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Sunday June 30

OVERREACHING AT THE GUGGENHEIM: The Guggenheim, that beacon of expansionist artistic fervor, is in trouble. Staff layoffs, cancelled exhibitions, and general fiscal chaos have combined to tarnish the reputation of director Thomas Krens, who has been considered an essential innovator for years. With some in the arts world calling for Krens's resignation, where is the Guggenheim going, and how will it get there with no apparent cash flow? The New York Times 06/30/02

LIBESKIND'S LEGACY: "Daniel Libeskind has been a leading light in architecture for 30 years, yet he didn't build a thing until 1999. But the Jewish Museum in Berlin was both a professional challenge and a personal test: his parents had fled the Nazis. As his Imperial War Musuem North opens in Manchester, he tells [The Guardian] how buildings help us make sense of history." The Guardian (UK) 06/29/02

  • BUDGET CUTS FOR THE BETTER: Libeskind's new Imperial War Museum almost never made it off the drawing board after the Heritage Fund ordered its budget slashed by an unheard-of 40%. But instead of abandoning the project, Libeskind resdesigned the entire building, and claims that the cheaper version wound up being considerably better than the original. The Telegraph (UK) 06/29/02
  • DIVERSIFYING THE PORTFOLIO: Daniel Libeskind's stature as an architect often overshadows his earlier career - as a young man, he was a widely hailed concert pianist. This summer, Libeskind is returning to his musical roots, conducting a new production of a Messiaen opera in Berlin. The Guardian (UK) 06/28/02

GETTY COMES THROUGH FOR ST. PAUL'S: Philanthropist and art collector Paul Getty has announced a £5 million gift dedicated to the restoration of the famous facade of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The cathedral's outer face has been crumbling for centuries under the harsh city conditions, and its famous 64,000-ton dome has been slowly crushing the entire building. The Getty gift brings the cathedral halfway towards its fundraising goal for a full restoration. The Guardian (UK) 06/28/02

DOES CNN CAUSE WAR? A new exhibition in the small Belgian community of Ypres focuses on the 20th century's nearly ceaseless military conflicts from the perspective of the media types who covered it. The exhibit is wide-ranging, but its central focus can be boiled down to one basic question: has media saturation so numbed humanity to the sight of horrible violence that we are no longer able to be put off by the prospect of death and destruction? Financial Times 06/28/02

Friday June 28

A RIVER AWAY: The Museum of Modern Art is opening its new temporary home in Queens this weekend. "The Modern's galleries are efficient and airless, like the inside of a storage center, which is exactly what this building is. On the other hand, there is something touching and apt about seeing priceless Cézannes, Seurats and Braques in a makeshift, unadorned setting: they look fresh and by contrast seem to pop off the walls even more than usual." The New York Times 06/28/02

  • NEW TALES TO TELL: "The opening of the temporary Modern tomorrow in Long Island City is less significant than the closing of the museum's old quarters. The space was exhausted, and so was the institution's underlying premise. Since the Modern's founding in 1929, it has become increasingly clear that its use of the word modern is historically cavalier. This unpromising commission offers a graceful promenade through the history of modern thought." The New York Times 06/28/02
  • KING OF QUEENS: It's "a museum that engenders a remarkable sense of intimacy between art and viewer and acts as a pointed challenge to the monumental museum projects that have become ubiquitous in the past decade. In its populist spirit, it is closer to Los Angeles projects like Frank Gehry's Geffen Contemporary - a gaping warehouse space built in the ethnic enclave of Little Tokyo in 1983 - than to the typical, more refined Manhattan museum." Los Angeles Times 06/28/02

TO PLUG THE HOLES: The British Museum needs an extra £10 million a year to fix its budget woes. "We still receive 30% less than we did in 1992 due to government cuts. We've had to cut back and slim down over the last decade but now the point has been reached where we simply can't do that any more." BBC 06/28/02

AND THERE'S LESS DUST THAN A MILL, TOO: Is it really possible to rebuild a town in decline around the arts? The residents of one old mill town in western Massachusetts would say so: since the MASS MoCA museum opened in North Adams in 1999, tourists have flocked to it, complimentary events have sprung up regularly, and the gallery has become as much a pillar of the community as the old mills used to be. Boston Globe 06/28/02

HOW NOT TO OBSERVE: In trying to decide what kind of memorial should be chosen for the World Trade Center, it's a good idea to look at the Oklahoma bombing memorial (for an example of what not to do). "There are so many symbols here as to obliterate the poetry of any one of them. There are so many faces on televisions inside the museum describing their pain to you that you feel wrung out like a rag. Worst of all, the memorial has nothing to say about the important historical issues that triggered Timothy McVeigh’s madness. The problem is obvious." New York Observer 06/26/02

FIRST PHOTO GETS THE ONCE-OVER: The world's first photograph dates from 1826, depicts an idyllic pastoral scene, and is in remarkably good condition for a 176-year-old image. It sits on a pewter plate covered with bitumin, and took three days of exposure to create. The heliograph, as its creator referred to it, is undergoing its first-ever scientific study at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Chicago Tribune 06/28/02

Thursday June 27

IMPOVERISHING THE BRITISH MUSEUM: There are many reasons for the British Museum's woeful financial condition. But outgoing director Robert Anderson says it comes down to simple underfunding. "It is easy to say that efficiency must be increased, but it comes to the point that people have extraordinary work loads, and their output is already extraordinarily high. We are a flagship museum, and yet in many ways we are impoverished." The Guardian (UK) 06/26/02

WANTED - BETTER IDEAS: Australia's most prestigious architecture awards, presented this week, were a jumble of compromises and unfulfilled expectations. One award - for residential design, wasn't even awarded. "Too many projects are results of Land and Environment Court rulings ... slowly the art of architecture is being whittled toward a more predictable and forecast outcome." Sydney Morning Herald 06/27/02

IN AMERICA WE'D FINE THE ARTIST: The mayor of Ankara, Turkey, decided that a statue of a nude in one of the city's parks was obscene and anti-Islamic, and ordered it taken down. That was in 1994. This week, an Ankara court ordered the mayor to pay 4 billion Turkish lira for damage to the statue incurred during its removal, plus other damages, plus interest. BBC 06/27/02

eBAY AS ART CANVAS: With 50 million users, eBay has become fodder for artists. "Recently, a Canadian artist did an eBay search for the word 'malaria', bought everything connected with it and put an eclectic array of memorabilia on display in an exhibition in London. And an impoverished Newcastle graduate sold his soul on eBay for £11. The so-called 'item'was bought by a man from Oklahoma who had lost his own soul in a bet." The Scotsman 06/26/02

ART THAT MEANS SOMETHING (BUT WHAT?): Bill Drummond and Jim Cauty are "famous for two gestures: presenting Rachel Whiteread with a cheque for £40,000 as 'worst British artist' on the night she won the £25,000 Turner Prize, and then, most famously, incinerating what appeared to be £1 million in cash on the Isle of Jura in front of a handful of bemused witnesses. Art prank? Scam? Political statement? Drummond and Cauty made an agreement at the time never to explain themselves, and they never have." The Telegraph (UK) 06/27/02

ART OUT OF THE LIMELIGHT: Catherine Goodman just won the prestigious BP Portrait Award. She's also known to be Prince Charles' art adviser. But her work sells for only a few thousand pounds, and she works slowly and accepts few commissions. "Art can be tough if people want a lot of attention. I'm not sure I do. I want to carry on painting and selling and having people tell me what they think of the pictures, but I don't want to be a celebrity. I'm not sure it's very good for artists." The Telegraph (UK) 06 27/02

Wednesday June 26

STOLEN ART RECOVERED: Nineteen works of art valued at £20 million that were stolen last year have been recovered by police in Madrid. "Among the paintings taken in August last year were two by Spanish artist Francisco de Goya - The Donkey's Fall and The Swing - and a work by French impressionist Camille Pisarro, called Eragny Landscape." BBC 06/25/02

OLDEST TOMB: "A 4,600 year-old Egyptian tomb, glued shut and with its original owner still inside, has been discovered by archaeologists working near the Giza Pyramids." The tomb is thought to be the oldest intact tomb ever discovered. Discovery 06/24/02

ANOTHER BIG-TIME AUCTION: "A 'sensuous' portrait by Picasso of his mistress at the height of their passion has been sold at auction for more than £15m. Nu au collier fetched £15,956,650 - almost double the estimate of up to £9m - when it went under the hammer at Christie's in London." BBC 06/25/02

MOMA'S ATTENTION-GETTERS: What to do when your museum is forced to move from the middle of Manhattan to an old warehouse in Queens? Hold a parade and shoot off fireworks, of course. New York's Museum of Modern Art may be in temporary quarters, but its curators are making darned sure that New Yorkers know where to find them, with "a procession over the Queensborough bridge," a series of galas and opening parties, and a massive fireworks display bridging the two boroughs with a rainbow. The New York Times 06/26/02

FRESH BASEL: The Basel Art Fair has scratched and clawed its way to to become one of the modern art world's preeminent events, and these days, it has also become something of a gauge for the health of the industry. To judge by this year's installment, all is well: the pace was chaotic, the displays eclectic, and, most importantly, sales were brisk. Boston Globe 06/26/02

DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: "When it was initiated in 1992, the idea of founding a contemporary art museum in Sarajevo was considered nothing short of crazy, but foundations were laid this week for the museum's first wing and it already boasts one of the world's largest exhibitions... Now, the collection includes 120 works of internationally acclaimed artists and its value is estimated at some $7 million." Nando Times (Agence France-Presse) 06/26/02

THE NEW ALTERNATIVES: "Just when we all assumed that the alternative space movement had met a noble death, laid low by the double-fisted blows of the culture wars and the New York real estate market, a host of new outfits have sprung up, offering an alternative not only to the gallery system, but to our traditional view of an alternative space." Village Voice 06/26/02

LOSING THE ART OF COLLECTING: Some of Australia's biggest corporations are getting out of art collecting. Several have put their collections up for auction or donated them recently. "Companies that have opted out of the art market totally or in part include Shell, Rio Tinto, Orica, AXA and BP Australia." The Age (Melbourne) 06/26/02

WHAT'S WRONG WITH CRAFT? "It is a sad fact that in the art universities of recent years it is the concept constructors - students who produce weird installations or have quirky ideas - who receive the highest marks. Craft creators - those with a natural talent - who want to learn to better their ability, are left unencouraged, often ignored and always poorly marked." The Guardian (UK) 06/25/02

Tuesday June 25

NOTHING SAYS I LOVE YOU LIKE FLOWERS: A painting of Monet's Waterlilies that has not been seen in public for more than 75 years sold for just over $20 million on Monday, Sotheby's auction house said." Nando Times (AP) 06/24/02

REINVENTING THE MFA: The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is reinventing itself. A decade ago it was deep in debt and on the decline. Now it's hired star architect Norman Foster to reimagine what one of America's great museums might become. "To pay for this expansion, and for additions to its endowment and budget, the museum has embarked on a drive to raise a daunting $425 million. Officials here say this is the largest fund-raising effort ever undertaken by an art institution outside New York City. The new building is expected to cost $180 million and be completed in 2007." The New York Times 06/25/02

REINVENTING THE COOPER-HEWITT: New York's Cooper Hewitt Museum, America's foremost design museum, ius cutting back. "Over recent months, more than a dozen administrators, curators, researchers and part-time consultants have left the Cooper-Hewitt, fleeing an atmosphere described by a former employee as 'draining'and by another as 'total misery'." The New York Times 06/25/02

BLOWING UP BOLOGNA? Police apparently intercepted a plan by terrorists affiliated with al-Qa 'eda to blow up Bologna's "most important church to erase the offence of a 15th-century Gothic fresco showing Mohammed being tormented by devils in hell. The Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported that in a telephone call intercepted by police in February, one of the suspect's alleged associates discussed plans for an attack on the Church of San Petronio, which has a large fresco by Giovanni da Modena showing the founder of the Islamic religion in hell." The Guardian (UK) 06/24/02

MUSEUMS AS PARTY ANIMALS: "Over the past 25 years a new balance - seesaw might be a better term - has been established in national museums between public and private money. In many ways, this is a positive change. Museums are far more responsive to their public now than they used to be. Permanent collections are often more interestingly displayed. Temporary exhibitions are more frequent. The fierce, old, military-style warders have been replaced by friendlier staff. Information about the collections is available on-line." On the other hand, the amount of energy required to court favor with the giving classes threatens to overwhelm the business of seeing to art. London Evening Standard 06/24/02

BRUTALLY BACK: "Over the past few years, something quite extraordinary has happened to the cityscape of Blairite Britain. Contrary to conservative expectations, some of our most despised structures have been restored, revamped - even given coveted listed status. The modern monoliths we once loathed have become our newest national monuments. Against all the odds, brutalism is back in vogue." New Statesman 06/24/02

TOW-AWAY ART: Artists unhappy with the growing numbers of abandoned cars on Hackney, England streets, stage an art project to do something about it. "The idea was to create a series of designer 'car covers' to turn the burnt out cars on Hackney's street into works of art." The zealous city council towed away the decorated cars. "The way to get rid of a car is to decorate it and make it pretty and then the council will move it." The Guardian (UK) 06/24/02

Monday June 24

ON THE TRAIL OF STOLEN TREASURE: "Theft of historic artifacts is massive worldwide. "Interpol, the international police network, says it is impossible to track the volume of trade in stolen antiquities because so much of it is so far underground. Some pieces disappear straight from digs, before anyone can catalogue them, and into the hands of collectors who never risk showing them publicly. But many involved in the study and preservation - and the buying and selling - of ancient art say that although the change is likely to be slow and fitful, it has begun." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/24/02

AT HOME IN QUEENS: The Museum of Modern reopens this week in its new temporary home in Queens. "On the face of it, Queens and the Museum of Modern Art make the quintessential odd couple. But you do not have to spend a whole lot of time in MoMA's new neighborhood to realize that the pairing actually makes good sense. Long Island City, the specific setting for MoMA's new venue, is a place apart, even in diverse, sprawling Queens. It's a fast-changing flatland of working and abandoned factories, auto body shops and industrial miscellany, with a scattering of attached houses and apartment buildings. The area's future is up for grabs." Washington Post 06/23/02

THE CONTRARY FREUD: Over the past 30 years Lucien Freud has been mad, bad and dangerous to know. His pictures pitiless, ambiguous, violent and aggressive, he has been a man of twilight lives between the gutter and the Ritz, mixing with the most rich and socially eminent, yet a man of privacy and mystery whose telephone number no one knows, and who inhabits houses without doorbells, flitting like Dracula from one to t'other, to work on sleeping models through the night. He is as bohemian as Puccini, as much a ruffian as Caravaggio (I once witnessed his stealing a girl from Peter Langan without plunging a dagger into that clumsy lecher's groin), and as much a creature of the ivory tower as Vermeer. All this lends gloss to his pictures and pushes up the price - the truth is probably much less fabulous." London Evening Standard 06/21/02

THERE ONCE WAS A MUSEUM IN GROZNY: "Before the war between Russia and the would-be breakaway Republic of Chechnya, there were 3,270 works in the Grozny Museum collection, including 950 paintings. But the museum was bombed, with many of its paintings detroyed. Much of what was left was looted to sell for arms. Now an attempt to rebuild the Grozny Museum. The Art Newspaper 06/21/02

ONE MAN'S SURPLUS IS... Britain's Labour government has a policy of selling off items that are deemed to be surplus. "While few would quarrel with the Ministry of Defence selling off a disused Army base or the Highways Agency disposing of some surplus road maintenance equipment, the flaws in the policy are becoming clear." As the policy tags items of artistic or historical importance, critics worry about a sell-off of the nation's important heritage. The Telegraph (UK) 06/24/02

PECKING ORDER: A huge glass-domed biosphere building in Cornwall is being endangered by seagulls. Seems the birds are mistaking their own reflections in the glass for hostile males, and are attacking the glass panels, doing considerable damage... The Guardian (UK) 06/21/02

REMEMBERING J. CARTER BROWN: "Brown epitomised the American impresario art museum director. He was the first to hold a masters degree in business administration. His diplomatic skills pulled foreign loans to Washington by the planeload. Ever the pitch-man for his institution, he urged benefactors to donate art “for the nation.” The pitch worked, and paintings by Cezanne, van Gogh, Picasso and Veronese flowed in." The Art Newspaper 06/21/02

Sunday June 23

STRIKE ACTION IN SCOTLAND: Scotland's nationally run galleries are facing a partial work stoppage by their staff to begin June 30. "The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents 120 staff, said the decision would mean a ban on all overtime and the closure of all four galleries on Sundays." The dispute centers on the contention of the PCS that staffers are underpaid and undervalued, with most making less than £5 per hour. BBC 06/21/02

SPEAKING OF STRIKES... What should the museum-going public make of the strike at the British Museum? "The strike and its causes are symptomatic of the disease that has hit cultural life in Britain... This is an artificially engineered crisis. It is as much the duty of a nation to fund its museums as it is to maintain its monuments. Government funding, currently set at £36 million, has been cut in real terms by 30 percent over a 10-year period according to most accounts." International Herald Tribune (Paris) 06/22/02

MORE FREUDIAN ANALYSIS: Lucien Freud's nude portraits, on exhibit at the Tate Britain, say a great deal about his perception of the world. "The naked animal, unidealised and depicted with extreme concentration on physical essence and fact, has come to seem like mainstream Freud: his grand contribution to twentieth-century painting. But to see his career at full stretch is to see how much else was achieved long before and how that past seeps into the future." The Observer (UK) 06/23/02

THE NAKED SENSUALITY OF CLOTHING: An exhibit at the UK's National Gallery purports to be about the history of clothing and drapery in classical painting, but Andrew Graham-Dixon sees some down-and-dirty subtext. "As well as offering an interesting and informative potted history of western fashion - showing, for example, how the doublet-and-hose peacock finery of male dress during the Renaissance evolved, through the Enlightenment and beyond, into the democratically inspired sartorial restraint of the suit - [the] exhibition also and, more piquantly, explores the invention and development of what we now know as sex appeal." The Telegraph (UK) 06/22/02

MUSEUM OF ONE MAN'S MIND: There is always a certain quirkiness in museums designed to house personal collections. The tastes of the individual tend to overshadow any larger objective, and England's Horniman Museum remains a perfect example as it reopens following a massive renovation. "The museum is now a triumphant architectural blend of the present and the past. The white limestone slabs of the new building echo the delicate white wrought-iron tracery of the conservatory, which is to the side of the main structures, and irresistibly remind the onlooker of hothouses at Kew Gardens or even the original Crystal Palace." The Guardian (UK) 06/22/02

FINALLY, ART AND EXERCISE TOGETHER! Think of it as an extremely high-tech Etch-a-Sketch crossed with a connect-the-dots game. Two British artists and a state-of-the-art Global Positioning System are creating artworks by tracing roads, highways, and bridges in various UK cities, routes they travel on bicycles while the GPS system records their progress. Their efforts are then posted and discussed on their website, which has already begun to spawn copycat efforts worldwide. Wired 06/22/02

Friday June 21

TYRANNY OF THE ACOUSTIGUIDE: Thinking about reaching for one of those handy acoustiguides now so popular at many museums? Think again. "It makes choices for you. It pick winners. Most museums that use the system restrict it to a (growing) menu of ‘masterpieces’, effectively relegating great tracts of their collection into a sort of art-historical Division Three – there to be scanned indulgently if you happen to have some quirky personal attachment, but clearly far beneath general interest. So immediately your choices are curtailed. Then, once the audioguide has imposed its snobbery on you, it sets about telling you, with varying degrees of skill and subtlety, what you ought to think about the art on show, and this is where the real trouble begins." 05/26/03

SISTER WENDY'S PRIVATE TOUR: Sister Wendy's trip through American museums for her recent series didn't include a stop at LA's Norton Simon Museum. So the museum made her an offer she couldn't refuse, and Wendy obliged with a private tour captured on tape. "It's a little strange that Sister Wendy, known more for her broad telepopulist appeal than for the eloquence or originality of her insights, should be sequestered in the back room of a deluxe suburban vanity museum. But such an improbable arrangement is actually pretty much par for the course in the long, strange trip of the art nun's career." LAWeekly 06/20/02

PRINCE OF A MISTAKE: Earlier this week three works by Prince Charles were put up for auction in Birmingham. Interest in the watercolors was high - they were listed at a few hundred pounds, but they eventually fetched £20,000. The day after the sale, though, it was noticed that a mistake had been made - the art wasn't painted at all - they're lithographs. "Worth a few hundred pounds, they were excellent copies of the original works, but of interest more for their novelty value than their artistic merit." The Scotsman 06/20/02

Thursday June 20

WHERE'S THE PUBLIC IN CHICAGO'S PUBLIC ART FUND? Chicago's Public Art Fund spends millions on public art, financed by the city's percent for art ordinance. Some of its projects are highly visible, yet critics charge that the program operates in secret and lacks accountability. How much money does it spend? How does it decide what to buy? You'd think public records would be available, and yet... Chicago Tribune 06/20/02

LOST IN THE WTC: "Among the major losses of a historic and archaeological nature was the Five Points archaeological collection, which, excavated in the early 1990s had been stored in the basement of Six World Trade Center, the building that was destroyed when the facade of Tower One fell into it. Only 18 of about one million unique artifacts documenting the lives of nineteenth-century New Yorkers survive." Archaeology 06/19/02

TALE OF TWO CITIES: Why is Toronto unable to produce artists in the way that Vancouver is? Perhaps it is structural. From weak schools, a sense of insularity and a lack of serious public art program, Toronto doesn't encourage a mix of artists. "Vancouver provides a vivid contrast. The city's leading artists have leapfrogged over Toronto to establish connections in New York, Dusseldorf and beyond." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/20/02

Wednesday June 19

FIRST COMMISSION WINS: This year's £25,000 BP Portrait Award has been won by Catherine Goodman. Her painting of Antony Sutch was her first commissioned portrait, and the first time in many years that the competition has been won by a formal traditional portrait. Despite the art world skirmishing over conceptual conceptual art crowding out figurative painting, the portrait competition, now in its 22nd year, attracted 760. The Guardian (UK) 06/18/02

WEIGHING ANCHOR: Due to security concerns, the Anchorage, a space under the Brooklyn Bridge used for the past 19 summers as a space for art installations and performances, is being closed because of fears of terrorism. "The 50-foot-tall vaulted ceilings, stone floors, windowless brick and overhead traffic hum gave the ambience a tilt toward the introspective and mysterious. The Anchorage could seem all gothic gloom or cool cave. It changed, depending on the art: a cathedral, a dungeon, a fort." Village Voice 06/18/02

UNDERSTANDING FREUD: This summer's hottest art show in London is the Lucien Freud retrospective at Tate Britain. At 79, Freud is generally considered Britain's top living artist. "Let me be clear about this: at every stage in his long career, Freud has painted wonderful pictures. In a show with 156 works, I am talking about no more than a dozen misses or near-misses, but they are enough to show that painting does not come easily to Freud. He's a thrilling artist because when he performs, he doesn't have a net to catch him if he falls." The Telegraph (UK) 06/19/02

  • A HISTORY OF LOOKING: "For 60 years, Freud has interrogated reality with a tough, unsatisfied intelligence. Eyes stripped as a snake’s, he has studied the visual evidence of life. He has searched for the truths that his paintings will tell." The Times (UK) 06/19/02
  • ARTIST LAUREATE: "At Freud's level of artistic dedication he is competing with history. It is a daunting sport for, unlike the athlete, the artist is running against an international field that includes famous contestants who have been dead for centuries." London Evening Standard 06/18/02
  • ABOUT PAINTING: "The viewer who believes he has discerned a truth about a relationship between artist and subject, however, is likely to be mistaken. It is mostly projection. There is some kind of truth somewhere in there, but it is first and foremost a truth about depiction in painting itself." The Guardian (UK) 06/18/02

POLLING THE MASSES: "A major exercise to decide on the best way of displaying art in Wales has started." And while asking the public might seem to be a risky method of deciding policy, that is exactly the route Wales is going. Among the proposals on the table are an expansion of the current National Museum and the construction of a new, dedicated gallery. BBC 06/19/02

Tuesday June 18

ANOTHER TAKE ON DOCUMENTA: Michael Kimmelman writes that the show delivers what it promised. But "calm, clear, remarkably orderly considering its size, the show is also puritanical and nearly humorless. It gives the impression of having been conceived by people for whom the messiness and frivolity of art are almost moral failures. Some control over the organization of a show this size is necessary. Too much is alarming." The New York Times 06/18/02

  • OVERLOAD: An exhausted Peter Plagens marvels at the sheer size of the event. And how much explanation the art takes. "Never in the history of contemporary-art shows have so many viewers been asked to read so much while standing on such unforgiving concrete floors." It's also difficult to sort out. "Hardly any of the art in Kassel lives up to the huge political burden placed upon it." With the show's attempt "to get art to act as a rebuttal to the G8’s style of globalization, Documenta has turned itself into a clever, but only occasionally convincing, Didactamenta." Newsweek 06/24/02

Monday June 17

STRIKE CLOSES BMA: The British Museum is closed today after 750 museum workers went on strike, protesting government cuts in funding. "Some 100 strikers picketed the museum, handing out leaflets to members of the public. It is the first time the museum has been closed by industrial action in its 250-year history." BBC 06/17/02

NEW ICA CHAIRMAN: Alan Yentob, the BBC's director of drama, entertainment and children's programmes, has been named new chairman of London's Institute of Contemporary Art. The ICA's previous chairman left in a blaze of publicity, declaring that concept art was "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat that I wouldn't accept even as a gift". The Guardian (UK) 06/14/02

  • GLAMOUR BOY: As the BBC's arts and entertainment supremo, Yentob is an avowed populariser and, after years of rubbing shoulders with the corporation's glitzier talent, he is now as close to being 'the glamorous face of BBC management' as licence feepayers are ever likely to get for their money. Those connections are, of course, what appealed to the board of the ICA when they judged his suitability." The Observer (UK) 06/16/02

FIGHTING FOR SCRAPS: There is so little high-end art available for sale in the UK that when even a minor sale comes up for auction, there's a feeding frenzy. The Telegraph (UK) 06/17/02

RECORD ANTIQUITY SALE: A heavily restored ancient Roman Venus sculpture sold in London at auction last week for "£7.9 million, more than twice the estimate and a world auction record for an antiquity. There may now be an export bar to allow British museums to try and match the price, but it is very unlikely any could raise such a sum. The Jenkins Venus, also known as the Barberini Venus, was pieced together from fragments over 200 years ago, and became one of the most admired works of classical art of the 18th century. The Guardian (UK) 06/15/02

LOOKING OUT: This edition of Documenta is the most international and outward-looking yet. "The main themes of this Documenta are migration, precarious post-colonial constellations, cultural intermixing and changing perspectives within a new global society. All the sore points, the terrible conflicts which often trigger or prevent these changes, are given center stage: the tortured Balkans; the misery of the underdeveloped and exploited; racism; the genocide in Rwanda; the hell of a South African gold mine; South American military dictatorships; guerrilla wars; Sept. 11, 2001; the refugee ships sunk in the Mediterranean with their unretrieved bodies, searched for by teams of underwater archaeologists. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/16/02

  • Previously: RANT W/O BACKUP: Documenta is the world's most lavish festival of contemporary art, and it has been staged in Kassel every five years or so since the Marshall Plan came to the bombed-out town. This year its curator advances the idea that America's domination of world culture is an enervating force, that it is "materializing, hegemonizing and attempting to regulate all forms of social relations and cultural exchanges." Curiously, there is little art in the show to back up the premise. Washington Post 06/16/02

WHAT'S THE VISION? Rem Koolhaas "may be our greatest contemporary architect, but the nature and volume of his production indicate that he wants to be more than that. He plays the game of cultural critic and theorist, visionary, urbanist, and shaper of cities for the globalized, digitized, commercialized world of the twenty-first century. If we don't begin thinking critically about what he's doing, how our cities look and function might greatly reflect his influence - and what we get might not be what we want." American Prospect 06/17/02

Sunday June 16

FREE ME: When the LA County Museum of Art began charging admission in 1978, attendance slid by 44 percent. Now, nearly 25 years later, despite 3 million more people in LA, the number of people visiting LACMA is roughly the same as it was in pre-admission 1978. As the museum goes out to raise $300 million to makeover its campus, Christopher Knight writes that one of LACMA's top priorities ought to be eliminating the admission fee. "No one should underestimate the barrier erected by general admission fees. Yet the issue isn't just a matter of affordability. It also concerns a more fundamental relationship with art." Los Angeles Times 06/09/02

TEARING DOWN HISTORY: The 20th Century was a bad one for English manors. "More than 1,000 country houses, perhaps one in six, were demolished in the 20th century. The result was an architectural and cultural tragedy that has no parallel in this country since the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. Superb collections of art were broken up, some of the most delightful gardens and landscapes ever created abandoned, and many of this country's finest buildings razed to the ground. The causes of that destruction have never been spelt out before, perhaps because the event was too painful." The Telegraph (UK) 06/15/02

RANT W/O BACKUP: Documenta is the world's most lavish festival of contemporary art, and it has been staged in Kassel every five years or so since the Marshall Plan came to the bombed-out town. This year its curator advances the idea that America's domination of world culture is an ennervating force, that it is "materializing, hegemonizing and attempting to regulate all forms of social relations and cultural exchanges." Curiously, there is little art in the show to back up the premise. Washington Post 06/16/02

IS IT CHEATING? When photography was invented many predicted the end of painting. Didn't happen, of course. But lately there have been fresh debates about the "fairness" of painters using mechanical devices to help in their work. Does it somehow lessen a work if the artist used visual aids? "I'm guessing that psychoanalysts would diagnose this as displaced anxiety." The New York Times 06/16/02

CUTTING THE EDGE: Is there anything tougher than being a contemporary art center? Constantly defining and redefining "contemporary" is a balancing act that gets tougher as the organization gets older. The Atlanta Contemporay Art Center is about to turn 30. With funding down and the search for a new director, ACAC is facing an identity crisis - does it still matter? Atlanta Journal-Constitution 06/16/02

THE ART OF RESTORATION: Paris' small Museum of Jewish Art and History tries to keep politics out. That means it's "not a Holocaust museum, although reportedly one is being planned for Paris. To museum organizer Laurence Sigal-Klagsbald, 'restoring Jewish culture is an answer in itself to the annihilation planned by the Nazis'." Toronto Star 06/16/02

Friday June 14

THOROUGHLY MODERN BIDDING: With Impressionist works too expensive for most collectors, contemporary art has caught the interest of investors. Prices for 20th Century work has been setting records of late. "The stock market is not currently offering many opportunities for people to get involved so when they find something that gives them pleasure, like art, they say 'let's do it.' ". Financial Times 06/14/02

ART FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY: "There's a transformation taking place in art museums. These temples of contemplation that once catered mostly to adults now offer a full menu of programs aimed at families -- not to mention school groups, singles, teenagers, seniors or any other demographic group willing to walk through the front door. At the venerable National Gallery of Art and the exclusive Kreeger Museum, even preschoolers now have their own programming." Washington Post 06/14/02

BRITAIN'S BEST NEW BUILDINGS: The Royal Institute of British Architects has made a list of the 58 best new buildings in the UK. "The buildings, which range in size from a tolbooth and a private residence to big industrial centres and the Gateshead millennium bridge, have all been selected to receive a RIBA award for their high architectural standards and their contribution to the local environment." The Guardian (UK) 06/13/02

SCOTTISH GALLERY WORKERS THINK STRIKE: While staff at the National Galleries of Scotland ponder a strike, the museum director is on a paid six-month sabbatical in Italy. And the museum is proposing to increase his salary by almost a quarter. That doesn't sit well with junior staff. "Here we have a director on a six-month sabbatical, travelling the world, while the lowest-paid members of staff can barely afford to get themselves to work." The Scotsman 06/13/02

Thursday June 13

MORATORIUM ON COLLECTING: The Denver Museum is building a $62 million addition. To help focus on getting ready for the expansion, the museum has declared a moratorium on acquistions. "The museum will not make purchases or accept any gifts of artworks except those to be exhibited in the new wing, and it will not grant loans of pieces to other institutions or borrow from them." Denver Post 06/13/02

CLEVELAND EXPANSION: The Cleveland Museum of Art has approved plans for a $170 million-plus expansion. Architect Rafael Vinoly presented plans for the addition this week. The museum hopes to start construction in 2004. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 06/13/02

FOR THE SOUL OF THE ROYAL ACADEMY: London's Royal Academy has had a very successful few years. But now director David Gordon is leaving, and the RA is at a crossroads. "At issue is whether artists or administrators should run the public side of the organisation, now that it has been transformed into a £20 million-a-year business, putting on world-class exhibitions. With the RA about to embark on a £50 million project to take over 6 Burlington Gardens, the former Museum of Mankind building, the debate has added urgency." The Art Newspaper 06/10/02

DRAW ME A PICTURE: Is there any place for drawing in art? "If art can be bought ready-made, or if it can be made in some way that has nothing to do with manual dexterity, with a video camera or a computer program, then drawing, this essential act of making, has definitely been marginalized, turned into a sideline, a caprice. A sea change has occurred, one of the fundamental ones in the history of art, or so we are told. But what of those artists who still believe that art is not so much in the conceptualization as in the realization?" The New Republic 06/10/02

Wednesday June 12

BRITISH MUSEUM STRIKE: The British Museum won't open next Monday because of a 24-hour strike by its workers. They are protesting cuts and management of the museum. "It is believed to be the first time the museum will have closed because of industrial action in its 250-year history." The Guardian (UK) 06/12/02

FOOD FIGHT: A show of Italian Masters sponsored by the Italian government and sent to Australia has provoked a fierce review that has insulted the Italians. "Attacks on the show feed fears that Australia is regarded by the rest of the world as the back of beyond, a place where nobody would care to send too many masterpieces, and also that Australians are taken for bumpkins, too unsophisticated to realise when they are being fobbed off." The Times (UK) 06/12/02

DESIGN-CHALLENGED: Wonder why people don't grow up with an appreciation for good architecture? Start with school buildings. The province of Ontario is building new schools, but the amount spent on design is pitiful. "On their own and strapped for money, some of the region's school boards are replicating school designs over two or three different sites. Sadly, the new schools in Toronto can't achieve the robust detailing of the public schools that emerged in the city in the early 20th century." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/12/02

THE COWS COME TO LONDON: The arts cows invade London. "The organisers claim it as the world's largest public art event. And with more than 150 bovines on display, and another six cities around the world lining up for more cow action, they might not be far wrong." They've earned respect in other cities, even in cities where you wouldn't expect it. In New York "their cumulative effect on the viewer was to disrupt the flow of thought. What struck me was the extent to which people noticed them and began to treat them in a way that public sculptors hardly dare to dream of - with respect. No one vandalised the New York cows." London Evening Standard 06/12/02

SETTING UP FOR ART: Howard Hodgkin makes set designs for the theatre. They're distinctive and drawings of them have been collected up for an exhibition this summer. But don't call them art. Hodgkin will get angry if you do. "They exist only as part of a performance, on stage, with performers, audience, lighting. Otherwise they're no more real than those discarded costume sketches people hang on their walls and expect you to admire. Completely ridiculous." The Telegraph (UK) 06/12/02

DEALER SENTENCED FOR ART SALES: New York art dealer Frederick Schultz has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for trying to sell stolen Egyptian artifacts. "The stiff sentence, coming after Mr. Schultz's conviction on Feb. 12, is seen as a sign of the federal government's determination to crack down on the trade in ancient objects that have been illegally taken out of their countries of origin." The New York Times 06/12/02

Tuesday June 11

A PLAN TO SAVE VENICE: Venice has decided to build a controversial "Thames barrier-type structure with 79 gates, each weighing 300 tonnes" to help control flooding of the city's lagoon. "But there are fears about how this might affect the Venice lagoon, particularly the possibility that it could further restrict the flushing of the city's waterways by the tide, making the famous stinking canals more stagnant." So British scientists have been brought in to "suggest ways to prevent the city becoming the first high-profile victim of global warming anda rise in sea levels." The Guardian (UK) 06/10/02

THE ANNUAL: Each summer, London's Royal Academy stages its Summer Exhibition. It's in its 234th year, and it is the "largest open-submission exhibition of contemporary art anywhere in the world. Any such antiquity will naturally gather some myths, and the most pernicious and unfair myth, unthinkingly retailed, is that the summer show is the repository of the amateur and Sunday painting, boardroom portrait and worthy landscape." Financial Times 06/11/02

  • HOUSE OF THE ALREADY-DONES: "At this year’s show one is frequently waylaid across a crowded room by some familiar-seeming image, only to realise on closer inspection that it is not actually a Lucian Freud, or a Cy Twombly, or a Richard Artschwager, as one might suppose, but in fact some sedulous substitute." The Times (UK) 06/11/02

HARVARD MUSEUM CHIEF TO COURTAULD: James Cuno, the director of the Harvard University Art Museums since 1991, has been named director of the University of London's Courtauld Institute of Art. The appointment is seen as a sideways move for the highly-regarded Cuno, who is also president of the Association of Art Museum Directors in the US. His departure from Harvard is "the latest in a number of high-profile departures from the university since the arrival last year of president Lawrence H. Summers." Boston Globe 06/11/02

Monday June 10

DOCUMENTING CONTEMPORARY ART: The 11th Documenta opens in Kassel. "Despite contemporary techniques - video, installation, photography - this Documenta 11 fails to match the work of much of the 1990s in loudness, velocity or the frequency of its shock effects. There are fewer illustrations of political theses than feared, and instead more truly classical art than many might have anticipated. In order to avoid making a loss, Documenta 11 must attract 630,000 visitors to Kassel and earn over euro 6.9 million ($6.5 million) by Sept. 15." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/09/02

A CONSERVATION SCANDAL: How was the ancient Villa of the Papyri - one of the richest and largest of the ancient Roman villas ever discovered, "allowed to degenerate into a massive dumping site for rubbish while weeds ravaged the ancient mosaic floor, holes in the plastic roof left it exposed to rain, and rising water levels blocked access to the site?" It's a sad case of bungled bureaucracy... The Art Newspaper 06/07/02

IS THIS ANY WAY TO BUILD A CITY? So Los Angeles might get a new football stadium, and it might not cost taxpayers money. Okay - but potential developers of the project are so far shy about revealing details of the project - like where exactly it might be built. Should Angelinos trust them? The "plans for downtown have yet to show such ambition. They are safe, formulaic, somewhat soulless. They embody an age of corporate gigantism in which decisions are made by committee, and the only real concern is the bottom line." Is this any way to plan urban landscapes? Los Angeles Times 06/10/02

PAUL GOTTLIEB, 67: "In his 20 years as publisher and editor in chief of the country's most notable publisher of art books he exercised vast influence, not merely on how such books are published but also on how art is presented and promoted at museums around the world. Gottlieb knew just about everybody connected in one way or another to publishing and art." Washington Post 06/10/02

Sunday June 9

BRITISH MUSEUM STRIKE PROTEST: Staff at the British Museum have voted to strike to protest plans by the museum to cut 150 workers. The financially-challenged museum is trying to close a £5m budget shortfall. "National treasures will be hidden away from the public, galleries will be closed off and less school children will be educated in the British Museum if the government does not accept that world-class museums cannot be funded by gift shops and cafes alone." The Guardian (UK) 06/08/02

WHOSE HISTORY? Britain has always had a reverence for its history, and the country is full of historic markers. But "is today's historic environment - the stately homes, museums, religious edifices, tourist attractions, heritage centres, preservation areas - adequately serving the complex intellectual requirements of a multi-cultural, multi-layered Britain? Not according to a recent report by the Historic Environment Steering Group. This commission of great and good heritage experts worryingly concluded that, 'People are interested in the historic environment.But many people feel powerless and excluded'." The Guardian (UK) 06/07/02

Friday June 7

THE FRIDA FAD: "Never has a woman with a mustache been so revered - or so marketed - as Frida Kahlo. Like a female Che Guevara, she has become a cottage industry. In the past year, Volvo has used her self-portraits to sell cars to Hispanics, the U.S. Postal Service put her on a stamp, and Time magazine put her on its cover. There have been Frida look-alike contests, Frida operas, plays, documentaries, novels, a cookbook, and now, an English-language movie. But, like a game of telephone, the more Kahlo's story has been told, the more it has been distorted, omitting uncomfortable details that show her to be a far more complex and flawed figure than the movies and cookbooks suggest." Washington Monthly 06/02

RETURN TO REALISM (DID IT EVER GO AWAY?): Painters and sculptors who have eschewed abstraction in rendering their particular take on the visible world have proliferated and thrived, occasionally even generating a movement—photorealism, for example. Now, emerging from the last decade’s polymorphous stew of postmodernism, realist artists are moving back into the foreground. But there’s just one puzzle: no one seems able to define what realism actually is." ArtNews 06/02

Thursday June 6

THE NEW WTC - A TOWERING CONCEPT? Word is that the architects working on plans for a replacement for the World Trade Center are contemplating a building of about the same height as the Twin Towers. "The tower also could be shorter, perhaps 1,300 feet or 1,350 feet, but it clearly would be no ordinary office building. It would contain about 65 to 70 stories of office floors, with the highest of those floors reaching 900 feet or more. Above them would be an empty vertical space, enclosed in a skeletal extension of the building's superstructure, making it visible to passersby. This chamber of air, which would be 300 to 400 feet tall, would soar ethereally toward the clouds." Chicago Tribune 06/06/02

CUBAN CLAIMS FOR ART: Many Cuban refugees fleeing Cuba had to leave artwork behind. "Over the last decade, a growing number of these works have surfaced outside Cuba and been put up for sale. Some left the island via diplomatic channels, others were exported privately and illegally, and some, particularly in the early 1990's, were put on the international market by Cuba itself as it sought hard currency." Increasingly, the original owners are making claims for the art. The New York Times 06/06/02

A LITTLE ART SCANDAL: A British internet firm offers exclusive reproductions of "never before published" Old Master drawings from the British Museum. But of course this isn't right. "The talk of unpublished, rarely seen material is nonsense. But the most misleading thing of all is the omission, in this quasi-official joint-venture parasitic commercial- wheeze website, of the fact that any member of the public, at any time during opening hours, can ask to see any drawing or print in the museum's collection, and that this access is free." The Guardian (UK) 06/06/02

TAKES ONE TO CATCH ONE: A British art security expert is defending his use of an art thief to track down two stolen works of art - including a Titian. "The ex-prisoner has been using his former criminal contacts to make inquiries about the paintings, and has claimed that recently he came close to the art thieves." BBC 06/06/02

QUEEN'S GALLERY USED ENDANGERED WOOD: Queen Elizabeth's new Queen's Gallery is under attack because endangered rare tropical woods were used in its construction. "The use of this timber not only goes against the palace's sustainable forest purchasing policy, but is a snub to the Duke of Edinburgh, president emeritus of the World Wildlife Fund, who said in 1998 that all 'forests subject to commercial exploitation should be certified under the Forest Stewardship Council certification scheme'." The Guardian (UK) 06/05/02

Wednesday June 5

MISSING IN ACTION: A more complete list of valuable art items lost in the World Trade Center collapse is being put together. Among them: "first editions of Helen Keller's books. Sculptures by Auguste Rodin. Artifacts from the African Burial Ground, a centuries-old Manhattan cemetery. Thousands of photographs of Broadway, off-Broadway and even off-off-Broadway shows." Los Angeles Times (AP) 06/05/02

GOING THREE-DIMENSIONAL: Forget painting - sculpture is the hot artform of choice right now. "Sculpture is no longer the poor cousin of painting. A lot of established painting collectors have turned their backs and started buying sculptures. They've filled their walls with pictures and now are looking for objects to put outside in their gardens or in their beach houses." Sydney Morning Herald 06/05/02

GROVELING TO BE LIKED? The newly reopened Manchester Art Gallery is doubled in size. It's a handsome new building. But "the displays are presented with a frantically jovial emphasis on accessibility. The room containing the most recent items, for example, is labelled 'Modern Art - You Cannot Be Serious', which is more suitable for a tabloid headline on the Turner Prize than a serious museum." The Telegraph (UK) 06/05/02

WHAT'S IT TAKE? The new Turner Prize short list is up, but one critic is still thinking about last year's winner. "You have to make suitable contemporary art, and smack suitably of controversy, to stand a chance of winning the Turner Prize; and actually winning it bestows both fame and a heroic aspect. In one sense the winner can be seen to represent all struggling and misunderstood artists whose work may be a darn sight less controversial in international art world terms, but which can be just as misunderstood, if not more so, in one's own local context. Making art and the way it's perceived is all relative to the time and place you happen to be in. Fame also means that a lot more people will misunderstand and denigrate your work than before, so it's a mixed blessing." *spark-online 06/02

IN PRAISE OF GLASS: Glass is the latest hot material in buildings. "New kinds of glass - for ceilings, floors, walls - are helping define the latest architectural look at home and at work, according to a survey of some 500 exhibitors at the recent American Institute of Architects' national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Instead of hanging art on the walls, designers can manipulate building materials so that color, texture and mood are integrated into the walls themselves." Wired 06/05/02

Tuesday June 4

MET DOWN: The Metropolitan Museum in New York has seen a big dip in visitors this year. "The museum has lost about 1 million visitors this year, down from about 5 million in each of the two years before." That translates to a drop of 20-25 percent. Museum officials say the biggest decline is visitors from Asia and Europe. New York Post 06/04/02

TASTE TEST: New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl, art historian Linda Nochlin and writer George Plimpton get together to talk about approaching art. "Taste is the residue of our previous experience, and if we are presented with something that doesn't fit we immediately try to reject it. I think that's good. Taste keeps us from being wowed by absolutely everything all the time; without it, we wouldn't get to work in the morning. Out of a spirit of economy, we try to reject things, or to put them aside, or to think they're understood. I think that's healthy, in a way. I think that if you're a critic you're supposed to stick with it till you feel sure, and when a work of art defeats all my best efforts to dismiss it, that's when I go down on my knees and want to shout about it to everyone." The New Yorker 06/03/02

STOLEN GIACOMETTI: A Giacometti sculpture was stolen from the Kunsthalle in Hamburg. "Thieves had used the crowd of about 16,000 visitors on the center's extra 'Long Night' with opening hours extended until 3:00 a.m. to swap the original bronze for a painted wooden figure." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/03/02

Monday June 3

THE BRITISH MUSEUM'S LITTLE PROBLEM: "The British Museum has the collections to make it, with the Met in New York and the Louvre in Paris, one of the three great museums in the world. It is also visited by three million tourists a year, a quarter of all visitors to London, which makes it a showpiece for the capital and for the country. If it is dim and dusty and closed for business, it makes the whole nation look bad." So how, with all the lottery money put aside for culture in the past decade, does the BM find itself in such precarious financial condition? London Evening Standard 05/031/02

THE QUEEN'S NEW MESS: Critics are piling on Queen Elizabeth's new gallery to mark her jubilee. "To give it its due, what will be the most enduring physical reminder of the Queen's golden jubilee does give confused visitors unclear about which parts of the palace are off-limits an unmistakable signal of where they will be welcome. But it looks more like a collection of giant milk bottles, left at the backdoor of the palace, rather than a descendant of the sublime Greek temples of Paestum that [architect John] Simpson fondly imagines them to be." The Observer (UK) 06/02/02

Sunday June 2

PRICELESS? IT'S JUST A WORD: Recent high prices for paintings gets one reporter thinking about how the value for great works of art is set. "If 'priceless' is a real concept to a museum curator, it's just a word - and a false one at that - in the calculating marketplace, where everything has a price." What would be the real-world price of some of the Art Institute of Chicago's most famous pictures? Chicago Sun-Times 06/02/02

NO SMALL MATTER: Smithsonian chief Lawrence Small has roiled the institution like none before him. "Since Small's arrival, markers of an institution in turmoil have popped up almost monthly: Directors of six museums submitted their resignations. Congress had to step in to save pioneering scientific research. A benefactor withdrew $38 million after her ideas were ridiculed by staffers. And more than 200 academics protested the "commercialization" of the Smithsonian--even faulting its decision to award the cafeteria contract at the National Air and Space Museum to McDonald's." Los Angeles Times 06/02/02

ART OF THE MEETING: Documenta is the once-every-five-years assemblage of contemporary art. "Documenta is not this year's only group show, but Kassel is definitely Rendezvous 2002 for museum directors, curators, dealers, gallery owners and collectors. They will be there because everyone will be there." The New York Times 06/02/02