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VISUAL ARTS _ December 2001

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Monday December 31

FUSS OVER WORDS: The new Memphis Central Library opened in November. Outside the library dozens of famous quotations were inscribed in stone, among them "Workers of the world, unite!" "This phrase from the Communist Manifesto caught the eye of two county commissioners and a city councilman, and in these days of heightened patriotism a smoldering debate was ignited on a popular radio talk show, in the letters and opinion column of The Commercial Appeal of Memphis and in the three politicians' own correspondence and phone calls. What is appropriate public art?" The New York Times 12/29/01

THE STORY OF THE FAKE PICASSOS: Turkey has taken down four paintings it had said were Picassos after they were proven to be fakes. "The paintings' provenance had always been slightly questionable. They were acquired by the state after undercover detectives posing as buyers infiltrated an art smuggling ring. The Turkish authorities concluded that the pictures had been looted from Kuwaiti royal palaces during Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990." BBC 12/30/01

WHERE ART MATTERS: No city celebrates contemporary visual art like London. From the Turner Prize controversy to the Tate's success, and the V&A's new look, art matters here. The New York Times 12/31/01

Friday December 28

A RIGGED AUCTION? After a John Glover painting sold on auction last month at what experts say was an extraordinarily low price, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating to see if price collusion went on between bidders - two Australian galleries. "The commission is investigating the suggestion that art museums may have been discouraged from bidding, or talked each other out of bidding for the picture, to the detriment of the market-place and a fair price for the vendor." The Age (Melbourne) 12/26/01

WHY IS AMERICAN ARCHITECTURE SO BLAND? "Among practicing architects here and abroad, it is axiomatic that there is much more contemporary architecture of high quality to be found in Europe than in the United States and that innovative, inspiring architecture - as well as architecture that is well built and long lasting - is constructed less frequently here than almost anywhere in Europe. American architecture is, as a rule, conventional, bland, and dull." American Prospect 12/17/01

KEEPING MIES IN PLACE: A famous house in the Chicago suburbs, designed by Mies van der Rohe and long open for public viewing, is on the block, and preservationists fear it may fall into the wrong hands. At one point, the state of Illinois planned to buy the house and designate it as a landmark. "But the state's fiscal picture has worsened dramatically because of the recession and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks... No easy solutions are in sight. And so, the Farnsworth House has entered a kind of official limbo." Chicago Tribune 12/28/01

BANNING TREASURE HUNTING: "According to estimates by commercial salvors, there are some three million undiscovered shipwrecks scattered across the world’s oceans." More and more of them are becoming accessible because of improvements in diving technology. So UNESCO has banned underwater treasure hunting, in an effort to protect sunken artifacts from plunder. UNESCO Sources 12/17/01

Thursday December 27

REBUTTING THE NYT: Earlier this month, The New York Times dissed the Milwaukee Art Museum and its new Calatrava-designed building. Deborah Solomon wrote: "The museum has only a B-level art collection - it does not own a Fauve Matisse painting, a Cubist Gris painting or a Surrealist Magritte or Dali - but has nevertheless managed to become a cultural landmark. As city planners everywhere have clearly realized, a museum can become a global attraction along the lines of the Tower of Pisa - and if the outside is good (and slanty) enough, it really doesn't matter what is inside." In defense, the MAM's director has written to the Times: "Perhaps Ms. Solomon's piece comes under the issue's 'conceptual leaps' category, since she neither visited the institution nor saw the collection." Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 12/26/01

POMPEII'S GRAPHIC PICTURES: In January some 2000-year-old frescoes go on display for the public in Pompeii. The pictures are highly sexual. "The eight surviving frescoes, painted in vivid gold, green and a red the color of dried blood, show graphic scenes of various sex acts and include the only known artistic representation of cunnilingus from the Roman era." What was the purpose of the art? Ads for sex? Humor? The New York Times 12/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)

WAITING FOR THE NEXT NEW THING: "The contemporary scene, currently, is like a tide at still waters. Watchers are all waiting to see which way the flow will run. As the Turner Prize attests, the art world cannot churn out ground-breaking talents every generation. Having shortlisted six dozen candidates since it was established, its remit has recently seemed pretty sparse. And after this year’s shenanigans it may have to fight harder for attention in 2002. The public, like a wily old trout, may refuse to take the bait." The Times (UK) 12/27/01

POP GOES THE EASEL: As museums around the U.S. struggle with attendance figures and constantly evolving competition from new and exciting pop culture offerings, many are turning to pop art exhibits to draw in the younger set. From the Guggenheim's motorcycles, to SFMOMA's Reeboks, to a widely criticized display of Jackie O's clothing at no less a gallery than New York's Metropolitan Museum, it cannot be denied that museums are dumbing down. But is this a failure of the arts, or a success for marketing? The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) (AP) 12/27/01

BEIJING'S NEW CAPITAL MUSEUM: Construction has started on Beijing's new Capital Museum. It will cost $94 million and be 60,000 square metres large, reportedly the largest building built in the city since 1949. It is expected to open in two years. China Daily 12/26/01

TIME FOR A RETURN TO POMO? Postmodernist architect Charles Moore is enjoying something of a renaissance eight years after his death, with exhibitions and biographies extolling his work, and his view of architecture's place in the world. "Modernism, Moore argued, was like Esperanto: an invented language that lacked cultural depth and resonance. Buildings should talk a language that people recognize." Boston Globe 12/27/01

WARHOL TO GET 15 MORE: "The first major retrospective of Andy Warhol's art in more than a decade will make its only North American stop in Los Angeles next year." Although reproductions of the American icon's work are commonplace, the exhibition will be the first major display of Warhol's work since a New York viewing in 1989. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (AP) 12/27/01

Wednesday December 26

FEEBLE NONSENSE? So David Hockney believes that great artists of the past may have used lenses to aid them in their sketches. And he's made his claims in a book that many critics are taking seriously. But critic Brian Sewell does not: "This is a silly and meretricious book, a demonstration of naive obsession, of remote improbabilities presented as hard facts, of shifting ground for every argument, self-indulgently subjective, a farrago of feeble nonsense that should never have been published and, had it been sent to Thames and Hudson by Uncle Tom Cobleigh or Jack Sprat, would not have been." London Evening Standard 12/26/01

ENRON'S ART VENTURES: Enron had been making substantial investments in art before its recent collapse. "Most of Enron's art-buying was for its new building." In addition, the company supported Texas arts groups. "Last year, the firm gave $12 million to local charities, about one percent of its annual pre-tax revenues of $110 billion. (By contrast, the firm spent a mere $2.1 million on political lobbying in Washington.)." The Art Newspaper 12/26/01

THE SCULPTING ICON: Sculptor Louise Bourgeois turned 90 Christmas Day. "She has witnessed most of the art movements of the last century and influenced her share. She is still innovating. She puts demands on her viewers to go with her into a discomfiting zone of trauma and endurance." The New York Times 12/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

RECRAFTING A MISSION: There are few museums devoted to crafts. The Fuller Museum of Art in Massachusetts is thinking about becoming one - "The Boston area, one of the country's strongest craft centers since the days of Paul Revere, is a logical locale for a craft museum. Boston was an important force in the Arts & Crafts movement." Boston Globe 12/26/01

Monday December 24

CLEVELAND'S NEW MUSEUM: The Cleveland Museum of Art is about to start building a new home, designed by Rafael Vinoly. "With an estimated construction cost of $170 million, the museum job will cost nearly twice the $93 million it took to build the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. In dollars and square footage, the art museum project qualifies as one of the biggest and most complex cultural efforts in the city's history." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/23/01

CHARLES' WORST BUILDINGS: Prince Charles, a longtime critic of modern architecture, has decided to create his own "anti-award," picking the five worst new buildings. "The prince, whose traditionalist views have been criticised as reactionary by many modern architects and critics, plans to announce an initiative aimed at highlighting what he considers the ugliest buildings around." The Guardian (UK) 12/24/01

ANOTHER WHACK AT THE TURNER: Prizes such as the Turner proclaim they celebrate the new and experimental. "The trouble is that contemporary art so often is not new. It seems that many artists know nothing about even the most recent past, or if they do, have no scruples about copying it." The Art Newspaper 12/20/01

HOMELESS THATCHER: A large marble statue of Margaret Thatcher is homeless after being rejected by the National Portrait Gallery. "The eight-foot sculpture of Baroness Thatcher with her trusty handbag was judged 'too domineering' by the National Portrait Gallery. It has left members of the House of Commons's Works of Art Committee, which commissioned the £50,000 work, searching for a suitable home for The Marble Lady." The Telegraph (UK) 12/23/01

Sunday December 23

PROTEST OVER KENNEDY APPOINTMENT: A member of the National Gallery of Australia's board has resigned in protest over the reappointment of Brian Kennedy as the museum's director. Boardmember Rob Ferguson says the board had decided not to renew Kennedy's appointment, but that the board chairman recommended to the government the renewal anyway. The Age (Melbourne) 12/22/01

  • KENNEDY'S CONTROVERSIAL EVERYWHERE: Last month Brian Kennedy was offered the directorship of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. But he turned down the job. Now it looks like pressure was put on the museum by those close to the Irish Minister of Culture to not give the job to Kennedy. One said: "The Minister will not allow Brian Kennedy to become Director of IMMA." Was the fix on? Irish Times 12/20/01

ARTISTS ON ART THAT MOVES THEM: For the past 15 months, Martin Gayford has been interviewing artists about the influence of specific works of art on their own work. "As I look back through the columns at what the artists have actually said, a few patterns emerge. The art of the 20th century has proved by far the most popular - chosen 30 times out of a possible 65 - followed by that of the 17th century (11), the 15th (seven), the 19th (six) and the 16th (five). The 18th, and 14th centuries each scored two, as did the ancient world. The most popular artists were Picasso, Rubens, Van Gogh, Matisse and - surprisingly - Delacroix, each covered twice. No one chose Michelangelo, Raphael, Degas, Poussin, Breugel, Ingres, Goya and a number of other great masters." The Telegraph (UK) 12/22/01

ART/NOT-ART: Why get upset about things called 'art' when they seem so 'not-art'? "You can hardly call something 'not art' when the only reason you heard about it was that an art gallery funded and displayed it and an art critic wrote about it in the art section of a newspaper. The battle is over: It's already art, whether you like it or not. As soon as the question of its artness even occurs, it is part of a discussion that is inherently artistic; it is, henceforth, irrevocably and perpetually a part of the history of art. People said certain Impressionist works weren't art, and now even Canadian Alliance members buy posters of them for their living rooms. You can't get away from it." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/22/01

A DECADE OF MODERN: This winter, the Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art is saying farewell to the era of Jean-Christophe Ammann, its enterprising founding director, who is leaving at year's end. In his brief but turbulent time in Frankfurt, Ammann brought life to the modern art scene. Like a dynamic and creative art entrepreneur, he rewrote the concept of what a museum is about, turning the place inside out to match the contemporary artistic zeitgeist." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/22/01

CARAVAGGIO'S DEATH CERTIFICATE: There has been much speculation in art historial circles over how exactly the great painter Caravaggio died. Now "an Italian researcher claims to have found the death certificate of Caravaggio and cleared up the mystery of how the genius of Baroque art met his end." BBC 12/22/01

PAINTING THE QUEEN: Clearly not impressed by Lucien Freud's efforts at painting a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, The Guardian enlists its readers to submit their own portraits of the Royal Handbag. Check out the entries here. The Guardian (UK) 12/22/01

Friday December 21

HERMITAGE MASTERWORKS, SOLD FOR A SONG: Some countries lose their art to pillaging armies. It was different in Russia, where the treasures of the Hermitage were sold off by the Soviet government. "Our country has been thoroughly taken to the cleaners. Only pitiful crumbs remain of the cultural heritage we once had. Look at the lists of works sold in the 1920s, look at the artists in those lists. Almost any item from those lists, offered at auction today, would create a sensation. But they were sold off for nothing." The Moscow Times 12/21/01

SUSPICIOUS (BUT ATTRACTIVE) ART: Some high-quality Afghan art has come on the market. But dealers are suspicious it may be looted. "Suddenly this week out of the blue we were offered a couple of Gandharan works which were pretty spectacular ... of a type that were so distinctive that had they been out and around in the West I'm pretty sure we'd have known about them." Sydney Morning Herald 12/21/01

TINY QUEEN WITH LOTS OF PERSONALITY: Lucien Freud has painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth. It's small - 6 inches by 9 inches. "The painting is not an official commission but a gift from Freud to the Queen. (This is a grand gesture which has a precedent, Freud notes, in the jazz suite that Duke Ellington wrote for the Queen, having a single record pressed and delivered to Buckingham Place.)" The Telegraph (UK) 12/21/01

  • THEY ARE NOT AMUSED: The critics have taken a look at Lucien Freud's new portrait of The Queen. Many don't like it. Some really don't like it. Among the comments: "extremely unflattering" (The Daily Telegraph); "The chin has what can only be described as a six-o'clock shadow, and the neck would not disgrace a rugby prop forward" (The Times); "Freud should be locked in the Tower for this" (The Sun); and perhaps most to the point, from the editor of The British Art Journal, "It makes her look like one of the royal corgis who has suffered a stroke." BBC 12/21/01

GOOG GETS 275 CONTEMPORARY WORKS: "The Bohen Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Manhattan, has given about 275 works by 45 artists to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The gift, worth about $6 million, art experts said, significantly augments the Guggenheim's permanent collection, especially in film, video, new media and installation art." The New York Times 12/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

FOR REALLY AMBITIOUS PROJECTS: If you're working on a large-scale sculpture, and need a bit more room, you might check out the Franconia Sculpture Park in northern Minnesota. With its sixteen acres, says the founder, "You don't have the constraints of a studio. It's an outdoor studio. We're unique in that we're a workplace and a showplace." Chicago Tribune 12/20/01

ART IN THE DEEP FREEZE: Two artists are living at the South Pole . They're "the first two painters to visit this frozen continent under the British Antarctic Survey’s Artists and Writers Programme. The initiative was launched this year as a step towards bridging the cultural gap between the worlds of science and the arts." The Times (UK) 12/21/01

Thursday December 20

FIRE DAMAGES TAPESTRIES: This week's fire at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine did serious damage to two priceless tapestries. "The tapestries, The Last Supper and The Resurrection, depicted scenes from the life of Christ. They were two of a set of 12 known as the Barberini tapestries, woven under the direction of Florentine Cardinal Maffeo Barberini on papal looms in the mid-17th century. 'They're among our greatest, most treasured possessions'." Newsday 12/19/01

WAS BACON BLACKMAILED? Artist Francis Bacon's estate is suing the Marlborough Gallery, accusing it of blackmailing Bacon into not switching to another gallery when he wanted to. The estate "believes that Bacon was not paid properly by his long-time dealer for many of his pictures" and that the claim against Marlborough could be worth more than £100 million The Art Newspaper 12/18/01

WHY NO UK AUCTION HOUSE CHARGES: With ex-Sotheby's head Alfred Taubman convicted of price-fixing in New York, why have no charges been leveled in Britain against Christie's former chairman? "While the Christie’s-Sotheby’s collusion was going on, UK anti-competition laws were weak, and continue to be weaker than US antitrust laws. Before the UK Competition Act of 1998, which came into effect in March 2000 after the auction house conspiracy had ended, no penalties were imposed in the UK for price-fixing." The Art Newspaper 12/18/01

AUSTRIANS TAKE OVER A BRITISH ART: It's the one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the death of JWW Turner, arguably the greatest watercolour artist of all time. He was British, of course - as the president of the Royal Watercolour Society notes, "it is a very British medium. It is the one thing we have given the arts." But where are the fine watercolourists of today? "The wellspring of inspiration for the last two decades has been Austria." The Economist 12/20/01

NOT QUITE PICASSO: The State Museum in Ankara, Turkey, may have to close its Picasso room. At least four of its eight "Picasso" paintings are fake. They're copies of Picasso originals owned by the Hermitage Museum, whose director says, "Not only are they copies, but they are very bad copies. The originals are here with us at the Hermitage where they have always been." online.ei 12/19/01

Wednesday December 19

APPROPRIATING ABORIGINAL: Over the past 30 years Australian Aboriginal art has become wildly popular. But "indigenous designs created over thousands of years were being used to decorate furniture and furnishings, clothing and carpets, doonas and desks. Ignoring copyright law, companies were stealing the patterns and shapes Aborigines had been creating for thousands of years." One researcher has fought to preserve the rights of Aboriginal artists. The Age (Melbourne) 12/19/01

TRUMP'S BLOATED BLOB: When Donald Trump announced plans earlier this year to construct a new skyscraper on the Chicago riverfront, he swore up and down that this, finally, would be a Trump building to be architecturally proud of: more substance, less glitz. Well, the plans are out, and the design looks to be The Donald all over - in fact, it's "hard to say which is more disappointing about Donald Trump's plan for a bloated blob of a skyscraper on the prime riverfront site now occupied by the Chicago Sun-Times building -- the mediocrity of the design or the facile, thumbs-up reviews it's getting from Mayor Richard M. Daley's top planners." Chicago Tribune 12/19/01

MUMMY-BURGERS: Two Egyptian mummies have been buried in the foundation of what is now a McDonald's restaurant for the past 70 years. "They were laid there at the instigation of their owner, the Rev William McGregor, who had built up a large collection of artefacts he had brought back from Egypt for a museum he opened at his home." Birmingham Post & Mail (UK) 12/19/01

Tuesday December 18

AN OKAY LEAN: The leaning tower of Pisa was reopened to tourists over the weekend after 12 years of efforts to stabilize it. "The tower lurches vertiginously towards the cathedral museum, despite restoration work that has reduced its lean by 44cm and which, experts say, should make it safe for the next 200 years." The Guardian (UK) 12/16/01

BUILDING BOOM: Across the American South, dozens of new museums are being built. "This boom is based partly on the desire of many Southerners to bring more fine art to their communities. Although some museums here have superior collections that are languishing in storage for lack of display space, directors of some others are still uncertain what they will hang on their new walls." The New York Times 12/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

WAYNE'S WORLD: When Wayne Baerwaldt takes the reins at Toronto's Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, it could mark a watershed moment for new and innovative art in Canada, according to observers. Baerwaldt, who curated Canada's entry at the Venice Biennale, and has, as curator of a high-profile Winnipeg gallery, earned a reputation as a tireless promoter of Canadian art and artists, will take over at the Power Plant in March 2002. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 12/18/01

Monday December 17

DISSENTING OPINION: Critics have greeted the Victoria & Albert Museum's redo of its British galleries with enthusiasm. "In chorus, the writers sang the Gershwin song 'S'wonderful, s'marvellous, you should care for me ...' and described the new display as a knockout, a triumph, a stroke of genius, a tour de force, a coup de thè‚tre and a sockeroo. It perhaps ill behoves me, then, to play curmudgeon with what is evidently the eighth wonder of the world, but that is precisely what I am compelled to do, though from melancholy regret rather than sheer cussedness." London Evening Standard 12/16/01

AUSTRALIA'S MOST WANTED: Who are Australia's most collectable artists? Some big names didn't make the list... Sydney Morning Herald 12/17/01

ART MAGAZINE CLOSES: The 13-year-old LA art magazine Art issues has closed, surprising many in the art world. Its publisher said "the decision to cease publication had more to do with aesthetics than finances. The magazine garnered about $60,000 in grants, along with donations to the foundation and about 3,000 paid subscriptions in 2001. But more money would be needed in the future for the publication to thrive, he said. Those funds could probably be found, he said, but it would it take too much time from the editorial work that he loves." Los Angeles Times 12/16/01

EVERYBODY'S GOT A NEW PROJECT: Besides the highly publicized announcement of a new Rem Koolhaas-designed LA County Museum, two other American museums have recently announced big new projects - a 100,000-square-foot $79 million addition to the Virginia Museum of Art, and a $170 million addition to the Cleveland Museum. The Art Newspaper 12/14/01

Sunday December 16

LET'S GET RID OF ANYONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT ART: Madrid's Prado is one of the world's great museums. But a series of scandals and missteps in the past decade has made it the object of ridicule. Recently, the museum's latest director was removed and replaced by a bureacrat with no art experience. The "putsch has scandalised Madrid's cultural elite. Is he qualified to go shopping for new Goyas? Madrid's art world thinks not, but Eduardo Serra has the support of the conservative prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, who no longer trusts anyone from the art elite to run the museum." The Guardian (UK) 12/15/01

ART FROM THE UNDERGROUND: In South Africa, how to counter dwindling attendance at traditional galleries and arts institutions? "The awards landscape is slowly expanding beyond the confines of rearguard formats and exclusive 'art mafia' decision-makers and it seems to be happening rather quietly, without much public investment. What has rocked the apathetic cultural boat over the last year has been the growing support for public art events that either have critical and engaged social awareness ambitions at their hearts or those that set out to spectacularly entertain in the form of art parties in our national galleries." Daily Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 12/16/01

Friday December 14

NEW IDEAS FOR OLD BUILDINGS: English preservation got a shot of new blood this week with the appointment of the energetic rising star Simon Thurley. "English Heritage has, for the first time, a chief executive who is a buildings man, not a bureaucrat. It is a critical break with the Civil Service legacy that has hung like a miasma over the organisation. Life will not be easy with Thurley at English Heritage. As one very senior commissioner acknowledged yesterday, 'It's a brave choice, it won't be quiet with Simon'." The Telegraph (UK) 12/14/01

TOWARDS SETTING UP AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN MUSEUM: The US Congress has passed a measure setting up a "presidential commission to handle planning and logistics for a National Museum of African-American History and Culture." The new museum would help "demonstrate the significance of African-American history to American history." 12/13/01

THEY'RE REAL GOLD, BUT THEY'RE STILL FAKES: The Gold Museum is the most popular museum in Peru. Its prize holdings, however - thousands of pieces of pre-Columbian gold - turn out to be mostly fakes. A government commission reports that of "4,349 metal pieces analysed, 4,237 are false and more than 100 have aroused strong suspicions concerning their authenticity." The commission had doubts about the gold for 20 years, but it was only after the death of the museum's politically-prominent founder that the holdings were analyzed. The Art Newspaper 12/13/01

BANFF CENTER APOLOGIZES FOR ARTWORK: Canada's Banff Center has publicly apologized for art one of its residents created. Artist Israel Mora masturbated into seven vials, "placed the vials into a cooler and wheeled it around Banff on a cart. He then hung the cooler between two trees. A message on the exterior explained the nature of the contents. Mora has said the vials represent seven members of his family." The Center said: "There are some differences in public taste. We're a publicly funded institution and we need to be cognizant of those things." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/14/01

TRADITIONAL TREE: The Tate Museum surprises everyone by putting up a traditional Christmas tree. "After years when the traditional tree sculpture in the London gallery's foyer was either hung upside down from the ceiling or dumped in a skip to protest against consumerism, the artist Yinka Shonibare was determined to do something really controversial and make a jolly one. 'Christmas is a happy time. This is happy tree'." The Guardian (UK) 12/14/01

Thursday December 13

A NEW KIND OF CONCERT HALL: "Philadelphia now breaks ranks with cities that have regressed toward infinite infantilism in the quest to revitalize their downtowns. Rafael Viñoly's architecture is not nostalgic for ye olde city life. It's not ironic about it, and it's not cute. Apart from spatial amplitude, it makes few concessions to luxury or glamour. The exterior, particularly, may strike some concertgoers as harsh. It is only inside the building that the Kimmel Center reveals the elegance of its concept. Mr. Viñoly has designed an urban ensemble, composed primarily of city views. Classical music is the architecture here, the building an instrument in which to perform and hear it." The New York Times 12/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • L.A.'S NEW LANDMARK: In Los Angeles, Frank Gehry's new Disney Concert Hall is taking shape. It's sure to alter the cultural architecture of the city. "The crazily curved building - which evokes the hallucinatory shapes of Disney's more fantastic cartoons - will surely be another milestone in the architect's long career. Now 71, for much of his life he was underappreciated in his adopted city." The Age (Melbourne) 12/13/01

ROCKWELLS RECOVERED: "Working with Brazilian police, the FBI has recovered three Norman Rockwell paintings valued at up to $1 million that were stolen from a [Minnesota] art gallery in 1978, taken out of the United States and hidden most recently in a farmhouse outside the town of Teresopolis, Brazil. An art dealer in Rio de Janeiro turned the paintings over to authorities after questioning by U.S. and Brazilian authorities this month." Minneapolis Star Tribune 12/13/01

CARBUNCLE BOY HAS ANOTHER GO: Prince Charles is at it again, deriding Britain's architects and their work: "Tall buildings are often nothing more than 'overblown phallic structures and depressingly predictable antennae that say more about an architectural ego than any kind of craftsmanship', the prince told the Building for the 21st Century conference in London, before quoting the American novelist Tom Wolfe's quip that they left '"turds in every plaza'." The Guardian (UK) 12/13/01

IT'S OFFICIAL - NATIONAL POST DECLARES 'END OF ART': The editorial page writers for Canada's National Post play art critic, weighing in with a judgment on Martin Creed's winning artwork for this year's Turner Prize: "Mr. Creed literally made nothing. He has achieved the logical end of art, for if anything and everything may be regarded as art - even a room devoid of anything except a light bulb - then nothing is art. This is obviously all to the good. The practitioners of contemporary art can all go home - and we can all ignore them." National Post (Canada) 12/12/01
  • OTHER CRITICS DISAGREE: "It’s a very profound thing. He’s trying to make art with nothing - with the most ordinary, denigrated, degraded, run-of-the-mill materials like Blu-Tak or Sellotape. He is an up-to-date version of the conceptual artist. The art is a concept made momentarily transitory. He was asking the final question, which is about the spectator. He made the people going into the room look at the room and ask a question about what was the room doing. Rooms in galleries are beautifully lit; you don’t expect them to be suddenly in darkness." The Scotsman 12/12/01
  • SOME FIND A MIDDLE GROUND: There is no doubt that Creed's work is minimalist. But much of the fascination of his stuff is the sense that such conceptual pieces are "the product of an artist engaged in a kamikaze game of chicken with the critics." Like it or hate it, you've got to give points for the brashness. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 12/13/01
  • AND THEN THERE ARE PROTESTERS (NATURALLY): A 52-year-old grandmother has been banned for life from the Tate after she went into Creed's room and threw eggs at the walls. "What I object to fiercely is that we've got this cartel who control the top echelons of the art world in this country and leave no access for painters and sculptors with real creative talent." BBC 12/13/01

STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW: This is all Chicago's fault. The giant cows all over the city were cute for about five minutes, but then every other American city had to jump into the act, with pigs, Snoopys, and God knows what else on display as public art. Now, the District of Columbia is leaping into the fray. The animals of choice? Donkeys and elephants, of course. Washington Post 12/13/01

HOW TO ENJOY A TRAFFIC JAM: Phoenix's Artlink shuttle, a self-guided monthly bus tour highlighting dozens of area galleries and studios, has added in-transit performance to its free service. Poets and musicians have been invited to climb aboard the shuttle to perform between stops, and early reports indicate that some patrons are actually staying on the shuttle longer than they intended so as not to miss a minute. Arizona Republic 12/12/01

Wednesday December 12

ART INSTITUTE ALLEGES FRAUD: The Chicago Art Institute has accused a Dallas financial firm of maybe defrauding the museum of millions of dollars. "As much as $43 million in museum endowment funds placed with the firm appear to be at risk, the Art Institute said. One fund containing $23 million from the museum is said to have lost as much as 90 percent of its value, according to the complaint." The firm promised "protection from any plunge in financial markets." Chicago Tribune 12/11/01

  • HEDGING ON THE FUTURE: So why was so much of the Art Institute's endowment invested in one place? "A museum executive defended the Art Institute's heavy investment in so-called hedge funds, investment vehicles that are widely used by institutional investors to minimize risk or maximize returns. While such investments typically make up 10 percent or less of institutional investors' portfolios, the Art Institute allocated 59 percent of its $667 million endowment to hedge funds." Chicago Tribune 12/12/01

UNFAIR BIDDING? Last month two museums in Australia (one of them the National Gallery) teamed up to bid on a painting at auction. The auction house was disappointed when the painting - John Glover's 1833 painting of Hobart sold for $1.5 million, about $1 million less than it hoped for. Now the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating the galleries for unfair bidding. "They could be fined up to $10 million if the Trade Practices Act has been breached." The Age (Melbourne) 12/12/01

THUNDER STEALING: Three days before a major show of Rodin sculptures and drawings is due to open at Australia's National Gallery of Art, the Art Gallery of New South Wales announces it's been given a gift of nine important Rodin bronzes. "The timing was purely coincidental." Sydney Morning Herald 12/12/01

THE MEANING OF ART: So some people - okay, a lot of people - wonder why a an empty room with the lights flashing on and off can win Britain's top art prize. "Some people, undoubtedly, are afraid - both of the feelings art provokes and of having their preconceptions of what art ought to be upset. They want meaning on a plate, served up the way it has always been. They often seem to want demonstrations of familiar skills." The Guardian (UK) 12/12/01

CHEATER CHEATER PUMPKIN EATER: So great artists might have used an optical device to help them draw. "Allusions to deception (or cheating) have now emerged in the reception to artist David Hockney's new book, Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters. But whatever the optical device (including a modern camera) and whatever the time period, one thing remains the same: Using an optical device does not make art easier; it makes art look different. That's a point easily lost." Los Angeles Times 12/12/01

HMNNN - IS IT REALLY A VAN GOGH? The recent attribution of a heretofore anonymous painting as have been painted by Van Gogh is a bit of a mystery. Not only is it now said to be by the Dutch master, but it's also supposed to be a portrait of Gauguin. "Why should this extraordinary find, which its supporters now claim is worth an estimated £5 million, have been dismissed for so long? The answer lies in the fact that Man in Red Hat is a crudely executed work. Modest in size and hastily painted, the supposed Gauguin portrait is far from a masterpiece." The Times (UK) 12/12/01

THEY WANT TAX CUTS WHILE WE'RE CUTTING PROJECTS IN PROGRESS? "The White House Office of Management and Budget has proposed a $45 million cut in next year's capital budget" for the Smithsonian. That means that restoration of the Old Patent Office, home of the National Portrait Gallery, "the third-oldest public building in the nation's capital" and the building for which "President Andrew Jackson laid the cornerstone in 1835 and Abraham Lincoln danced in at his inaugural ball" and which closed last year for a five-year renovation, may be delayed for at least a year.... The New York Times 12/12/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday December 11

NEW VAN GOGH DISCOVERED: "Dutch researchers have unearthed what they believe to be the only painting of artist Paul Gauguin by Vincent Van Gogh. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam say the painting, Man in a Red Hat, is a very 'significant' and 'fascinating' work." BBC 12/11/01

EXTENDING A CONCEPT: "You think Martin Creed's Turner Prize effort with the light turning on and off is silly? Or perhaps you still regard Tracey Emin's unmade bed as the apotheosis of over-hyped conceptual art lunacy? Well, brace yourselves, conceptualist fans, because this is where it gets even sillier. Three models have formed "the world's first purely media-driven art collective, so this, the very article that you are reading right now, is their 'art'." London Evening Standard 12/11/01

  • A CONTEXT FOR NOTHING: Turner Prize winner Martin Creed on the meaning of his work: “My work is about 50 per cent of what I make and about 50 per cent about what other people make of it,” Creed says. And when they make nothing of it? He shrugs. “It’s not necessarily a direct form of communication. It’s more like a kind of feeling. More like music.” The Times (UK) 12/11/01

THE NEW NEW YORKER MAP: It was 1976 when New York artist Saul Steinberg's famous map of the world as viewed from Ninth Avenue appeared on the cover of the New Yorker magazine. Everyone wanted a copy, and versions were created for nearly every city on the East Coast. Now, the same magazine has placed on its cover a new map of Gotham's famous neighborhoods, each rechristened with names like Kvetchnya and Mooshuhadeen. Always lovers of the inside joke, New Yorkers are snapping up copies. National Post (Canada) 12/11/01

HOW SOME MUSEUMS COUNT ATTENDANCE: Minneapolis's Walker Art Center says it drew its best ever attendance attendance last year, with 1,022,000 visitors, putting it in 8th place among American art museums. But the number is unquestionably inflated with subgroups such as the "386,000 people who passed through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden but not the museum." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 12/10/01

ANOTHER VIEW OF ART HISTORY: University of Chicago art historian Michael Camille has caused a stir with his challenges to conventional readings of art history. "His reading of early Western art as an enforcement of power has provoked mixed responses, reflecting broad disagreements among commentators over the notion, as detractors put it, that culture is a conspiracy." Chronicle of Higher Education 12/10/01

NEW CLEVELAND HEAD A BIG FAN: "A Cleveland businessman who fell in love with art in college and who wrote his senior thesis on the impressionist painter Mary Cassatt has been named president of the Cleveland Museum of Art." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/11/01

Monday December 10

CREED WINS TURNER IN ODD CEREMONY: Martin Creed has won this year's Turner Prize. "Having said earlier he regarded Turner as 'just a stupid prize', he said of his installation: 'It doesn't make it a better piece of work just because it wins a prize'." Presenter Madonna also took some swipes at the award, calling awards "silly" and asking: "Does the artist who wins the award become a better artist? Is it nice to win 20 grand? Definitely - but after spending time in this city, I can tell you that it won't last very long." BBC 12/10/01

    • SO SAY THE JUDGES: “We admired his audacity in presenting a single work in the exhibition, and noted its strength, rigour, wit and sensitivity to the site Coming out of the tradition of minimal and conceptual art, his work is engaging, wide ranging and fresh.” The Times (UK) 12/10/01
    • EXTENDING THE LINE OF CONTROVERSY: Even by the standards of a prize that has been contested by Chris Offili's elephant dung paintings, Tracey Emin's soiled bed and dirty knickers and Damien Hirst's sliced and pickled animals, Creed's work is widely considered exceptionally odd and is likely to quicken debate about the prize's future." The Telegraph (UK) 12/10/01
    • STAR TURN: Was the choice of Madonna to present this year's Turner Prize a cynical grab for celebrity? Actually, the singer comes out of an art background. "Having grown up with people like Haring, Basquiat and Andy Warhol - who, incidentally, attended the singer's first wedding, to Hollywood star Sean Penn - it's no surprise that Madonna has become a serious collector of modern art." BBC 12/09/01

MODERN SICKNESS: It's only been open three years but Stockholm's modern art museum Moderna Museet, is "being forced to close next month because of what is known as "sick-building syndrome," a series of seemingly unrelated construction defects believed responsible for health problems reported by numerous staff members." The New York Times 12/10/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE NAME MEANS EVERYTHING: A painting thought to be by an anonymous insignificant artist, has been identified as a Van Gogh. "The painting, which has languished in a storeroom for decades, has been recognised as a Van Gogh after extensive scientific research by art historians at the museum and the Art Institute of Chicago." The attribution is said to make the painting worth about $5 million. The Telegraph (UK) 12/09/01

TEXT=50 SECONDS, ART=4 SECONDS: The Washington Post's Blake Gopnik conducts a little research and observes that visitors to a gallery spend far more time reading the explanatory texts on the walls than they do looking at the art. "People are understandably confused and threatened by the complexities of art. But when the devices used to help them overcome discomfort end up standing in for works on show, we have a major problem on our hands. Museums are supposed to be about experiencing visual art, but they're in danger of becoming nicely decorated reading rooms." Washington Post 12/09/01

DISNEY - AMERICA'S MOST FAMOUS ARCHITECT? "This may startle some, because we think of him as a cartoonist, filmmaker, TV host or theme park entrepreneur, not an architect. But that's the point. Blessedly free of an architectural training, he was brilliantly self-taught in the defining art form of the 20th century - the movies. And he brought that mastery of the cinema and the forces of popular mass entertainment to his architecture. At his 1955 masterwork, Disneyland in Anaheim, and later on a larger canvas at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., Disney created the template for any number of major developments and suburban centers ever since." San Jose Mercury News 12/09/01

APPLAUDING THE TEARDOWN: "The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's trustees' unanimous endorsement last week of Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas' plan to raze the museum's four main buildings and replace them with a huge structure on stilts topped by a billowing tent of a roof has been greeted with mostly amazed applause." Los Angeles Times 12/10/01

Sunday December 9

CREED WINS TURNER: Scottish artist Martin Creed has won this year's Turner Prize, presented Sunday night in London by Madonna. Creed's minimalist installation that consisted of an empty room with a light flashing on and off, had drawn the most controversy of this year's finalists. The Scotsman 12/10/01

  • WHY CARE ABOUT THE TURNER? Is there really any point to being interested in the Turner Prize? It's become so much more about the "idea" than anything visual. "There are still plenty of painters. There are still plenty of paintings which cannot be described because they are indescribably dreadful. And there are plenty of conceptual works which make a powerful visual impact. But when 'the idea' has become so dominant that it ousts the image from art, and when all the candidates selected for Britain’s premier prize represent one particular trend of thought, you do have to wonder why." And yet there is a bigger idea behind it all... The Times (UK) 12/08/01
  • THERE'LL ALWAYS BE A TURNER: People get in a huff about the controversial Turner Prize and decry the aesthetic that it pushes. But this is nothing new. "The Turner Prize is our modern-day equivalent" of the great historic salons and annual official art shows of the past "in that it creates a moment when art becomes fully public. The prize is sometimes talked about as if it had no historical precedents, but in fact it fits into a history of exhibitions - more common in the 19th century than the 20th - that gave contemporary art a high public profile. In Turner's Britain the Royal Academy show was just as popular and contentious as the prize that now bears his name." The Guardian (UK) 12/08/01

WHO'LL TAKE OVER THE NATIONAL? Now that the popular Neil MacGregor has moved from London's National Gallery to take the top job at the British Museum, jockeying for the National Gallery job is beginning. The flamboyant Timothy Clifford, director of the National Galleries of Scotland is at the head of the pack. "Other contenders include Charles Saumarez Smith, director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, and Christopher Brown, head of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The National Gallery’s trustees may also look for some American pizzazz to help update its commercial approach. The Tate Gallery and the V&A have recently had more success in attracting casual custom." The Scotsman 12/08/01

STAR SEARCH: Dallas wanted a star to design its new performing arts center. Instead it got two, and they're two of the hottest architects working today - Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas. The question is - can they work together in a city that's known for the generic modernism of its buildings? "Generic modernism is never more generic than it is in Dallas," says Koolhaas. "There is a way of building here that is so typical and so featureless that it creates an opening for something really interesting." Dallas Morning News 12/08/01

Friday December 7

TURNER FAVORITE: The Turner Prize will be announced by Madonna in a ceremony at the Tate on Sunday. Bookmakers have made installation artist Mike Nelson the favorite. His work contains "a plastic cactus, mirrors, doors and old tabloid newspapers with declarations of war, an array of army helmets and scrawled graffiti-like comments including 'failed Marxist' and 'this is crap'." BBC 12/06/01

BUT IT'S JUST NOT DONE... "The auction market has had its share of corruption and dishonesty in the past - the Sevso silver scandal, fakes galore, the selling of Nazi loot - but no one ever imagined in their most cynical dreams that the very pinnacles of the establishment, the chairmen of Sotheby's and Christie's, could take it upon themselves to filch millions of dollars from their wealthy customers." And yet they did... The Guardian (UK) 12/07/01

  • ADDING UP THE LOSSES: Sotheby's and Christie's have lost big-time. "Seldom has a scheme seemed to yield as little, in the end, for its participants as this one has. The $4 billion a year high-end auction business, controlled for centuries by the two companies, finds itself more cash- strapped than ever. Both companies have had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in legal settlements, lawyers' fees, and, in Sotheby's case, fines stemming from the collusion. They are also facing a shaky economy with a dwindling supply of multimillion- dollar art coming on the market, an upstart competitor with deep pockets poking at their duopoly, and reputations that might have been deeply damaged by the scandal and seamy revelations that emerged during Mr. Taubman's 16-day trial in Manhattan federal court." The New York Times 12/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

AFTER ELI'S ART: Eli Broad is "possibly the richest man in Los Angeles and one of California’s heavyweight power brokers. Broad has purchased more than a thousand works of art since 1972, either personally or through his eponymous foundation. Broad’s the largest single charitable donor in the U.S. after Bill Gates, and gave away some $137 million last year." Who will get his art when he's ready to give it away? He's being coy, and three museums across the country are hosting exhibitions from his collection. A tryout perhaps? New York Press 12/05/01

UNDER THE BIGTOP: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a jumble of rundown buildings. In reimagining what it might be, Rem Koolhaas, who won the competition for a new design this week, has "literally wiped away the past, obliterating almost all of the existing LACMA campus. It is a brazen move that transforms a muddled collection of undistinguished buildings into a cohesive architectural statement of piercing clarity. The entire complex is reconceived as a system of horizontal layers, with the exhibition spaces stacked above an open-air plaza and offices." The entire complex will be covered by "an organic, tent-like roof." Los Angeles Times 12/07/01

LOST CITY DISCOVERED OFF COAST OF CUBA: Canadian explorers have found a sunken lost city off the coast of Cuba. "The explorers said they believed the mysterious structures, discovered at the astounding depth of around 2,100 feet and laid out like an urban area, could have been built at least 6,000 years ago. That would be about 1,500 years earlier than the great Giza pyramids of Egypt." Discovery 12/06/01

Thursday December 6

PROPOSED CUTS TO SMITHSONIAN: The Bush administration is proposing big budget cuts for the Smithsonian, including transferring $35 million from the Smithsonian's research offices, stopping restoration of the Old Patent Office building and taking $20 million from the institution's budget to pay for security. "A congressional source familiar with the proposals said the OMB plan essentially cuts the Smithsonian's mission in half because its scientific research programs would be decimated. 'They could go down the tubes,' he said." Washington Post 12/06/01

EX-SOTHEBY'S CHIEF CONVICTED: Alfred Taubman was convicted in New York of price fixing in collusion with Christie's, Sotheby's main rival. "'Hey, the law's the law,' said Mike D'Angelo, a postal worker who served as foreman of the jury as he and fellow jurors discussed the case outside afterward." The New York Times 12/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

KOOLHAAS WILL DESIGN NEW LA COUNTY MUSEUM: "Choosing between a tear-down and a fixer-upper, leaders of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art took the leap Wednesday. They unanimously approved a proposal by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas to demolish most of the buildings at the Mid-Wilshire site and replace them with a vast structure that sits on columns and is topped by a tent-like roof. Board Chairman Walter L. Weisman said the actual cost of the building might run as high as $300 million." Los Angeles Times 12/06/01

THE REAL PROBLEM WITH THE BRITISH MUSEUM: "The British Museum's difficulties are not just the well-reported cock-ups - the debts, the confusion about the Portland stone that has dogged the otherwise successful Great Court. The museum's real problem is that it has no brain, just diverse limbs, flopping about. It doesn't seem to know who it is for, or why, and is run by scholars and marketing people, two groups that often seem to regard the general public as idiots. The Guardian (UK) 12/06/01

OUTLAWING TECHNOLOGY IN THE MUSEUM: Simon Thurley is director of the Museum of London and a young rising star. But he's banning technology that has become commonplace in museums. "He claims that the gadgetry so many museums have invested millions in during the past decade is 'nonsense... A lot of it is rubbish and doesn't work anyway. You press the buttons too hard and you break it'." The Guardian (UK) 12/06/01

Wednesday December 5

NEW GERMAN LAW FOILS STOLEN ART RECOVERY: A new German law applies a statute of limitations of 30 years on property claims. "Among the big implications is on artwork seized by the Nazis. "Among other implications for the art trade, this would make it impossible for works stolen by the Nazis to be returned to claimants, despite repeated declarations by German governments that they will do anything to achieve a just and fair solution in such cases. The German museums association issued a press release deploring the new law." The Art Newspaper 12/05/01

  • CUSTODY BATTLE: "Two museums in Eastern Europe want back a collection of Albrecht Durer drawings now owned by other museums around the world, including the Cleveland Museum of Art. But an official from the U.S. Department of State said Monday that the U.S. government acted properly after World War II when it returned the drawings, looted by the Nazis, to Prince George Lubomirski, who claimed to be the rightful owner. Lubomirski later sold the drawings to museums." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/05/01

REVIVING THE V&A: Of all the museums that are benefitting from England's recent scrapping of museum admission fees, London's Victoria & Albert museum may be experiencing the most dramatic turnaround. The V&A had been in something of a funk for the last few years, and was widely considered to be conservative to the point of stodginess. But a new director and a widely-praised expansion of the museum itself have sparked a dramatic turnaround. The New York Times 12/05/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LET'S GET REAL: When the National Gallery of Australia and a major bank announced a new $50,000 National Sculpture Prize, it was widely assumed that many of the entries would be abstract and conceptual. Surprise - most of the work is decidedly realist. The show "could have been designed as an argument for the resurgence of anatomical concerns in contemporary object-making, or at least as proof of sculpture's traditional obligation to represent things." Sydney Morning Herald 12/05/01

OBSCURA THEORY: David Hockney has proposed that "around 1430, centuries before anyone suspected it, artists began secretly using cameralike devices, including the lens, the concave mirror and the camera obscura, to help them make realistic-looking paintings." Last weekend, art historians and scientists gathered in New York to debate the theory. On average, the art historians weren't buying it.... The New York Times 12/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

WHO GETS THE AUSSIE MUSEUM DOLLAR? Is the National Gallery of Australia getting a disproportionate share of funding and power at the expense of the country's other museums? With many fewer visitors, the NGA gets much more money from the government. The Age (Melbourne) 12/05/01

Tuesday December 4

PRADO DIRECTOR QUITS: Fernando Checa has resigned as director of The Prado Museum, Spain's most visible and visited art museum. The resignation appears to be the culmination of a long-running feud with the president of the museum's oversight board. BBC 12/04/01

BERLIN MUSEUM REOPENS: Berlin's Old National Gallery has reopened after a £50 million renovation to "erase some of the scars of World War II and the communist era behind the Berlin Wall. The ornate, neoclassical building houses about 500 of the most important German paintings and sculptures of the 19th Century." BBC 12/04/01

DALLAS PAC GETS DESIGNERS: "A cool Brit known for technological lyricism and a Dutch iconoclast famed for pushing limits have been chosen to design the $250 million Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, the largest cultural project in the city's history. Sir Norman Foster's London firm will design the 2,400-seat opera house, the center's showpiece, while Rem Koolhaas will do the adjacent 800-seat theater. The announcement Monday concludes an 11-month search that involved several dozen firms from around the world." Dallas Morning News 12/04/01

WHITNEY CELEBRATES A DYING MOVEMENT: New media art has appeared to be on the downswing for the last year or so. Lack of public interest and outright critical hostility have driven the movement to the brink of irrelevance. But next year's Whitney Biennial is trumpeting what it calls "the largest representations ever" of new media art, and given the festival's wide sphere of influence, proponents are hoping for some fresh interest. Wired 12/04/01

SURE, THAT'LL CHEER 'EM UP: Collector Charles Saatchi wants to donate some of his art - carved up carcasses and headless animals - to London hospitals. "If the Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London can overcome its initial misgivings, the most spectacular and expensive Damien Hirst of all, Hymn, a 20ft anatomical model based on a children's toy, will soon grace its huge atrium. So far, however, the hospital's pioneering art programme has seemed a little squeamish about the statue's lurid single staring eye, and the fact that its innards are on open display." The Observer (UK) 12/03/01

MAKERS BEHIND THE ART: So you think artists actually make their own big-scale works? "A lot of people don't get it, because they still think that artists make their own work. They imagine that Damien Hirst is welding and grinding, when actually he's off on a four-day bender." Meet the man and his crew who fabricate some of the art world's most famous sculptures. London Evening Standard 12/03/01 '

SFMOMA STILL HEADLESS: "David Ross' abrupt departure from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has left the director's position at the high-profile local institution empty for more than three months now. But in an interview last week, SFMOMA chairwoman Elaine McKeon said the search for his successor proceeds at full speed." Still, the museum has had three directors in the last three years, and some wonder about the intraoffice politics. San Francisco Chronicle 12/04/01

Monday December 3

WHITNEY MAKES CUTS: New York's Whitney Museum has seen its attendance fall by more than 25 percent since September 11. So the museum is moving to cut $1 million from this year's budget. "The 70-year-old facility will trim 14 workers from its 210-person staff and cut back on its scheduled roster of 2002 exhibitions." Nando Times (AP) 12/01/01

PRIVATIZING A HERITAGE: Watching over the cultural and artistic riches of Italy is a massive job, and prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, Rome's answer to Rupert Murdoch, says the government just isn't up to the task anymore. Accordingly, Italy's 3,000 state-run museums will be at least partially turned over to private management in the near future, with the government maintaining only a cursory oversight role. The New York Times 12/03/01 (one-time registration required for access)

RISKY BUSINESS: Afghanistan's Taliban rulers made it one of their missions to wipe out as completely as possible the nation's considerable cultural heritage, including the deliberate destruction of hundreds of works of art from the country's museums. "But it has now become apparent that an Afghan businessman and art lover, Sabir Latifi, managed to save up to 50 of the condemned works" at grave risk to his own safety. BBC 12/03/01

HEY, IT'S WORKING! "Thousands of visitors have poured into Britain's top museums over the weekend after entrance fees were scrapped... The decision to introduce free entry follows tax changes in the last Budget - which allow free museums to reclaim VAT [tax revenue]." BBC 12/03/01

WORLD'S LARGEST ARTWORK: The same weekend an artist created the largest painting in the world, an Australian artist who "trained as a mining engineer has created the world's largest art work, a 4.3 million-square-metre figure of a smiling stockman furrowed into the Mundi Mundi Plains" in Australia. The Age (Melbourne) 12/03/01

  • Previously: WORLD'S LARGEST PAINTING: "Eric Waugh has been working for five years on Hero, a painting that will stand twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty when all the canvas is pieced together. The massive work is to be unveiled on Saturday – World AIDS Day – on the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art. After the one-time exhibition, the 41,400-square-foot painting will be cut into 1-square-foot pieces and sold on the Web site, a sponsor of the work. Waugh hopes to raise $4 million." Washington Post (AP) 11/30/01

RUNNING OUT OF ART: Even though London's auction houses hailed last week's sales as including "important English art," there wasn't much important up for bid. "With so many pictures in museums, supplies of great British art are gradually drying up." The Telegraph (UK) 12/03/01

Sunday December 2

WORLD'S LARGEST PAINTING: "Eric Waugh has been working for five years on Hero, a painting that will stand twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty when all the canvas is pieced together. The massive work is to be unveiled on Saturday – World AIDS Day – on the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art. After the one-time exhibition, the 41,400-square-foot painting will be cut into 1-square-foot pieces and sold on the Web site, a sponsor of the work. Waugh hopes to raise $4 million." Washington Post (AP) 11/30/01

  • PAINTING ASSEMBLED: "With the Guinness official watching to make sure every panel was put in place, a pre-arranged bit of theater began. The volunteers came up one panel short. Waugh threw up his hands. Had he left the final canvas in his studio? What now? As a baffled crowd looked on, a Fargo truck, with sirens blaring, made its way onto the ground. Three armed guards unloaded the final panel, put in place by Waugh and his sons." Raleigh News & Observer 12/02/01

PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD IN PERIL: Some 50,000 glass-plate photographic negatives made in the 19th and early 20 centuries sit in storage deteriorating in storage in Beijing's Forbidden City. "We are afraid to open the boxes because we don't have the conditions to protect the negatives. But the longer we wait, the greater the danger that the gelatin will not hold and the photos will be destroyed forever." International Herald Tribune 12/01/01

THE UNDERGROUND MUSEUM: "Awarded the 2004 Summer Olympics, Athens quickly bored two subway lines through the heart of the city. With the ancient city sometimes no more than a paving slab away, workers overturned 65,000 square metres of ground and uncovered a wealth of glorious things. Thankfully, most artifacts survived and have now taken their place in the most mobile of museums - the subway." National Post (Canada) 12/01/01

ON THE TRAIL OF A HOLBEIN: A writer's attempt to find out everything he could about a Holbein painting hanging in London's National Gallery leads to a complicated story involving a mysterious donor and a forgotten last novel by Henry James. The Guardian (UK) 12/01/01

MINIMAL FUSS: The problem with Minimalism is there's just too little to it. "Prejudice puts minimalism close to the top of the pretentiousness charts: a philosophy that passes off next to nothing as if it was something, a creed that sells new clothes to emperors. But like all art, minimalism should be seen in its historical place - that it was a reaction to, and an advance on, what had gone before." The Guardian (UK) 12/02/01