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VISUAL ARTS - June 2001

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Friday June 29

JACKO AND THE LADYBUG: A Styrofoam cup with dead ladybug, $29,900. Jars of internal cow organs, $250,000. A life-size sculpture of Michael Jackson with his pet chimpanzee, $5,600.000. "Who, in a troubled economy, is buying this stuff? Do they really believe they'll enjoy looking at it for the rest of their lives? And perhaps most important, where do they put it?" Slate 06/28/01

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST IN DECLINE: In 1996, portrait artist William Utermohlen learned he had Alzheimer's Disease. He was 60 at the time, and had just finished a self-portrait. Over the next five years, as the disease progressed, he continued doing self-portraits. That series of pictures, recently published, "graphically demonstrates the decline of spatial awareness, co-ordination and concentration associated with the disease." The Telegraph (UK) 06/29/01

Thursday June 28

ON THE TRAIL OF STOLEN ART: Theft of art seems to be on the rise. "Most of the stolen art comes to London or America. Some of it goes to museums, but much of it is bought secretly by private collections for a fraction of market value. And this at a time when the focus on the uncovering and repatriation of hot art - from the Holocaust, the Soviet era, illegal digs at ancient sites, etc .- is at an all-time high in the US." 06/27/01

SLIMMING DOWN THE DE YOUNG: San Francisco's de Young museum goes through its storehouse and sells off a couple thousand works of art as it refocuses its collections. "After the auction house takes its commissions, the city-owned museums will net about $1.5 million, $500,000 more than projected." San Francisco Chronicle 06/27/01

GIVING IMPRESSIONISM ANOTHER CHANCE: "Of all art extravaganzas, the Impressionist blockbuster tends to be the biggest, the most popular, and possibly the worst." Ah, but wait. There's a show at the Clark gallery which "brings back into focus some of the startling newness of a Monet, a Manet, a Degas. It might even fortify you for the next blockbuster." Slate 06/26/01

A VIRUS IS A VIRUS: A computer virus written and launched for the Venice Biennale is, its makers say, a piece of art. The artists provide the source code and are selling it on T-shirts and on CD's. But it's still a virus and viruses... Wired 06/28/01

Wednesday June 27

STOLEN TO ORDER: Two paintings - a Gainsborough and a Bellotto - were stolen in a three-minute raid on an 18th-century house in Ireland Tuesday. "They are valued at £3 million, and were almost certainly stolen to order." A pair of latex gloves left behind may be the crucial clue. Irish Times 06/27/01

  • FUNDRAISING: Dissident or Provisional IRA fundraising was suspected as a possible motive for one of Irelandís most daring art robberies." The Times (UK) 06/27/01

TILTING AT ART: London has embraced modern art in a big way. Contemporary artists are stars. So how peculiar that national portrait prize-winner Stuart Pearson Wright should lash out against the type of contemporary art that has made Tate Modern a star. The Times (UK) 06/27/01

LONG GONE MONET SELLS: A Monet painting not seen in public since 1895, was sold for £10.12 million at Sothebyís in London Tuesday. The Times (UK) 06/27/01

SURVEYING ARCHITECTURE: "While architecture is the most public of art forms, it's the least subject to public debate in most of the nation's newspapers. That's one of the findings of the first-ever online survey of 40 architecture critics writing for daily American newspapers. . . Only about a fourth of the critics have degrees specific to the field of architecture, the survey found, but about half report having practical work experience in architecture or a related field." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/27/01

EMPTY ISLAND: The buildings on Berlin's Island of Museums have been closed for some time, with major plans for renovation stalled by the city's perilous financial condition. Now one of the museums has reopened after three years of renovation. Okay, there's no art inside yet, but...Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/26/01

SERIOUS CARTOONS: Political cartooning is a dicey profession. Politicians threaten you, readers cancel their subscriptions because you made their favorite pol look like a doofus, and editors constantly ask you who that guy on the left is supposed to be. But a new exhibit of Soviet political art on display in London shows another side of the profession - caricatures as propaganda. Nando Times (AP) 06/27/01

Tuesday June 26

THE NEW VAN GOGHS: In Berlin, a flourishing trade in commissioned "fakes." "Under German law, the work of any painter dead for at least 70 years can be reproduced, provided the copy is an inch shorter than the original, and its origin clearly marked at the back." The Independent (UK) 06/26/01

THE OLD MONETS: Two rarely seen but much sought-after paintings by Claude Monet will hit the block at Christie's in London this week, and are expected to fetch a pretty penny. According to one art expert, "There's a bit more Monet around than you'd expect because he's so expensive that museums can't afford to buy him, so there's quite a lot of splendid pictures still washing about in private hands." BBC 06/26/01

DIVINE INTERVENTION: "A Buddhist-influenced artwork incorporating the baptistry of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine was removed on Saturday after the director of the cathedral's visual arts program ordered the work's artist to revise it or remove it. The removal prompted two other artists to pull their works from a group exhibition at the cathedral focusing on spirituality." The New York Times 06/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

AMATEUR STING: Archeologists in Egypt are protesting the allowance of amateur diggers on archeological sites. "The experts, who often fail to make headlines after years of painstaking work, have been stung by the amateurs' sometimes spectacular finds, like the discovery of the lost underwater city of Herakleion" Middle East Times 06/22/01.

SO NO RETRACTABLE ROOF, THEN? It's no secret that Chicago's Wrigley Field, one of baseball's most beloved parks, is often a bigger draw than the team that plays there (this year's Cubs' playoff run notwithstanding.) A new renovation plan promises to bring cosmetic improvements without disrupting the classic architecture of the place. Chicago Tribune 06/26/01

NEW GIANT BUDDHA: A plan to build the tallest Buddha in the world - 43 metres high - in Korea, has ignited controversy among Korean monks. Korea Times 06/26/01

LOOK FOR THE "MADE IN CHINA" LABEL: So you can't afford a real Van Gogh, but want something rich-looking to hang over the mantle? That knockoff you pick up for a song at the museum gift shop more than likely originated in a small Chinese village called Dafen, and you probably paid ten times what the artist got for it. Nando Times (AP) 06/25/01

VIRTUAL PRESERVATION: "The British Library has preserved for the nation a unique 15th century "illuminated" manuscript worth £15m. The library has also made a virtual computer version of the Sherborne Missal so visitors can see more than they would if it was displayed under glass." BBC 06/26/01

Monday June 25

SETTLING ON NAZI THEFT: The owners of a Monet painting up for auction this week have made a deal with the heirs of the painting's original owner who was forced by the Nazis to sell the work in 1935. The two parties will split the proceeds from the sale, estimated to be between £1.5 million and £2 million. The Times (UK) 06/25/01

ASSEMBLY-LINE FORGER: "By French law, an artist is allowed to make twelve copies of any bronze sculpture, all to be numbered. Any further copy, even if made in the artistís lifetime and under his supervision, is legally considered a reproduction." So the some 6000 bronze fakes perpetrated by French entrepreneur Guy Hain and sold for $18 million are grounds for some good long jail time. The Art Newspaper 06/22/01

THE MUSEUM'S BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Outgoing Louvre director Pierre Rosenberg is pessimistic about the future of museums. "Until now there was art education in schools. You had a little bit of knowledge about antiquity and Old and New Testament. Now this knowledge is lost all over the world. What is the Annunciation, for example? The Louvre does deal with 1 million children each year. But thatís not enough. If the problem is not taken up by the Ministry of Education, it wonít work. And thatís everywhere. Without education, I am sure we are lost for the future." Newsweek 06/25/01

HOT FOR VERMEER: The hottest show in London this year is the National Gallery's Vermeer exhibition, featuring 13 of the artist's 35 surviving paintings. The museum says it could easily sell twice the number of tickets it is offering, but doesn't want to turn the galleries into a mob scene. London Evening Standard (UK) 06/24/01

RECONSIDERING MIES: Paul Goldberger reviews the new interest in Mies van der Rohe. "Mies's buildings look like the simplest things you could imagine, yet they are among the richest works of architecture ever created. Modern architecture was supposed to remake the world, and Mies was at the center of the revolution, but he was also a counter-revolutionary who designed beautiful things. The New Yorker 06/15/01

Sunday June 24

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY: New York City recently held an architectural competition to decide what form a new 9-acre development in Midtown Manhattan would take. "The competition. . . raised public expectations that New York was finally poised to embrace architecture, as many other cities have, as a means of reckoning with the challenges of a changing world. The outcome ó the choice of two long-established New York firms to create a master plan for the site ó fell far short of those expectations." The New York Times 06/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MORE THAN JUST ANOTHER SKYSCRAPER: The tallest structure in the world turns 25 this year, and it has aged well. "The CN Tower is more than a terrific swizzle stick. It is more than unrequited love over expensive beer and nachos in a revolving restaurant. But, though it has defined monumentality over the last quarter century, it maintains an enigmatic presence to those who look upon it daily." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/23/01

SERIOUSLY FUNNY: If you haven't yet encountered Aaron McGruder's edgy, confrontational comic strip, you will. The Boondocks is growing in popularity, even as its creator fields accusations of racism and snubs from many of the black community's power brokers. McGruder's main characters are all African-American, and he has no intention of using his strip as a tool for educating white America, which may explain why it is succeeding where other "black" comic strips have failed. The New York Times Magazine 06/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday June 22

WHAT SEROTA MEANS TO THE TATE: Figurative artists criticize Tate director Nicholas Serota for his taste in collecting. And true, you're not likely to see figurative work at the Tate under his regime. But at mid-20th Century the Tate missed out on some of the most compelling art of its time by being too conservative. Serota, by contrast, is building one of the most important collections of late-20th/early-21st Century art. The Telegraph (UK) 06/22/01

  • TATE WATCH: The Tate has been completely transformed from what it was a few years ago - good and bad. With Tate Modern director Lars Nittve leaving, where should the Tate go from here? And who are the main contenders for the job? The Times (UK) 06/22/01
  • GREAT EXPECTATIONS: "As the intelligentsia speculates on who will be Tate Modernís new director ó the glamorous Julia Peyton-Jones, director of the Serpentine, is this countryís most obvious candidate ó the role is starting to emerge as something of a mixed blessing. Success may breed success, but Tate Modernís start is intimidating ó even the lavatory paper budget has had to be multiplied as the building creaks with an unforeseen quantity of visitors." The Times (UK) 06/22/01
  • Previously: LEAVING THE TATE: The head of the Tate Modern, Lars Nittve, has announced he is quitting the museum to become director of Stockholm's Moderna Museet, the country's national museum of modern art. "Friends said that he was partly influenced by homesickness and denied that the complicated management structure at the Tate, which effectively made him Number Two at the gallery, played a part in his decision to leave." The Telegraph (UK) 06/21/01

ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN? Postmodernism in architecture is dead isn't it? At the least, no one wants to admit to being a postmodernist. "We must offer respect for the dead, but Iím not sure to whom the condolences should go if no one admits to really being a postmodernist, and if most of those presumed to have been such are still thriving, and, in some cases, are designing in more or less the same style." Architecture Magazine 05/01

AS IF NEW YORK COULD GET ANY CREEPIER: Last year, a flower-covered 43-foot puppy adorned Rockefeller Plaza as part of New York's public art program. But apparently, a pooch is just too tame for those edgy denizens of the Big Apple, who will spend the next several months under the steely gaze of a 30-foot high spider named Mama. Nando Times (AP) 06/21/01

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME (AND BREAK IT): A London artist hoping to prove that Londoners could appreciate public art without destroying it, found her sculpture vandalized. "I'd hoped to show that, even here, open-air sculpture doesn't have to be made of bronze or stone to survive. It looks like I've been proved wrong. I was prepared for it to happen but not within eight hours of it going up." London Evening Standard 06/21/01

ONE WAY TO STEAL ART... Then there was that day in 1995 when a visitor to the Museum of Modern Art in New York walked up to Duchamp's famous bicycle wheel, pulled it off its pedestal, walked through the galleries, down the escalator and out the front door, escaping in a cab. The next day the artwork mysteriously reappeared, thrown over the museum's fence... 06/21/01

  • ...AND ONE WAY TO GET IT BACK: "Berliners have woken up to find their city plastered with "Wanted" posters depicting the face of the late celebrated artist Francis Bacon. The posters offer a reward of 300,000 German marks (£100,000). Yet it is not Bacon himself they are demanding, but the return of a portrait of the artist stolen 13 years ago." BBC 06/22/01

Thursday June 21

THEFT EVERYWHERE: A new report on looted art in Europe is alarming. "New research shows that in Italy alone more than 88,000 objects have been stolen from religious institutions over the past 20 years, while the Czech Republic has lost 40,000 objects since 1986." The Times (UK) 06/21/01

LEAVING THE TATE: The head of the Tate Modern, Lars Nittve, has announced he is quitting the museum to become director of Stockholm's Moderna Museet, the country's national museum of modern art. "Friends said that he was partly influenced by homesickness and denied that the complicated management structure at the Tate, which effectively made him Number Two at the gallery, played a part in his decision to leave. Nittve was said to have received a personal telephone call from Gran Persson, the Swedish prime minister, asking him to take the new job." The Telegraph (UK) 06/21/01

CONCEPTUALISTS MEET VERMEER: The hottest young British artists today are highly conceptual. Vermeer, on the other hand, was a master of technique. Six young Brits go to the new Vermeer show at the National Gallery and record their impressions. The Guardian (UK) 06/21/01

VIRUS ART: Conceived and compiled for the invitation to the 49th Venice Biennale, '' is the product of the collaboration of two entities, 0100101110101101.ORG and epidemiC, already known for other shocking actions, often bordering with crime. '' is both a work of art and a computer virus. Exquisite Corpse 06/18/01

Wednesday June 20

THE HEART OF RICHNESS: "Africa, already plundered of its people by slavers, its animals by big-game hunters and poachers and its mineral wealth by miners, is now yielding up its cultural heritage. Across the continent, art and artifacts are being looted from museums, universities and straight from the ground. Most of the objects end up in Europe or the United States." Time 06/18/01

BEFORE THE FLOOD: More than 1000 archeologists are working day and night to rescue artifacts in the Three Gorges region of China before the area is flooded by a giant hydro-electric project in 2003. People's Daily (China) 06/19/01

NOW THAT THE CROWDS HAVE GONE, the Venice Biennale is a pleasure. "Somehow, miraculously, the show, even in its charming incoherence, manages to fit into and complement the city in the most remarkable way, a Harold to its Maude, making for a brief, crazy romance of unlikely soulmates, the true beauty of this event." The New York Times 06/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

FRANKLY FRIDA: The most anticipated art movie of the year is the Frida Kahlo biopic. "How has the swarthy, moustachioed woman who stares unsmiling from self-portraits become such a cult figure? How has a small fierce, intellectually complex cripple with an unbroken eyebrow become an icon? It happened partly by accident." The Times (UK) 06/20/01

Tuesday June 19

SURPRISE - THE ASHMOLEAN DOES MODERN: Oxford' Ashmolean is the world's oldest public museum But "the opening of a modern gallery this week will uncover a collection quite unknown to the public and is a dramatic development at a museum internationally renowned for its old master paintings and its vast collection of antiquities." The Guardian (UK) 06/19/01

VEXING VEXILLOLOGY: The rankings are out, and New Mexico, Texas, and Quebec are leading the pack, while Montana, Nebraska and Georgia have some serious work to do. On what, you ask? Why, only the most visible visual symbol of a state or province's identity: its flag. Simplicity and relevance seem to be the best way to get your flag at the top of the list, while crowded logos, too many colors, and Confederate battle emblems will land you near the bottom. Ottawa Citizen (CP) 06/19/01

Monday June 18

MUSEUM CRASH? The growth in the number and interest in museums in the past decade has been unprecedented. But the growth is unsustainable, and beneath the boom is the unsettling fact that many museums are seriously undercapitalized. One expert says it will be a difficult next decade as museums try to stabilize. The Art Newspaper 06/15/01

BEING AT BASEL: There are 260 galleries at this year's Basel art fair. Another 640 galleries were on the waiting list to show there, lured by the prospect of 53,000 art buyers attending the show. "By the time Art Basel ends [today], collectors and museums are expected to have bought $250 million to $300 million worth of contemporary art, though the exact total is not known because gallery sales are private." The New York Times 06/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

VERMEER/NOT VERMEER: Is it a 36th Vermeer or not? London's National Gallery plans to display the disputed painting thought to be a Vermeer next to two verified originals and let the public judge. The Telegraph (UK) 06/17/01

SEEKING CHAGALL: New York's Jewish Museum is offering a reward for information about a Chagall painting stolen from the museum last week. The New York Times 06/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

CLEANING BILBAO: About a third of the 42,000 titanium sheets cladding the outside of the Guggenheim Bilbao are discolored with red stains. Earlier this year architect Frank Gehry criticized the museum for not maintaining the building; now the sheets will be cleaned at a rate of about 150 a day. CBC 06/15/01

SEEKING VAN GOGH: A writer seeks out three scenes that Van Gogh painted, and finds that though they have changed much in the 113 years or so since they were painted, they have stories to tell. Financial Times 06/18/01

Sunday June 17

THE TWO FACES OF... As the US government investigation of auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's for collusion wound up, Christie's negotiated an amnesty agreement. But secret internal documents recently obtained show that what the company was saying to investigators and what it was actually doing were two different things. The New York Times 06/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

PISA REOPENS: After 11 years of working to stabilize it, the leanning tower of Pisa reopened this week. "The $30 million project to stabilize the 12th century tower and return it to the sustainable tilt of 163 years ago is being hailed as one of the great engineering feats of all time." San Francisco Chronicle (Boston Globe) 06/17/01

CAUTIONARY TALE: It's been five years since Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art moved into its new building. Expectations were so high for a building that would transform the museum, but "what an odd structure it is that forces staff to get around it in order to best fulfill the mission of a museum. This one has done so for the last five years, and because there is no other choice, let's look on the bright side." Chicago Tribune 06/17/01

THE ARMANI UNIVERSE: Is Georgio Armani a billion-dollar clothes industry or an artist working on the human form? Hint - if you have dinner with the man, his people send over a selection of clothes for you to wear for the evening. "But this is just the way the Armani universe works. You accept an invitation to dinner. You wear the dress. It's a deal most celebrities are used to. But as a mere journalist, I have to confess, it made me feel slightly uncomfortable." The Observer (UK) 06/17/01

Friday June 15

WORLD'S BIGGEST ART FAIR: The art world is in Basel this week. "Once a year, for a week, this quaint little city in the corner of Switzerland becomes a fondue pot of culture. All the big dealers dip in as it plays host to the worldís biggest modern and contemporary art fair. The scene is truly international and so is the language ó which is money. Behind the schmoozing and smiles, you see the glint of the hard sell." The Times (UK) 06/15/01

KLIMT INSIDE, STRIKERS OUTSIDE: That's how the National Gallery of Canada opens today. "The strikers say it's their work that made the Klimt show possible, and they're bitter that it's opening without them." The view of management is that "it's up to the public to decide if they can afford to miss the most comprehensive show of Klimt's work ever to reach North America." CBC 06/14/01

FLAME BROILED ART: An art student at Britain's Sunderland University had her car with her art project for school in the trunk stolen. When police recovered it, the car and the art were a charred wreck. So she had the 11-year Ford Fiesta towed to a shop where she made an art project out of it and entered it in the school's final show. The Telegraph (UK) 06/15/01

Thursday June 14

GERMANY RETURNS ART TO GREECE: Germany is returning some of the art in its museums to Greece, which has been fighting to get it back. "Berlinís Pergamon museum will send Greece ten sections of the Philippeion monument, built between 338 and 336 BC. Germany will also help restore the monument at Olympia, the sanctuary and site of the Olympic Games." The Times (UK) 06/14/01

AND IT WON'T EVEN KILL YOU: Jam a bunch of quarters in the slot, pull the knob, and reach into the dispenser for a refreshing (if habit-forming) pack of... art? Yes, art - step right up and meet the Art*o*mat, a converted cigarette machine that dispenses pocket-sized pieces of art for the consumer on the go. Coming soon to a museum, grocery store, or laundromat near you. Washington Post 06/14/01

PERCENT FOR WHAT? Since 1979 the City of Chicago may have spent $15 million on its Percent for Art program. Or maybe it didn't. The Public Art Program apparently hasn't kept records of how much it has collected or what it has commissioned. Most alarming is the director's explanation of his accounting: "It's the city. We juggle money all the time." Chicago Tribune 06/13/01

CHOCOLATE, RAW OYSTERS, AND GUSTAV KLIMT? "According to a study by the Institute of Psychoanalytical Psychiatry, published in Rome last week, a visit to an art museum -- or even a church -- can get those erotic feelings flowing. The study of 2,000 museum goers this spring concluded the lush flesh exhibited in Renaissance, Baroque and classical masterpieces left at least one-fifth of art lovers so excited they had a 'fleeting but intense erotic adventure' with a stranger." Ottawa Citizen 06/14/01

ART THAT DICTATES ART: Frank Gehry's influence on museum design is to elevate buildings to the level of showy pieces of art. But what of the art inside? The new architecture dictates the art by the nature of its strong personalities. And surely that isn't good for art... The New Republic 06/13/01

A FAMILY TRADITION: For decades, the Wyeth family has quietly produced beautiful, if old-fashioned, works of art from their family homestead in rural Pennsylvania. Three generations of Wyeths (illustrator N.C. Wyeth, his son Andrew of "Helga" series fame, and Andrew's son Jamie) have each carved their own personal niche, but all three are bound together by a long tradition of complete disregard for what the critics think. Chicago Tribune 06/14/01

Wednesday June 13

VISUALIZE FRANCE: A new French government study of the visual arts world warns that "French contemporary artists are being pushed out of the world market because of stifling state patronage, a lack of private collectors and a failure of imagination." The Times (UK) 06/13/01


  • MODEL EXPERIENCE: "Fine painting, fascinating video, acres of photographs, a sculpture or two and plenty of self-indulgence - the Venice Biennale offers a perfect snapshot of the art world today." The Telegraph (UK) 06/13/01
  • NOT PLEASANT: over-crowded, under-inspired ó and over-run with little golden turtles. The Times (UK) 06/13/01

SHAKESPEARE ON DISPLAY: The Art Gallery of Ontario plans to show a painting done in the early 1600s that is purported to be a portratit of Shakespeare. CBC 06/12/01

LET THERE BE LIGHT: A new exhibit produced jointly by museums in Amsterdam and Pittsburgh examines the role of light, both natural and artificial, in art history. The curators contend that the direction of visual art was changed forever by the development of gas and electric lights, and make a direct link between the oft-competing worlds of science and art. The New York Times 06/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday June 12

POLITICS - AND MORE - LOOM OVER NEW WARSAW MUSEUM: Anda Rottenberg was the moving force behind a new Museum of Contemporary Art for Warsaw. Frank Gehry was going to design it. Now the Polish Minister of Culture has removed her from the project. Stated reason: criticism of a selection committee. Apparent reason: politics. Suspected reason: anti-Semitism. The Art Newspaper 06/11/01

THE OVERCROWDED BIENNALE: The Venice Biennale is up in full cacophony. "As elsewhere in Venice, the crowd is now the problem more than ever. Has the Biennale grown too big? The gardens in Castello, its historic heart and home, have no more space for national pavilions. The ancient Arsenale, with its sprawl of disused yards and workshops, fill up as every new space becomes available. Meanwhile the Biennale spreads ever more widely through the city." Financial Times 06/12/01

TATE-HATER: Hilton Kramer laments the Tate Museum and the toll of success. "This ill-conceived project clearly represents the spirit of the age, which in art and in life is besotted with an appetite for destroying what is good by enlarging it to a scale of extinction. It puts us on notice that in the twenty-first century we shall need no wars to devastate our monuments to the past. Our cultural bureaucrats have shown themselves to be fully capable of performing the task for us." New Criterion 06/01

Monday June 11

CHAGALL MISSING: A rare Chagall oil painting has been stolen from Manhattan's Jewish Museum. "A janitor noticed some sawdust on the floor near where the painting had hung around 8 a.m. [Friday], but didn't report it because he wasn't aware the painting was missing." New York Post 06/09/01

PLAYING POORLY IN CANADA: The Canadian branch of Sotheby's auction house has been getting waxed by the competition, its share of the Canadian market dwindling quickly. So the company has hired a high profile celebrity to run the company's operations. Toronto Star 06/11/01

TOTEM RETURN: Chicago's Field Museum has agreed to return a 27-foot tall totem pole to the Alaskan tribe that requested it. The pole was taken in 1899 by an artifact gathering expedition. Nando Times (AP) 06/11/01

VENICE BIENNALE OPENS: "At least 65 countries are coming to the 2001 biennale, including for the first time New Zealand, Singapore, Jamaica and Hong Kong. This has stretched capacity to the limits. The Italian artists were so numerous this year that they had to be housed in the Padiglione Venezia, the pavilion usually reserved for the press." The Art Newspaper 06/08/01

  • BIENNALE WINNERS: A list of artists winning prizes at this year's Biennale. ARTForum 06/10/01

Sunday June 10

VENICE BIENNALE OPENS: "From the almost 300 artists showing in this 49th Biennale - 130 chosen by Szeeman, and 156 by curators in each of the 63 countries represented at the festival - you get about a half-century's worth of styles, ideas and notions about what good art can be." Washington Post 06/10/01

REMAKING LONDON: London's mayor's beliefs about his city's future can be summarized as "either London buckles down and starts building skyscrapers with the abandon of a Shanghai or a Hong Kong or else Britain heads for the economic third division." In his drive to remake the capital, he considers the preservationist English Heritage "the biggest threat to London's future since the Luftwaffe." The Observer (UK) 06/10/01

THE PUBLIC BLANK CANVAS: Two weeks before an artist was to install art inside 200 New York taxicabs, the NYC Taxi Commission denied permission for it. "The commission adhered to the common civic notion that the public deserves nothing less than predictable neutrality in its urban landscape. The flip side of our worship of individual expression is the enforced uniformity and blandness of the spaces we share: gray, blockish office buildings in the International Style, muzak in elevators, Starbucks and McDonald's." The New York Times 06/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday June 8

VIENNA'S BOLD AMBITION: Vienna's new contemporary arts center is ambitious - "in its ambitions this project is right up there with Tate Modern, the Bilbao Guggenheim and the Getty Center: an international focus for the arts on a scale that only few institutions and metropolitan spaces can aspire to." Financial Times (UK) 06/08/01

GUERILLA TRANSIT: A student at the Glasgow Institute of Art has been conducting guerilla art on bus riders. At bus stop kiosques, "instead of bus times and route information, puzzled travellers have found musings by the 23-year-old about how his life has been intertwined with bus journeys, including longing for a former girlfriend, a past job at Asda and the joys of eating carry-outs on late-night buses." The Scotsman 06/08/01

Thursday June 7

THE CRITICS HATE IT: Critics are piling on the design for the new World War II memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC. "Friedrich St. Florian's design for the National World War II Memorial diminishes the substance of its architectural context. The design does not dare to know. It is, instead, a shrine to the idea of not knowing or, more precisely, of forgetting. It erases the historical relationship of World War II to ourselves. It puts sentiment in the place where knowledge ought to be." The New York Times 06/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

PLEASE DO NOT SIT ON THE ART: Chicago was the first American city to put a bunch of fiberglass animals in prominent locations and allow local artists to have at them, and the "Cows on Parade" project sparked a wave of copycats across the U.S. Now, with "Suite Home Chicago," the city is trying again, with furniture being the rather unconventional theme. Still, don't expect function to follow form: "Partly to discourage the homeless from camping out on them, they 'have been made as uncomfortable as possible.'" Chicago Tribune 06/07/01

  • HERE PIGGY PIGGY... Seattle's doing fibreglass Pigs on Parade. Have artists been reduced to this? "It does serious damage to the public conception of what artists do. It moves artists away from being agents of inquiry and sensors of cultural shifts toward decorators. Good eyes for hire. What it amounts to is a retrograde shift in the artist's position in society." The Stranger 06/06/01

Wednesday June 6

TATE MODERN - SUPERSIZE ME? Tate Modern wants to double in size? "Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota wants more space because there are living artists out there, especially in America, who are reaching a certain age and are 'looking for places where their work can be seen': Elsworth Kelly, for example, or Robert Rauschen-burg, or Jasper Johns. The hope is to seduce them with beautiful expanses of new gallery, so the Tate can have many versions of its room of paintings given to them by Mark Rothko." London Evening Standard 06/06/01

MARTHA STEWART IN THE SMITHSONIAN? Nothing against rich people - but should money allow you to choose what goes into a museum? The Smithsonian seems to be in a conflict of judgment as big donors get a very large say in some new projects. Washington Post 06/05/01

POST-BLACK: A new exhibit at the Studio Museum in Harlem presents "the work of twenty-eight unheralded African-American artists, who... plainly owe much to the politically convulsed nineties generation. This exhilarating show suggests that the ordeal of race in America may be verging on an upbeat phase that is without precedent." The New Yorker 06/04/01

I WANT MY PAINTINGS: The "great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the last King of Poland, has written to the director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London, claiming ownership of 180 paintings - including several Rubens, three Rembrandts and two Canalettos" - a collection worth £250 million. His claim, at first look seems to be shaky. London Evening Standard 06/06/01

MUSEUM INQUIRY: The Australian government is grilling top management of the National Gallery over some of the wrong answers museum officials provided to a government inquiry, including sayings that museum loans and traveling exhibitions had doubled when they hadn't. One Senator demands: "I want to know why they got it wrong." Sydney Morning Herald 06/06/01

MORE NAZI LOOT? Last week Glasgow's museums put up lists of their artwork with uncertain provenance. "A bronze bust of Mary Queen of Scots and two paintings that once belonged to Charles I have been included in the list of works of art in Scottish galleries that may have been looted by Nazis." Glasgow Herald 06/06/01

Tuesday June 5

BATTLE FOR THE STORY OF A NATION: Australia's recently-opened National Museum attempts to tell the history of the country, and it has been generally praised by critics for being surprisingly candid. But documents obtained by the Sydney Herald show that deciding how that story would be told and what would get into the museum was a fierce behind-the-scenes battle. Sydney Morning Herald 06/05/01

A LAME DEBATE OVER ART: Australia is debating what its new Museum of Contemporary Art should look like. But it hasn't been much of a debate, complains one critic. "Commentary has overwhelmed reporting and opinion pieces have pushed personal agendas. The usual suspects have been rounded up for comment and it has been nothing if not predictable. The newspaper letters columns too have lacked any sense of middle ground in their discussion of the MCA. It is as if reasoned debate must be avoided at all costs." Sydney Morning Herald 06/05/01

WHAT TO DO WHEN IT'S STOLEN? "Selling stolen art in the auction business is, unfortunately, nothing new. At issue is the degree of liability an auction house has if it is learned that they have sold stolen goods--or at least goods to which the title is in dispute - and what the unwitting buyer can claim in recompense. In other words, how financially responsible should an auction house be when it fails to provide the kind of rigorous background check that can ensure buyers they aren't buying hot art?" 06/04/01

MIES BACK IN FASHION: After a decade and a half in which Ludwig Mies van der Rohe has been "the juiciest target of those who attribute the physical alienation of American cities, at least in part, to the glass-and-steel high-rises on which he was the supreme authority," the architect is suuddenly hot again. Why now? Perhaps it's a reaction to "frustration in some quarters with the blob-and-matchstick work of the post-Gehry generation of architects." ARTNews 06/01

Monday June 4

UNFAIR ACCOUNTING: Was a recent audit of museums by the Scottish government unfair and misleading? Some museums say the audit discriminates against smaller institutions. "David Clough, director of Kilmartin House Trust museum, in Argyll, claims it is unfair and portrays museums such as Kilmartin as 'dead end institutions with no economic future'." Glasgow Herald 06/03/01

WHAT TO CLEAN? Experts are piling on in condemning the Ufizzi's plan to clean Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi. "It's ridiculous. I have not the slightest idea why they want it cleaned. These are the first sketches and first ideas that the master put down with his brush, and who is to say which of these lines were really his?" The Telegraph (UK) 06/03/01

Sunday June 3

ART IN THE SLUMS: When Jacobo Borges proposed a new museum in one of the worst slums of Caracas, critics said few would come to such a bad location to see art. "But six years later, the Jacobo Borges Museum is one of the most celebrated in South America - and not just because the neighborhood is bad." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 06/03/01

TECH-SAVVY: "Instead of taking place on the margins, in out-of-the-way galleries with the requisite electrical outlets, technologically based art, which now includes digital projects, has increasingly become the main course." San Francisco Chronicle 06/03/01

Friday June 1

INSURING PROBLEMS: It's getting more difficult to borrow major works of art for exhibitions. The Australian government has a program to help insure loaned art in Australia, but even that program is becoming problematic. Sydney Morning Herald 06/01/01

SOMETHING TO GO INSIDE: The Guggenheim is expanding with new locations. But it needs art to go inside. So it has established some acquisition committees. "Unlike other museums, which have had such committees for decades, the Guggenheim formed these only six years ago. During the 1980's and early 90's, the collection barely grew." The New York Times 06/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)

AUCTIONING CHURCHILL: A large collection of Winston Churchill documents, including photographs never before seen in public, are to be auctioned. But British historians - who have not yet seen the collection - are upset that the collection may leave the UK without them having a chance to buy it. London Evening Standard 05/31/01

HEART'S DESIRE: If Edwina Currie won the lottery, she knows exactly what she'd do - buy a Rembrandt. Specifically The Night Watch. "It invites you in; it begs you to leap inside the frame and gird your loins in 17th-century Amsterdam." The Times (UK) 06/01/01

THE CRITIC THEY LOVED TO HATE: Joan Altabe was an award-winning architecture and visual art critic for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and the newspaper's most controversial writer. But her acid word processor won her lots of enemies, and after she was laid off last month, many wondered if her foes had finally got her fired. St. Petersburg Times 05/31/01

IT'S ALL ABOUT PRIORITIES: The spotlight-loving director of Canada's National Gallery was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada recently, and his employees are pretty steamed about it. Why? They've all been on strike for three weeks. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/01/01

UP NEXT - POTHOLE COLLAGE! Anything can be art if you look at it right. Today's supporting example: Ottawa's Louise Levergneux, who has made quite a nice little career out of photographing, collecting, and marketing - get ready - manhole covers. Ottawa Citizen 06/01/01