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VISUAL ARTS - August 2002

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Friday August 30

WHILE DREAMS OF GOOG DANCED IN THEIR HEADS: Evidently oblivious to the Guggenheim's sagging financial fortunes, the City of Edinburgh is trying to lure the museum into building a branch there. Representatives from Gehry & Associates have already been to town to assess site feasibility “It would add something to a rich landscape if a gallery of contemporary art were to open. That would be a very positive development.” The Scotsman 08/29/02

WILL THERE BE ANY NEED TO LOOK AT THE ACTUAL ART? The Tate Museum is experimenting with giving visitors handheld computers on which they can wirelessly access multimedia guides to the exhibition they are visiting. "If the trial, being offered free to enthusiastic visitors, is a success, the multimedia tours could be offered alongside the existing audio tours." BBC 08/30/02

ART-AS-COMMODITY REPORT: The art market has been good the past few years. But will the good times continue? "Simply looking at beguiling prices realised and touted by auction houses might lead one to think that the art market has defied gravity and has, and can, continue, oblivious of the wider economic slowdown. While such a scenario would be lovely, the truth is it is impossible to imagine. But the slowdown of 2003 is not going to be a repeat of the crash of 1990. Times have indeed been good, but an economic shakeout is not a collapse: the underlying global economy remains healthy: so too with the art market." The Art Newspaper 08/30/02

CAMBODIA OFFERS UP ANCIENT SECRETS: A pair of 2000 year old bells is the latest treasure unearthed by a mining operation in Cambodia. "The demining team which discovered them, buried three feet underground, believed at first they were dealing with two bombs - and followed standard procedure: 'They dug them out very carefully because they were scared of an explosion, but when they got them out of the ground, they realized what they were'." Public Arts (Reuters) 08/29/2002

    New restoration work on Cambodian sites of 1970s Khmer Rouge destruction is unearthing more than political memories. Twenty-seven solid gold Buddha statues, as well as more of silver and bronze were found buried under a ruined pagoda: "The workmen were supposed to be rebuilding the temple which was smashed up by the Khmer Rouge, but then they found these golden Buddhas and the whole construction work has had to stop."
    Arizona Republic 08/27/2002

THE 'HOLD-BACK' ROOM: Starting in the mid-18th Century, museums began holding back items in their collections deemed too...shall we say...startling...for visitors of refinement. "By the 1830s the British Museum, too, had started hiving off items considered potentially too corrupting to be perused by ordinary mortals — particularly women and the lower classes. Such material, it was felt, would lead to moral degeneracy, which in turn would lead to the collapse of social and economic values and — who knows? — the decline and fall of the Empire itself." The Times (UK) 08/30/02

Thursday August 29

OF SUNFLOWERS AND DONKEYS AND ELEPHANTS (OH MY!): The Animals-on-Parade public art project has been adopted (without incident) by dozens of cities around the world. But Washington DC has found itself in court this summer over that city's version of the painted animals. First, the Green Party sued to get its party symbol (a sunflower) included alongside the elephants and donkeys. Then "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals convinced another judge that the city violated their 1st Amendment right to protest the treatment of circus animals when it rejected the group's portrayal of a weeping, shackled elephant." Chicago Tribune 08/29/02

OUT OF THE BASEMENT: Like most museums, Sacramento's Crocker Museum is able to display only a tiny fraction of its collection. "At any one time, only 5 percent of the museum's 10,000-piece collection is available to the public." Now the museum is embarking on a project to put its entire collection online. Sacramento Bee 08/28/02

Wednesday August 28

WHERE'S THE ART? The amount of quality art for sale has been declining over the past decade. "The sellers have simply fled. The art market gets back to business for the 2002-03 season next week with one auction at Sotheby’s in September and six at Christie’s. September sales, ten years ago, were around 15 in each house; now, the great rooms in Mayfair and St James’s echo with inactivity. You can’t walk the London art suburbs without hearing the choral sadness of the art trade that yes, wallets are bulging, buyers are everywhere, but no, we’ve nothing of quality to sell." The Times (UK) 08/28/02

ANOTHER ARTIST GENTRIFICATION STORY: Hoxton, in East London, is home to some of the biggest names in contemporary visual art. In the past decade it was the center of all that was hot. But "the artists' squats have disappeared, turned over to lucrative loft-style living. So, nearly five years after Hoxton was declared London's art hot spot, is it really still hot? Or has it become a Covent Garden of the East - all gloss and glamour and no grit? As the money rolls into the area, it's clear that this is the heart of a new art establishment." London Evening Standard 08/27/02

THE MAN WHO SAVED DRESDEN'S ART: Quick thinking by Dresden's director of museums helped mobilize an army of workers to haul priceless works of art out of the city's flooded museums to higher ground. "Two hundred staff and volunteers, assisted by the army and the fire brigade, removed 4,000 paintings from the basement, including 30 top-quality paintings by Cranach and some fine works by Veronese." The Times (UK) 08/28/02

GIVING NO QUARTER: The U.S. Mint's state quarters project, which releases a new batch of state-specific coins each year through 2008, has been a hit with the public. But a Missouri artist is furious with what has become of his design for the Show Me State's two bits, and the dispute has focused some light on the process the Mint is using to select the designs. "The Mint asks state governors to drum up ideas in the forum or contest of their choosing. But in the end, government engravers alter and recompose the concepts pretty much as they please. And they put their own initials on the completed work." Washington Post 08/28/02

MAJOR GIFT IN SAN FRAN: "The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco has been given nearly 1,000 objects by two donors, retired Los Angeles businessman Lloyd E. Cotsen and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Asian, which reopens in its new quarters on Jan. 23, agreed with both donors not to discuss the monetary value of the acquisitions, but a seven- figure estimate would probably be modest. Cotsen has given more than 800 items from his renowned personal collection of Japanese bamboo baskets and other objects related to the traditional tea ceremony." San Francisco Chronicle 08/28/02

LISTENING TO ART: "The desire of galleries to make art accessible is subtly altering the way the work itself is presented. Visitors are being invited not just to contemplate, but to engage in a more active experience. Not just to look, but also to learn. Hence the growing popularity of audio guides. Rough estimates from their producers suggest that, whereas five years ago just two per cent of visitors to major exhibitions would use one, now 40 per cent will." The Telegraph (UK) 08/28/02

IT'S OFFICIALLY FRANK'S HOUSE: "The Mitchell House in Racine, Wis, long believed to have been designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright colleague, was actually conceived by the famed architect, a Wright scholar said yesterday." The house, which has sometimes been attributed to Cecil Corwin, contains many elements remniescent of other Lloyd Wright buildings, and while documentation firmly establishing him as the architect has yet to be unearthed, the author of the preeminent Frank Lloyd Wright catalog says he is convinced enough to put the house in his register. Toronto Star 08/28/02

Tuesday August 27

GIANT COMMEMORATION: In one of the larger scale commemorations of 9/11, "thousands of volunteers will unfurl a 5-mile-long silk banner with 3,000 American flags under the Golden Gate Bridge and wrap it along San Francisco's coastline on Sept. 8 in a massive red-white-and-blue commemoration of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The memorial artwork is the product of Chinese American artist Pop Zhao, who stretched the world's longest artwork on the Great Wall of China last year." San Francisco Chronicle 08/27/02

ADDING UP ANDY: The recent much-publicized Andy Warhol show which ran for 12 weeks at Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, generated $55.8 million into Los Angeles' economy, says an economic impact study. "My hope is that the proof that this show had tangible economic benefits as well as artistic benefits will help MOCA and other institutions produce important projects of equivalent cost and ambition in the future." Los Angeles Times 08/27/02

BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE: London's National Gallery is putting a series of Renaissance paintings on display which were painted over top other paintings. "Any painting is a lesson in chemistry and optics: white reflects all colours, black absorbs all colours; some chemicals absorb everything except red or yellow or blue light and so become natural pigments. Humans have a limited visual range, from red to violet, but paintings are still 'visible' at other wavelengths. Owls and foxes can see in the near infra-red. Very weak infrared light shone on a painting can penetrate thin layers of paint, to be stopped by something impenetrable underneath." The Guardian (UK) 08/26/02

Monday August 26

FURTHER BAMIYAN PERIL: The hollowed-our niches that once protected the Bamiyan Buddhas before they were destroyed by the Taliban last year are in danger of being destroyed themselves. An expert who has examined the site says that "explosions caused by the Taliban have perilously weakened the cliff face. Cracks have appeared, allowing rain water to percolate into the decorated caves. The water then freezes at night, enlarging the cracks." Unless emergency conservation is undertaken, the niches will "disappear within a decade." The Art Newspaper 08/23/02

IT'S REAL: Sotheby's is defending a painting sold last month for $120 million as authentic. The auction house says the painting is an authentic Rubens, with provenance going back to 1699 or 1700. Sotheby's "consulted the leading Rubens experts for their opinions and not one who saw the painting raised any doubts. On the contrary, they were enthusiastic about the attribution and supported it often publicly. Sotheby's is unaware of any change in the views of the leading experts who supported the attribution at the time." Toronto Star 08/24/02

  • Previously: A GIFT FOR DAD: Last month David Thomson, the son of Canada's wealthiest man and biggest collectors, bought his dad a present - a newly discovered painting by Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens. The $120 million Thomson paid for The Massacre of the Innocents was the third highest amount ever paid for a painting. Now the painting may turn out not to be by Rubens at all, and the gift has provoked a debate... National Post (Canada) 08/23/02

Sunday August 25

WHOLESALE LOOTING AND WASTE: Looting of Afghanistan's cultural treasures hasn't stopped with the overthrow of the Taliban - it has excalated. "The theft in the valley of Jam is only the most obvious evidence of a general destruction of Afghanistan's cultural heritage. But the pillaging of Jam is a recent, post-Taliban phenomenon. The chaos that followed the 1989 Soviet withdrawal kept antiquity traders away from the valley, and the Taliban had protected it as an Islamic site. Now, with a measure of order restored but with a lack of control from Kabul, looting is in full season. The demand for these objects and the money for the excavations come primarily from dealers and collectors in Japan, Britain and the United States. But there have also been reports of American servicemen buying antiquities from villagers. Items from Jam are already being offered on the art market in London, described as Seljuk or Persian to conceal their Afghan origin." The New York Times 08/25/02

THE REAL DISCOVERERS OF AMERICA? In the 1920s, a horde of artifacts was found in the desert outside Tucson. The objects suggest that Europeans had been in the Arizona desert as early as 800 AD, centuries before Columbus was said to have "discovered" America. The objects look real, but many experts believe they're fake. "There are endless theories about the items, and the facts don't change the minds of the people who hold those theories." Arizona Republic 08/24/02

LOWER, SAFER: 9/11 has had an immediate impact on the kinds of buildings being added to cities. "In both Chicago and New York, there is talk in real estate circles that prospective tenants now favor lower office floors instead of high ones. If that turns out to be true, it will mark a sea change in skyscraper psychology: The high floors used to be the ones that commanded the highest prices because of their best views and prestige. Now, it seems, there's a premium being put on survival." Chicago Tribune 08/25/02

Friday August 23

GREATER ALEXANDER: Plans have been unveiled to carve a giant likeness of Alexander the Great on a mountain in Northern Greece. "The planned 240 foot image will be comparable to the carved faces of American Presidents on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and cost nearly £200 million. Supporters believe that the sculpture of the general, whose empire stretched from Greece to India, will bring in the tourists and assist the local economy." The Times (UK) 08/22/02

  • ALEXANDER THE MONSTROSITY: Environmental opponents of the plan have "vowed to go to court to stop the 30-million euro project, while the Greek Culture Ministry has warned that it will not allow work to begin as scheduled in November. The plan, from a group of Greek-Americans, would see a rock outcrop on Mount Kerdylio in the northern province of Macedonia changed into a massive monument to the fourth-century BC empire-builder. Environmentalists fear it will spoil the landscape and harm the area, while archaeologists have called the project a 'monstrosity' that they say could threaten a nearby ancient theatre and a Byzantine church." BBC 08/22/02

DRESDEN ADDS UP FLOOD DAMAGES: Dresden art officials are counting up damages in last week's floods. "Some 20,000 artworks were evacuated during three large operations. Thousands of the figures and castings that were saved now lie strewn around wherever space is available in both the painting section and in the antiquity hall of the gallery. Transportation damages were only minimal. Of the four thousand paintings that were housed in the 'old masters' storage area only 25 large-size paintings received moisture damage. But the Zwinger Palace gallery's restoration workshop completely emerged in water and the entire technical infrastructure has been destroyed." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/23/02

STOLEN TITIAN FOUND: Police in London have recovered a stolen 16th-Century painting by Titian worth more than £5 million. The painting was recovered without its frame in a small plastic carrier bag. BBC 08/23/02

A GIFT FOR DAD: Last month David Thomson, the son of Canada's wealthiest man and biggest collectors, bought his dad a present - a newly discovered painting by Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens. The $120 million Thomson paid for The Massacre of the Innocents was the third highest amount ever paid for a painting. Now the painting may turn out not to be by Rubens at all, and the gift has provoked a debate... National Post (Canada) 08/23/02

Thursday August 22

CZECH DAMAGE: Prague's major art collections escaped the recent floods But the water "submerged large swaths of the Czech Republic, leaving broad ribbons of destruction, including hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the country's cultural fabric, though a formidable number of artworks were saved during the pandemonium. Much of the damage is hidden: undermined foundations, devastated castle gardens, soaked cellars and damaged heating and alarm systems in castles, museums, galleries and archives. On a smaller scale, there was damage to irreplacable cultural artifacts." The New York Times 08/22/02

HIDDEN COLLECTION: The British Museum has acquired an important textile collection from Afghanistan, but it may be years before anyone will see it. The British Museum "has one of the finest collections in the world, of more than 18,000 textiles, ranging in size from tiny scraps of embroidery to vast carpets and entire tents, but it has been closed for years, and the plans for a new display and study centre and open store have collapsed in the museum's dire financial situation. The plight of the collection has been causing concern to international textile experts. Although cataloguing, research and conservation work has continued, it has been impossible to display them - not only to the public but even to visiting scholars." The Guardian (UK) 08/22/02

CELEBRATION OF INDIAN CULTURE: Santa Fe's popular annual Indian Market "takes its name from two intense days of selling Indian art at outdoor booths around this city's plaza, but it has blossomed into a weeklong celebration of Indian culture with museum exhibitions, benefit auctions, gallery openings, music and even a film festival. 'You can no longer put Indian art off to the side. I think it has just gotten too good'." The New York Times 08/22/02

JUST PLAYING: "The boisterous artistic career that ended last week with [artist Larry] Rivers' death at age 78 was to many, including obituary writers, just another set of antics to put next to the much advertised ones involving sex, drugs and (pre-)rock 'n' roll. This may not have been how Rivers actually wanted it, but everything he did seemed to insure that the roles of painter, sculptor, printmaker, poet and musician would be subsumed into the larger role of hipster - and so they were." Chicago Tribune 08/22/02

THE MID-CENTURY MODERNS: When you think of Los Angeles, visions of great architecture don't spring to mind. "But Los Angeles has perhaps the best collection of mid-century modern architecture in the world, a fact that is now being celebrated in a number of quarters. Many architects working in L.A. at the time were determined that the postwar housing boom should also be a boom for modern design. The buildings they designed are characterized by their minimalism, lack of ornamentation, simplicity in materials and form, flat roofs and emphasis on indoor-outdoor living. These elegant buildings and their contemporary reinterpretations are now very fashionable in a city that cares a great deal about current trends." Los Angeles Times 08/21/02

Wednesday August 21

NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION: You have your experts, we have ours. They don't agree - so what to do in the case of the painting Massacre of the Innocents, sold last month as being by Peter Paul Rubens? With Rubens' name attached, the picture was worth £50 million at auction. Without it - let's just say the value drops. Experts have come forward to dispute its authenticity. So if experts disagree, will science help? Not necessarily. So maybe the courts? A footnote - isn't it still the same painting, no matter who painted it? The Telegraph (UK) 08/21/02

WHAT COMPETITION? After last month's failed proposals, those planning the design for the World Trade Center site have decided to choose five firms to compete for the job. It sends "an important signal about how much our democratic values matter. By limiting the number of participants in the competition to five, the agency is ensuring that the debate about ground zero's future will remain relatively narrow. And in that sense, the competition falls far short of the kind of open discourse that is the public's right. To call the development corporation's process a competition is somewhat misleading. Real competitions are open to anyone - that is, to any designer willing to sacrifice the time, energy and money it takes to produce a viable proposal." Los Angeles Times 08/21/02

MEMORABLE MEMORIAL: With all the talk of official memorials to 9/11, one homemade shrine - a piece of a storefront near the World Trade Center preserved as it looked the day the towers fell - gets it right. "The homemade shrine, random and homely, brings the event to a human scale, the ugliness of the debris in particular belying the picturesque metaphor of blanketing snow that everyone liked to use last September." The New York Times 08/18/02

AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH: Pepsi and Coke are in trouble with the Indian government. It seems that in their zeal to promote the soft drinks as the world's drinks of choice, the companies' franchisees in India painted ads for the drinks all over Himalayas. Literally. On the rocks. The Indian court was told "the advertisements had been plastered on an entire mountain side from the village of Kothi to Rallah waterfalls to Beas Kund, a stretch of about 56 kilometres. Coke said it was not sure if it would pay the clean-up cost." BBC 08/15/02

Tuesday August 20

RISKY PLAN FOR FORBIDDEN CITY: A Chinese magazine has exposed plans by caretakers of Beijing's Forbidden City to build a three-story museum structure underneath the Forbidden City. The new structure would allow the display of thousands of artifacts currently locked away in storage. But critics charge the plan will endanger the palace. "The palace compound is built on a foundation of crisscrossing bricks and clay originally intended to keep the 'earth dragon' at bay (to limit damage from the earthquakes that occasionally strike Beijing) and to allow rainwater to dissipate. Tampering with the foundation would only put the structure at risk – and without good reason, critics say." The Independent (UK) 08/19/02

THE PERILS OF CROWD PLEASERS: The just-closed Andy Warhol show at LA's Museum of Contemporary Art was a big, money-making success. But are such shows healthy for museums? "Tourist-oriented blockbusters represent a tear in the art museum fabric. While the general public is being seduced, the art public is abandoned. The Andy Warhol Retrospective was pitched toward anyone who'd ever been to the movies. What's the harm in that? Nothing in the short term. For an art museum, it's quick cash. The risk is slow-motion suicide. The general public is where the fast action is, but it certainly won't stick around for the long haul. Lose the art public through attrition, though, and you might as well close up shop." Los Angeles Times 08/20/02

SLOWING DOWN THE ICA: Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art is supposed to be part of an enormous $1.2 billion waterfront development project, a piece of "a bustling new neighborhood with hotels, restaurants, shops, offices, luxury residences and park land." But the economy has slowed, and demand for the new hotels and offices to be built with thje project is down. So the project has slowed to a crawl and the ICA, which has done everything it could to get supporters excited about the project, sits and waits. Boston Herald 08/20/02

SIMPLE IS BETTER: What kind of memorial ought to be created for 9/11? A look at the attempts of artists to memorialize previous tragedies is instructive. "If a monument strains for an excess of spurious grandeur, it soon becomes remote. Far better, surely, for visitors to realise that they can respond to the memorial on an intimate level, and truly make it their own." The Times (UK) 08/20/02

PARTYGOERS BREAK CHIHULY GLASS: Partygoers at Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory smash a $70,000 piece of Dale Chihuly glass art. "The work was a recent addition to the Chihuly in the Park: A Garden of Glass exhibit, which features 30 originals from the Tacoma, Wash.-based artist. The event has attracted more than 450,000 people since opening in November and has been so popular it has been extended twice." Chicago Tribune 08/19/02

SCIENCE AS ART (EVEN IF IT'S WRONG): "Bioart is becoming a force in the creative world. A glowing bunny made the front page of newspapers across the country two years ago, and installations that require biohazard committee approval are increasingly common at universities and art galleries." But often artists' interpretations of the science their work is about, is superficial and just plain wrong. Wired 08/19/02

Monday August 19

PRAGUE FLOODING: Floods have taken a heavy toll on Prague's historic buildings. "It will take at least seven days before the damage to the medieval Malá Strana neighbourhood can be judged, but it is already clear that the National Theatre, the Rudolfinum concert hall and hundreds of historic houses have been affected, by the backflow of the drains as much as the flood itself." The Art Newspaper 08/16/02

PAINTER OF BLIGHT: Owners of ten of Thomas Kinkade's galleries across the country are suing Kinkade's company, claiming it has "saturated the market with Kinkade's works and sold them on QVC cable television, undercutting 'exclusive' galleries. Once devout followers of 'the painter of light,' now are saying that the business end of Kinkade's empire has a dark side. The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 08/18/02

FIXING FALLING WATER: Six years ago it was obvious that if something was not done, Frank Lloyd Wright's greatest building - the house Falling Water - would collapse into the stream around it. Now the house is about to be reopened after an extensive makeover. "The structural fix has at once corrected the problems that threatened to destroy Fallingwater and renewed the house that the American Institute of Architects in 1991 voted the best work ever designed by an American architect." Chicago Tribune 08/18/02

Sunday August 18

DRESDEN FIGHTS TO RESCUE ART: Workers struggle to save Dresden's valuable art as floodwaters threaten. "Working by the light of candles and torches, 200 museum workers, police officers and soldiers carried some 4,000 paintings to the upper floors of the 19th-century palace as the Elbe rose by the hour. Six paintings too large to move were attached by ropes to pipes in the ceiling in the hope that the floodwater would not reach them. The flooding has proved particularly traumatic for Dresden, an eastern city that since the reunification of Germany in 1991 has been working to rebuild itself around its historic cultural image." The New York Times 08/16/02

IMPRESSIONISTS SCORE AGAIN: London's Tate Modern is staying open 36 hours this weekend to help accommodate the crowds that want to get in to see the museum's Matisse Picasso show. More than "250,000 people have visited the exhibition since it first opened its doors on 11 May to coincide with the second anniversary of the gallery's opening. It has been the gallery's most successful exhibition to date, and will be one of the five most popular in the history of the Tate by the time it closes." BBC 08/17/02

ENOUGH ALREADY: Isn't it about time that conceptual art was allowed to die? "Consider this: cubism lasted about 20 years because it had a lot of conventions to break down; pop and op art lasted about 10 years (change was becoming more acceptable). At that rate conceptual art should have lasted no longer than five years. The only kind reason that I can think of why conceptual art has lasted so long is that because it possesses virtually no permanent form and thus very little content." The Age (Melbourne) 08/17/02

CONTROLLING THE MESSAGE: Organizers of Documenta have stopped outside guides from taking visitors through the exhibition. Only "official" guides, trained by Documenta are allowed to give tours, and critics charge that officials are trying to control interpretation of the art. “To what extent are those responsible trying to put a stop to any critical reception? To what extent do the organizers really want to offer visitors an official view of young contemporary art?" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/16/02

NOT JUST PEANUTS: The Charles M. Schulz Museum opens in California, drawing fans from around the world. "The $8 million museum is an elegantly understated, streamlined two-story building with stucco and slate facades in shades of gray and white that echo the tones of a black and white cartoon. It has more than 7,000 of the 17,897 original Peanuts strips that Schulz drew in an amazing 50-year run that ended when he died of colon cancer in February 2000 at age 77 - the night before his final strip appeared in Sunday newspapers around the world." San Francisco Chronicle 08/17/02

Friday August 16

FLIGHT OF IMAGINATION: The new Yokohama international airport sets a new standard in airport design. "Like the Pompidou in its era it is the newest big thing, and the calling card of the next generation of architects. It is designed by a young practice which calls itself Foreign Office Architects, or FOA, of which you will hear much more." London Evening Standard 08/16/02

WORRYING ABOUT STONEHENGE: At last - a plan to fix up the area around Stonehenge. Plans for the site are bound to be controversial, but the architects have been sensitive to the site. "While keeping in line with the current vogue for high design, theirs is a plan which will work extremely well in the surrounding landscape, as it will be set into a hillside with a roof planted with native grass. The centre will include displays which tell the story of Stonehenge and its history. Visitors will still not be allowed to enter the ring of stones itself, though managed access by prior arrangement is anticipated. The destructive potential of 830,000 visitors a year is too great to allow free access to the stone ring." The Art Newspaper 08/16/02

LARRY RIVERS, 78: The "irreverent proto-Pop painter and sculptor, jazz saxophonist, writer, poet, teacher and sometime actor and filmmaker" died of cancer. "He helped change the course of American art in the 1950's and 60's, but his virtues as an artist always seemed inextricably bound up with his vices, the combination producing work that could be by turns exhilarating and appalling." The New York Times 08/16/02

Thursday August 15

"ART" OF ADOLF? Why are critics reviewing a show about Hitler at Williams College Museum of Art's as an aesthetic construct? Considering Hitler and his actions as a product of aesthetic choices misses the point entirely, writes Lee Rosenbaum. "Could it be that critics and curators who spend their lives looking at pictures begin to lose sight of the big picture?" 08/15/02

THE 80S - IN FOR THE LONG RUN? Every era has art that helps define it. But though there still seems to be interest in art created in the 1980s, there is some question about how good it is. "What I am suggesting is that much of the work from the 1980s is not holding up very well. With the exceptions of Sean Scully, Robert Gober, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Philip Taaffe, it doesn't seem as if very much of the work of that era will ultimately matter." Artnet 08/14/02

TREASURE TROUBLE: Britain's reformed treasure law has resulted in more found items being offered to British museums. The law gives museums an opportunity to buy the found items, but the finder must be compensated at market price. Cash-strapped museums are having difficulty coming up with the funds for purchases. Some "221 items of treasure were reported in 2000, compared with 24 a year before the medieval law of treasure trove was reformed in 1996." The Guardian (UK) 08/15/02

Wednesday August 14

DUPING THE ART PUBLIC: "Last week, art students from Leeds Metropolitan University dumped some cardboard boxes on the floor of the Tate Modern. Within moments, a crowd had gathered to admire the new exhibit before security guards cleared them away. The Evening Standard decided to test the credulity of the public once again by exhibiting a mundane object - and seeing how long it took visitors to treat it with the reverence of a tank of Damien Hirst's pickled sharks." London Evening Standard 08/13/02

THE MOMA CHALLENGE: Neal Benezra becomes director of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art at a challenging time. He "will have to figure out how to continue growing an institution that, at least on paper, seems to have peaked. Museum attendance hit a high in 1990, when 732,000 people visited, and has been trailing off since then, reaching 640,000 last year. Membership has slipped also, down to 40,000 from 43,000 last year." Los Angeles Times 08/14/02

A NEW PARADIGM (WITH CURVES): We're done with modernism and post-modernism. So what tag makes sense of the new architecture? "According to the critic Charles Jencks, 'the new paradigm' is the next big thing for architecture, a theory to make sense of a wave of buildings that look like blobs of oil, desert landscapes and train crashes. Given that we now understand the nature of the universe differently from 50 years ago, why should we cling to the right angle when we build, when nature has different ways of organising itself?" The Observer (UK) 08/11/02

Tuesday August 13

COMMEMORATING 9/11: "Museums all over the country are developing special events to remember the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Ever since the attacks, museums have organized opportunities for their communities to express their feelings, planned exhibitions to capture the emotions and history of the day, and served as sites for charitable fundraising for families of the victims of the attacks." Washington Post 08/13/02

PRINCETON RETURNS ROMAN ARTIFACT: The Princeton University Art Museum has returned an ancient Roman statue to Italy after discovering that it had not been granted a license for its export from Italy in 1985. "Under a 1939 Italian law, all antiquities discovered in the soil are claimed by Italy as state property." The Art Newspaper 08/11/02

Monday August 12

LIVERPOOL'S DISAPPEARING SKYSCRAPERS: "Four years ago there were about 70 tower blocks in Liverpool; it is predicted that in the next couple of years there will be as few as 10. They don't, in a sense, really need to be saved - they are not architectural classics." But the office space is no longer needed, and their teardown is seen as civic improvement. In the meantime artists are having fun with the derelict tall buildings. The Observer (UK) 08/11/02

Sunday August 11

BUILDINGS AS INSPIRATION: Does a university owe its community good architecture? MIT president Chuck Vest thinks so. The university has embarked on a major building program. ''I believe that the buildings at this extraordinary university should be as diverse, forward thinking, and audacious as the community they serve. They should stand as a metaphor for the ingenuity at work inside them.'' Boston Globe 08/11/02

BUILT-IN CONFLICT? Does architecture play a role in shaping political conflict? Israeli architects are debating the issue. "Some argue that by designing and constructing Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, the architectural profession has, perhaps unwittingly, contributed to escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Others respond that architecture is neither political nor ideological and, as such, has nothing to answer for." The New York Times 08/10/02

PULLING UP STAKES: What obligation does a museum have toward art created for it? The Dallas Museum of Art is removing a Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen sculpture that dominates one of its prime galleries. The artists are unhappy. But the museum's circumstances have changed since the work was commissioned and installed. Doesn't the DMA have the right to change? Dallas Morning News 08/11/02

  • Previously: RIGHT TO MOVE: The Dallas Museum of Art is moving a giant Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen sculpture which has towered through the museum's largest gallery since the museum was built in 1984. The museum wants to use the space for other artswork, but the artists, who believed that the site-specific work was permanently located, are unhappy. Dallas Morning News 08/06/02

ART OF IRAN: To Western eyes, Iran seems like a very closed society. But Anna Somers Cocks reports that present-day Iran is picking up on its long and impressive artistic and intellectual traditions. The Guardian (UK) 08/10/02

Friday August 9

IF YOU MAKE IT FREE, THEY WILL COME: Since British museums did away with admission fees last winter, average attendance is up by 2.7 million - or 62%. Free admission has particularly helped the once-ailing Victoria and Albert Museum which has seen a 157 percent increase in visitors. Some institutions, like the British Museum have failed to make up the income they have lost, and are struggling. The Guardian (UK) 08/09/02

TAKE A LONGER LOOK: New Republic art critic Jed Perl worries that people are forgetting how to look at art. "People seem to have an idea that to look at art in a sophisticated and up-to-date way means not looking at it very long or very hard. What people are no longer prepared for is seeing an experience that takes place in time. They have ceased to believe that a painting or a sculpture is a structure with meaning that unfolds as we look…. The essential aspect of all the art I admire the most, both old and new, is that it makes me want to keep looking." Spiked-online 08/07/02

APPRECIATING ART W/O SEEING IT: London's Tate Modern has "launched a new online art resource to help visually impaired people explore key concepts in modern art." No, blind viewers still won't be able to see or touch the art, but, "with text, image enhancement, animation and raised images, i-Map will serve partially sighted and blind people with a general interest in art, as well as art teachers and their visually impaired students." Wired 08/09/02

Thursday August 8

RUBENS RECOVERED: Irish police have recovered a Rubens painting 16 years after it was stolen by Dublin mobster Martin Cahill. "Cahill and his 13-strong gang made international headlines in 1986 when they snatched 18 paintings, worth a total of £24 million in a daring raid." The Guardian (UK) 08/07/02

OVERVALUED? It was an art deal gone wrong. A couple of art lovers thought they were buying a couple of Robert Ryman paintings. But then the dealer skipped out with the buyers' money and the buyers sued everyone in the deal. On the stand Ryman said he thought his work was way overpriced - the paintings that had been sold for $90,000 were worth only "a few hundred dollars." So why sell them for more? "I think the prices are too high, but there is nothing I could do about that." New York Observer 08/06/02

REM VS. CHARLES: When Harvard University hired renowned architect Rem Koolhaas to design an architectural vision for its newly expanded campus, they expected to be blown away. True, it's quite a challenge to create a cohesive campus when the Charles River runs through the middle of it, but everyone agreed that the eccentric and brilliant urban planner was up to the challenge. And he was: after much thought, Koolhaas announced the centerpiece of his proposal to bring all of fair Harvard together - the river is just going to have to be moved. Boston Globe 08/08/02

STRUGGLING IN DETROIT: Detroit's Museum of New Art is barely five years old, and has been in its downtown digs for only one year, but the growing pains are coming fast and furious. The museum's founder resigned in frustration at a board meeting this week, and a local artist was tapped to replace him. MoNA has never made money, and most of its operating cash has come from artists donating works for auction. On the plus side, the new director's name is Cash... Detroit News 08/08/02

BETTER TEAR IT DOWN, THEN: It may be the architectural pride of a nation, and an instantly recognizable landmark the world over, but apparently, the Sydney Opera House is a disaster from a feng shui perspective. The outer facade resembles "a set of rice bowls crashing," which is quite the non-no. Oh, and the structure's position "on an extension of Bennelong Point means it blocks the natural water flow between two harbours," also a bad idea. So what? Well, "read the history books on the Opera House... The original designer had a miserable time, walked off the job and left the country... The builders had constant arguments, it was always behind schedule and over budget. At the time, the people of Sydney hated it and campaigned against it." Sydney Morning Herald 08/08/02

Wednesday August 7

BROKEN WATER: Seattle artist Kathryn Gustafson has only just won the commission for a memorial to Pricess Di. But critics seem determined, she thinks, to misinterpret what she plans. Rather than create something that people come to look at, her oval ring of water is a place to come experience. "The role of a memorial is to offer a place that helps people to remember. It needs to have the essential qualities of that person." The Telegraph (UK) 08/07/02

TAKING ON THE DOWAGER: Neil McGregor, the British Museum' new director has a big job ahead. The museum is "all but broke. With a projected budget deficit of more than £6 million it faces drastic cutbacks: 150 staff members have been told they must lose their jobs. A third of the galleries may have to be closed at any one time. How can this Bloomsbury dowager, beset by declining visitor numbers, compete with its debutante granddaughter, Tate Modern, which, on the very day that MacGregor took up his new position, was welcoming its ten-millionth visitor?" The Times 08/07/02

Tuesday August 6

HOLDING TO ACCOUNT: Greece is demanding an explanation from the British Museum for how a 2,500-year-old Greek statue was stolen from the museum last week. "Given the historic and cultural interest Greece has in all Greek antiquities, wherever they may be, we would like an explanation." The Guardian (UK) 08/06/02

DEFINING THE COOPER-HEWITT: New York's Cooper-Hewitt Museum popped up in the spotlight last month when a Michelangelo was discovered in its collection. But mostly the museum has kept a low profile. "Now, because it has a new director who amid controversy has begun to make significant personnel changes and because the Michelangelo discovery has put the museum at least momentarily in the spotlight, the Cooper-Hewitt may have a crucial opportunity to better define itself." The New York Times 08/06/02

WHY I LEFT THE ROYAL ONTARIO: When Lindsay Sharp became director of the Royal Ontario Museum in 1996, he brought with him the promise of a little flash and excitement. But he resigned before the end of his contract, a controversial figure who upset many of the museum's supporters. "I did what I was expected to do. But I couldn't stay there. The politics were too difficult. There was a struggle, in my view, between the forces of open-mindedness and creativity, and the other side was selfishness and conservatism of the wrong sort. I was determined that we make a fair amount of organizational change, but I didn't manage to do all of the cultural change." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/03/02

SHOW US A LITTLE FLESH: There's a growing trend towards eroticism in recent art. "Today, a kind of openly peddled eroticism has soaked through almost every layer of life. It sells magazines and cars; it has made G-strings standard issue, pornography mainstream and kinkiness straight. Why should art feel the need to swim against the current? The art world now wants you to know that it doesn’t." The Times (UK) 08/06/02

RIGHT TO MOVE: The Dallas Museum of Art is moving a giant Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen sculpture which has towered through the museum's largest gallery since the museum was built in 1984. The museum wants to use the space for other artswork, but the artists, who believed that the site-specific work was permanently located, are unhappy. Dallas Morning News 08/06/02

Monday August 5

ROCKY START, BUT OH WELL... Neil McGregor didn't have a food first week as new director of the British Museum. "The day after he started an ancient Greek marble head was stolen, by a thief who simply pulled it off its plinth and walked away with it." But we trust this isn't going to set the tone of his stewardship of Britain's most-visited museum. Indeed, he says he believes his museum will get the extra money it needs to reverse its recent stretch of hardship. The Guardian (UK) 08/05/02

TOKYO'S NEW SKYLINE: "As any visitor to Japan today can testify, Tokyo in particular, has metamorphosed over the past 20 years into one of the most stunning, often bizarre, skylines in the world. Tension still exists, in the sense that its architecture is an ephemeral commodity. After early mistakes, Japan's contemporary architecture is the undisputed leader in the aesthetics of style, and an internationally touring photographic exhibition proves how far ahead of the game is the land of Zen." New Zealand Herald 08/05/02

CYBER-REAL: Internet art is usually an experience between a viewer and a computer - in most cases a fairly private interaction. But a new work bridges the physical world and cyberspace, interacting online but being seen on a large screen in Sao Paulo. The New York Times 08/05/02

COLOUR FIELD: So you think calling red, red or green green is sufficient? Thou cretin! You're probably the kind of person who'd be surprised to learn there's a whole field of study in the art of identifying colors. "It is, for me, one of the great pleasures of taking notes at warp factor 10 during fast-moving fashion shows to get down the particular shade of the bugle-beaded, dolman-sleeved, wool-crepe jumpsuit that is sashaying by. To nail the subtle differences between, say, 'tobacco' and 'snuff', or 'beige' and 'camel' is deeply satisfying." Sydney Morning Herald 08/05/02

Sunday August 4

ELEVATING THE WHITNEY: "In what is believed to be the largest donation of postwar American art to any museum, the trustees of the Whitney Museum of American Art have joined forces to give it a trove of 86 paintings, sculptures and prints that experts value at $200 million... The joint gift is the culmination of a three-year effort led by the Whitney's chairman, Leonard A. Lauder. During that time trustees quietly, almost stealthily, scoured artists' studios, art galleries and auction houses — and even their own living rooms — for the kind of important postwar American work that has been increasingly vanishing from the market as it has been acquired by collectors and institutions." The New York Times 08/03/02

THE MIND OF AN ART THIEF (AND HIS MOTHER): "Stéphane Breitwieser, 31, a restaurant waiter, is now in custody in Switzerland, where he was finally caught last November after stealing a hunting horn from the Richard Wagner Museum in Lucerne. He is suspected of stealing 239 works of art in 174 thefts in Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Austria." You remember Stéphane - he's the thief whose mother repsonded to his arrest by hurling some £1 billion of stolen art into the canal behind her house. But this is no ordinary art thief. Breitweiser never sold the items he stole, and in fact, always stole the display card with the item, so that he could memorize it later. What drives such an individual? Philip Broughton has an idea. The Telegraph (UK) 08/03/02

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: "Like critics trying out adjectives to describe a perplexing canvas, investigators and art experts are looking at the theft this week of two Maxfield Parrish paintings from a West Hollywood gallery and straining to understand. Most find the thief's work 'sophisticated.' But they also label the $4-million disappearance 'disturbing,' 'puzzling' and 'weird.'" Los Angeles Times 08/03/02

ARCHITECTURE MEETS MARKET RESEARCH: Princeton University's recent decree that all new buildings on its campus must be designed in a Gothic Revival style was puzzling to many architecture buffs - after all, the style died out in the early 20th century. But as it turns out, the decision to restrict the school's visual look was little more than a calculated move to provide students with an architectural "brand" they would respond well to. "The students want the right architectural logo. These are the kids who grew up wearing shirts that said 'GAP' or 'Abercrombie & Fitch,' who explain their identities to one another by listing their favorite music groups. Who you are is what you consume. And what you consume is brands." Boston Globe 08/04/02

OUR LADY OF ENDLESS COMPROMISE: Take the combined egos of nine artists, add a church bureaucracy and a cabal of architecture critics both professional and amateur, and you have a recipe for chaos. And yet somehow, the new $200 million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles got finished. The artists involved have compared the frustration and compromise of the experience to that of the folks who collaborated on the Sistine Chapel a few centuries back, but all seem to agree that the end result has been worth all the trouble. Los Angeles Times 08/04/02

Friday August 2

MURAL HEIST: Two murals by Maxfield Parrish, valued at $2 million each, and measuring 5 feet by 6 feet, were stolen from a gallery in West Hollywood Monday. Police believe it was the work of professionals - "This is unprecedented; you would need a moving truck and four people." Los Angeles Times 08/01/02

  • MISSING GREEK: The British Museum has called in Interpol after an art thief stole a 2,500-year-old Greek statue from the British Museum, reported to be worth up to £25,000." BBC 08/01/02

THE UFFIZI'S NEW GATE OF HELL? The Uffizi is getting a new exit, and it's been designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. Trouble is - official Florence hates the proposal. "Is the talk of this art-blessed town these muggy midsummer days really an aesthetic disaster-in-the making, as fired-up opponents like film and opera director Franco Zeffirelli would have it - or an unappreciated artistic vision, as frustrated proponents contend? Or, to put it another way, would Dante have assigned architect Arata Isozaki to inferno or to paradise?" Nando Times (AP) 08/02/02

CERTAIN KINDS OF "CHEATING": Does using technology in creating a painting somehow diminish its accomplishment? Is Thomas Eakins' work the lesser for his having traced images? The notion challenges "an entire art worldview devoted to celebrating 'genius,' long sold as a spiritual quality unsullied by the material world. For some, the use of optical aids compromises genius, and art with it." Reason 08/01/02

Thursday August 1

SPRUCING UP STONEHENGE: A £57 million plan to dress up the Stonehenge site is unveiled. "Even the critics agree that the design for the visitor centre, or 'gateway'as English Heritage prefers to term it, is lovely. Australian architects Denton Corker Marshall have almost buried the building in the ground in their anxiety not to eclipse the monument. From the air it will show as silver parallel lines in the earth, and from the ground as pewter-coloured metal slabs roofed with turf. A car park will have trees around it for camouflage." The Guardian (UK) 08/01/02

DISSING THE DIANA MEMORIAL: Prominent critics and artists are protesting a planned design for a £3m memorial fountain to Diana, Princess of Wales. The winning design was described as "bland and an embarrassment to Britain." "Kathryn Gustafson, the American landscape artist, and the London architect, Neil Porter, were nominated to create a large, water-filled, stone ring in Hyde Park, ending five years of dithering since the princess's death." The Guardian (UK) 08/01/02

DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200: Former Sotheby's chairman Alfred Taubman, who was convicted on charges of conspiracy and price-fixing this spring, reported to a Midwest prison this week to begin serving his one-year sentence. Taubman, who is 78, was also fined $7.5 million by the court for his part in the price-fixing scheme, which sparked outrage throughout the art world, and led to much scrutiny for the top auction houses in the U.S. and Britain. Nando Times (AP) 07/31/02