Potter-mania, the opening of the Tate Modern in London, and
charges of collusion against the world’s major auction houses
are among the top arts stories of 2000.
leaning Tower of Pisa was stabilized. A newly-displayed dinosaur
helped make for record museum attendance in Chicago. And anniversary
celebrations for JS Bach (250th of his death),
Oscar Wilde (100th of his death), Aaron Copland
(100th of his birth), and conductor Pierre Boulez
(his 75th birthday) kept concert halls and theatres
scored a record year at the box office – though the much-anticipated
“Seussical” and Kelsey Grammer (as Hamlet) flopped, while
Elton John’s “Aida” and “The Full Monty” did not. “Cats” and
“Miss Saigon” announced they were closing on Broadway, signaling
the end of the mega-musical era.
London, Andrew Lloyd Webber turned from writing musicals to
owning theatres, producer Cameron Mackintosh called it quits,
and the West End was besotted by Hollywood movie stars - particularly
if they took their clothes off.
of venerable Carnegie Hall was in turmoil with mass resignations
(including, finally, the director), and movie theatre chains
almost went out of business in a hangover induced by overbuilding
and a lackluster year for quality movies.
New York Philharmonic spent the year looking for a new music
director, as did the Boston Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra.
Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center both got new top executives,
as did the Atlanta Symphony and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Australian Ballet contributed its artistic director to London's
Royal Ballet, and after a massive search at the end of a very
bad few years, the Royal Opera House hired a BBCer to run
lost a ballet company while San Jose gained one. The Scottish
Opera teetered on bankruptcy, but still managed to produce
extravagant productions. The perpetually-ill Barnes Collection
declared another financial emergency and won some bail-out
money from the Getty and Pew foundations. And new operas based
on literary works were hot with audiences in New York, Chicago
and Los Angeles.
Atwood won the Booker Prize, Susan Sontag the National Book
Award, and Gao Xingjian the Nobel Prize for Literature. Photographer
Wolfgang Tillmans took the Turner Prize in a remarkably controversy-free
year and architect Rem Koolhaas won the Pritzker.
at the Museum of Modern Art and members of the Screen Actors
Guild went on strike, as did musicians of the Toronto Symphony,
which then lost both lost its music and executive directors.
The new management will have to deal with a crippling deficit.
Guggenheim continued its march to global domination with eye-popping
plans for New York, Venice and Las Vegas (Rio to follow?).
found Giotto's bones under the Duomo in Florence, then decided
they weren't but reburied them there anyway. In Egypt they
discovered another pyramid and found a message Cleopatra supposedly
wrote. A new ancient city was found submerged in the Mediterranean,
and another was saved from floods in Turkey.
got tired of waiting for Britain to return the Parthenon Marbles
and opened a new subway filled with archeological treasures.
cultural elite squabbled about money to support its arts institutions,
Australia's arts groups got another $70 million from the government,
and China had fits about having a Frenchman design a new opera
house in the middle of Beijing.
South Africa the arts seemed to fall apart at the seams; government
funding and corporate support melted away and some of the
country's most prominent orchestras and dance companies went
out of business.
usual none of America's national politicians seemed to care
much about the arts one way or another, though the presidential
ticket of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman found it convenient to
attack Hollywood for violent films. Still, the National Endowment
for the Arts got a $7 million increase after years of battling
Congress, and philanthropy for the arts in the US was up a
whopping 47 percent.
The Top Ten Arts Stories of 2000, as
chosen by the editors of ArtsJournal.com:
Stolen by the Nazis:
This was the year the art world got serious about tracking
down art that had been stolen by the Nazis in World War
II. In February, British museums made public a list of 350
artworks in English museums whose whereabouts during the
war couldn’t be accounted for.
By March major US museums had posted their own lists
to the internet. But despite the burst of attention, only
a few artworks were reunited with heirs of the original
owners, and by October representatives from 37 countries met to urge their
governments to do more to help repatriate stolen art.
Auction House Scandals:
The art markets surged this year with strong sales and record
prices for Picasso and Rembrandt. But Sotheby’s and Christie’s,
the world’s two major auction houses, spent much of the
year embroiled in government investigations into charges
Top officials at Sotheby’s resigned as hundreds of
lawsuits were filed by angry customers. By late in the year
the two auction houses had agreed to a $512 million settlement.
Lest anyone think the case was over though, the companies
proposed to pay $100 million of the claims with coupons
for future purchases.
City of Arts:
London, helped by a huge infusion of cash from the National
lottery, spent the year opening new arts buildings. The
crown jewel is the new Tate Modern, which was a huge hit,
recording a million visitors in the first six weeks after
it opened. On the other side of the ledger was the hapless
Millennium Dome, which cost £1 billion and which
critics derided and the public refused to visit. With an
unmitigated disaster on its hands, the Tony Blair government
held a fire sale to bail out of it.
Music and the Internet:
A year-and-a-half ago, Napster, the nifty software program
that lets music lovers trade and download music through
the internet hadn’t yet been invented. By October, the
company was registering as many as a million users at a
time. The recording industry freaked out and sued Napster
and MP3.com, the music file sharing service.
Musicians claimed downloaders were stealing their
work, recording companies claimed copyright protection,
and sales of recordings? Well, online sales were meager,
but sales rose in traditional stores. All of which made
some observers wonder if digital downloading hadn’t just
made the market bigger. By the end of the year MP3.com had
made deals with major record labels, and free music was
on the endangered species list.
Plunder and Destruction: Art
conservers sounded the alarm about destruction of some of
the world’s most important cultural heritage. A British
report estimated the value of the international art theft
trade at between $1.5-$3 billion a year. The trade
is so lucrative, brazen thieves have been hacking the heads
off 1,000-year-old statues at Angkor Watt, and cultural
sites from China to Guatemala are being plundered and sold
on the black market. On the conservation front, officials
warned that Venice’s art treasures are being destroyed by
acid rain and proposed replacing some of them with copies.
And China’s 2,200-year-old terracotta army is being eaten
Graham Company Shuts Down:
One of the 20th Century’s great modern dance
companies closed down in May, citing serious debt. But the
Graham’s demise also centered around disputes between the
company’s board and the Graham heir who owns the rights
to the dance pioneer’s choreography. Ongoing attempts to
get the company running again failed and by the fall questions
were being raised about who really owned Graham’s choreography.
Potter Rules: The
latest installment of the Harry Potter series was a bestseller
on Amazon weeks before the book was even shipped. Bookstores
opened at midnight on the date of publication and held Potter
parties to celebrate. Potter-mania even spread to China,
where anxious parents scoured stores in search of copies.
And author JK Rowling collected an honor from the Queen
and became Britain’s highest-paid woman, earning £20.5
The publishing industry spent the year gnashing its teeth
over the promise/threat of electronic publishing. The first
e-books started showing up in stores, and everyone seems
to agree e-publishing is the road to the future. In the
meantime publishers worry about becoming road kill. In March,
Stephen King, a book industry unto himself, published a
novella online and so many thousands of fans downloaded
it that the computers were overwhelmed. King’s later attempt
to serialize a novel online sputtered when not enough readers
paid the $1-a-chapter King was asking.
Down Year for Hollywood: Critics
complained of a lack of good films, and for much of the
year good art films failed to find audiences. Democratic
presidential candidate Al Gore raised millions in campaign
contributions from the entertainment industry, then attacked
the movie and TV makers for their violent fare. Civil rights
groups attacked producers for their lack of minority hiring.
A prolonged strike by the Screen Actors Guild was a distraction
and the threat of a writers’ strike next year made producers
wary. The number of productions fleeing California for production
in Canada turned into a flood. And movie theatre chains,
having overbuilt and facing costly digital conversion found
themselves awash in red ink.
on Parade: Fiberglass
cows on Broadway, moose in Toronto, pigs in Cincinnati –
the streets of dozens of American cities were littered with
art animals last summer after the success of Chicago’s art
cows in 1999. Critics derided the critters as schlock but
the public loved them. The populist wave hit museums too.
In New York, the Guggenheim mounted a show of Armani clothes.
In Las Vegas, Steve Wynn’s gallery at the Bellagio Hotel
proved so popular that Washington’ Phillips Collection,
the Guggenheim and Russia’s Hermitage all rushed in to secure
outlets for their art when Wynn sold the gallery. Everywhere
in the art world critics were talking about the merging
of art, commerce and popular taste.