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VISUAL ARTS - December 2000

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Sunday December 31

  • WHERE TO SEE CANADA'S BEST ART: Art critic Blake Gopnik is leaving the Canada's Globe & Mail to take up the same job at the Washington Post. He leaves writing about what he likes best in Canadian art. The Globe & Mail 12/30/00
  • THE DOME RECONSIDERED: The press beat up on London's hapless Millennium Dome in 2000. But "if the Dome was vacuous or meaningless - as has been claimed by newspaper editors who spent this year filling their pages with articles about Nasty Nick and The Weakest Link - well, so are most of the 6.5 million people who attended and had a rare old time. Will posterity acknowledge their existence?" The Telegraph (London) 12/30/00

Friday December 29

  • MUSEUM VANDALS: Two men vandalized the Jewish History Museum in Bucharest. "The men entered the musuem, which is housed in a former synagogue, early on Thursday morning, asking 'Where is the soap made of human fat? Is there any Auschwitz soap?' They punched a 63-year-old guard in the face and choked him, smashing windows and scattering exhibits on the floor, before leaving." BBC 12/29/00
  • JOHN'S "WINTER" HOME: Explorers report they have found the "winter home" of John the Baptist" on the east shore of the Jordan River. They also found a skull too, which some say may have been John's. “Until now, testing on the skull has not been completed, so we can only say it belonged to a hermit, because the region of Wadi Kharrar was inhabited by many hermit. The cave carved into the rock was dated to the 1st century AD." Bahrain Tribune 12/29/00
  • PARTHENON PROPAGANDA: Last month Athens opened a new subway stop at the Acropolis, decorated with replicas of the Parthenon marbles that Greece wants to retrieve from Britain. Next up are plans for a new Acropolis Museum, designed to up pressure on the English to return the sculptures. The Art Newspaper 12/29/00
  • INVISIBLE ARTISTS: "In a literate society, perhaps no form occupies this zone of invisible visibility more completely than typography, which makes type designers among the most influential, if anonymous, artists in history." New York Times 12/28/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • THE SISTINE CHAPEL OF PREDYNASTIC EGYPT: In Egypt "British archaeologists have discovered 30 new sites filled with drawings carved into rocks. Unseen by human eyes for up to 6,000 years, the rock engravings depict cattle, giraffes, ostriches, hippos, boats, and the men and women who lived in the area around 4,000 B.C." Discovery 12/29/00

Thursday December 28

  • CAN ONE BUILDING BE ALL THIS? "The Tate Modern is literally and figuratively the biggest thing to happen in the world of contemporary art, anywhere, for the last 25 years. The mutant offspring of such questionable immensities as the Pompidou Center and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, the Bilbao Guggenheim, and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the new Tate represents either the beginning of the end of the British art scene, or the end of the beginning. It makes you wonder if success will spoil the English art world." Village Voice 12/28/00
  • WHAT PRICE SUCCESS? John Walsh has been checking out other museums since he stepped down as director of the Getty in September. "I keep thinking, what price success? Museums are drawing huge audiences, but to what? To dazzling new buildings or renovated ones, very often, or to ballyhooed exhibitions of overexposed art (even things with a dubious place in art museums like motorcycles and guitars). In settings like that, looking at works of art is becoming a point-and-click sort of thing. There's a crowd flowing around you, noise . . . glance, move on." Los Angeles Times 12/28/00
  • PROFITABLE POST: A drawing on a Post-it note by the artist Kitaj was sold for £640. "Guinness World Records has now declared the price has made it the world's most valuable Post-it note. The manufacturer, 3M, held the sale to mark the 20th anniversary of its notes." The Independent (London) 12/28/00
  • GERMANY'S TOP TEN: What art the top German collectors bought this year. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/27/00

Wednesday December 27

  • THE RICH GET RICHER: London doesn't just have a roll call of fancy new arts buildings in which to play. There's a lot to go inside, too. "The long-term effect of the building programmes of recent years is now beginning to be felt; in terms of the number and quality of our exhibitions, London's visual culture is now the richest in the world." The Telegraph (London) 12/27/00
  • BACKGROUND RIGHTS: A half dozen major museums, artists and univeristy presses are being sued for "appropriation" of copyrighted images. "The plaintiffs are seeking to hold the defendants liable for promoting and selling the disputed image, which they say was distributed on T-shirts, magnets, books, brochures, cards, websites and street billboards, including two immense building displays in New York arranged by the Whitney Museum. The lawsuit raises the question of what happens if an underlying image used in such a work is not in the public domain." The Art Newspaper 12/27/00
  • DOT-COM SHARES WORTH THE PAPER THEY'RE PRINTED ON: "Call it stock art: A group of New York artists are crafting what may be the most beautiful and speculative shares on the market. Entrepreneur Carol Braddock plans to sell the documents as art objects to fund Webbittown, a commerce-cum-community Web site. Over the past few months Braddock has assembled a roster of artists that reads like a who's who of the downtown New York art scene. So far, the stocks have been embellished with everything from simple sketches to elaborate collages." The Standard 12/27/00

Tuesday December 26

  • WORLDWIDE ART THEFT: The list of stolen art work is constantly growing. Estimates worldwide of art theft run from $2 billion to $6 billion annually. "And the possibility of getting your prized possession back is slim to none. Recent UNESCO statistics show that only five to 10 per cent of stolen cultural goods are ever recovered." CBC 12/25/00

Sunday December 24

  • DARING ART THEFT: Thieves have stolen three of Sweden's most prized paintings - by Rembrandt and Renoir. "An armed gang entered the museum on Stockholm’s waterfront just before it closed on Friday. One of them, brandishing a submachine-gun in the museum lobby, threatened staff and visitors, while another two, also armed, ran upstairs and snatched the small paintings, valued by police at about £25 million." Scotland on Sunday 12/24/00
  • IN BARS WITH GUITARS: For its current exhibition on guitars, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has been advertising in non-traditional places - like bars and the sides of buses. "We're seeing a lot of college students who, for the most part, don't come to the museum that often. We really have seen an expanded audience, a lot of people who say that other than a fifth-grade field trip, this is their first time here.'' Boston Herald 12/24/00

  • RETURNING ART: "The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, was signed by President George Bush in November 1990 after years of discussion among scientists, museum curators and Indian groups. It seeks to reconcile two profoundly different value systems, one based on the primacy of reason and science and the other revolving around spiritual and religious values. In the decade since the law was passed, it has had a profound effect on museums and the philosophy on which they are based." The New York Times 12/24/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Friday December 22

  • MOST-WANTED LIST: In an important step in the repatriation of artwork stolen during World War II, the US Justice Department has released a list of 2,000 artworks seized by the Nazis. "The quality of many of the paintings on the list is extraordinarily high, because most of the items were stolen for Adolf Hitler and his Air Minister Hermann Goering, and they demanded masterpieces." CNN 12/21/00
  • POINTING FINGERS: Why are so many people in the museum world hurling insults at Guggenheim Director Thomas Krens, who has overseen some of the museum’s most successful shows to date, as well as its opening of Bilbao and planned projects all over the world? "To hear some people tell it, the museum world hasn't seen anything like this since Napoleon ransacked Europe to fill the galleries of the Louvre." Forbes 01/08/01
  • PERHAPS A PERSIAN PRINCESS? When she surfaced in October in Pakistan, it was widely reported that the mummy was the Persian princess daughter of ancient Xerxes. Bidding to acquire her quickly soared to $11 million. But carbon dating of a piece of wood from the mummy's coffin reveals it is only 250 years old. Archeology Magazine 12/00
  • RESTORING THE QUEEN OF SHEBA'S TEMPLE: Archeologists have finished restoring a temple in Yemen that they say belonged to the Queen of Sheba. "According to scholars, the temple was built in the 10th Century BC at the time of Balqis, the Queen of Sheba, and access was restricted to the kingdom's elite." The structure is so impressive, excavators say it could become one of the world's great tourist attractions. BBC 12/22/00

Thursday December 21

  • SHADY DEALS: "Martin Fabiani, a Paris dealer who was arrested and fined by the Allies after the Second World War for dealing in 'enemy property' and art plundered by the Nazis, supplied Canada's National Gallery with several notable paintings, among them works by Pierre Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Edgar Degas. Dealers, such as Mr. Fabiani, took advantage of cut-rate prices on art looted from Jews in Nazi-occupied countries. During the chaos that ensued when France was occupied by the Nazis, dealers like Mr. Fabiani were able to sidestep legal formalities in order to make quick sales." National Post (Canada) 12/21/00
  • INTERDICTING ART: The US Customs Service has started a new unit of six agents to specialize in art seizures. "Art theft seizures demand an ability to recognize valuable art, verify the authenticity of a piece and properly preserve it, and the job requires a masterful grasp of international regulations and the ability to work with people of astounding wealth and expertise." Salon 12/21/00
  • WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CULTURE? Prague was named this year's European City of Culture. But with so many state collections in the city closed or in flux, one has to ask how seriously the city is taking the designation. The Art Newspaper 12/21/00.
  • MONUMENTITIS: South Korea wanted to do something big to mark the turn of the millennium. But those plans have been drastically scaled back. "Gone are plans for 12 grand gate structures that were to be built around the nation over the next 120 years, and one of the few remaining projects is hanging by a thread." Korea Herald 12/21/00
  • MAJOR NEW PICASSO MUSEUM: The sale of the Berggruen Collection to the city of Berlin means "that Berlin will have a Picasso museum that is rivaled only by the Musée Picasso in Paris. Of the 165 works, 85 are Picassos, spanning every period of the artist's life. The rest include outstanding examples by 20th-century masters like Braque, Giacometti, Matisse and Klee. The new museum will fill a serious gap in Germany, since most early modern art was driven out of the country by Hitler as 'degenerate'." New York Times 12/21/00 (one-time registration required for access)

Wednesday December 20

  • POOR SUBSTITUTES: A couple of embarrassing art switcheroos have recently been pulled off. "First, a $7 million Monet went missing from the National Museum in Poznan, Poland, and a badly painted copy on cardboard was left in its stead. Then, monks at St Josaphat's Monastery in Lattingtown, Long Island, found themselves short of two rare 16th- and 17th-century English tapestry chairs - the earlier of which Henry VIII once reputedly sat on. New Statesman 12/20/00
  • 'GREAT' IS NOT SO GREAT: The British Museum's new Great Court portico has been getting raves from the critics. Except this one: "It is an inexcusable eyesore. At first glance it is so alien that to mistake it for some form of plastic substitute can be forgiven; at second glance, so clumsily are its blocks cut, so chipped their corners, so fudged and filled the junctions of the blocks and column drums that the material must be stone, the masons' craft and workmanship unacceptably flawed. The fault is beyond remedy and chucking buckets of slurry at it - which might help in the open air - is not an option." London Evening Standard 12/20/00
  • HOW'RE THINGS IN HAVANA? "The art crowd from New York, L.A., San Francisco, New Orleans, and the rest of the planet, has descended like locusts for the seventh Havana Bienal. Drooling over disintegrating facades and tail-finned vehicular carapaces, they're oblivious to local anxieties of grinding to an irreplaceable halt. Amid palms, surf, deprivations, and faded billboards in praise of Socialismo, the permanent revolution has become an eternal fiesta. The people party and clean their wounds with antifreeze on this entropic island that seems both more spirited and more hopeless than any Soviet satellite state ever was. You get the feeling that they humor Fidel's oppressions as if he were their dotty uncle. But in the artworld, a weird delusion of normalcy holds sway." Village Voice 12/20/00
  • THE TASTEMAKERS: What do corporations look to when deciding what art they want to buy to display in their buildings? "All the companies have pressing practical concerns: that the sculpture should not obstruct their buildings and brand names, that is should not impinge on parking space, and that it should be resilient enough to withstand the iconoclastic attentions of the local residents." New Statesman 12/20/00
  • CAPITAL PLANS: The Mall at the US Capitol is running out of space for historical monuments and markers. So a commission has released a list of possible other places in the capital. "It is considered a blueprint for Washington's third century, much as the Pierre L'Enfant plan helped dictate the shape of the city at its founding and the McMillan Commission enhanced and enlarged L'Enfant's work in the 1900s." Chicago Sun-Times 12/20/00
  • TRYING TO FIX THE VANCOUVER ART GALLERY: It's been a rough year for the Vancouver Art Gallery. The museum's director resigned under storms of protest from the city's artists that he was forced out by a board that had overstepped. Now the city is looking to a new director, plucked from LA's Museum of Contemporary Art. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/20/00

Tuesday December 19

  • NAZI LOOT ONLINE: America's museums have entered into an agreement to list all works of art that may have been stolen by the Nazis in World War II. "Under guidelines, expected to be announced next month, museums must disclose on Web sites the provenance for all works acquired after 1933 and created before 1945." Some critics say the deal doesn't go far enough. Boston Herald 12/19/00
  • WHAT'S WRONG WITH MODERN MUSEUMS: A big new installation of Asian art at Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario is a mess. "Intended as a way of displaying the cultures of South Asia, the Ondaatje Gallery instead delivers 2,500 square feet of incoherence. As a work of design, it is almost bad enough to be in the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. It's one of those exhibits that somehow manage to detract from the sum of human knowledge; at the end you may feel you know less than you did when you entered." National Post (Canada) 12/19/00
  • FAITH IN DESIGN: Melbourne’s new $290 million museum (the largest museum in the southern hemisphere) has created a landmark building for Australia and has won international acclaim for its design, but its acceptance has come after critics fervently fought the project every step of the way. "The lesson to be learnt here is that you should not allow early criticism to halt the creation of well-planned civic assets." The Age (Melbourne) 12/19/00
  • 16 WAYS TO CATCH A THIEF: A report prepared by the UK’s Illicit Trade Advisory Panel has recommended 16 measures to crack down on the rampant international smuggling of cultural art and antiquities. (Britain currently accounts for 30% of the global market in stolen artifacts.) Foremost among the recommendations is that Britain accede to the Unesco convention already signed by 91 other countries banning the international trade in stolen art and antiquities. Financial Times 12/18/00
    • A SIGNED TREATY MIGHT HELP: After 30 years of objections, the British government is now likely to sign the Unesco convention. "The worldwide trade is worth billions, and Interpol and other police agencies believe drug barons and other criminals are laundering profits through stolen antiquities." The Guardian (London) 12/19/00
  • GIFTS FROM THE UNDERGROUND: It’s the rare transportation project that stirs as much controversy as Athens’ new subway. Building was stalled for 35 years due to fears of harming the monuments above ground and the artifacts below. Now more than 10,000 objects have been uncovered during the dig and are on permanent display. "The shotgun marriage between archaeologists and builders has produced a wonderful new vision of how ancient Athenians lived and died." New York Times 12/19/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • WHERE ART BEGINS (OR ENDS?): A "snapshot" exhibition of art from around the year 1900 gives us the good, the bad and the ugly. Was it the beginning of an era? The end? What does it tell us about aesthetic debates then? What does it tell us about today's? "Much of this exhibition’s 'new evidence' turns out to be just bad art. As presented, '1900' is neither 'twilight or 'dawn', but a grey haze that obscures distinguishing marks." The Idler 12/19/00
  • BOSTON ONLINE: Boston's Museum of Fine Arts "launched its Online Collections Database yesterday with nearly 15,000 objects from its collection on its Web site, The works vary from ancient Egyptian sculptures to European paintings." Boston Globe 12/19/00

Monday December 18

  • MISSING ART LIST: Right after World War II a list of claims for missing works of art by Old Masters and pioneers of modernism such as Degas, Renoir, Tintoretto and Tiepolo was made. But the list was "hidden away in government archives for half a century, frustrating efforts by a dying generation of Holocaust survivors and the art world to track down thousands of paintings and sculptures. Now a lack of funding and bureaucratic mishaps could again consign those documents to an obscure shelf in the National Archives." Chicago Tribune 12/17/00
  • DIGGING UP HISTORY: Digging the new Athens subway proved an opportunity to unearth fascinating layers of history. Now that the subway has opened, some of the finds are now on display, including relics from "a mass grave from the time of the Peloponnesian war, presumed to be full of victims of the plague which struck the Athenians in 430BC, when people crowded into the city from the countryside for protection." Financial Times 12/18/00
  • HOUSTON ON THE MOVE: Houston's Museum of Fine Arts is undergoing an ambitious expansion. "The most visible symbol of their goal is the $83 million building that opened here in March, covering an entire city block. It has made the institution the country's 6th largest art museum, a grand leap from its previous place as 30th." The New York Times 12/18/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • KOREAN TAX VETOED: The Korean government proposed levying a tax on art and antiques, but the National Assembly vetoed it. Says a government spokesperson: "The rich have utilized the trading of antiques and paintings to increase their wealth." Korea Times 12/18/00
  • SHOPPING BY DESIGN: The fasion store Prada has chosen three A-list architects to design its new stores: Rem Koolhaas's OMA, in Rotterdam, Zurich's Herzog & de Meuron and Tokyo's SANAA. Between them, these 'Pradarchitects' are designing six buildings that are meant to 'reinvent the concept of shopping' Gradually, we are witnessing a merging of theatre, worship, fashion, architecture, design and shopping." The Guardian (London) 12/18/00
  • ART CONTRIBUTION: "Colombian artist Fernando Botero has donated a collection of works of art worth an estimated $250 million to two museums in Colombia, one in the capital Bogotá the other in Medellin, the artist’s native city. The collection includes more than 200 paintings, drawings and sculptures by Botero as well as 100 works by Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, Matisse, Chagall, Miró, Klimt, Dali and Henry Moore, from the artist’s own collection." The Art Newspaper 12/18/00
  • ACTOR ARRESTED FOR SLASHING PICTURES: A leading Polish actor is arrested for slashing pictures in a gallery. The exhibition was called "The Nazis" and depicted actors from movies in Nazi uniforms. “I defend the right to say that there are some frontiers of decency which were clearly overstepped in this exhibition, and I reacted violently in the hope that my gesture will highlight my objections." The Art Newspaper 12/18/00

Sunday December 17

  • WHAT MUSEUMS SHOULD BE? "If the first current idea informing much cultural planning is a version of technological determinism, then the second is a belief in the increasing convergence of commerce and culture. In this version of futurology, shops are becoming more like museums - places for visual and aesthetic display - while museums are becoming more like shops." The Telegraph (London) 12/16/00
  • MODERN PRESERVATION: "An opportunity has arisen to examine the issue of solidarity among architects today. An international group of architects is dedicated to conserving modern buildings and studying the ideas embodied by them. Who's against preserving buildings and studying history? But Docomomo is beginning to change the landscape of American architecture. It is forging a bond between two groups that up to now have been opposed: historic preservationists and enthusiasts of modernism." New York Times 12/17/00 (one-trime registration required for access)
  • HELPING THE BARNES: The Pew Charitable Trusts gives the financially-strapped Barnes Foundation $500,000, adding to an earlier grant for the same amount from the Getty Trust. The money will help stabilize the ailing Barnes. Nando Times 12/15/00
  • NEW VANCOUVER ART GALLERY DIRECTOR: The Vancouver Art Gallery appoints Kathleen Bartels, currently assistant director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, as its new director. National Post (Canada) 12/16/00
  • NATIONAL GALLERY LISTS DOUBTS: The National Gallery of Canada added two Spanish paintings to a list of suspected Nazi art booty. The two paintings are some of of the museum's most important post-war acquisitions, but they might have been looted by Soviet agents during the Spanish Civil War. National Post (Canada) 12/16/00

Friday December 15

  • POPULARITY KILLED THE MUSEUM? "Are museums going to hell in a touring exhibition of hand baskets? Is buzz a thing to be feared in a place of high culture?" Directors of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and the Harvard Museums debate buzz and bang-for-the-buck. Boston Herald 12/15/00
  • LOOKING OUT: A government inquiry into the British Museum’s possible evasion of planning laws may lead to prosecution. In its latest controversy, the recently redesigned museum has been criticized for blighting the views of surrounding properties. The Times (London) 12/15/00
  • RIGHT OF SALE: The UK is strongly resisting a European proposal to give all EU artists a share of the resale value of their work. The British government has warned that its art auction businesses could suffer greatly if the law is passed and sellers begin to take their work elsewhere to avoid handing over a cut of every sale. BBC 12/14/00
    • THE ATTITUDE OF PARLIAMENT IS BIZARRE, particularly as a number of leading European artists including David Hockney have petitioned against the directive." London Evening Standard 12/15/00
  • OLD MASTERS AND EUROPEAN BIDDERS: An interesting trend emerged at Christie’s successful old master auction this week (during which a Rembrandt portrait sold for $28.6 million): "British and European bidders accounted for 82.5 percent of the buyers, while Americans made up only 15 percent. For a while now, we've been hearing that New York was becoming the center of the old master market, but this is not the case." New York Times 12/15/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • THE REVIEWS ARE IN ON 'POLLOCK': Ed Harris's powerful biographical film "Pollock" may be the first movie about a painter to transcend the gushy clichés found in movies that try to unravel the mysteries of artistic creation. The scenes of Pollock standing over a giant canvas and creating his famous drip paintings in graceful swooping gestures as the camera discreetly dances around him offer a visceral thrill similar to watching a brilliantly choreographed action-adventure sequence." New York Times 12/15/00 (one-time registration required for access)

Thursday December 14

  • GET YOUR GOLDEN AGES STRAIGHT: It's quite easy to pick on the follies of Post-Modernism. But to harken back to some "Golden Age in the 1960s, as a new critique of po-mo does, is just wrong-headed. The book appears "fixated on some late 19th century concept of order on the art scene - the artist in his (yes, his) studio, the work displayed in its correct place in the museum, the audience properly intimidated by Masterpieces, the moral value of Art interpreted by beady-eyed critics - perhaps the unhappy author of this book. But much has changed since the 19th century, not all for the worse." The Idler 12/14/00
  • CREATIVE FINANCING: Germany has decided to buy the Berggruen collection containing more than 170 works ranging from Cézanne to Matisse. The price was to be $200 million, with half the amount coming from the private sector. But no one stepped forward with the money, so the government will spend $100 million, keep half the art and sell the other half to finance the purchase. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/14/00
  • THE ART-LOVING SPY: The National Gallery of Canada is investigating the provenance of some of its artworks after it was revealed that they were purchased on the advice of a British art connoisseur who was later unmasked as a Soviet spy. Anthony Blunt drew on a network of fellow spies who acted as art dealers in Europe to make some of his acquisitions for the National Gallery. National Post (Canada) 12/14/00
  • THE GREAT BUILDING OF OUR TIME? "Bilbao is amazing, but the proposed New York Guggenheim is more amazing (and also much bigger). It's obvious that Gehry has given Bilbao a long hard look, figured out what works and what doesn't, and taken a giant stride forward. You might think he'd just settle for another Bilbao. Bilbao is a great building, but it has some aesthetic problems it shares with other Gehry buildings. Gehry attacks those problems in this new design." Boston Globe 12/14/00
  • NEXT TIME SEND A CARD: An Oslo art student glued labels on about 20 soft-drink bottles filled with chocolate milk or his homemade beer and mailed them as invitations to his art exhibition. But beer in one of the bottles sent to someone in the Norwegian parliamnent continued to ferment and it exploded in the parliament building. New Jersey Online (AP) 12/14/00

Wednesday December 13

  • DESTROYING TIBET: According to recent reports from Lhasa, capital of Tibet, "much of the area around Barkhor Square, the centre of the Tibetan city, has been fenced off, apparently but unconfirmably for demolition. Such destruction has already happened in much of the old town, although it is unclear whether this is due to corruption or official policy." The Art Newspaper 12/12/00
  • COME TO GEELONG: The remote city of Geelong, Australia has not given up the idea of trying to lure the Guggenheim to locate a branch of its museum there. The city is proposing to finace a $1.5 million feasibility study for the project. The Age (Melbourne) 12/13/00
  • NEW BOSTON MUSEUM: Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art chooses architect finalists to design a new $50 million museum. "The new ICA will be the first art museum built in Boston in almost 100 years." Boston Herald 12/13/00
  • NO SALE: A small Quebec auction house thought it had scored a coup when it got a Renoir to sell and touted it as potentially "one of the most important art sales in Canada." But the painting "went as high as $1.45-million, but stalled before the auctioneer pulled the painting off the block because it did not meet the minimum price set by the owner. It had been estimated at $1.5-million to $2-million." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/13/00
  • RECORD REMBRANDT: A Rembrandt "Portrait of a Lady" sold for a record $28.7 million at auction Wednesday at Christie's in London. 12/13/00

Tuesday December 12

  • THE REAL PROBLEM: What was wrong with art in the last 15 years of the 20th Century? "For a number of reasons, art had given up the ghost under the weight of theory. The breakdown of distinctions between high and popular culture led to all manner of cultural produce and effluent being sifted and read as text. We were top heavy with theorists (not to mention curators), who needed scant visual stimulus to write the work into the flat ergo of post-modernist irony: in short, what we had was nominalism. Artworks merely had to ring the appropriate bell to set the Pavlovian critics slavering for interpretation." The Guardian (London) 12/12/00
  • FAILURE TO KEEP TRACK: Did the Pompidou lose a sculpture? A nine-foot tall one at that? The museum's director admits it was probably destroyed. The New York Times 12/12/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • IMPRESSIONISTS STRIKE AGAIN: With back-to-back record turnouts, Hartford's Atheneum will record the highest attendance in the museum's 156-year history. "This total marks a 41 percent increase from 1999 and a 63 percent increase from the average annual attendance in 1990 through 1999." Hartford Courant 12/12/00
  • DRESDEN'S SUCCESS: The state museums in Dresden recorded an enormous increase in attendance this year, even as other German museums were scrounging for visitors. Even more impressive - the museum staged more exhibitions this year despite reduced funding. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/12/00
  • ART THUMBS: Police in Kent England are attempting to crack down on the stolen photograph trade. "In an attempt to make buying and selling stolen property more difficult, customers are being invited to leave their thumbprint with the object they are offering for sale." The Times (London) 12/12/00
  • NEW NATIONAL CHAIRMAN: The National Gallery of Australia has chosen Melbourne businessman and philanthropist Harold Mitchell as its new chairman. The Australian 12/12/00

Monday December 11

  • STOLEN PAINTINGS: Seventeen paintings, including works by Renoir and Chagall, are discovered missing from a Japanese department store. The paintings were stolen in August. Japan Times 12/10/00
  • CHEF STEALS PAINTINGS? Financially-distressed Irish celebrity chef Conrad Gallagher has been arrested on suspicion of stealing works of art from the hotel in which he leases his restaurant. Ireland on Sunday 12/10/00
  • SPOTTING FAKES: A new book has the European auction world in an uproar. "The book, published in France, has attracted attention because of the author’s ability to explain how fake paintings and furniture are produced. Experts say the methods are authentic." The Times (London) 12/11/00
  • REMBRANDT SALE: Rembrandt's painting "Portrait of a Lady aged 62," dated 1632, is to be auctioned this week in London. It is expected to easily beat the previous record sale for a Rembrandt, the £5.5 million for "Portrait of a Bearded Man in Red" in New York two years ago. London Evening Standard 12/11/00

Sunday December 10

  • A BIENNIAL FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM: For nearly a century Washington's Corcoran Gallery has organized biennial exhibitions devoted to contemporary American painting. Even in recent years - when painting had long since ceased to be where the action was - the painting Biennials persisted. Now, after decades of floundering around, the Corcoran has stepped into the new millennium by confronting art as it really is. The result is a show focused on how painting, photography, video, computers and other electronic media have intersected and influenced one another. Washington Post 12/10/00
  • THE ART OF CANCELLATION: "In the last three years alone, the Chinese government has closed at least 10 art exhibitions, offering in most cases no other excuse to exhibitors than an announcement that they failed to properly complete the official application process. The hitch is, the government has never really explained that process. An intriguing exhibition at the University of Chicago's David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art takes a look at one such closing that occurred two years ago in Beijing." Chicago Tribune 12/10/00
  • FOCUS ON LATIN AMERICA: Thanks to a donor's gift, the LA County Museum of Art opens a new center to showcase Latin American art. "Belated as this development may appear in a region with a large Latin American community, LACMA is in the forefront as "one of the first major public institutions in the United States to be fully committed to Latin American art." Los Angeles Times 12/10/00

Friday December 8

  • GENDER CONFUSION: Recent trends suggest there is an increasing convergence of commerce and culture, where "shops are becoming more like museums – places for visual and aesthetic display – while museums are becoming more like shops." The Independent (London) 12/08/00
  • BIGGER IS BETTER? "Nowadays, museums build bigger buildings and erect huge impersonal additions to house uneven collections. Trustees, millionaires and board members pick architects; they help lay out loading docks. Museums are becoming architectural attractions in and of themselves. But is bigger better? Is more more?" 12/08/00
  • AND THE WINNER IS... "Creating a design award can be a daunting task. The challenge involves conceiving an object that’s not only new but somehow noble, based on a genre that is essentially kitsch (think bowling trophies). At the same time the trophy should have a timeless, abstract quality that doesn’t appear too suggestive of any style or period." Metropolis 12/00
  • SELLING REVOLUTION: "As art resources become scarcer, auction houses fight to the death to get works for sale and give in to requests for high estimates and assorted ‘reserves’ demanded by vendors. Every uction becomes a lottery. Some vendors make a killing by hitting the jackpot, others kill their goods as failure to sell is broadcast worldwide. As such mishaps multiply, the credibility of the system crumbles to dust." The ArtNewsroom 12/00

Thursday December 7

  • THREE-RING MUSEUM: "Considering the Guggenheim’s latest proposal, to appropriate a sizable portion of lower Manhattan for the purpose of creating a mammoth fun-and-games cultural emporium: The Guggenheim Museum is itself no longer a serious art institution. It has no aesthetic standards and no aesthetic agenda. It has completely sold out to a mass-market mentality that regards the museum’s own art collection as an asset to be exploited for commercial purposes." New York Observer 12/06/00
  • OF IMAGES MOVING AND STILL: Painting and cinema are still handcuffed together on a one-way ticket to the morgue. When artists appropriate images from film they always seem to be drawn to the melancholy underside of the tinsel factory. Painting and cinema both create fictional spaces, but the space of painting is static. So when a moment in a film is snatched and turned into a painting, it becomes deathly: you might call it painting noir." The Guardian (London) 12/07/00
  • BRITISH MUSEUM GREAT COURT OPENS: The Queen opens the British Museum's new Great Court. "She hailed the £100m development, with its sweeping roof designed by Lord Foster, as a landmark of the millennium." BBC 12/07/00
    • BIG SPACE: "The £100 million development has transformed the world-famous museum's two-acre inner courtyard - hidden for 150 years - into Europe's largest covered square, the size of Wembley football pitch." London Evening Standard 12/07/00

Wednesday December 6

  • ART STING: U.S. Customs officials in New York marked the opening of a new art fraud investigation center by returning to Germany a 16th-century painting stolen from a German castle by American soldiers after World War II. About 65 percent of all U.S. art imports arrive through the port of New York - investigations there this year alone have already seized $10.5 million worth of stolen art. CNN 12/05/00
  • GOING AFTER THE GUY AT THE TOP: The US government is aggressively going after Bernard Taubman, formerly chairman of Sotheby's, trying to tie him to the price-fixing scandal with Christie's. The government is attempting "to build its case against Mr. Taubman with the testimony of assistants who could confirm meetings between top executives from each company." New York Times 12/06/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • MORE POSSIBLE NAZI LOOT: The National Gallery in Ottawa says it has 100 works of art with undocumented provenance during the Nazi era. The museum is posting the artwork to its website in an attempt to track down details. Ottawa Citizen 12/06/00
  • WHAT ABOUT THE ART? At a recent symposium for curators there was a lot of talk about museum expansion, but very little about the transformative power of art. "Museums are great. The problem is, too many of them have started to believe what they're doing isn't just good, but necessary. Too many curators seem to want to teach or preach to us; many are more interested in being do-gooders than in doing good by art." The Village Voice 12/12/00
  • SCHOLARSHIP TAKES A BACK SEAT: The British Museum’s redesign is certain to drive up attendance and draw viewers who care more about the architecture than the collection. "A more fundamental question, however, is how much the museum's rush to modernize itself will threaten its scholarly mission." New York Times 12/06/00 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday December 5

  • MARBLE SNUB: The Greek ambassador declines a gala invitation to the re-opening of the British Museum after the museum declines a Greek request not to hold a reception in the room that houses the Parthenon marbles. The Guardian (London) 12/05/00
  • ADVENTUROUS BUT NOT TOO ADVENTUROUS: The rhetoric of art interpretation seems to have been frozen for the past century. Pushing the edge is still valued as an ideal, but not pushing it too much. "The image reservoir of art can be plumbed without artists having to be aware of betraying their actual mission, and the mere fact that they are still individual and autonomous is exactly what makes them interesting to industry." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/05/00
  • RATING ARTISTS: Who are today's overated artists? Underrated? "The terms can be harder to define than they might seem. Overrated according to whom? The critics? The collectors? Taste and fashion? "History sometimes has a different assessment of an artist than the market does. Sometimes it coincides, sometimes it doesn't." ARTNews 12/00
  • THE GOOG IN RIO: It looks as though Rio will win out in the global Guggenheim sweepstakes to see who gets to host the next branch of the museum. "The museum's most likely site is understood to be by Praca Maua, in Rio's rundown dock area. A dramatic outcrop of rocks between the Copaca bana and Ipanema beaches was initially touted but then discarded, as the Guggenheim wants such projects to regenerate urban areas." The Guardian (London) 12/05/00
  • HILLARY THE PRESERVER: Hillary Clinton is a fitting successor to New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in more ways than her political acumen. She too is a champion of public architecture, and as First Lady has proven her commitment to preservation. "Our senator-elect may be the second-most-scrutinized human being ever to walk the face of the planet, but few have noticed her longstanding and still-evolving interest and expertise in the built environment." New York Magazine 12/11/00
  • A QUESTION OF SCALE: First looks at the redesigned British Museum have focused on the clean lines and superhuman scale of the new Great Court. But the first exhibition in the new space is a diverse exploration of the human form. "’Human Image’ is perhaps an attempt to bring us down to earth again." The Guardian (London) 12/05/00

Monday December 4

  • ARCHITECTURE'S CHAMPION: For nearly four decades, Daniel Patrick Moynihan has been a champion of architecture in the US senate. "The secret is that, to Moynihan, aside from the gravest matters of war, peace, and social stability, other issues simply are not more important than the building and rebuilding of our cities." Now that he's retiring, who will take his place? Metropolis 12/00
  • MUSEUM MAKEOVER: The British Museum’s major redesign, including its controversial centerpiece Great Court, will be unveiled to the public this week. CNN 12/03/00
  • IMPORTANT TO WHOM? Is there a problem with labeling London art auctions as "important British art"? The answer is yes if the work can’t live up to the billing. "Christie's and Sotheby's labelled their main London sales as ‘important,’ though the catalogues looked anything but that." Buyers were accordingly cautious, and a succession of over-priced paintings went unsold. The Telegraph (London) 12/04/00
  • VERSAILLES RESTORATION: Last Christmas, storms roaring through France blew down 10,000 trees at Versailles. A year later much of the damage is repaired and the palace looks again to receive 10 million visitors this year. The restoration effort is an example of the way the running of Versaille is changing. The Globe & Mail 12/04/00

Sunday December 3

  • WHAT MUSEUMS WANT: What exactly do museums want today? New York's fall schedule of shows at major museums is perplexing. "The lineup of fall shows suggests that museum professionals, driven by the desire to be financially secure, wildly popular or socially relevant, opt for one of two alternatives: exhibitions that look like upscale stores, or exhibitions that look like historical society displays." New York Times 12/03/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • BERLIN'S UNSETTLED MUSEUMS: Berlin's museums are in disarray. Rumors are flying about breaking up longtime collections and reorganization of the city's museums. And ambitious new projects seem to find favor one minute, then just as quickly lose steam. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/02/00
  • LITTLE AUCTION FIRM WINS MAJOR SALE: The most important art auction in Canada this year features a big Renoir and Chagall. But it's not being sold by one of the major auction houses. Instead, a self-described "fussy little firm" that usually specializes in rugs and jewelry snagged the sale from a distressed Japanese collector. The Globe & Mail 12/02/00
  • THE NORTON SIMON WAKES UP: "Long known as a sleepy, essentially private enclave and only open four afternoons a week, the Simon has been transformed during the past year, since the grand opening of a celebrated $6.5-million renovation designed by architect Frank O. Gehry. Officials have extended its hours, expanded its outreach and upped its advertising budget. The payoff has been dramatic." Los Angeles Times 12/03/00
  • THE DISAPPOINTING TURNER: "The last time we had a worthy and substantial winner of the Turner Prize, a winner who was going to be remembered in the annals of British modern art for decades to come, was four years ago, when the intelligently transgressive Gillian Wearing won. Since then, the prize has gone to a succession of irredeemably minor artists for whom winning the prize will be seen as the summit of their careers. When petits maîtres like Tillmans win, we can be sure that the Turner has had to resort to some serious barrel-scraping." The Sunday Times (London) 12/03/00

Friday December 1

  • SALES SLUMP: After booming sales earlier this year, Australia’s art market is showing signs of cooling off. At this week’s major auctions, buyers were cautious and even important works attracted scant interest - due in part to the recent imposition of a countrywide GST. "Instead of the frenetic bidding that had turned the big art sales of the past into gladiatorial contests, the salesroom at Christie's was as quiet as a picnic." Sydney Morning Herald 12/01/00
  • EXCLUSIVITY SELLS: Online auctions were supposed to transform the world of art sales, democratizing the bidding process and thus driving up prices. "But so far, that hasn't proven to be the case. Fine art collectors, perhaps missing the posh surroundings of the auction house, don't seem to feel comfortable shopping online." Wired 11/30/00
  • HORSE SENSE: A painting by George Stubbs (an equine painter who died in 1806) fetched an astonishing £2.7 million at auction this week. "The story of how Stubbs rose from minor specialist artist to auction house megastar involves an American millionaire, a Derby winner, and a contender for the Turner prize…" The Guardian (London) 12/01/00
  • UNLIKELY BENEFACTOR: Russia's struggling Sakharov Museum, which "aims to promote the ideas of human rights and civil society," has been offered a boost from an unlikely source. Boris Berezovsky, the industrialist accused of embezzling $1 billion from Aeroflot airlines and who fled the country last month, has gievn the museum $3 million. "The donated sum is almost twice the museum's total budget over the four years of its existence, which was about $1.7 million. That money had come from foreign grants, the bulk of which were from the U.S. Agency on International Development, which stopped funding this fall." Moscow Times 12/01/00
  • MULTIPLE EDITIONS? Just before the Turner Prize winner was announced this week, Glenn Brown, one of the nominees was accused of plagiarizing the work of a science fiction artist. Now another artist has come forward to make a similar claim about another Brown painting. The Times (London) 12/01/00