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Sunday, July 31

UK Considers Law To make Returning Nazi-Looted Art Easier The British parliament is considering a bill that would make the return of Nazi-looted art easier. "The country's Department for Culture, Media and Sport has begun consultations on the proposed bill, which would be limited to items taken between 1933 and 1945. The legislation was inspired by a situation at the British Museum, which had wanted to return four Old Master drawings to the family of Czech lawyer Arthur Feldman. The museum is stopped from doing so by the British Museum Act, which prevents it from dispersing anything in its collection." CBC 07/31/05

Prague Biennale Times Two Organizers of the 2003 Prague Biennale had a fight. Now there are two Prague Biennales... The Art Newspaper 07/29/05

Calatrava's Chicago Spire - Evolution Of The Tall Building "Last Wednesday's unveiling of the dazzling, but still-evolving 115-story hotel and condo tower marked a major milestone in an ongoing revolution: The skyscraper and the tall office building no longer are synonymous. For more than a century, they were. But as Calatrava's design reveals, life and cities have changed and the skyscraper is free to adapt to those changes in stunning new ways. Though far from faultless, it is one of the freshest and most captivating skyscraper designs Chicago has seen in decades, fully taking advantage of the possibilities offered by the fact that it would be a place to live rather than work." Chicago Tribune 07/31/05

Naked Offer: Museum Offers Free Admission Austria's Leopold Museum made an offer to art lovers Saturday: Show up naked and you get in free. "Scores of naked or scantily clad people wandered the museum, lured by an offer of free entry to The Naked Truth, an exhibition of early 1900s erotic art, if they showed up wearing just a swimsuit - or nothing at all. With a midsummer heatwave sweeping Vienna, the normally reserved museum decided to make the most of its cool, climate-controlled space." The Guardian (UK) 07/31/05

Chinese Art Boom Fallows The Economics China's rising prosperity has led to a boom in the market for Chinese art. "The boom has several causes. It is a product of an economy that has grown at more than 8% a year for two decades and also reflects a change in China as it rediscovers a passion for art. But with prices rising and hidden works becoming available, there are fears that a free market in art might be detrimental to China's heritage." The Guardian (UK) 07/30/05

Audio Guides With Some Hollywood Spin Museum audio guides are getting more and more sophisticated. "Changing expectations on the part of gallery-goers primed by a media-saturated society are prompting museums to demand Hollywood-style production values coupled with star power. If you can watch a movie on your phone and tote your entire music library in an iPod, why should your audio guide be any less entertaining?" Los Angeles Times 07/31/05

Forging A New Frick New York's "Frick Collection has had difficulty breaking even in recent years - for the coming fiscal year, it projects a deficit of $400,000 - and Anne Poulet has been given the task of shaking up the place. Since her arrival in 2003, the museum has adopted the status of public charity; commissioned a major architectural study for an expansion and refurbishment; acquired three new board members; and reorganized its approach to fund-raising. She wants to make more acquisitions in sculpture and the decorative arts, areas in which she believes the museum has unheralded strengths and the market still offers good value. And she would like to set up a major study center for the history of private collecting in the United States at the Frick Art Reference Library. The library, also in the mansion, is considered one of the best, and most underexploited, resources of its kind." The New York Times 07/31/05

Friday, July 29

Bilbao Scores Again With Serra Richard Serra's new installation for Guggenheim Bilbao "is the 65-year-old American’s most ambitious project to date and one of the most extravagant single-artist sculptural installations in modern history. The Basque government agency that partnered with the Guggenheim to create the museum has again put its faith in the vision of Guggenheim director Thomas Krens, providing E15 million for the material and fabrication of seven new works. The ambitious project is intended to revitalise the eight-year-old museum that transformed the post-industrial port into a cultural destination through an act of museum-as-development now referred to as 'the Bilbao effect'." The Art Newspaper 07/29/05

Is Calatrava's Chicago Spire A Pyramid Scheme? "For those of us who have long advocated that forward-looking, inventive architecture and planning form the basis for good development, that they provide enhanced value and longevity, the selection of a design genius like Calatrava for an iconic project such as Fordham Spire should represent the fulfillment of a cherished ideal. Instead, it signals that developers now believe that today's best-known architects not only sell condos, they sell financing. Developers are beginning to wave their architects around like letters of credit to get bankers on board, or like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to tame community boards and critics. Such newfound zeal for design can and should be a good thing, and we should applaud it. Unless it's a pyramid scheme – and this slender, twisting triangle is a physical expression of such." The Slatin Report 07/27/05

Thursday, July 28

Study: Dali = Big Bucks For Philly "The Philadelphia Museum of Art's Salvador Dalí exhibit generated $55 million in economic activity in the Philadelphia region, created 830 equivalent full-time jobs, and added more than $4.46 million in increased tax revenue, according to a report." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/28/05

Ex-Newfoundland Gallery Director Speaks Out Why did the director/founder of Newfoundland's provincial art gallery suddenly resign? "Gordon Laurin said he had objected to a proposed restructuring of gallery staff and management, including cutting staff by 40 per cent, to eight employees. This move would eliminate several key positions, leaving only two curators, two administrative assistants, and those who look after the collections. It would also see some staff, such as technical or outreach workers, reporting to different provincial departments including financing and marketing, diluting the gallery's in-house ability to handle such processes as exhibit loans, or artist-in-residence programs, he said." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/28/05

The Race Is On To Be Tallest Will Chicago build America's tallest building? There are plans, of course. Worldwide, the competition for "tallest building" continues. "There are real bragging rights to being the tallest that go back 3,000 years. Exceeding or exalting for spiritual reasons or a demonstration of power dates back from Babylon on - wanting to take a place in history, reserve a place in the timeline. Height is a fixation." The New York Times 07/28/05

Christo Goes After Colorado Christo and Jeanne Claude are pressing forward with their plans to cover part of a Colorado river with fabric. "State, local and federal governments permitting, "Over the River" would occur over two midsummer weeks in 2008, at the earliest, the husband-and-wife team said. Their display, whose seven increments would range from a half mile to 2 1/2 miles long, is designed to be observed from above by motorists on U.S. 50 and from below by hikers and rafters, they said. The fabric is designed to reflect the sky for those watching from above and to diffuse the light when seen from below." Denver Post 07/28/05

Tate Rejects Stuckists The Tate Museum has turned down a proposed gift of 160 paintings offered by a group of artists known as the Stuckists. Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota wrote to the Stuckists, who offered the gift: "We do not feel that the work is of sufficient quality in terms of accomplishment, innovation or originality of thought to warrant preservation in perpetuity in the national collection." The Times (UK) 07/28/05

Wednesday, July 27

Louvre Gets $20 Million For Islamic Wing A member of the Saudi royal family has donated $20 million to the Louvre, with the money earmarked for the construction of a new wing to house the French museum's collection of Islamic art. The gift is the largest ever received by the Louvre. "The design for the new wing, unveiled at the ceremony, would involve covering much of the Louvre's Cour Visconti, a neo-Classical courtyard, with a contemporary sail-like roof made up of small glass disks. Officials put the total cost of the wing, by the architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti, at $67 million and predicted it would open in 2009." The New York Times 07/28/05

Stirling Shortlist Announced Six finalists have been announced for the "£20,000 Stirling prize, awarded for the building that 'has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year'." The new Scottish Parliament made the list, as did the Jubilee library in Brighton. The oddsmakers are already cranking, of course, but predicting the Stirling winner has historically been quite difficult. The award will be announced on October 15. The Guardian (UK) 07/28/05

Stonehenge 'Improvement' Plans Slapped Down British plans to reroute traffic around Stonehenge and to erect a visitors' center near the site have been crushed by a local council. Local residents had opposed the plans from the beginning, as had a vocal contingent of Britons with long memories of the last disastrous time the government tried such a scheme. The Guardian (UK) 07/28/05

Good News/Bad News At MIA "The Minneapolis Institute of Arts balanced its $21 million annual budget and raised attendance but saw its membership fall more than 8 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The year was a difficult one in which the museum continued a $50 million expansion designed by architect Michael Graves even as it lost longtime director Evan Maurer, whose resignation for health reasons became effective in February. Maurer, who had been incapacitated much of the previous year, began a leave of absence in September that culminated in his departure after 16 years at the museum's helm." Minneapolis Star Tribune 07/27/05

  • Previously: Griswold To Minneapolis The acting director and chief curator at L.A.'s J. Paul Getty Museum, who took his name out of the running for that museum's permanent directorship three months ago, has been snapped up by the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. William Griswold will take over as president and director of the MIA this fall. "The Minneapolis job is considered to be a plum because the museum, although smaller and less well-endowed than its counterparts in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, has an enviable collection of paintings, drawings and decorative arts that are often sought for loan exhibitions around the world." Minneapolis Star Tribune 07/21/05

The Accidental Blockbuster "'Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre,' the new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, is showing signs of turning into an unexpected blockbuster. About 20,000 people saw the show in the eight days after it opened on July 16... Ticket sales leveled off in the second week, but by the end of the week, about 27,600 people had seen 'Toulouse-Lautrec'... Box office is so boffo that Art Institute officials are entertaining the possibility that [the show] could substantially exceed its projected attendance of 250,000." Chicago Sun-Times 07/27/05

Tuesday, July 26

The Penguin Smell Really Should Have Been A Giveaway American artist Wayne Hill thought he was making a fairly plain and obvious statement when he returned from a trip to the Antarctic with two bottles of water melted from the ice shelf, and arranged to exhibit them as a comment on global warming. As it turns out, the work was a bit too subtle for one thirsty visitor, who apparently chugged the lot. The Guardian (UK) 07/27/05

Adelaide To Get All Giga-Faceted The 2006 edition of the Adelaide Festival will aim to heal the wounds left by the much-maligned 2002 version overseen by Peter Sellars, and the latest thinking appears to be that a merger of art and technology is the best way for the festival to move forward. "It is minimalist, futuristic and, to use one of [festival] director Brett Sheehy's buzz phrases, 'reflective of the giga-faceted world in which we live'." The Age (Melbourne) 07/27/05

Australia Losing Two Important Aboriginal Works "Two important paintings by the famed Aboriginal artist Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri that sold at a Sotheby's auction on Monday have gone to overseas collectors. It is believed the National Gallery of Australia had hoped to buy Emu Corroboree Man as it was the first painting Clifford Possum produced. The gallery appears to have lost out when furious bidding pushed the price to a record for the artist. Melbourne art dealer Irene Sutton bought the small work for $411,750, which she said was on behalf of an American collector... As it was brought back from the US for the sale, it is not covered by Australia's Moveable Cultural Heritage Act, which restricts the removal of early Aboriginal works from Australia. The second Clifford Possum, a wall-sized painting titled Man's Love Story, was bought by a French collector also for $411,750. It also falls outside the heritage act." The Age (Melbourne) 07/27/05

Atlanta Art Schools To Merge The Atlanta College of Art has announced a plan which would remove it from the city's umbrella organization, the Woodruff Arts Center, and would see it join forces with the new Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of art and Design. SCAD "now has more than 7,000 students enrolled in classes at its flagship Savannah campus. About 150 students have signed up for fall classes at the Atlanta location, and SCAD projects that 600 students will be enrolled by 2008. About 350 students attend the Atlanta College of Art, which calls itself the oldest private college of art and design in the Southeast." News of the proposed merger came as a shock to faculty at both schools, and there are issues of accredidation to be considered, as well. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 07/27/05

Monday, July 25

Fordham Spire Design Unveiled In Chicago Plans for Chicago's latest insanely tall building will be officially introduced this week, and will check in at 115 stories topped by a 542-foot spire which would make the skyscraper the tallest building in the U.S. The tower's design, by the Spanish-born architect Santiago Calatrava, is winning raves from Chicago pols and business types, but of course, there are the omnipresent security concerns... The New York Times 07/26/05

Now Under Construction: The New London Towering skyscrapers and 80-story skylines have so far largely eluded Europe's major cities, but that is starting to change, with London the latest metropolis to consider the addition of massive new superstructures. In fact, London currently has 31 major new developments underway, £100 billion worth of construction waiting to happen, and they will likely change the face of one of the world's most venerated cities. The Guardian (UK) 07/25/05

Two Companies, One Huge Frickin' Photo Archive (And It's Free!) "Two of America's major photographic houses have launched a joint venture to provide one of the largest freely available archives of pictures on the internet. The collaboration between New York's International Centre of Photography and George Eastman House is expected to include at least 200,000 images by the time it is fully set up next year. They want to add thousands more to this number when rights agreements have been reached with individual photographers or their estates." The Guardian (UK) 07/25/05

Basic Fairness Or Restraint Of Trade? The UK is about to become party to "a new law by which a living artists or their heirs for 70 years after their death will receive a cut of about 3 per cent whenever a piece is sold. Some commentators argue that this gives poor artists a slice of future success. Others believe it threatens to cripple the market. The law is causing conflict throughout Europe, especially in Britain, where the Patent Office is currently deciding how to implement it. The levy, called 'droit de suite' or 'artist's resale right', was initiated in 1920s France to help impoverished artists and their heirs. In 2006 it is due to be introduced across the European Union in order to stop vendors from avoiding the levy by moving sales away from France, Germany and four other European countries in which the law now applies." Financial Times (UK) 07/25/05

Art & Animals In Oz "Now in its third year, the South Australian Museum's Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize has become one of the nation's prestige art competitions. A record 609 entries were received for the 2005 event, with 109 short-listed for the final judging next week." The competition also has to be one of the world's most specific art contests, intended to "promote and recognise excellence in art that depicts natural history or wildlife... a noticeable number of artists have also brought topical global issues, such as climate change and sustainability, into their work. However, under the rules of the competition, no man-made elements or settings are allowed to be depicted." Adelaide Advertiser (Australia) 07/25/05

Belgium To Open Magritte Museum "A new museum dedicated to Belgian surrealist master Rene Magritte is to open in Brussels after organizers secured French funding, a report said. The museum, expected to open in early 2007, will present some 150 works by the painter famous for eye-catching pictures often involving startling, dream-like juxtapositions." The Globe & Mail (Agence France-Presse) 07/25/05

Public To Choose UK's Greatest Painting "BBC Radio 4's Today programme has joined forces with London's National Gallery for a new poll which aims to find the greatest painting in Britain. The survey, believed to be the first of its kind, will allow members of the public to nominate and comment on their favourite works of art. Any painting currently hanging in a British art gallery is eligible, regardless of its origins." BBC 07/25/05

Sunday, July 24

You Get Part Of The Painting This Year, Part Next year... Since the American federal tax law changed in 1969, arts institutions can benefit enormously from fractional giving. "And donors like it because they can spread their tax write-offs over a longer period of time while also continuing to enjoy the artwork. The museum and donor sign an agreement called a deed of gift." The donor reaps write-offs while gradually giving small percentages of paintings and other art objects to a museum, which eventually takes ownership of the artwork." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/24/05

Jesus Got A New Halo. Who's The Guilty Party? "Over the course of nearly 150 years, two enigmatic paintings at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church have been treated as anything but masterpieces. They've been stashed away in closets, ripped, faded and - perhaps worst of all - touched up at the hands of a well-meaning, but ill-advised, artist. That apparent artistic license has been particularly puzzling to current church officials and a German conservator as they worked to restore the paintings, ignored for years but now believed to be the work of 19th-century Italian master Constantino Brumidi. Who would have painted a completely different halo over Jesus' head, or given him a full new beard?" Baltimore Sun 07/23/05

Gallery Director Fired After 'Daily Show' Chat "An art gallery director says she was fired for talking on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last week about a sexually explicit caricature of President Bush, a sheik and a barrel of oil." The Florida gallery says the two events were unrelated. Baltimore Sun (AP) 07/23/05

Native Americans In Venice: Progress Or Tokenism? "The Venice Biennale is the world's oldest and most important survey of contemporary art. When artists have been chosen for the Biennale, you know they've truly arrived. This year, two native North Americans had prominent spots in the exhibition. Does this mean that native art in general has reached a new level of art-world recognition? Or is it a fluke, or even the kind of tokenism that could disappear again?" Washington Post 07/24/05

Beneath The Radar, Collecting Inexpensively At San Francisco's Lost Art, the experience of buying art is deliberately "anti-gallery": unintimidating and -- gasp -- affordable. "There are no pristine white walls or fancy track lighting. Instead, framed paintings by unknown artists and others on the cusp of stardom occupy nearly every inch of available wall space in the cozy salon, which is dolled up with midcentury furnishings to feel more like some cool bohemian aunt's living room than a place of business."

San Francisco Chronicle 07/24/05

LACMA Keeps Eyes Peeled For Ice Age "Much of the public discussion surrounding an upcoming expansion of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's mid-Wilshire campus has been about money. So far, not much has been said about fossils. In March, the museum announced it had raised $156 million, enough for a first phase of construction — a turning point for LACMA, which had to abandon an earlier, more sweeping plan as too expensive. But now, as the campus readies for new construction, the issue is pre-history: The 23-acre Hancock Park property, which includes LACMA and the county-owned Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits, contains one of the richest Ice Age fossil sites in North America." Los Angeles Times 07/24/05

Expanded Huntington Feels Newly Vibrant Yet Familiar Things are both changing and staying (mostly) the same at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, where several new spaces are transforming visitors' experience of the institution. "I am extremely keen that people shouldn't think the Huntington has only two paintings, (Lawrence's) 'Pinkie' and (Gainsborough's) 'The Blue Boy,'" said John Murdoch, director of art collections at the Huntington. "There is a terrible danger if you've got world-famous paintings that people will say, 'I've seen that. I don't need to go there again.'" Los Angeles Times 07/24/05

Quick! Which Font Is This? Those who see design subtleties where the rest of us see only letters and numbers headed to New York this week to luxuriate in the company of their own kind. "These pilgrims were among about 500 people, some from as far away as Brazil and Finland, who have converged on the city for TypeCon, a yearly gathering of typographers, printers, designers, calligraphers and assorted, self-described font freaks and type nerds who can argue about kerning into the wee hours." The New York Times 07/23/05

Friday, July 22

Transition of Power Replacing a legend is no easy task, but as William Griswold prepares to take over the small but prestigious Minneapolis Institute of Arts from longtime director Evan Maurer, he will face immediate questions about how he plans to build on Maurer's considerably legacy. "Griswold will inherit many of Maurer's ambitions, the most significant of which is a current $100 million capital and endowment campaign. The physical centerpiece of that campaign is a 117,000-square-foot addition scheduled to open next spring that will add 40 percent more gallery space and upgrade the existing museum building. The expansion wasn't Griswold's idea. But figuring out how best to make the expanded facility work will be his job." St. Paul Pioneer Press 07/22/05

  • Previously: Griswold To Minneapolis The acting director and chief curator at L.A.'s J. Paul Getty Museum, who took his name out of the running for that museum's permanent directorship three months ago, has been snapped up by the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. William Griswold will take over as president and director of the MIA this fall. "The Minneapolis job is considered to be a plum because the museum, although smaller and less well-endowed than its counterparts in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, has an enviable collection of paintings, drawings and decorative arts that are often sought for loan exhibitions around the world." Minneapolis Star Tribune 07/21/05

The Gehrification Of Everything "We've entered an era in which ambitious developers are not just open to the notion of working with architecture's boldest talents but, in certain high-profile cases, are desperate to avoid working without them. So-called 'starchitects' have become too valuable now, as urban alchemists and as marketing vehicles, for developers to ignore." It's merely an extension of the overpowering star quality architects like Frank Gehry have brought to bear on the world of urban planning, but the embrace of the starchitects' often-unusual visions by the general public has served to change the entire face of building design in the U.S. Los Angeles Times 07/22/05

Thursday, July 21

Fixing Up The Met, One Agonizing Detail At A Time New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is winding up four years of renovation with a painstaking restoration of its intricate four-block-long facade. "Section by section, architects, engineers and craftsmen have been slowly and carefully repointing portions of the stone facade, cleaning and filling in cracks and repairing water damage." The New York Times 07/22/05

Another Preservation Dustup London's Commonwealth Institute, one of the UK's leading buildings, has been placed on a protected list of historic structures by the country's culture secretary, over the protests of the Institute's trustees, who wanted to sell the building to raise money for education programs. "The pre-stressed concrete building in Holland Park, west London, was designed by the British architect Sir Robert Matthew, and was given a Grade II listing by English Heritage within 30 years of being opened by the Queen in 1962." The Guardian (UK) 07/22/05

Chicago's Architectural Mainstay "In the vast pageant of Chicago architecture, Holabird & Root is in every scene. From the Beaux Arts to Art Deco, from the era of Louis Sullivan to that of Mies van der Rohe and beyond, Chicago's most venerable architecture firm has been continually onstage, often in a leading role -- rarely flashy but always rock-solid, durable and reliable... Although Holabird & Root was rarely an innovator (except in its pioneering use of materials such as steel skeletons and pre-cast concrete), it had a way of adapting to the prevailing styles of the day successfully enough to produce memorable, even iconic structures -- such as the original Soldier Field -- that defined Chicagoans' ideas of what civic architecture ought to look like." Chicago Sun-Times 07/21/05

Griswold To Minneapolis The acting director and chief curator at L.A.'s J. Paul Getty Museum, who took his name out of the running for that museum's permanent directorship three months ago, has been snapped up by the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. William Griswold will take over as president and director of the MIA this fall. "The Minneapolis job is considered to be a plum because the museum, although smaller and less well-endowed than its counterparts in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, has an enviable collection of paintings, drawings and decorative arts that are often sought for loan exhibitions around the world." Minneapolis Star Tribune 07/21/05

Wednesday, July 20

Flushing Bush - Protests Over Political Artwork Supporters of President George Bush are protesting the display of a painting on display in California's Department of Justice building in Sacramento depicting "a star-spangled map of United States being flushed down a toilet. The piece, titled "T'anks to Mr. Bush," is part of an exhibit sponsored by California Lawyers for the Arts. The California Arts Council presented the show in conjunction with the attorney general's office, and the paintings hang in the building's cafeteria." San Diego Union-Tibune (AP) 07/20/05

Gehry And Piano In A New York Makeover "Frank Gehry and his one-time competitor Renzo Piano are not the house architects of New York City. That distinction belongs to Skidmore Owings and Merrill, the lofty developer to Manhattan’s biggest guns in business and real estate. But the new New York that is taking shape—with its ambitious towers, its cities within a city like the far West Side, Ground Zero and the Atlantic Yards—belongs to these two. So far, the two émigrés seem to be splitting the pie like a couple of New York old-timers." New York Observer 07/20/05

The Smithsonian's Falling Down? The Smithsonian's 18 museums, 10 science centres and zoos, and other facilities are in bad disrepair, and many of have suffered “structural deterioration” and “chronic leaks” so severe that they have limited access to their collections. "Naturally, it all comes down to money. The Smithsonian spent $184.4 million for its facilities in fiscal year 2004, nearly 20% of its annual operating budget of $904 million which comes from federal appropriations and endowment revenues. But the Smithsonian estimates it needs $2.3 billion for revitalisation, construction, and maintenance of its buildings between 2005 and 2013." The Art Newspaper 07/15/05

Tuesday, July 19

Newfoundland Gallery Director Firing Roils Community Newfoundland's arts community has been shocked by the sudden dismissal of Gordon Laurin as director of the provincial art gallery just two weeks after the gallery officially opened the doors of its new home. "Speculation is rampant that Laurin's departure is linked to disagreements over what art the new gallery should show. Said one observer of the local scene: "One of the problems the art gallery has had in general is a lack of understanding by the government and others about the nature of contemporary art spaces, which are by definition vibrant, vocal, ever-changing places." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/19/05

Italy's Plan To Protect Art From Terrorists Italy has announced heightened plans to protect cultural sites from terrorist attack. "Measures will include placing metal detectors in museums, a complete ban on backpacks and bags, the cordoning-off of areas adjacent to monuments, and monitoring of queues. Florence, Venice, Rome and Palermo, as well as Assisi and Pompei are likely to top of the list of cities where the anti-terror measures will be deployed." AKI (Italy) 07/18/05

Monday, July 18

Where Are Britain's Great New Buildings? "Disgracefully, Britain can boast no buildings by most of the great modern architects. Where are the UK masterpieces by Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe? Not on our mean-minded little islands, that's for sure. London was once offered a distinguished late work by Mies, and Peter Palumbo struggled hard for permission to build it. But eventually, after an epic battle, the city fathers turned it down." New Statesman 07/18/05

Beecroft Accuses Italy's "Most Successful" Artist Of Stealing Ideas "Maurizio Cattelan is Italy's most successful contemporary artist. In 2004 after his sculpture of a hanging horse, The Ballad of Trotsky, was auctioned for $1.2m (now £686,000), ArtReview magazine put him at number four on a list of the art world's VIPs. It was the highest ranking for any artist. But the Genoa-born artist Vanessa Beecroft - best known for her disturbing installations of living, almost nude, models - said she had had an affair with Cattelan before either became famous and that she was the source for many of his ideas." The Guardian (UK) 07/19/05

Sunday, July 17

Is Prized Tuscan Marble Worth The Price Of A Mountain? A mining company's plans to destroy a Tuscan mountain crest to get at its prized marble has caused a furor. "The plan has pitted environmentalists against trade unions and local authorities, who argue the stone from Monte Altissimo in the Apuan Alps is needed to protect jobs. But the controversy also sets contemporary artists and designers against art historians who treasure the mountain, which served as one of Michelangelo's most celebrated, if frustrating, quarries." The Guardian (UK) 07/16/05

From Low Shelf To Top Drawer "A 650-year-old Chinese vase that survived for generations on a low shelf, at constant risk of being dashed to the floor by the tails of boisterous dogs, sold for nearly £3m at auction yesterday. The unique 50cm double-gourd vase, bought for £10 in 1900, was snapped up by an overseas buyer, for a new record price for an antique sold at a British provincial auction house." The Guardian (UK) 07/16/05

Selling Out It has now become the norm for museums to sell their art, rent their space for blockbuster exhibitions, and otherwise exercise judgment more indicative of a for-profit corporation than a non-profit keeper of culture and art, says Michael Kimmelman. "A steady corrosion of faith in the integrity of institutions will be the long-term price for short-term wheeling and dealing. With faith goes the delicate ecosystem of charitable contributions and tax-free privileges. Why, the public will ask, do institutions like these reap the benefits of nonprofit status if they service private interests who shape the content of what's on view and/or reap cash rewards?" The New York Times 07/17/05

Nothing Better Than A Whole Bunch Of Naked Brits Spencer Tunick has taken his passion for photographing mobs of naked people across the pond, and mounted his first large-scale UK event in the Tyneside district. "Volunteers from around the world - including Australia, Belgium and Peru - signed up, among them a vicar. They had to dodge chips and kebab remnants dropped by the previous night's revellers as they made their way around a cordoned-off section of the Newcastle and Gateshead quaysides." BBC 07/17/05

Gambling On Art "The French countryside could not be farther away, in distance or sentiment, from the long stretch of neon lights that line the Las Vegas Strip. But as the impressionists launched a revolution in the art world more than a century ago, a small art gallery inside the Bellagio resort has been quietly doing the same, albeit to a lesser degree, over the past six years... This month, the gallery launched its ninth exhibition, titled The Impressionist Landscape from Corot to Van Gogh. On the heels of a wildly successful Claude Monet show, gallery officials are confident they are accomplishing their mission of bringing art to the masses — even if it is in a casino." Toronto Star 07/16/05

Friday, July 15

Claim: Pinault Plans For Paris Museum Have "Harmed" French Art World Jérôme Sans, co-director of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, has criticized billionaire François Pinault for his aborted plans to build a major museum oustide Paris. “For a start, nobody really knows what was going into Mr Pinault’s museum. The contents of his collection are unknown to most people. The entire episode was a little like someone saying yes, ‘I’ll marry you’ and then at the last minute leaving the bride at the altar”. He stressed that “this illusion [that Mr Pinault was to open a museum in Paris] has harmed rather then helped the French art world”. The Art Newspaper 07/15/05

A Plan To Reunite Iconic Cuban Artists In 1981 a group of Cuban artists got together for a controversial exhibition that "placed the 11 young artists on the map, set the course for contemporary Cuban art, and created an identity for a new generation of artists. When they gathered for Volume One, the young artists still dreamed of carving a niche in Cuba's art scene. And though they are scattered, they achieved that. Many would become internationally known while living in Cuba in the 1980s." Now they are scattered across several countries, but there is a plan to bring them together... Christian Science Monitor 07/15/05

Gehry To Build Skyscraper In LA Frank Gehry has been chosen to design a 40- or 50-story skyscraper next to his Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles as well as other elements of the $1.8-billion complex planned along Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. The street is the focus of an ambitious plan to cluster cultural buildings in the city. Los Angeles Times 07/15/05

Thursday, July 14

China Invests In Assembly-Line Art "China's low wages and hunger for exports have already changed many industries, from furniture to underwear. The art world, at least art for the masses, seems to be next, and is emerging as a miniature case study of China's successful expansion in a long list of small and obscure industries that when taken together represent a sizable chunk of economic activity. China is rapidly expanding art colleges, turning out tens of thousands of skilled artists each year willing to work cheaply. The Internet is allowing these assembly-line paintings to be sold all over the world; the same technology allows families across America to arrange for their portraits to be painted in coastal China." The New York Times 07/15/05

Cooperation Saves Brit Gold Collection A coalition of British museums has banded together to preserve one of the country's finest collections of silver and gold plate which would otherwise have been broken up and sold at auction. "The nine museums, including the V&A, the British Museum and the Ashmolean in Oxford, pooled their resources and secured hefty grants, including over £850,000 given by the National Heritage Memorial Fund to celebrate its silver anniversary, and over £400,000 from the Art Fund charity. The collection was built up by the financier Ernest Cassel, who was born into a poor Jewish family in Germany in 1852, arrived in Liverpool in 1869 with a violin and a small bundle of clothes, and by the time of his death in 1921 was one of the richest men in Europe." The Guardian (UK) 07/15/05

Art Student's Fake Suicide (Explained?) The UCLA art student who last year faked his suicide with a gun he had carved out of wood has come forward to tell his story. "Deutch, now 26, also knew that gunplay could upset fellow students and get him in trouble with campus authorities. But in his first comments on the incident, he says he never dreamed, as he got up to perform in UCLA's graduate art annex in Culver City, that his phantom gunshot would ricochet and cause the departure of two UCLA professors, roiling the campus for several months." Los Angeles Times 07/12/05

Death To The Biennale? A trip through this summer's Venice Biennale makes you dispair of the whole idea, writes Jerry Saltz. "After a show like this it's tempting to say that biennial culture is over, that these fetes are too big, baggy, and bureaucratic to reflect the state of art. By now it's unclear who they're for: The several hundred thousand who come to see them or the several thousand from the art world. Yet, just when they seem dead, a new age of biennials looms. In roughly 700 days, starting early June 2007, a kind of Harmonic Convergence of super exhibitions is slated to take place when the Venice Biennale, Documenta XII, and the Munster Sculpture Project will open one after the other." Village Voice 07/12/05

Wednesday, July 13

The Guggenheim's Money Woes Spelled Out Earlier this year the Guggenheim's biggest benefactor left the museum's board amid allegations that the Goog's financial house was crumbling. A memo spells out just how crumbly... Vanity Fair 07/13/05

Tuesday, July 12

Stonehenge Quarry Discovered It's only taken 4,500 years, but the quarry from which the stones for Stonehenge were taken in 2,500 BC has been found. "Archaeologists have long suspected that the bluestones, which form Stonehenge's inner circle, came from the Preseli Hills, but no evidence of a quarry had been found in the area. Darvill and Wainwright report that geochemical analysis show that the rock formations at the prehistoric quarry are identical to those at Stonehenge." Discovery 07/12/05

The Olympic Architecture Left Behind (It matters) "A successful Olympics is measured not just by the gold medal tallies, the firework displays that accompany the opening ceremonies or the receipts from the television rights and the sponsorship money, but most conspicuously by what it leaves behind. With its soaring roof rising out of the Yoyogi park, Kenzo Tange's Olympic pool for the Tokyo Games is still a landmark 40 years after it was built. It served to mark Japan's coming of age as a modern state after post-war reconstruction. And Frei Otto's stadium in Munich - despite the horror of the assassination of the Israeli athletes at 1972 Olympics - is a magical structure. Its elegant tent-like roofs are so popular that there was an outcry when there was a move to demolish it. But in the case of Montreal, and now sadly Athens too, the Olympic legacy is mainly seen in the form of debt." The Guardian (UK) 07/11/05

I Work In A Showpiece Famous buildings are celebrated for their style, even as pieces of art. But what is it like to actually work inside a celebrity structure? The Guardian (UK) 07/12/05

Sunday, July 10

Where Britain Hid Its Art "Sixty-five years ago many of London's art treasures were moved north and stored in a remote slate mine to protect them during World War II. These included works by artists such as Titian, Michelangelo and Constable. After the war ended, the 2,000 works were returned intact. Many of the pieces even arrived home in a better condition, preserved and improved by the humidity and low temperatures inside the mine." BBC 07/09/05

Blockbusteritis? "James Cuno is among a growing number of museum directors who have grown queasy at the way the "major" temporary exhibition has become a nearly annual fixture at art institutions like the Chicago Art Institute. Yes, blockbusters create excitement, draw huge crowds and massive media hype -- all of which gives museums chances to shine and, oh by the way, earn wads of cash from increased concessions and memberships. But at what cost? Through the '90s, there was too much emphasis on temporary exhibitions because they came to dominate the museum's activity and, worse, people's expectations of the museum." Chicago Sun-Times 07/10/05

American Gothic, Iowan To The Core For three-quarters of a century, the lonely farm couple depicted in Grant Wood's ubiquitous painting, "American Gothic," have called Chicago's downtown Loop home, an incongruous base of operations for such a distinctly rural pair. But this fall, in a rare case in which the Art Institute of Chicago has consented to lend out one of its prized works, the painting will be going "home" to Iowa for a special Wood retrospective at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. It may be just another painting in Chicago, but Iowa is already abuzz with talk of the return. Chicago Tribune 07/10/05

Saturday, July 9

Five Laid Off In D.C. Five long-tenured employees have been laid off from the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., as a result of what the museum's director says are serious budget concerns. The firings came out of the blue, and the decision to go ahead with a staff reorganization was apparently that of the director alone, who says that belts have been tightening all over the Smithsonian. The museum has 32 remaining employees. Washington Post 07/09/05

More Layoffs In Cleveland The Cleveland Museum of Art has laid off six employees, including a paintings curator with 18 years service time, as it prepares to close for several years during a $258 million expansion and renovation. "The number of employees at the museum now stands at 370, down from more than 500 before an earlier and more extensive round of layoffs in 2003 meant to bring the museum's budget in line... The museum complex will be largely closed during construction, but will start reopening in phases beginning in the fall of 2007. Special exhibitions and other programs will continue, with the exception of a complete shutdown in the first six months of 2006." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 07/09/05

Is It Art? Or Is It Just Stupid? What are we to make of an artist who crafts a bar of soap from fat liposuctioned out of the Italian prime minister, sells it to a collector for $18,000, then claims that his work has no political overtones? "There is something vexing about Gianni Motti and his bar of soap. It could be a neat contemporary commentary on politics, the media, image-consciousness and postmodern portraiture - and therefore worthy of its plexiglass pedestal. Or it could just be a tasteless, overpriced idea that dissolves in seconds, like soap in a hot bath." Financial Times (UK) 07/08/05

Friday, July 8

Booming Art Market Doesn't Necessarily Help Artists "Over the past decade, the contemporary art market in Australia has exploded, and it's not only corporations who are buying. An art market analyst, Michael Reid, says 1.3 per cent of the population were buying art 10 years ago - now roughly 5 per cent are purchasing. While a burgeoning market can be an enormously positive thing, in that it encourages diversity in the art market and introduces Australians to art, the dollars do not necessarily trickle down to the majority of artists, especially riskier, less-marketable artists." Sydney Morning Herald 07/05/05

Theatre Restoration Reveals Tiffany While restoring the old Hudson Theatre in Times Square, workers find some hidden Tiffany. "The restoration of the landmark theater, now part of the Millennium Broadway Hotel conference center, began in November. Although the triple-domed stained-glass ceiling in the green marble lobby was known to be the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, the discovery of turquoise, orange and mauve mosaic tiles by the glass designer around the stage arch, box seats, balconies, and columns was unexpected." Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 07/08/05

Another Canaletto Record Just 24 hours after a Canaletto painting sells at auction for a record price, another of the Italian painter's works breaks open that record. "View of the Grand Canal from Palazzo Balbi" was expected to fetch up to £8 million, but instead sold for £18.6m - breaking a world record set just 24 hours earlier.
BBC 07/08/05

Thursday, July 7

Considering Robert Smithson "In the realm of postminimalism, what happens when we compare Smithson to Eva Hesse, Richard Serra, and Ana Mendieta? Who wins? Richard Serra is, these days, way beyond postminimalism with his magnificent rolled-steel sculptures. Hesse, as much as we like her work, did not have Smithson's cosmic ambition; only Mendieta did, but she was not as early in the game as Smithson. And the other so-called Earth Artists? They made a few good examples, here and there. But what are their ideas?" Artopia (AJBlogs) 06/30/05

How Museums Are Failing Artifacts Heightened sensitivity to the cultural origins of artifacts is hurting museums, writes Tiffany Jenkins. "Public access, research possibilities and academic freedom are being curtailed and closed down. In the US, at the new National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, material is removed and segregated if the objects are sacred or have ceremonial status. Some may be seen only by certain privileged individuals in a specific tribe. The public may thus view only some of the material held in what is supposed to be a national collection." New Statesman 07/04/05

Turning Saddam's Palaces Into Cultural Sites Iraq's cultural minister says Saddam Hussein's former palaces will be turned into cultural centers. "The 170 palaces of the former dictator will be turned into cultural centers and will be used by the Iraqi public and visitors." Middle East Times 06/23/05

Should Norway's Munch Museum Rent Out Its Paintings? One of Norways political parties proposed that the Munch Museum rent out some of its paintings to help raise money. "One can raise money to take care of these great paintings and bring art to the Norwegian people. Today some of these works are in storage and this would make them available for viewing at firms or at public facilities," Aftenposten 07/01/05

Proposed "Freedom Museum" Changes Its Tune Plans for a "freedom museum" on the site of the World Trade Center have changed. The museum will now focus more on victims of the 9/11 attack. "Some victims' relatives have protested for weeks that the International Freedom Center museum would be anti-American and disrespectful to the dead. The museum, criticized for its intent to focus on global freedom movements, now will place the victims of Sept. 11 alongside the 'freedom heroes of history' in its main concourse." Washington Post (AP) 07/07/05

Security Concerns Run Amok It's tough to get past the irony of calling a monolithic, fear-inspired fortress the Freedom Tower, and John King says that the revamped design is not only a disappointment, but a betrayal of the resilient spirit shown by New Yorkers in the days and weeks after the 9/11 attacks. "In the 45 months since terrorists slaughtered 2,749 people and toppled the tallest towers in New York, the 16-acre site has mirrored too closely the national response to the changed world scene. The first year brought a resilient courage that suggested New York and the United States might rise from the tragedy in stirring new ways. But since then, the original impulses that united people across cultural and political spectrums have been muddied beyond recognition." San Francisco Chronicle 07/07/05

Price Hike In Philly The Philadelphia Museum of Art is hiking its admission prices as much as 29%, beginning in August. The general admission fee will rise to $12, which puts the museum in the same range as the Art Institute of Chicago, but still well below higher fees at major museums in New York and Boston. Philadelphia Inquirer 07/07/05

Canaletto Sale Shatters Expectations "A painting by Italian master Canaletto has set a world record for the artist after being sold for £11m - twice its expected price - at auction in London. The painting shows the Doge of Venice's barge, the Bucintoro, with crowds on what is thought to be Ascension Day, when the Doge blessed the city. An anonymous telephone bidder bought the work, which had been owned by a Portuguese billionaire." BBC 07/07/05

Wednesday, July 6

Is LACMA Losing Its Artistic Soul? The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is certainly not the only American museum to recognize the economic potential of blockbuster exhibitions that come with massive corporate sponsorship, but Holly Myers worries about the museum's soul, and wonders where all its curators have gone. "LACMA's flirtation with corporate production is lamentable in relation to Tut. More distressing, however, is the fact that many of the same problems also plague... a comparatively low-profile exhibition that doesn't involve extraordinarily precious artifacts and isn't likely to draw record-breaking crowds — suggesting that LACMA's problem goes deeper than the necessary indulgence of an occasional blockbuster." Los Angeles Times 07/06/05

Lesson: Ask Before You Demolish A sculpture by Canadian artist Haydn Davies was torn down and dumped in a field last week by an Ontario college, infuriating the sculptor and his family, who were not consulted before demolition. "Officials said the sculpture, commissioned by the college in the early 1970s for $10,000, had deteriorated so much that its lack of stability made it a safety hazard, especially to young children who liked to play around and under it." But the family disputes the safety claim, and says that the rough manner in which the removal was conducted (a bulldozer was involved) damaged the sculpture beyond repair. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/06/05

Canaletto Masterpiece Up For Sale "A painting by Italian master Canaletto is expected to fetch between £4-6m at auction in London. Bucintoro at the Molo on Ascension Day is part of a £15m auction of items owned by Portuguese businessman Antonio Champalimaud, who died last year. The painting shows the Doge's barge, the Bucintoro, with crowds on what is thought to be Ascension Day, when the Doge blessed the city." BBC 07/06/05

Tuesday, July 5

The V&A's Sensible Alternative When the Victoria & Albert Museum finally decided to bag Daniel Libeskind's controversial "spiral" addition, the museum started over. "This time round the museum started by asking the question, "What do we really need?" or rather, "What does the visitor need?" It commissioned a masterplan, re-thought the whole way the museum is organised, realised the heart of this new vision was the garden, and then brought in designers to suggest what might be done to make what had become a dank and unloved space, dominated by brooding cypress trees, work." The Telegraph (UK) 07/05/05

The Top Collectors ARTnews is out with its annual list of the world's top art collectors... ARTnews 07/05

Airport Art - Ten Years Later It's been ten years since Denver's new airport opened and along with it some very ambitious public art. A decade later it's instructive to see what art has succeeded and why. "Some remain popular favorites. Some that were delayed have turned out to be hits. Some do not work, or show damage from construction mishaps more than a decade ago, or are difficult to see." Rocky Mountain News 07/03/05

Suing To Get Stolen Art Returned (It's Problematic) Armed with a new US Supreme Court precedent, Americans are taking on foreign governments to "force the return of artwork. But the plaintiffs face big obstacles, ranging from resistant museums and murky ownership records to less-than-sympathetic European law. And then there's the matter of enforcement: if you win a lawsuit against Austria or the city of Amsterdam - both defendants in current cases - how do you collect?" Christian Science Monitor 07/05/05

What's Wrong With The MFA's Art Rental Program For a second time, Boston's Museum of Fine Art has "rented" some of its artwork to a casino gallery in Las Vegas. Why should anyone care? "The MFA's rental deals are wrong for lots of ethical and moral reasons," writes Tyler Green... Boston Globe 07/04/05

Sunday, July 3

Where Art And Biology Meet "Called bioart or wetware by some of its practitioners, the field is growing rapidly in the United States and Europe, and it is producing bizarre and sometimes disturbing work that seems sprung right from the pages of Philip K. Dick or Koji Suzuki, except that the science involved is not fiction. In many ways bioart represents a logical next step in contemporary art, which has eagerly embraced new approaches and nontraditional materials: video and computers beginning in the 1960's and 70's, digital technology and the Internet in the 90's. But bioart can credibly claim to have made a more revolutionary break with tradition." The New york Times 07/03/05

A Tale Of Two Lloyd Wright Houses One Los Angeles Frank Lloyd Wright house renovated, another falling down a hill. "If only it were that simple. It turns out that Ennis-Brown, once you get past the gaping holes on its lower flank, looks surprisingly good, particularly its stunning split-level living and dining room space — though that shouldn't dissuade you from making a donation to help shore it up. And at the Barnsdall House, the handsome renovations can't disguise the dispiriting mess the city has made, and continues to make, of its site or that behind its low walls is one of Wright's least appealing domestic interiors." Los Angeles Times 07/03/05

Still Looking - Raising Interest In a Clyfford Still Museum Where is money for Denver's new $20 million Clyfford Still Museum goinbg to come from? "People have been waiting and wondering what was going to happen with the Still estate for years and years. And I think the news it is going to land safely some place as prominent as Denver is going to be greeted not only with a huge sigh of relief from the international art crowd but also an expectation of something great." Denver Post 07/03/05

Freedom Tower - Death By 1000 Cuts Blair Kamen adds his voice to those criticizing the latest plans for the WTC Freedom Tower. "The problems, evident in almost every aspect of the rebuilding, threaten to undermine the carefully conceived balance between remembrance and renewal that was the hallmark of Daniel Libeskind's brilliant, competition-winning master plan. What they add up to is death by a thousand cuts rather a single mortal blow -- and the danger that unless public officials here stop their blather about everything going smoothly, the rebuilt ground zero will turn out to be a whittled-down version of Libeskind's plan rather than a sparkling realization." Chicago Tribune 07/03/05

Dull, Dull, Dull - Shouldn't An Opera House Be More? The design of Toronto's new opera house is... well... pretty dull. "There's nothing wrong with the new complex, but instead of something spectacular, it is polite, well mannered, deferential, even self-effacing. That would be fine if it were anything else, but this is, after all, an opera house, not a downtown shopping centre. What is opera if not spectacle?" Toronto Star 07/03/05

Saatchi Omits Brits Charles Saatchi, long a champion of Brtish artists, is presenting a show without any homegrown talent. "Saatchi last omitted British artists from an exhibition in the 1987 New York Now show in his north London gallery." BBC 07/03/05

Friday, July 1

The Museuming Of America "Cultural buildings in the United States are being supersized, with newly enlarged museums opening this year in cities including Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Davenport, Iowa." Why? It's competitive out there. "Jazzing up older edifices is one way institutions can stay competitive at a time when millions of tourists are flocking to museums of every kind. Recent estimates of visits to US museums - including zoos and historical sites - range from 640 million to 865 million annually." Christian Science Monitor 07/01/05

Paul Klee On A Mountain A new museum devoted to the work of Paul Klee and designed by Renzo Piano, opens in Bern, Switzerland. "Along with presenting the world's largest collection of Klee works, however, the new center also promises what it calls a "Klee experience," including concerts by a newly formed Paul Klee Ensemble, and theater productions with décor evocative of Klee's work. Children are invited to their own museum, Creaviva, while every summer a dozen or so young international artists will join academics, curators and critics at a 10-day seminar here." The New York Times 07/01/05

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