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LEBRECHT LEAVES TELEGRAPH: The London Telegraph's contrarian arts columnist Norman Lebrecht is quitting the paper to jump to the Evening Standard where he's charged with making over that paper's cultural coverage. Lebrecht has written many doom and gloom stories about the state of arts business in his nine years at the Telegraph. But he says no one should think him pessimistic about art: "I have never felt more excited about the artistic future - at least for those arts that can open their eyes and master change while time remains." The Telegraph (UK) 03/06/02


DOES ART STILL MATTER AFTER? "In 1937, it took a couple of days for Picasso to hear the news of Guernica; today, he would have watched it unfolding live on television. This immediacy and its accompanying glut of images and information is itself a challenge to artists. One difficulty in making art about Sept. 11 is that it is hard to create anything that rivals in magnitude the live images that so much of the world spent days obsessively watching on television. In the face of this new reality, the demand that art respond literally, directly and rapidly to crisis contains an underlying note of panic: an urge to demonstrate to a broader public, through a definitive statement on something of great social moment, that art is indeed necessary, that art can still make a difference, despite a growing fear that it is not and cannot." The New York Times 03/03/02 


RESPONDING TO TERRORISM: Why haven't artists responded with more eloquence after last week's terrorism? "What we sorely needed was to hear from a composer, a poet, an artist who could, in an instant, release pent-up sentiments and illuminate the stricken landscape. Art, however, has lost the facility for rapid reaction or even considered response. What Picasso achieved in Guernica and Brecht in Mother Courage is no longer acceptable, or perhaps available, to painters and playwrights of the postmodern age." The Telegraph (UK) 09/19/01




FROM: Anne Midgette, The New York Times

To the Editors:

In his final column [in the London Telegraph] of March 6, 2002, Norman Lebrecht wrote, "Only this Sunday, The New York Times devoted the front of its arts section to attacking my analysis of the role arts played - or significantly failed to play - in responding to the September 11 catastrophe. The Jurassic Times, a protectorate for cultural dinosaurs, has often been left gasping by the pace of progress signalled in this conservative British daily."

Seeing his name on the front page of the Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times was evidently so flattering to Mr. Lebrecht's vanity that he failed to take in the point of the article. I used Mr. Lebrecht as one example of a widely held view about art and its response to catastrophe, and then attempted to demonstrate why that view is so widely held, as well as why it ultimately, in my own opinion, is mistaken.

I certainly don't think Mr. Lebrecht's views on this subject are unique. Furthermore, I must not be the only person to have raised questions about his column of September 19, since when I searched it was not to be found in the archives of Mr. Lebrecht's weekly columns on the Telegraph's website [Editor's Note: the link to that column has changed - it can be found here].

Instead, there was a notable gap between September 12 (filed before the disaster) and September 26. However, it surprises me that in his self-inflating acknowledgement of the Times piece, Mr. Lebrecht resorted to the tactic used by chauvinists from time immemorial: denying individuality or identity to the woman who actually wrote it.

It is no doubt more appropriate to Mr. Lebrecht's sense of his own place in the world to perceive himself as a subject of attack by the entire New York Times than it would be to engage in any kind of critical dialogue with some upstart woman.

And indeed, I am flattered to be mistaken for the "Jurassic Times," or for a "cultural dinosaur," although I suspect it's not a mistake Mr. Lebrecht would make were we to meet face to face.

But it's worthy of note that I had to alter the piece significantly at the eleventh hour because one of the responsible editors at the New York Times had no idea who Mr. Lebrecht is. Perhaps Mr. Lebrecht should thank me for bringing him to the Times's attention.