of holes, many of them wondrously elaborate and large, that the critic can't get a bead on anything. If the truth is out there (X-Files soundtrack, please) it's impossible to pin down with certainty in all the curatorial Swiss cheese. While critics might have trouble locking onto a target, however, it's clear that Grayson has a palpable hit on his hands. He's got Sydney, if not the show, sewn up." Sydney Morning Herald 05/17/02

SAVE AN ANCIENT LIBRARY: Classicists are calling for renewed excavation of the Villa of the Papyri, one of the great ancient libraries, found in southern Italy. They say that "flooding now poses a grave danger to the site and its precious library of ancient manuscripts. Among the authors whose works could lie buried beneath the volcanic debris are Sophocles, Euripides, Aristotle, Virgil, Horace and Livy. A full excavation might cost several million pounds, but this, the classicists argue, would be a small price to recover unknown writings by these intellectual giants." The Art Newspaper 05/11/02

THE 9-11 SHOW: The Smithsonian is planning an exhibition commemorating the attacks of last September 11 on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Actually, the museum's been planning it for awhile now - the first planning meeting was held last September 13. "The horrific events of Sept. 11 was probably the most widely watched tragedy in history, presenting special challenges for curators more comfortable dealing with events much further in the past." Washington Post 05/17/02

HOW TO BE A GALLERY OWNER: You're schlepping in a gallery, working as a faceless lowly assistant in the thrall of a gallery owner. How to make the leap to running you're own gallery? There are essentially three ways. Our favorite? The Miss Brazil route: "The art world will embrace you because you have won a beauty contest, or worked as model, or recently got engaged to someone with the name Rockefeller. You already know how to pose for photographs, and you probably own a collection of pointy-toed shoes, which men love because, most of them, deep down, are attracted to girls who can grind egos to salt with the step of a stiletto heel." Slate 05/16/02

INDIVIDUALITY AIN'T EVERYTHING: "It has been said that if we were to line a street with all the great houses of the past century, the result would be a very bad street with great houses. If architects do not speak for communities, we risk becoming obsolete. In order to concentrate on abstract design, we have already relinquished many services to developers, builders, and other economically driven forces. Given the rising need for responsive and humane environments, architects' tendency for self-expression could result in the disintegration of the profession altogether, unless we rethink our role." Metropolis 05/02

Thursday May 16

SHE DID SEND HIM TO HIS ROOM, THOUGH: An art thief made his way across Europe for much of the last decade, stealing a violin here, a painting there, specializing in taking advantage of low security at small, regional collections, and storing everything he stole at his mother's house in France. Then he was busted taking a bugle in Luzerne. "When his mother heard about the arrest she dumped many of the stolen artefacts in the canal - and later destroyed the paintings, forcing some of them into her waste disposal unit at home." Total monetary loss: $1.4 billion. BBC 05/16/02

RECORD PRICES: Buyers are enthusiastic at this week's New York art sales, with record prices set for the work of 15 contemporary artists. Records were set for "established, blue-chip names as well as emerging artists. Last night, paintings by Gerhard Richter, whose retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art has drawn more than 300,000 visitors since it opened in February, brought the two highest prices." The New York Times 05/16/02

FIRST LADY MAKES A GESTURE: Republican administrations are not known for their enthusiastic support of the arts, but First Lady Laura Bush is hoping that her husband will help Afghanistan rebuild its shattered artistic heritage in the wake of last fall's military action. Mrs. Bush announced that she will be soliciting donations towards the restoration of the Bamiyan Buddhas from rich friends in Texas, and called on the U.S. government to help salvage other lost and damaged Afghan art. The Plain Dealer (AP) 05/16/02

TALL DREAMS: "Just as the brick towers of New York and Chicago once symbolized America’s aspirations to overtake the gable-roofed countinghouses of Europe, today’s glass and metal obelisks make a similar assertion about China and its East Asian neighbors—like Malaysia, which put its capital of Kuala Lumpur on the business map with the 1,483-foot Petronas Towers. 'It’s an ego issue and a status thing. High-rises are the Pyramids of our time'.” Newsweek 05/15/02

DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK: You know a school is serious about good architecture when it hires world-renowned architect Rem Koolhaas to build a train noise muffler. Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology has done just that, and the gleaming steel tube which runs the length of a city block is just the latest in a new line of buildings, structures, and, um, mufflers, which are putting the school and its South Side neighborhood on the architectural map, after years of being derided as 'America's ugliest campus.' Chicago Tribune 05/16/02

GOVERNOR-GENERAL AWARDS HANDED OUT: "A Nova Scotia house that glows like a lantern, a Montreal pavilion lining its outer glass wall with logs and a Richmond, B.C., municipal building are among those honoured with the 2002 Governor-General's Medals in Architecture, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada announced yesterday." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/16/02

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: "The least-known great architect who ever worked in the [U.S.] capital -- or, for that matter, in the nation -- may be Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Representatives from nine preservation and cultural groups -- including five from Washington -- yesterday announced a five-year, $50 million attempt to make the name more famous... Latrobe was the architect of the most memorable rooms in the U.S. Capitol, including Statuary Hall and the old Senate and Supreme Court chambers. He designed both the north and south porticoes of the White House." And that's just the beginning... Washington Post 05/16/02

Wednesday May 15

FASCINATED BY FRIDA: Almost half a century after she died, painter Frida Kahlo is hot. "Kahlo, who died in 1954, was a crippled, bisexual Communist who painted visceral images of miscarriage and menstruation and was overshadowed by her more famous husband, Diego Rivera. Yet in the last 20 years, she's joined the rarefied ranks of artists like Picasso, whose work is as ubiquitous as wallpaper. More than just a poster girl for artsy adolescents or a Latina role model, Kahlo is now a coffee mug, a key chain, and a postage stamp. Suddenly a fierce new wave of Fridamania is upon us that is conjuring up a new Kahlo, customized to suit 21st-century desires." Village Voice 05/14/02

Tuesday May 14

RECORD AUSSIE SALE: The sale of a 1968 bronze Henry Moore sculpture for $490,000 has set a record price for work of art sold at auction in Australia. The Age (Melbourne) 05/14/02

BOTCHED ITALIAN RESTORATION: "Restoration projects in Italy are nearly always dogged by bitter controversy. The current restoration of the 14th- and 15th-century frescos in the Camposanto in Pisa has, however, raised controversy to a new level. The destruction of the frescos through a bungled attempt to clean them is not just a major scandal, it is an irreparable loss to the world of art." The Telegraph (UK) 05/14/02

MISGUIDED HOBBY: No question Houston's new Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is a big addition to the city's cultural landscape. But "architecturally, the Hobby Center is a dud. The sure command of materials and details evident in Robert A.M. Stern's earlier country houses and public buildings has deserted him here. The exterior looks slapdash and a bit tacky. Budget probably played a part – astonishing as it sounds, $92 million is cheap for a performing arts center these days – but a more fundamental problem may have been Mr. Stern's trying to be a modernist when his heart, and his hand, were not really in it." Dallas Morning News 05/13/02

Monday May 13

THE TROUBLE WITH MODIGLIANI: The highly-anticipated catologue raisonne on Modigliani has been delayed for a year and experts are upset. Modigliani research is hampered by fakes and a lack of scholarly order. "So highly charged is the subject that some researchers claim they have received death threats, and two have abandoned work on monographs. Things are not helped by a plethora of fakes on the market and bitter quarrels between the experts. Why is Modigliani so particularly targeted?" The Art Newspaper 05/10/02

THE MUSEUM THAT REMAKES A CITY: The Manchester Art Gallery has reopened in significantly larger and grander form. "From the moment visitors to the city step out from Piccadilly station, currently being rebuilt, it is clear that Manchester is well on its way to becoming a European city with real verve and style. The great achievement here has been to bring together two of Manchester's finest Victorian buildings - the former Royal Manchester Institution and what was the Athenaeum Club - with a handsome new gallery on the site of what had long been a car park." The Guardian (UK) 05/13/02

RENOVATION IN DETROIT: A museum renovation is never as simple as it seems like it should be. In Detroit, a proposed $91 million construction project for the Detroit Institute for the Arts has resulted in a $330 million capital drive, multiple architectural schemes that may or may not work together, and all the general chaos that seems to come with updating a classic building. Detroit News 05/13/02

RUNNING FROM COOPERATION: Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ontario College of Art & Design both want to expand with new buildings. Architect Will Alsop has come  up with a plan to "enhance their separate projects and achieve much more working together than either could on their own." So why does everyone associated with the projects seem to be trying hard to ignore the idea? Toronto Star 05/12/02

Sunday May 12

IS THE ART MARKET HEADED FOR A FALL? Recent auction sales have been going through the roof, thanks in large part to a few greatly sought after works. But some observers are concerned that the world of art sales could be headed for territory all too familiar to anyone who spent the last few years digging out from the NASDAQ collapse. Still, for the moment, times are good for sellers, and though they may regret it later, no one seems too concerned about the bubble market at the moment. International Herald Tribune (Paris) 05/11/02

MILWAUKEE'S TRIUMPH: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is one of those charming but unfortunate cities seemingly doomed to exist in the shadow of another, larger, metropolis (Chicago,in this case.) But a new addition to the city's art museum has critics raving nationwide, and some even believe that Milwaukee may be on its way to becoming an important regional arts center, with the Quadracci Pavilion as the centerpiece. Boston Globe 05/12/02

PLAYING DETECTIVE: "In a quixotic bid to help crack the most costly art heist on record, [filmmaker Albert] Maysles... is volunteering his time to solicit clues in a case that has stymied the FBI, Boston police detectives and museum investigators for 12 years." The case involves a Vermeer, three Rembrandts, and a tantalizing $5 million reward. International Herald Tribune (New York Times) 05/11/02

REBELLION IN TORONTO: "A new generation of Toronto painters is reacting to their elders' relentless emphasis on clean, clinical presentation by creating works that are unabashedly luminous, lush and willfully garish. Mixing fresh paints and bold textures as freely and loudly as their predecessors mixed French semiotic theories and factory-made packaging, these adventurous darlings (or brats, depending on your generational bias) are bent on giving Toronto's academic image a frothy, girly makeover. Pretty is the new smart." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/11/02

1,000 YEARS OF ISLAM - ONE ART COLLECTOR: What may be the most impressive assemblage of Islamic art in America exists thanks to the efforts of a Syrian-born political science professor at a New York university. The collection, much of which is now on permanent display in Los Angeles, is made up of some 800 pieces of ceramic, textile, and tilework spanning a thousand year period, and is valued at $15 million. New York Times 05/12/02

MORBIDLY PURPOSEFUL: A new exhibition in Paris purports to examine the history of the death mask. This is a difficult proposition, because, as any observer will tell you, death masks do not tend to be particularly full of meaning, which is, of course, the point. They reflect death, and are therefore mostly devoid of any of the sort of life-affiriming value we look for in most art. On an aesthetic level, they can be creepy, or just flat and affectless. Still, the human fascination with death, and our attempts to understand and preserve life and its tragic ends makes the exhibition work. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/10/02

ART WITHOUT A HOME: "Much has been said recently about the rights and wrongs of art being removed during wars from one owner or country to another. Yet the long history of such appropriations is rarely mentioned. It may be that Rome's pillage of Corinth in 146 B.C., or Venice's of Constantinople in 1204, now seem irrelevant because the spoils cannot be identified or because they have come to be associated with their new home. (The four horses of St. Mark's is a case in point). But even when we know the fate of the booty, we accept the outcome after enough time has passed: in the long run, art has no permanent home." New York Times 05/12/02

Friday May 10

RIGHT WAY ART: A Los Angeles artist tired of getting lost on a downtown freeway decided to alter the official sign, adding directions. He "designed, built and installed an addition to an overhead freeway sign - to exact state specifications - to help guide motorists." The alteration stayed up for 9 months until it was discovered by highway workers tipped off by a local newspaper column. "The point of the project was to show that art has a place in modern society - even on a busy, impersonal freeway. He also wanted to prove that one highly disciplined individual can make a difference." Los Angeles Times 05/09/02

SO WOULD THIS BE FUNCTION OVER FORM? "One of the most famous of all works of conceptual art, an enamel urinal entitled The Fountain, could fetch up to $2.5m at auction on Monday. The urinal, one of the "readymade" works of French artist Marcel Duchamp, is part of a complete set of his works being sold at the New York auction house Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg." BBC 05/10/02

ART EVERY TWO YEARS: This year's Biennale of Sydney features 57 artists from 21 countries. The Biennale is "an international modern art smorgasbord that evokes reactions ranging from pure excitement to bewilderment and the occasional 'Hey! My grandmother could do better with a wooden stick and a pile of gravy'." Sydney Morning Herald 05/10/02

JERWOOD ON DISPLAY: "An exhibition of work by the six-strong shortlist for the prestigious Jerwood Painting Prize has opened in London. Graham Crowley, Lisa Milroy, Callum Innes, Nicky Hoberman, Paul Morrison and Pamela Golden will find out on 22 May who has won the £30,000 prize. The Jerwood remains the most valuable single prize awarded to an artist in the UK and attracts submissions from many leading British painters." BBC 05/10/02

Thursday May 9

RECORD PRICE FOR SCULPTURE: "Constantin Brancusi's 1913 gold leaf portrait "Danaide" set a world record for a sculpture sold at auction tonight, fetching $18.2 million at Christie's in the first of the major auction houses' annual spring sales." Washington Post (Reuters) 05/09/02

IN PRAISE OF MESS: So the authors of a report on the state of the Smithsonian Museum of American History think it ought to be tidied up and reorganized. No, no, no. "It may be that we moderns want to learn from the objects in our museums - we probably can't help but learn from them - but that doesn't mean that we need to be taught about them, or have them set out in some tidy order like the illustrations in a high school textbook. The marvelous objects in our museums - whether works of art or artifacts of history - aren't the illustrations for the nation's story. They are actual chunks of the past, the substance of it, the stuff that scholars analyze to figure out the way the world once was. By leaving in some of the mess and leaving out some of the annotations, museums can give visitors the chance to come to grips with olden times, instead of being fed with someone else's vision of them." Washington Post 05/09/02

THERE ARE NO TEMPORARY MOVES: New York's Museum of Modern Art is moving to Queens while its building is being rebuilt. "Inevitably, the move will change MoMA, just as it will change the perception of the institution. The reality is that we will be a different institution. We will have benefited from working in a different community. ... I hope it will make us better and more interesting." Nando Times (AP) 05/09/02

HIPPER THAN THOU: Scottish artist Toby Paterson has won the Beck's Futures Prize. "The prize has been described by the Face magazine as 'a whole lot hipper' than its much-derided competitor, the Turner Prize, and is seen by some critics as the best yardstick for gauging the merits of emerging contemporary artists. A self-confessed lover of the urban environment, all of the artist’s work relates to architecture, particularly the modernist era of the 1950s." The Scotsman 05/08/02

  • Previously: PATERSON WINS BECK'S: Toby Paterson has won this year's Beck's Futures Prize in London. Beck's Futures is the UK's largest award for contemporary art. "Paterson, 28, collected his cheque for £24,000 from BJÖRK at a gala event at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts on the Mall this evening." ICA Press Release 07/08/02

Wednesday May 8

PATERSON WINS BECK'S: Toby Paterson has won this year's Beck's Futures Prize in London. Beck's Futures is the UK's largest award for contemporary art. "Paterson, 28, collected his cheque for £24,000 from BJÖRK at a gala event at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts on the Mall this evening." ICA Press Release 07/08/02

BRITISH MUSEUM CRISIS: "Annual visits to the British Museum have dropped alarmingly, it seems. For years they hovered at around 5.6 million, making the museum second in popularity only to Blackpool Pleasure Beach among free attractions. And with the completion of Foster’s Great Court, and the opening of the hallowed Reading Room to yobs like me, the figure was expected to rise to six million in time for the 250th anniversary next year. Instead it has slumped to 4.6 million. Seventy years after Ira Gershwin penned his great line, the British Museum really does seem to have lost its charm." The Times (UK) 05/08/02

CLUTTERED ATTIC: The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is the third most-visited museum in the world. But a new report says the museum is so cluttered and disorganized it needs a a complete reorganization. "As it is now, the museum does not seem to meet any obvious test of comprehensibility or coherence. Indeed, in the most basic physical sense, visitors frequently have difficulty orienting themselves. Even some curators who have spent their entire professional lives in the NMAH building get lost." Washington Post 05/08/02

TWO 20TH CENTURY GIANTS: If Tate Modern's new Matisse Picasso show seems familiar before you see it, just wait. The show is the hit of the London art season. Richard Dorment: "I can't remember an exhibition in which I become so engaged with the artists' creative process, or one in which I learned so much about how to look at a work of art." The Telegraph (UK) 05/08/02

  • COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP: The Matisse/Picasso relationship was one of the great artistic rivalries. "Their rivalry lasted throughout their lives. Picasso continued it even after Matisse was dead. And this is the debate — variously compared to a chess match, an arm-wrestling contest and a prize fight — that Tate Modern now restages in a show which brings together some 30 different groupings of their pieces and offers a ringside view of Modernism’s most dazzling match." The Times (UK) 05/08/02

Tuesday May 7

MUM'S ART: With the death of Britain's Queen Mother, what will happen to her extensive art collection? She was a serious collector, and while no one's talking yet, indications are that most of it will pass to the Queen's Royal Collection. "This would transform the collection, adding masterpieces by Monet, Sisley, Sickert and Nash." The Art Newspaper 05/03/02

Monday May 6

SURREAL JUDGMENT: Fifty years ago the director of the Glasgow Art Gallery spent the museum's entire annual acquisition bufdget - £8,200 - on just one painting - Salvador Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross. "It was, said everyone with a voice, a 'waste of money'. The press foamed at the mouth in condemnatory headlines. Rate-payers were incensed by the action of the GP turned art expert. Students at Glasgow School of Art petitioned for his sacking, and the eminent Augustus John derided the cost of the acquisition of a work by a living artist as 'wilfully extravagant'." Fifty years later the painting is the most-reproduced religious-themed work of the 20th Century and worth £25 million to £100 million... The Scotsman 05/05/02

A RELATIONSHIP WITH ART: "Art is glamourous, but how good a time do we really have when we are actually standing in front of a picture looking at it? If we dutifully try to look at all the pictures we are probably going to get rather bored. This is not because the pictures have nothing to offer us, but because the timing is wrong. We tend to be too polite with pictures. To have a good time looking at them we need to be a bit more imaginative in the questions we ask, we need - as with other people - to take a bit of a risk if we are going to become more intimate." The Age (Melbourne) 05/06/02

IRAQ TO REBUILD ANCIENT LIBRARY: Iraq plans to rebuild the Ashurbanipal, the earliest known library of the ancient world, and has asked the British Museum to help by making casts of tablets the museum owns. "The proposed reconstructed library at Nineveh would hold copies of all of the BM’s tablets, and it is planned as both a scholarly centre and tourist attraction. Alongside the library, the Saddam [Hussein] Institute for Cuneiform Studies will be set up as part of the University of Mosul. Plans are also being made to excavate one of the wings of King Ashurbanipal’s palace, in Kuyunjik Mound, where it is hoped that thousands of other tablets lie buried." The Art Newspaper 05/03/02

BUILDING PROTECTION: The National Park Service has a plan to protect the Washington Monument from the "evildoers." "Under the pretext of protecting the monument against truck bombs and other forms of vehicular assault (jet airplanes don't seem to have crossed its radar screen), the service has come up with a bizarre plan that could end up presenting the Mall with an unexpected new treasure, the Leaning Monument of Washington, or perhaps - even better! - with 81,120 tons of New England granite spattered all over the Mall. The service wants to replace the Jersey barriers that now surround the base of the monument with two sunken walkways, 12 feet wide and walled in stone." Washington Post 05/06/02

Sunday May 5

PRICE OF GREATNESS: The new Matisse Picasso show which opens at Tate Modern this week is probably a once-in-a-lifetime affair. "'To bring it off at all we had to share with the Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and I think the cost alone will make it out of the question in future. With more than 150 works by the two giants of modern art, valued at well in excess of £1 billion, it has been a mammoth undertaking." The Telegraph(UK) 05/04/02

LINCOLN CENTER - GROUP GROPE: Lincoln Center is holding a competition to redesign Avery Fisher Hall, and it's attracted the usual big names - Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, Richard Meier, Arata Isozaki and Skidmore Owings & Merrill. But the project has a troubled start. "Architecture competitions can focus energy or they can be a terrible drain on civic spirit. It helps if the clients have a clear idea of what they want and, more important, a firm sense of who they are. Judged on these terms, I'd say the competition to design a new concert hall for Lincoln Center now stands less than a 50-50 chance of producing architecture." The New York Times 05/05/02

LONDON'S NEW CITY HALL: London's new city hall is under construction. "The grey blob next to Tower Bridge designed by Norman Foster and his partner Ken Shuttleworth is already the most visible and instantly recognisable building in Britain since the London Eye, even though it's just 10 floors high. Instant recognition, of course, is not necessarily an architectural virtue. Try too hard to create a landmark and all too often the result is an embarrassing failure. And that is certainly how it looked that City Hall would turn out." The Observer (UK) 05/05/02

Friday May 3

DOCUMENTA 11 ARTISTS NAMED: Nigeria-born Okwui Enwezor is the first non-European curator of Documenta. The list of artists for one of the world's premiere art gatherings has just been released and his impact on selections is clear: "In previous Documentas, 80 to 90 percent of the artists were natives of NATO countries; this time the percentage is about half that." Artforum 05/01/02

  • DIRECTOR OF FEW WORDS: All media and genres will receive attention, said the director, the entire range of contemporary art forms represented: Painting, drawing and sculpture as well as photography, film, video, net art and architecture. According to Enwezor, 118 artists and artists' groups have been invited to Kassel, and 79 projects in all developed especially for D11, including some intended for outdoor sites. Basically, Enwezor is attempting to set in motion what he promised - more or less explicitly - from the start, namely to mirror, via art, alternative forms of knowledge-production that are underrepresented in public perception. That sounds rather uninspiring, and to some extent, it is. Everything will depend on how the works are presented, and here, too, Enwezor is resolutely silent." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/02/02

NAVIGATING THE ROYAL: London's Royal Academy is a unique institution. Run by its artist/members, its shows are not like those found in museums. For example, the RA's exhibitions secretary says, there is at least one fake work in every show. "We don't set out to have fakes, of course. Sometimes you only know by comparison, when it goes on the wall. If a fake is discovered, that's good, whereas reviewers tend to think it's a catastrophe. But these are tiny things. We should sing the big picture - that these fabulous paintings are in London at all. During the Caravaggio show the RA was transformed into an amazing basilica. I was here every night having Catholic orgasms." London Evening Standard 05/02/02

FORGOTTEN GRAND: Why has London's Westminster Hall fallen into such disuse? "For much of its near-1,000-year history Westminster Hall, thronged and bustling, was the centre of first English and then British public life. That it is not better-known today is a tragedy, for it is a remarkable building. At 240ft long and 67ft wide, its scale is a reminder of the wealth and ambition of the Norman kings. When the walls were built in 1097 by William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, it was among the largest halls in Europe." The Telegraph (UK) 05/03/02

Thursday May 2

RECONSIDERING CLASSIC ARCHITECTURE: "Three-dimensional modeling is turning some of archaeology's once-established truths on their heads. Because 3-D software can take into account the building materials and the laws of physics, it enables scholars to address construction techniques in ways sometimes overlooked when they are working with two-dimensional drawings." Take the Colosseum, for example: "researchers have discovered that in some sections the building may have had all the efficiency of a railroad-style apartment on the Bowery. The model reveals dark, narrow upper hallways that probably hemmed in spectators, slowing their movement to a crawl." The New York Times 05/02/02

STUCK ON THE NEXT BIG THING? Could it be Stuckism? "Stuckism stands as much for what it opposes—postmodern conceptual and installation art, etc.—as for what it champions: a spiritual renewal in art, particularly painting, following the lead of its prime exemplar Van Gogh. Stuckism's objective is to bring about the death of Post Modernism, to undermine the inflated price structure of Brit Art and instigate a spiritual renaissance in art and society in general." And yet, as a movement it's a bit unstuck itself... *spark-online 05/02

CHANGING FORTUNES AT AUCTION: As the spring New York auctions begin, the auction house landscape looks radically different from a year ago. Then, No. 3 Phillips was making a big run to assert its place. Still mired in scandals, Christie's and Sotheby's laid low. This year Phillips has had to cancel its spring sales, while Sotheby's and Christie's have pulled out all the stops in an attempt to revive their fortunes. The New York Times 05/02/02

Wednesday May 1

ANOTHER SOTHEBY'S SENTENCE: "Diana D. Brooks, the former chief executive of Sotheby's, was spared prison yesterday and sentenced to three years of probation, including six months of house arrest, for her admitted role in fixing commission rates with the rival Christie's auction house." The New York Times 05/01/02

FREE ART PACKS 'EM IN: "Attendance at museums and galleries in the UK has risen by 75% since entrance fees were scrapped... The rises equate to an extra 1.4 million visitors pouring through the doors of the capital's museums and galleries. Another sign that the initiative is working is the 10% increase in the number of children who have taken the opportunity to visit a museum in the past year." BBC 05/01/02

ENGLAND'S GIANT ART: The Chesterfield Borough Council in England has signed off on a plan to build an enormous 40-metre high Solar Pyramid sundial that will be the UK's largest artwork. "Designer Richard Swain described the structure, which will give accurate astronomical data, as 'art meets science. It will be like a giant sundial, but it will also give details of the earth's rotation. We have always wanted to do things which are fairly monumental and are part of the landscape." BBC 04/30/02

HIS FRIENDS JUST CALLED HIM 'DOUBLE H': "Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, who died Saturday at age 81 at his home on the northern Mediterranean coast of Spain, was the greatest art collector of the second half of the 20th century." His massive collection of European and American art has been given a permanent home in Madrid. Los Angeles Times 05/01/02