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Friday August 31

THE AUCTION WARS: Amid rumors of a possible sale of Sotheby's to Phillips, the auction house wars heat up. Competition and scandals have squeezed profits at Sotheby's and Christie's, while costly aggressive maneuvering by No. 3 Phillips has cost a small fortune or two. It's possible in the not too distant future that all three houses could be French-owned. The Economist 08/30/01

LATIN COLLECTION FINDS A HOME: "One of the world's great collections of Latin American art is set to go on permanent display in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. . . The Museum of Latin American Art or 'Malba' will feature more than 220 works valued at some $40m (£27m), from artists ranging from Mexico's Frida Kahlo to Colombia's Fernando Botero." BBC 08/31/01

LESS MAY BE MORE AT MOMA: New York's Museum of Modern Art is in the middle of a massive expansion that will eventually double its size by 2004. But for the moment, MOMA's exhibit space is severely limited, forcing curators to make some very interesting decisions on what hangs where. "With so little space, time also collapses, continuity is destroyed, and works usually hung galleries apart are brought into unaccustomed proximity..." The New York Times 08/31/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ART FOR THE REAL WORLD: Much contemporary art is made to be displayed in museums, large galleries or in the large homes of the very rich. But what about art for the real lives of everday people? "It is one thing to make and exhibit your work in the culturally privileged context of a fine art infrastructure, quite another to immerse yourself in the mundane demands of the wider world, where you really are putting yourself on the line." Irish Times 08/31/01

UNDERSTANDING VERMEER: What is it about Vermeer that has captured the imagination of so many people? "He has inspired five novels, three exhibitions and an opera in the last six years. A new film based on the best-selling novel Girl with a Pearl Earring — the title comes from a Vermeer painting — is likely to add to the momentum." MSNBC (Reuters) 08/20/01

Thursday August 30

RETURN TO SENDER: Why did Fort Worth's Kimbell Museum return a $2.7 million Summerian statue to a New York dealer seven months after it was bought? "You don't do that in the art world. If you've changed your mind, sell [the piece] back on the open market. This is not like a sweater boutique in a department store, where they would take something back in the name of good customer relations. Why should the dealer take it back?" Fort Worth Star-Telegram 08/23/01

ART AS A BUSINESS - IT'S BAD: Australia's Bureau of Statistics did a survey of art gallery economics and made some dismal discoveries. "Overall, the gallery industry told the bureau it had a pretax profit margin of 7 per cent - a return that suggests dilettantes would be better off playing the stock market. Galleries had total sales worth $218 million, of which $36 million was for Aboriginal art." Sydney Morning Herald 08/30/01

DANIEL DOES DENVER: Denver is not a city known for its architecture. But the Denver Art Museum's plan for a dramatic new wing designed by Daniel Libeskind and set to open in 2005, promises to deliver the region's first signature piece of architecture. The New York Times 08/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

WHY NOT JUST CALL IT MUSIC? "Increasingly, museum- and gallery-goers are being asked to both look and listen to the art on display, as an emerging generation of artists explores a new territory between music and art that is known, generally, as audio art. So if an artist is interested in sound, why not become a musician? Many audio artists like to distinguish between music and noise, placing their allegiances firmly in the latter camp." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/30/01

McSMITHSONIAN? Washington's popular Museum of Air and Space has decided to allow a McDonald's to open inside the museum. Is it a smart service for visitors or a corrupting commercial incursion for a federally-funded institution? Washington Post 08/29/01

HIJACKING HIS NAME: Canadian artist Freeman Patterson has had his name hijacked for a pornographic website. When visitors click on the artist's name as expressed as a web address, they are directed to a porn site. The site offers to "sell" the address to anyone willing to offer more than $550. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/29/01

A POSTHUMOUS CLASH BETWEEN ARTIST AND DEALER: The heirs of German painter George Grosz are suing the estate of his former dealer, claiming that because he surreptitiously bought many paintings for himself, he cheated the artist of a higher open market value. Heirs of the dealer say the Grosz family is just complaining about the prices, 25 years after the fact. International Herald Tribune 08/30/01

Wednesday August 29

A MATTER OF CONSCIENCE: Former Metropolitan Museum director Thomas Hoving believes that the 12th Century cross he acquired for the museum back in 1963 is "nothing less than a medieval version of a swastika, used to incite the massacre of Bury St Edmunds' Jews in 1190 with a dark litany of anti-semitic inscriptions carved minutely along its 20 inch length. He claims it marked and helped speed the birth of English anti-semitism." And he thinks the Met should return it to England. The Guardian (UK) 08/29/01

COURTING IN THE SOUTHWEST: Los Angeles' Southwest Museum has an important collection of Native American artifacts. But the museum is poor and is contemplating acquiring a wealthy partner. The suitors are a movie cowboy museum or an indian casino. "But a partnership with either the Autry or the Pechanga Band raises new questions. Some Indian groups have criticized the Autry proposal as a none-too-subtle attempt by the cowboys to take over the Indians, culturally speaking, while some in the art world have expressed concern about whether a casino would really be an appropriate overseer for a major collection of Indian artifacts." The New York Times 08/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BUT "ARTS" WILL ALWAYS GET TOP BILLING: In some art circles, "crafts" is a dirty word. At their best, crafts are treated as if they were the ugly step-sisters of the arts. "Like realist painting and sculpture, though, crafts never fade away. They continue to be practiced out of the spotlight until another generation in the arts discovers them." Chicago Tribune 08/26/01

THE WORLD'S FASTEST PAINTER - REALLY: Maybe you favor Elvis on velour, or waifs with enormous eyes. Can't help you there. But if you like "whirling candy-colored planets in a shiny black sky, surrounded by falling stars," Atom is your man. But can't he paint anything else? "I could," he says, "but people always want the spacey stuff." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 08/28/01

Tuesday August 28

FREE = MORE KIDS: Want to get more children into museums? Drop the admission charge. That's what Britain did in 1999, and the number of kids visiting museums jumped 20 percent, according to the latest figures. BBC 08/28/01

ARCHITECTURE'S 'IT' BOY: Will the new Disney Concert Hall in LA be the crowning achievement of architect Frank Gehry's career? As it rises, the world seems ready to cede Gehry the title of North America's Leading Architect. Not that Gehry seems anxious to accept the crown: "This was designed 10 years ago, so a lot of crowning achievements have happened since," he chuckles. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/28/01

IT'S NOT SCIENTIFIC, BUT DURHAM'S TOPS WITH BBC LISTENERS: What building do English listeners to BBC4 like best in Britain? According to a BBC poll, Durham Cathedral. "Other buildings also rated highly by the 15, 819 people who voted included more modern structures like the Eden Project, in Cornwall (22.5%), London's Tate Modern (11.96%) and Stansted Airport (7.02%)." And the most-loathed structure? Heathrow Airport. BBC 08/28/01

Monday August 27

REPATRIATING ART: Major British museums are about to return hundreds of artifacts to their original cultures. "At least 40 institutions are believed to be preparing to give back all or part of their collections. The biggest beneficiaries are likely to be the Australian Aborigines and native Americans who have been campaigning for the return of such objects for decades." The Telegraph (UK) 08/27/01

REDEFINING THE BRITISH MUSEUM: The British Museum has some 4 million objects that the public never sees because of lack of space. Now museum officials have put together plans for an £80 million redo of a 12-story post office building as a study center for objects. This isn't just re-warehousing, they say - they hope the new space will allow the museum's researchers to bring new context to the museum's vast collection. The Guardian (UK) 08/27/01

THE GEHRY THING: Is Frank Gehry not only our finest architect, but our best artist as well? "The notion that he might be points to the new centrality of architecture in cultural discourse, a centrality that goes back to some of the early debates about Post-Modernism in the 1970s." London Review of Books 08/23/01

Sunday August 26

THE MUSEUM CRISIS: What has happened to the idea of "museum"? These days "it hardly matters what they contain, if anything. They are our new theaters of conscience, memorials to suffering, choreographed places of ritual genuflection, where we go to contemplate our fallibility and maybe even weep a little while admiring the architecture. They offer packaged units of morality, unimpeachable and guiltlessly entertaining. They presume to bring us together, physically and spiritually." The New York Times 08/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BUDAPEST JOINS THE MUSEUM SWEEPSTAKES: To be great these days, a great city must have a great museum. Fine if you're London or Vienna. But Budapest, with fewer resources, yet wanting to join the museum sweepstakes, has found a way to play. "But in a fast- changing country that's still learning to sort out public and private interests, the new projects present an emblematic mix of noble ideals and slippery realities. Playing by the rules is hard to do, especially where the rules are up for grabs." The New York Times 08/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE ART OF RANSOM: Are the people who stole the Chagall painting from New York's Jewish Museum and "holding it for ransom" until peace is achieved in the Middle East for real? Or is the note itself "a kind of quirky, postmodern performance in the manner of Brechtian political theater, which, by unmasking illusion and artifice, provokes its audience to radical action." Baltimore Sun 08/26/01

PRIVATE PASSIONS: Swiss collector Gustav Rau accumulated the second largest private art collection in the world. When a Swiss court declared him incompetent and tried to take control of the collection, he fought back, and now the art is on tour. Financial Times 08/25/01

MET SETTLES PAINTING CLAIM: The Metropolitan Museum has settled a claim over a Monet painting in the museum's collection. A man had claimed it had been stolen during the Soviet occupation of Berlin in 1945. Washington Post (AP) 08/25/01

TELLING NEW YORK'S STORY: Should New York City have a museum that ties together strands of the city's history? "We've got curators of ball gowns and curators of paintings. But we don't have a curator of New York City." The New York Times 08/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday August 24

KEEPING ART AT HOME: The French government has passed a law providing for the government to buy art it considers national treasures to prevent it from leaving the country. "If a work of art is deemed of cultural importance and denied an export licence, within the following 30 months, the government can make an offer to purchase it on behalf of a public institution. Their offer will be set at international market value." The Art Newspaper 08/24/01

EVERYONE'S AN ARTIST: An American scientist has developed a software program that can transform anyoine's photo or drawin into the art of a master. "The program can analyse a digital photograph and transform it into the style of any chosen artist. The software was inspired when he began wondering whether a computer could analyse an artist's style and then apply it to pictures." The Independent (UK) 08/24/01

NAME VALUE: Typically, the value of an artist's work increases when he dies. But Australian Aboriginal artist Turkey Tolson's work presents a challenge to Christie's, which wants to auction it. "In Aboriginal custom, particularly in the Central Desert, where Tolson lived, a dead person's name should not be mentioned or his or her image shown to his relatives, clan and wider tribe." How to sell it then? Sydney Morning Herald 08/24/01

SOTHEBY'S CHICAGO TO CLOSE: Sotheby's announces it's closing its auction house in Chicago. how much will it affect affect Chicago? "What does it say, if anything, about the state of Chicago's art and antiques market, or the future of fine art auctions in general? 'Running a regional house is a tough thing. The margins are slim, there's a lot of overhead and there's a lot to managing property'." Chicago Tribune 08/24/01

Thursday August 23

SUING RICHARD SERRA: Owners of a Richard Serra sculpture are suing the artist to recover the piece. In 1989 the owners showed Serra the piece they had bought, and he told them it was broken and needed repairing, which he offered to do in return for a 50 percent share of the resale. The owners say though Serra took back the work, they have been unable to get it returned despite numerous tries. New York Post 08/22/01

GUGGENHEIM DELAYS VEGAS OPENING: The opening of the Guggenheim and Hermitage Museum outposts has been delayed three weeks to Oct. 7. "There is no single reason for the date change," Thomas Krens, Guggenheim Foundation director, said in a prepared statement. "Rather, after arduous and careful analysis of the construction and installation paths, and after consultation with all of the construction managers and museum professionals working on this project, we had come to the conclusion that there was a real possibility that we might not be ready if we maintained the Sept. 16 opening date." Las Vegas Sun 08/23/01

  • GOING DOWNCULTURE: Hilton Kramer's not in favor of the modern brand of museums - the Tates, Guggenheims etc. They are trashing the traditional idea of the museum. Tate Modern, he complains, is "a culture mall still pretending to be an art museum but resembling—in spirit, in layout, and in noise levels and general pandemonium—a cross between an airport arrivals terminal and Times Square on a bad night." And the Guggenheim? Well... New York Observer 08/22/01

CRUSHING DECISIONS: The temples at Angkor, in Cambodia, are archeological and architectural treasures. They also are slowly being crushed by the jungle, which has closed in on them over the past five centuries. Restoration poses a dilemma: "If the trees are left in place, portions of the half-ruined structures will eventually collapse. If the trees are removed, the structures may also collapse." International Herald Tribune 08/23/01

WALLS THAT DIVIDE: The Viet Nam Veterans Memorial is in the center of a new controversy. A group of veterans plans "to add a structure nearby to educate visitors, not about the war but about the memorial itself. Critics, not least among them the National Park Service, are appalled." MSNBC 08/23/01

Wednesday August 22

WORLD HERITAGE IDEAS: The United Nations lists some 700 cultural treasures around the world as heritage sites. "But why limit UNESCO's validating embrace to the realm of the physical? What about manifestations of human genius that may be ubiquitous but also happen to be intangible?" Like pizza, perhaps? The Atlantic 09/01

WHAT'S WRONG WITH PAINTING: "Every few years, some art critic takes pleasure in making people furious with the declaration that painting is dead. But what does it mean for painting to die? I think it's impossible to declare any form of art to be dead, inasmuch as anything is allowed these days, but why is it that painting isn't, in the most general sense, good anymore?" The Stranger 08/23/01

BOTTOM FISHING: A Venetian island, submerged and ignored for 650 years, is being uncovered. But it isn't the island itself that's most interesting right now, it's a couple of ships that were grounded on it. Venetian galleys have been well-documented in histories, but none has ever before been salvaged in recognizable condition. Discover 08/21/01

PRICEY CALENDAR ART: Western (Western USA, that is) art appears to be riding tall in the saddle these days. A watercolor by Charles Russell, estimated at around $750,000, was auctioned for $2.4 million. The picture, A Disputed Trail, is widely known, having been used as calendar art for ninety years. The Art Newspaper 08/22/01

CLEVELAND CURATOR LEAVES: Diane De Grazia is leaving the job of chief curator of the Cleveland Museum of Art. "An expert on 17th-century European paintings and drawings, De Grazia came to Cleveland from the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 08/22/01

BEAUTY MAY BE IN THE CHILDHOOD OF THE OBSERVER: Pawtucket, Rhode Island, sent a gift to its twin town in England. The English did not like it at all. In fact, they seem rather insulted by the seven-foot statue. The seven-foot plastic statue of Mr. Potato Head. ABC 08/20/01

Tuesday August 21

LOAN OF PARTHENON MARBLES? The British Museum is discussing temporarily loaning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece for the 2004 Olympics. "Greece said it was willing to discuss a compromise under which it would get the 2,300-year-old artefacts - or if necessary only some of them - on temporary loan. In return, Britain would borrow masterpieces of classical antiquity never seen here before." The Guardian (UK) 08/20/01

  • Previously: BRITISH GOVERNMENT TURNS DOWN GREEK MARBLES DEAL: The British government has turned down a Greek request to return the Parthenon Marbles in time for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Greece had offered to loan hundreds of newly discovered antiquities to Britain in return for the return of the marbles. BBC 08/20/01

IT'S A MONEY THING: Why did David Ross leave as director of San Francisco's SFMOMA? It was money. Ross saw some opportunities for himself to make some money. The museum's board thought Ross's being the head of a website that sells art was a conflict. And, as the economic downturn was affecting the museum, Ross was thought not to be the person to get the museum through it. "David is an entrepreneur - he comes up with 15 ideas an hour - and it's hard for nonprofits to deal with that. Now he has come to a point where there is an opportunity to go to a for-profit and benefit financially from his ideas. We understand. When you tell someone like David to stop, you destroy him." San Francisco Chronicle 08/21/01

CHAGALL FOR PEACE: The Jewish Museum in New York has received an offer to return a 1914 Chagall painting stolen from the museum earlier this year. Actually, it's more of a ransom note; the gist of the one-page typewritten message says: " 'You get the painting back when peace has been achieved between Israel and Palestine.' The letter was signed by a previously unknown group, the International Committee for Art and Peace." 08/20/01

OPENING UP FRANCE: The French art market is about to open up. "Nearly 450 years of protectionism for the country's 458 auction houses will disappear in a deluge of art sales in the next few months dominated by the world's big two and the third-placed pursuer, Phillips." The Guardian (UK) 08/20/01

PRESERVING ALBANIA: Albania has some important archaeological treasures, but most of them have not been cared for. Now there is a tourist boom, and "the swell of visitors brings an opportunity and a threat. The opportunity is to create, on an undeveloped stretch of coast just north of Greece, a new tourism industry that can bring prosperity to one of Europe's poorest nations. The threat is that local greed, weak planning controls and powerful foreign investors will combine to create the common Mediterranean mess of badly built hotels, noise and pollution." The Economist 08/16/01

GIULIANI VS ARTISTS: New York mayor Rudy Giuliani intends to appeal last week's court ruling that allows artists to display their work on city streets. But is this a fight worth continuing? "Once the city decides that an area is open to vending, it cannot arbitrarily pick and choose whom it allows in." The New York Times 08/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BANNING BILL: A Bay Area artist created a sculture of Bill Clinton and a certain intern, entered a local fair, and won. He also won a prize at the California State Fair, but the sculture has been banned from display. :No fewer than five representatives of the Fair ruled Loose Lips unfit for exhibition, particularly because of 'the location of Monica Lewinsky to the overall position of the president.' In this, the sculptor was simply striving for verisimilitude, giving the work educational value." National Review 08/20/01

Monday August 20

BRITISH GOVERNMENT TURNS DOWN GREEK MARBLES DEAL: The British government has turned down a Greek request to return the Parthenon Marbles in time for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Greece had offered to loan hundreds of newly discovered antiquities to Britain in return for the return of the marbles. BBC 08/20/01

LEADERSHIP DISPUTE: Trustees of the British Museum are rejecting the government's first choice to be the museum's next director. "Her failure to win the endorsement of the trustees may owe something to suspicions that she might be too eager to carry out the wishes of the museum's paymasters in government. The museum's grant from the taxpayer is £34.88 million for 2001, slightly more than half its total income." Sunday Times (UK) 08/19/01

SO THIS IS WINNING? Earlier this year 200 employees of the National Gallery of Canada went on strike for nine weeks. But though workers have been back at work since mid July, they still haven't received the promised retroactive pay, signing bonuses and salary increases they were promised to end the strike. Ottawa Citizen 08/19/01

THE GREAT ART SCAMMER: Michel Cohen was such a successful player in the art markets that he could borrow $100 million to buy paintings, with few questions asked. But he also couldn't resist trying to double his money in the stock market, and when the market crashed, he vanished with a lot of other people's money. National Post (Telegraph) (Canada) 08/20/01

SIGNS OF A DOWNTURN? The downturn in the US economy is impacting museums. "Attendance has dropped significantly at the Orange County Museum of Art during the past two years. And after years of surplus, the museum is expecting to just break even with a lower budget for fiscal year 2000-01. In Laguna Beach, the Laguna Art Museum is trying to get a handle on a large deficit that reached $169,301 in fiscal year 1999-2000." Orange County Register 08/19/01

LONGEST PAINTING: A group of Thai artists is setting out to make the longest painting in the world - 1 1/2 kilometers long. "The project is in protest against a decision by the Thai authorities to allow construction of a shopping centre on a site the artists want earmarked for a museum of modern art." BBC 08/19/01

Sunday August 19

ROSS QUITS SFMOMA: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art director David Ross has abruptly quit the museum, effective immediately. "A statement from the museum said that Ross' 'priorities diverge from those of the museum'." The move has surprised the San Francisco artworld. SFGate 08/17/01

  • SFMOMA BOARD SAYS: Economic downturn squeezes museum. "Our focus in the museum is on internal management, and David Ross is focused on external matters, which he is a genius at. What is good for the museum is not necessarily in his best interests. And we thought it was mutually beneficial if we parted." The New York Times 08/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LA'S NEW LOOK: Los Angeles doesn't have a tradition of great public buildings. But in the past few years, "Los Angeles' civic landscape has undergone a startling transformation. As the $1-billion Getty Center was opening its doors in 1997 in Brentwood, construction was starting up on Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall and José Rafael Moneo's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels - all major works by world-renowned architects. More important, a sense of civic flowering has spread beyond a few powerful downtown institutions." Los Angeles Times 08/19/01

GOVERNMENT KEEPS HITLERS: After World War II, the American government seized some watercolor paintings by Hitler. For the past 18 years the heirs to a Hitler friend who had owned the paintings, had been petitioning to get them back. This week a court ruled that the government had the right to keep the watercolors "because it was never the government's intent to return them to their owner. Because they were the work of Hitler, the Army seized the four rather ordinary landscapes as potentially provocative." The New York Times 08/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

AUCTION SCANDAL - UH UH, WASN'T ME: Alfred Taubman, Sotheby's former chairman, is defending himself against charges he was a central figure in the auction house's collusion to fix prices. At a preliminary hearing last week his attorneys argued that "price-fixing discussions had been engineered by subordinates at the two auction houses without his involvement." The New York Times 08/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

REAL FAKES: The dispute between Paris' Rodin Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada over whether an exhibition of Rodin scultures is "real" or not has heated up. The Rodin's principal curator, "France's legal guardian of Rodin's legacy, urged Canadians to stay home and avert their eyes from the allegedly sham works about to go on view." But when you're casting sculptures, what is real and what is fake? National Post (Canada) 08/18/01

LOOKING FOR KHAN: An archaeological team looking for Genghis Khan's grave in Mongolia reported this week that they have found "a walled burial ground 200 miles northeast of the Mongolian capital that may contain the 13th-century conqueror's remains along with priceless artifacts." Discovery 08/17/01

Friday August 17

CYBER-AMERICA: The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History displays less than 5 percent of its 3 million objects. "Some of its exhibits have bare-bones labeling with no referrals to in-depth materials." Now the museum is hoping that a new website will make access to images and information about objects in the museum's collection easier. The site is a modest start - only 450 objects are up on the site so far. Washington Post 08/16/01

DISPUTED RODINS: Paris' Rodin Museum and a museum in Ontario Canada are disputing the authenticity of a collection of sculptures the Canadian museum intends to put on display. "Which Rodins are authentic and which are reproductions is a thorny and complex debate, with roots in the way the artist created such renowned sculptures as The Thinker and The Kiss." National Post 08/16/01

Thursday August 16

CRITICAL HISTORY: Looking back at a century of American art criticism can be revealing. "Examples of high intelligence, shrewd judgment and excellent prose command respect as well as envy. They may even serve as models to emulate. But the all-too-frequent instances of parochial taste, hidebound prejudice, political log-rolling and moldy prose leave one in no doubt as to why criticism is not a universally beloved enterprise." New York Observer 08/15/01

VINTAGE FRAUD: A series of vintage photographs supposedly signed by photographer Lewis Hine are likely fakes. The photos appear to have been printed on paper not available until the 1950s. Hine died in the 1940s. Vintage prints have escalated in price in the past few years, making them quite valuable. The FBI is investigating for fraud. The New York Times 08/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THAT OLD SEXPOT, MAGGIE THATCHER: "The 'erotic and iconic' qualities of Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, are to be examined in a major art show planned for London next year." The exhibition will be called There Is No Alternative. Thirty artists who grew up during her terms as Prime Minister have been invited to take part. National Post (Canada) 08/15/01

Wednesday August 15

THE ODDS ON ART IN VEGAS: The Guggenheim and Hermitage museums are opening branch galleries in Las Vegas. Certainly, no one else has ever opened a major art museum in Las Vegas. The art world is intrigued and aghast. Can [Guggenheim uber-director Thomas] Krens compete with gambling, exploding volcanos and topless showgirls? And has Krens driven a stake into the traditional notion that art and entertainment are mutually exclusive? Krens likes the odds, calculating the Vegas operation will take in $15 million a year. The Age (Nelbourne) 08/15/01

CASTLING: Many of Hungary’s baroque castles were converted to schools and hospitals during the Communist period and then abandoned in the early 1990s, now there are plans to restore and modernise them." The Art Newspaper 08/14/01

FAMOUS DOG NEEDS GOOD HOME. COST, $943,000: The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston bought "The Molossian Hound," a rare Roman statue, from its British owner. But the British government has delayed the deal, to give the British museum a chance to meet the sale price and keep the marble mastiff where he is. USAToday 08/14/01

ANYWAY, THEY AGREE ON THE TITLE: The Prado bought "The Raising of Lazarus" at Sotheby's for $1.8 million. Sotheby's insists the painting is by seventeenth-century artist Jusepe de Ribera. The ex-director of the gallery says "it is not by Ribera and has no business to be in the Prado.” The painting is being kept in storage while the experts duke it out. The Art Newspaper 08/14/01

Tuesday August 14

WALL ME IN: Since he visited the Berlin Wall in 1971, architect Rem Koolhaas has been fascinated with walls. They're not just divisions, they have philosophical dimensions that define ideas. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/14/01

YES ON NUDE BARBIES: A US judge rules that a Utah artist can use Barbie dolls as parody in his work. “The ruling doesn’t mean it’s open season (to exploit products by) Mattel, it means there is a certain amount of breathing room for artists who want to use a commercial symbol that has tremendous cultural meaning, for purposes of artistic expression.” MSNBC (Reuters) 08/13/01

ART ONLINE: "In Canada, where the art market is small and dominated by a handful of established auction houses, the industry is very nearly a closed sphere, where collectors and dealers do business based on ties forged years, sometimes decades, earlier." But a six-year-old company, by putting its entire catalogues online, has quietly become the second largest art seller in the country. National Post (Canada) 08/14/01

MILLION POINTS OF LIGHT: Artist James Downey wants to recruit millions of laser-pointer owners to shine their devices at a spot on the moon and light it up. One problem? A scientist says the physics of the project don't work out. MSNBC ( 08/14/01

DEFENDING THE NATIONAL: The director of the National Museum of Australia is defending the museum from charges of accusations of "fabricated exhibitions, too much razzle-dazzle, and excessive use of oral history and audio-visuals." Canberra Times 08/14/01

SLAVERY MUSEUM: The city of Charleston South Carolina contemplates building a museum about slavery. "It would be one of the most daring steps yet taken to bring the story of slavery to large numbers of people in the South, where there are still many monuments to Confederate heroes and where generations of politicians embraced the view that slave life was not all that bad." The New York Times 08/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

DIFFICULT CONCEPT: Provocative artist Tracey Emin speaks out about her controversial conceptual art: "If people say it's a joke or a confidence trick I'd say they're not very interested in art." BBC 08/14/01

Monday August 13

UNHAPPY NEIGHBORS: The Metropolitan Museum is undergoing a 200,000 square-foot expansion, but the museum's Upper East Side neighbors are rallying in protest. "For months now, the Met has doggedly defended its plan, arguing that the expansion is vital to its survival as a world-class cultural institution. But nearby residents have come to view the Met as the Sherman tank of Upper East Side institutions: hulking, unwieldy and seemingly invincible." New York Observer 08/08/01

WHY THE FRENCH LAG: Why have French artists lagged behind internationally? "French artists are very little present on the world stage, particularly at the great contemporary art fairs and sales – Basel and New York, for example." The Art Newspaper 08/10/01

MUSEUMS IN INDIA: "Arguably, the very idea of the museum remains alien to millions of people in India in the absence of an identifiable museum culture. Indeed, if Indian museums, for the most part, have virulently resisted being decolonised, this phenomenon needs to be linked to the absence of any sustained attempt to re-imagine their postcolonial condition." ARTIndia 08/01

LEONARDO TOUR: To celebrate Queen Elizabeth's 50 years on the throne next year, the queen is sending her collection of priceless Leonardo drawings on a tour of the country. BBC 09/13/01

Sunday August 12

CAN'T RESTRICT ART: A US federal judge has ruled that New York mayor Rudy Giuliani's administration can't force street artists to get permits to show their work on city streets. City attorneys say they will appeal. The New York Times 08/11/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NUMBERS GAME: To hear some museum directors talk these days, you'd think the most important part of their job was to get as many people possible through their front doors. "So museums have reached admirable attendance numbers. Now the question is, at what cost? How do museums balance education and entertainment, all the while keeping track of their admissions?" Chicago Tribune 08/12/01

FRANCE ON THE RISE: Reforms in French auction law should propel the country to the top of the auction world. "It [France] sits on a hoard of works of art that, unlike Britain's, has notbeen bled dry. It retains a vast constituency of passionate collectors in every field, at every financial level, who represent a force as essential to the successful outcome of an auction as a supportive public is to a football team's victory." International Herald Tribune 08/11/01

LACK OF VISION: Visual art is the poor relation at the Edinburgh Festival. "The contents of the official programme are enough to show that the planners are interested only in opera, concerts and plays. The exhibitions aren't mentioned even in passing. According to the man at the top, festival director Brian McMaster, the visual arts are more than capable of looking after themselves." Sunday Times (UK) 08/12/01

MORE CURATORS (OR ELSE): Glasgow's museums have been given an ultimatum by the National Heritage Lottery Fund - hire 21 more curators and fire some of those overpaid janitors and security guards or you won't get this year's £8 million grant. Sunday Times (UK) 08/12/01

INSIDE, OUTSIDE: Shouldn't a museum reflect (even just a little bit) the experience awaiting inside? The Texas State History Museum has plenty of colorful stories to tell inside. But on the outside, its new building is as sober as the Federal Reserve. Dallas Morning News 08/12/01

TEAMWORK OR COMPETITION? Baltimore has two large museums - the Walters and the Baltimore Museum of Art. But the city is shrinking - fewer people, less resources. So there's a proposal to combine operations of both in an attempt to give them both greater prominence. But is the city better served by the "genteel rivalry that traditionally has existed between the two museums?" Baltimore Sun 08/12/01

HERITAGE SELLING: "Today's Aboriginal art has little to do with the ethnological image of atavistic tribal culture. Besides representing the creation myth of the Australian natives, the so-called 'Dreamings,' it has begun to rewrite colonial and postcolonial history." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/12/01

Friday August 10

SELLING GERMAN TREASURES: The sale of a rare map, made in 1507, to the American Library of Congress for $10 million, violated German laws on the export of national treasures. The map "was the first to map the continent of America, erroneously naming it after the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci," and the German government okayed the sale as a "token of friendship." But what does this say about the state of German culture? Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/10/01

IN-COUNTRY: The English government has placed an export ban on seven works of art and is lookignfor buyers for the works within the UK. The Art Newspaper 08/08/01

LAS VEGAS - CITY OF CULTURE? “The Venetian Guggenheim and Hermitage represent a quantum leap forward in the development of Las Vegas as a place that has redefined the meaning of entertainment.” The Economist 08/09/01

MAKING IT IN ART: "Over the last couple of decades schools and other institutions have recognized the art student's need for more practical guidance. So they have designed programs to help young artists figure out how to achieve and sustain rewarding careers as professionals in a market- driven art world." The New York Times 08/10/01 (one-time registration required for access)

WHAT ROLE MUSEUMS? The wave of new museums featuring splashy architecture misunderstands the environment in which art wants to be. "Museums should not be built. They should be places which already exist, established by proclamation, chosen by acclamation." The Art Newspaper 08/08/01

Thursday August 9

PHOTOGRAPHED NAZI LOOT: Dresden's Deutsche Fotothek has recently discovered a photography archive of 1,000 glas negatives thought to document artwork bought for Hitler's personal museum. The trove had been held by the Stasi, the former East Germany's secret police, and the photos could shed significant light on missing artwork looted by the Nazis. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/09/01

SPANISH THIEVES MAKE A MAJOR HAUL: More than 20 important works of art have been reported stolen from a home in Madrid. The works include "The Donkey's Fall" and "The Swing" by Goya, "Eragny Landscape" by Pisarro, and "St. Anthony's Temptations" by Brueghel. BBC 09/09/01

Wednesday August 8

ART FOR HIRE: Should artists be paid by the hour? An Australian group "comprising economists, researchers and gallery representatives, have proposed a per hour, sliding scale of earnings, dependent on the artist's seniority. Top dogs of the art world who are commissioned to place work in public foyers should receive $125 per hour, they say, while emerging artists should be paid at a rate of $30 per hour." Sydney Morning Herald 08/08/01

BUILDING BIND: Critics might be raving about the new Gehry-designed Disney concert hall in Los Angeles, but the workers building it hate it. "Forget about that construction site standard, the blueprint. Forget about anything that covers a trifling two dimensions - the way construction documents do in more standard buildings. In Frank Gehry's world, everything is 3-D, and the construction workers are swept along - or left behind." Los Angeles Times 08/07/01

BUY BRAZILIAN: Brazil is awash in art - and pretty good art at that. But Europe and the US know little about it. "For once this is no bad thing: the artists have such an eager market at home they have little need for us tourists." The Times (UK) 08/08/01

ANYBODY SEEN A MONET AROUND HERE? KLEE? HOW ABOUT DEGAS? During their reign in the Philippines, the Marcoses accumulated a great deal of art. But the Presidential Commission on Good Government, though it did track down a once-missing Picasso, still is unable to find some "20 paintings with an estimated value of around $1 million each," including work by Degas, Klee, and Monet. Philippines) 08/07/01

UNIQUELY HATEFUL ART: The centerpiece of the medieval art collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an ivory cross, the Bury St. Edmunds Cross. The ever-irrepressible Thomas Hoving, former director of the Met and the man who acquired the cross, calls it an anti-Semitic work, "as if Hitler and Michelangelo collaborated." The Met's curator of medieval art disagrees. U.S. News 08/13/01

WHO NEEDS CLOTHES WHEN YOU CAN FLY? The granite mural on the floor at Los Angeles International Airport is "meant to depict early man's desire to fly," according to the artist. Perhaps to emphasize the idea of freedom, the men in the mural, leaping skyward, are nude. Complaints were made. The City Cultural Affairs Commission says it will not reconsider its original approval of the work. Freedom Forum 08/07/01

Tuesday August 7

A "FOR-PROFIT" PRADO? The Spanish parliament is considering whether to turn over control of the Prado - one of the world's great museums - to a commercial company, following the recommendation of an American consulting group. "Virtually every curator in the Prado has signed a letter objecting to the Boston Consulting Group's report, the basis of the proposed law." The Art Newspaper 08/06/01

PRETTY EXPENSIVE FOR A NEWFIE JOKE: A furor has erupted over the planned construction of "The Rooms," a new CAN$47 million arts and culture complex in St. John's, Newfoundland. The Rooms, which is to be modelled partly after aspects of local homegrown architecture, is being built on top of some rather significant old ruins, and some local authorities are outraged. Supporters claim the complex will be Newfoundland's answer to the Sydney Opera House. Opponents call it "a Newfie joke in glass, steel and concrete." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/07/01

ART SEIZURE: The French government has seized the archives of the Giacometti Foundation (the collection is worth £90 million). The seizure is the latest move in a legal dispute between the government and Giacometti heirs about whether the foundation was set up for the purpose of avoiding taxes. The Art Newspaper 08/06/01

Monday August 6

PAYING TO PLAY: The Smithsonian has been flailing about from one controversy to the next this year. Among other things, the institution is trying to sort out overlapping donations from two of its biggest donors. And for a project that has been heavily criticized both in and outside the museum. The New York Times 08/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

OUR KINDA TOWN: The Guggenheim and Hermitage museums are set to open in Las Vegas next month. The $30 million project will consist of two separate museums - the 63,700-square-foot Guggenheim Las Vegas, and the 7,660-square-foot Hermitage Guggenheim Museum, featuring works from both the Hermitage and the Guggenheim. "Today the profile of a typical Las Vegas visitor increasingly approximates the profile of the visitors upon which every major museum in the world - including the Hermitage and the Guggenheim - depends, and to which they communicate." Las Vegas Sun 08/05/01

MUSSELS ANYONE? "Until recently, the architectural mainstream was determined by the dictates of absolute stringency. The colder and stricter, the barer, purer and finer, the better." Now, thanks to new computer design techniques, new shapes based on biological objects are popping up all over. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/05/01

OFF-PEAK VIEWING: Overcrowding of popular museums has done much to spoil the museum experience. So more and more British museums are extending their hours late into the evenings to smooth out the crowds. The Guadian (UK) 08/04/01

Sunday August 5

EDINBURGH KICKS OFF: The Edinburgh Fringe Festival just happens to be the biggest arts festival in the world, but it prides itself on quality, not quantity. The massive celebration has set a record for ticket sales this year, and "acts booked for the official festival include the New York City Ballet, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Baryshnikov and the White Oak Dance Project, and the Vienna Burgtheater." BBC 08/05/01

PILING ON THE TATE: As Britain's Tate Modern continues to search for someone to take on the increasingly thankless task of "recommending" new works for its collection, critics of the museum's reliance on "conceptual" arts are becoming louder. "Allegations of cronyism and insider dealing abound. At stake is nothing less than the future of art in 21st-century Britain, and the war has become most focused in the power struggle between figurative and conceptual art." The Herald (Glasgow) 08/04/01

MUSEUM MERGER TALK IN BALTIMORE: "A group of Baltimore cultural leaders is urging administrators and board members of the city's two nationally significant fine art museums to explore the long, largely unmapped road toward a merger. The idea is neither new nor universally welcomed. But it is gathering force at a time when the city has reduced its financial support of arts institutions and is fueled by a growing desire in art circles for Baltimore to hold its own as a cultural destination against cities such as Philadelphia and Washington." Baltimore Sun 08/04/01

ADAMS EXHIBIT OPENS IN SF: "The first comprehensive exhibition of Ansel Adams' work since his death in 1984 reinforces his status as America's foremost nature photographer and secures a place for his work on museum walls." Detroit News (AP) 08/05/01

  • WHAT IF ADAMS HAD GONE DIGITAL? With the advent of digital technology, the art of photography is likely to change forever. Many famous photographers of the pre-digital era would likely have had little use for the new technology, but Ansel Adams, who was so eager to control every aspect of his work, would likely have embraced the form. San Francisco Chronicle 08/05/01

CAPTURING A SOLDIER'S GROWTH: Photographer Rineke Dijkstra has always been fascinated by the changes people go through as their lives progress, and her photos reflect the uncertainties of such change: "frankly expressive, roughly life-size, head-on views of people at points of change in their lives or moments when they are vulnerable or not quite composed before the camera." Her newest project finds her following a new recruit to the French Foreign Legion. Arizona Republic (NYT News Service) 08/05/01

Friday August 3

RODIN DISPUTE: A show of 60 casts of Rodin sculptures set to open later this year at the Royal Ontario Museum is under attack by the director of Paris's Rodin Museum; he says some of the casts weren't made while the artist was alive. CBC 08/02/01

BILL GATES' ART SPREE: Billionaire Bill Gates has been active in the art markets in the past year - $10 million for a William Merrit Chase here, $20 million for a Childe Hassam there... "They [Gates and his wife, Melinda] have given a shot in the arm to American art," says one informed source. "Gates's collection has grown to include more than a dozen top–quality works, all by American artists." ARTNews 07/01

LOOKING FOR THE ART IN PUBLIC ART: The town of Hammond Indiana wants to be a center of public art. As a first step, the city has painted a 17-foot-tall reproduction of a Salvador Dali on a wall above downtown. "It is the type of painting that brings notice, and it is the kind of work that has people talking and scratching their heads about it by its mere presence. Our goal is to invite patrons of the arts and other interested parties to make this location a Midwest mecca for public art - be it sculptures, murals, fountains or reproductions such as this one." Ottawa Citizen (AP) 08/03/01

Thursday August 2

PRESERVING ANCIENT MONUMENTS IN FRANCE: The French government has comitted Ffr 600 million ($86 million) for restoration and preservation of sites in the South of France. "These include the arena and amphitheatre at Arles, the amphitheatre at Vaison-la-Romaine and the amphitheatre and triumphal arch in Orange. Most of the sites attract a large number of visitors and have suffered as a result, to the point where they are forced to be partially closed to prevent further damage. " The Art Newspaper 08/01/01

BURIED HISTORY: An important work by David Alfaro Siqueiros, the Mexican muralist, made during an exile of several months in Argentina in 1933, has been stored buried in five rusty barrels outside Buenos Aries since a judge ordered it there in the early 1990s. Historians worried the fresco may be damaged, want to unbury it, but a decade-old legal battle stands in the way. The New York Times 08/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)

CURATORS UNDER ATTACK: Is the traditional curator a dying breed? If not dead, then certainly under attack: "The most penetrating attack is one that some curators themselves are abetting. Instead of insisting on carte blanche to research the past and present it to the public, they are beginning to welcome to the table members of the communities whose stories are being told. In the best cases, this can result in more authentic and revealing exhibitions; in the worst, blandness, incoherence, or self-congratulation." The American Prospect 08/13/01

EVEN THE QUEEN SUFFERS FOR THE SAKE OF HER ART: It's hot in England this summer. While commoners are buying air conditioning at a record pace, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother will have to grin and bear it. “In certain rooms there are delicate artefacts and collectibles which need to be kept in controlled environments to preserve them. Consequently, it is generally thought that air-conditioning is not suitable.” The Times (UK) 08/01/01

US EMBASSIES WILL DISPLAY DONATED ART: "Donations of American art - 245 items worth about $15 million - will be made available for display in U.S. embassies around the world. Most items are late 20th century works by artists who include Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, Frank Stella and their contemporaries. A few go back to earlier in the century - pictures by John Sloan and George Bellows - while one is a portrait done by John Singleton Copley in 1782." Nando Times 08/01/01

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN OEDIPUS AND FATHER KNOWS BEST: Thirty years ago a US sailor took a chunk of marble from an amphitheatre in Athens; now his son has returned it to the Greek Embassy. A simple case of returning an artifact to its original site, you may say. But if you remember those ancient Greeks, the relationships of fathers and sons was anything but simple.... Washington Post 08/01/01

Wednesday August 1

WILL PURGE FOR FOOD: The secret sale of an important old map - the first to chart the existence of the New World - to America by German officials entrusted to protect Germany's national treasures, is an indication of how broke Germany has become. It is "a scandal of the first order." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 07/31/01

CANADIAN EXHIBIT DEFENDED: "A Canadian exhibit featuring the work of Auguste Rodin is authentic, says the man behind the project, even though a Paris museum devoted to the famous sculptor has suggested the display is a fraud." Ottawa Citizen (CP) 08/01/01

THE RETURN OF MODERNISM? The free-thinking purveyors of Modernist architecture enjoyed a brief period of wild popularity in the mid-twentieth century, but their work was soon overtaken by a return to traditionalism as the Cold War imposed a more sober mindset on the world. But now, the work of the Modernists is regaining the respect it originally had, and more Modernist structures are being built than ever before. But some worry that the trendiness of the movement has caused its principles to be forgotten. Nando Times (CSM News Service) 07/31/01

GETTING ON THE FRONT PAGE: The recent record-setting auction of a sketch by Leonardo made front-page headlines all over the world. But the stories didn't seem to be much about anything to do with art. "Good art is difficult, slippery stuff, hard to get a handle on for even the most expert. That's why we love an occasion when we can substitute talk about something we're all at home with -- like buying and selling, or an artist's life and times, for that matter -- for real art talk. We believe that important art is the kind of thing we ought to read about in our high-class morning papers. But it can only make the news when it gets pulled out of the bog of aesthetics, into the good, crisp world of business, politics, sex or scandal." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/01/01