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Sunday, April 30

A Glasgow Favorite Emerges As A New Model For Museums Glasgow's much loved Kelvingrove gets a radical makeover. And does it work? "It's as full-on educational as I have ever seen in a museum. A Victorian painting is shown in various stages of cleaning. There are panels explaining pentimenti and underpainting, why paintings look the way they do, all using actual objects from the collection. My initial reaction is that this is quite a lot to take in, but it is a good way to start people off on art appreciation, and most importantly it captures the imagination and makes you want to see the works in the following rooms, probably now in a new light." The Scotsman 04/30/06

In Texas - An Old Museum Gets A New Home Austin, Texas' Blanton Museum opens a new $83 million gallery. "For a museum that claims one of the country's oldest and largest Latin American collections and a vast selection of prints, the upgrade could not be more welcome. Previously the Blanton's displays were crammed into a bland, boxlike area in the university's art building. At least that was its own space: until 2001, the collection occupied two floors of the humanities research center." The New York Times 04/29/06

Saatchi's Free-For-All Charles Saatchi has launched a new section on his website where artists can post samples of their work. "Saatchi’s website has a healthy readership with a daily online magazine, London gallery listing, reader-contributed essays and discussion forums devoted to debates over issues such 'what is bad taste in art'?" CBC 04/30/06

Judd At The Altar "It is unsettling that the first large-scale U.S. exhibition of the work of Donald Judd in almost 20 years has been organized by Christie's auction house. Not because this isn't a museum, although this fact gives pause. What's unsettling is this isn't a show at all. It's a sale—some would say an unnecessary one." Village Voice 04/28/06

UK To Compensate Family For Nazi-Looted Drawings The British government is to compensate relatives of a man whose drawings were stolen by the Nazis. The drawings are in the British Museum. "Relatives of Dr Arthur Feldmann are to receive £175,000 after a special panel decided they had 'firm evidence' that the works had been seized in 1939. The family says the Old Master drawings can stay in the British Museum. The panel has asked the government to introduce laws permitting the return of objects plundered during the Nazi era." BBC 04/28/06

Friday, April 28

Government Crackdown A Blow For Chinese Art "Contemporary art in China has matured from the days when it was mainly imitative of the Western avant garde. The number of artists has spiked. Yet the crackdown on political art shows that official lines continue to be drawn firmly when it comes to the sacred goods of the nation, and that no political images or themes that are unapproved may be shown - even in relatively secluded places like Dashanzi, visited mainly by foreigners and a self-selecting group of educated Chinese." Christian Science Monitor 04/27/06

Thursday, April 27

Turkey Wants Back British Museum Stele Turkey has made a claim on a stele in the British Museum. "The basalt stele, dating from the first century BC, depicts a relief of Herakles greeting the sun-god, with a Greek inscription on the reverse." The Art Newspaper 04/27/06

NY Gallery Named In Italian Artifacts Trial "Italian prosecutors on Wednesday named a New York art gallery as a key link in what they say was a vast conspiracy to market stolen artifacts that allegedly involved a former J. Paul Getty museum curator on trial here." The Guardian (UK) (AP) 04/27/06

"Art" Bombs Shut Down London West London was shut down Wednesday as police checked out five suspected nail bombs. Then a woman stepped forward to eay they were part of her art. "Some of the packages were cardboard boxes containing soft toys and training shoes with nails sticking out of them. A 36-year-old local woman was held on suspicion of causing a public nuisance." BBC 04/27/06

Big Names Abound At Spring Auctions "Some of the greatest hits in art history are coming to Sotheby's and Christie's in Manhattan this weekend: a van Gogh portrait of Madame Ginoux; a 1941 Picasso painting of his mistress Dora Maar with a black cat perched on her shoulder; and a haunting 1902 Blue Period Picasso of Germaine, one of his earliest muses..." The New York Times 04/27/06

Wednesday, April 26

Can Rich Guys Ever Be Good Artists? There are plenty of examples throughout history of artists who wound up making a pile of money from their work, but Jonathan Jones suggests that when extravagant financial success comes too soon, an artist can quickly lose his/her edge, or at least the perspective needed to relate to the audience. The Guardian (UK) 04/27/06

Restoring Lord Nelson The 18-ton statue of Lord Nelson that stands atop the huge granite column in London's Trafalgar Square has been through a lot over the years. "When Edward Baily's statue was displayed at ground level before being winched into place in three enormous sections it was a sensation: more than 100,000 people came to see it." But now, the elements have had more than 150 years to wear on Baily's design, and a major conservation effort is underway. The Guardian (UK) 04/27/06

Preserving Pollock Presents Plenty of Problems Art conservation has become such an intricate and well-understood science that it sometimes seems as if there is no damage a skilled professional cannot undo, no work that cannot be perfectly preserved. But the paintings of Jackson Pollock present a unique challenge for restorers, with the famous spatters subject to cracking and other deterioration. A new restoration job on one of Pollock's more famous works points up how conservators' techniques have changed over the decades. The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 04/26/06

A Tale Of Two Getty Gardens "Gardens at the two Getty Museum campuses could not be more different. California artist Robert Irwin's central garden at the Brentwood Center is a constantly changing, off-balance geometric splash of color and texture. It's a stark contrast to the beige classicism of the towering, marble buildings above it. Conversely, the elegant Mediterranean-style landscaping of the newly reopened Getty Villa in nearby Malibu is an understated partner to the estate it surrounds. Nonetheless, the two gardens share a dramatic spirit: One is a work of living sculpture, the other a piece of horticultural theater." The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 04/26/06

Tuesday, April 25

Did Britain Miss Out On The Last 150 Years? There's an outstanding new Van Gogh exhibition at a suburban London museum, but to some in the UK art world, such chances to view the work of a French master only serve as a reminder of how previous generations of Brits managed to almost completely ignore important developments taking place on the European continent. "Were we really the only nation to turn its collective back on each new movement in art as it arose, from Impressionism and Post-Impressionism to Fauvism and Cubism? ... with a few exceptions, English collectors lacked the courage to purchase modern paintings, and that is why there are relatively few of these pictures in our national galleries as compared to Russia or the US." The Telegraph (UK) 04/25/06

Hawthorne: Gehry's Plans For LA Need Work Frank Gehry's plans for a $1.8 billion downtown development in Los Angeles are impressive, yes, but Christopher Hawthorne says that the first draft's "attitude toward the city is laid bare in these models, and, stripped of architectural flourish, they reveal a project a good deal less public-minded than many of us had hoped... Particularly on its lower levels, the design is clogged with retail space — 250,000 square feet of it in total above a labyrinth of underground parking. As a result, the project is shaping up as something of a commercial cul-de-sac: a place that's designed, like a casino or a mall, to make getting in easier than getting out or walking through." Los Angeles Times 04/24/06

  • If You Build It, They Still May Not Come The challenge of creating a dynamic and thriving downtown center in Los Angeles is not limited to the pursuit of high-profile architecture and pedestrian-friendly plazas. "The developers must lure back the kind of high-end retailers who began abandoning downtown Los Angeles 50 years ago... Throughout downtown, developers are finding it is a lot easier to lure well-heeled condo buyers to the urban core than businesses. In what some see as an ominous sign, some of the historic bank buildings converted into lofts have filled their upper floors with new residents but have failed to find retail tenants for the street-level spaces." Los Angeles Times 04/25/06

Remaking Downtown LA, Gehry Style Having received accolades for his design of Los Angeles's Disney Concert Hall, architect Frank Gehry is now planning to transform the look of America's second-largest city further, with the aim of creating a viable downtown on LA's Grand Avenue. "The $750 million project, which includes the first high-rises he has ever designed for his hometown, is the first phase of a $1.8 billion development plan by the Related Companies that will remake Grand Avenue as a pedestrian-based gathering point." The New York Times 04/25/06

Refco Collection To Hit The Block A world-famous photography collection owned by the bankrupt brokerage firm Refco is to be auctioned off at Christie's New York. "Photographs in the Refco collection, known to art experts worldwide, have had pride of place on the walls of the company's New York and Chicago offices for decades... Highlights include Richard Avedon's photograph Andy Warhol, Artist, New York City, August 20, 1969, which has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. And William Eggleston's Memphis, from 1969-70 has an estimated price of $40,000 to $60,000 on it." BBC 04/24/06

Monday, April 24

When's The Last Time Saatchi Chained Himself To A Tree? "Spanish art collector Baroness Carmen Thyssen threatened yesterday to chain herself to a tree on Madrid's most emblematic street, the Paseo del Prado, to stop proposed building works outside a museum of valuable paintings donated by her family. The baroness said a redesign of the street, planned to keep traffic away from the nearby Prado museum, would leave her own museum choking in exhaust fumes." The Guardian (UK) 04/25/06

Should Museums Try To "Fix" Their Mostly-Male Collections? One of Sweden's more prominent museums has requested a special government grant of $6.6 million to purchase 20th century works exclusively by female artists. Officials at Moderna Museet say that the grant would help it "redress the gender imbalance in its collection." But are such "positive discrimination" plans really serving the best interest of art? The Guardian (UK) 04/25/06

The Case For Holding Onto Stolen Antiquities Increasingly, the international debate over the ownership of antiquities which may once have been procured in less than honest fashion seems to be swinging around to a "give everything back if they ask for it" consensus. But the British Museum's steadfast refusal to hand over the Elgin Marbles that once belonged to Greece has stood out as a notable example of an institution claiming a higher right to an artifact. "In many instances, national treasures are better off outside their countries of origin - better cared for, receiving more attention, and more accessible... It is one of the paradoxes of culture that museums confer as much as acknowledge beauty." The Guardian (UK) 04/25/06

China Cracks Down On Artists "Since the start of this month, police and propaganda officials have launched their biggest crackdown on Beijing's counterculture hothouse - Dashanzi art district - where at least three galleries have been ordered to remove politically sensitive works." 04/22/06

An Epidemic Of Russian Art Fakes A leading Russian art expert says that "corruption and criminality in the Russian art market has reached alarming levels." He believes that "inexpensive works by little-known European painters were being reworked in Russia and then fraudulently marketed as Russian paintings at much higher prices." The Art Newspaper 04/21/06

The Largest Art Theft In UK History It happened in February. "Initial press reports on the 1 February Hyams theft, from Ramsbury Manor, Wiltshire, suggested that the losses were worth £30 million. More is now known about precisely what was taken, and their values, and it appears that the figure is closer to £80 million, although this remains an estimate." The Art Newspaper 04/23/06

A Masterpiece In The Making In Akron? The Akron Art Museum is more than halfway finished with a $30 million expansion and renovation. "The project is already full of dramatic contrasts between jutting steel beams, shimmering metal and the rugged concrete. But most exciting is the way Coop Himmelb(l)au has juxtaposed an unapologetically futuristic expansion next to an older, more traditional building." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/23/06

Sunday, April 23

Taking The Art World To Task A prominent British pop artist is accusing the UK arts establishment of treating young artists like prostitutes and strippers, and of ripping off up-and-comers who don't know any better. "When I went into the art world, I didn't have any knowledge of the little systems, all of the details of the interaction between you and the dealer. I just thought, if you make great art, you can put it anywhere, the environment is irrelevant. But it's not about that, it's about the psychological exchange. The art world is really exactly the same as the sex industry: you have to be completely on guard, you will get shafted, f****d over left, right and centre. And you will also meet charming, wonderful people like a rainbow at the end of the day." The Observer (UK) 04/23/06

The New Yorkers, The Italians, And The Severed Head Officials in New York have returned the disembodied head of Dionysus, god of wine and revelry, to Italy, 23 years after the deity was rudely dismembered by thieves. (Okay, it was actually a statue of Dionysus.) Following its severing, the head "was acquired sometime before 1990 by a Japanese museum that went out of business several years afterward...
The head then appeared in the Christie's catalog," and was withdrawn when the auction house received information that it might be stolen goods. The NYPD got involved, and eventually linked the head to a list of missing Roman antiquities.
The New York Times 04/22/06

Salivating Over The Next Big Van Gogh Sale "In the auction business, Vincent van Gogh is the magical name. With fewer than a dozen of his portraits in private hands, the two significant ones to have sold in the last 16 years achieved spectacular prices: $71.5 million for Self-Portrait Without Beard in 1998 and $82.5 million for Portrait of Dr. Gachet in 1990, the record for van Gogh at auction. So there is great anticipation about what L'Arlésienne, Madame Ginoux will bring on May 2, in the Impressionist and Modern Art sale at Christie's New York." The New York Times 04/22/06

Friday, April 21

Actor: A Design Competition For New Orleans Actor Brad Pitt is frustrated by the slowness in rebuilding New Orleans, so he's sponsoring an "environmentally-friendly" design competition. "Our goal is to kick off the rebuilding effort. It's certainly long overdue and I can only go from the reports that we get ... that it's behind, absolutely. People are frustrated. We could possibly build something that was better and took into account the historical traditions of the city and the voices of the people and turn this into some kind of good." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/21/06

Thursday, April 20

Iconic Painting Slips Away From Aussie Museums Australia's museums fail to acquire an iconic work by John Brack. "One thing is certain: it is a painting lost to the people of the city whose recent past it documents in luminous panes of brilliantly executed light; not just a bleakly witty record of the six o'clock swill, but one of the most exquisite moments in Australian — Melburnian — modernism. Gone." The Age (Melbourne) 04/20/06

Renzo Piano And Harvard's Museum Transformation Harvard has announced "a comprehensive transformation of its museums that will integrate the collections currently housed in separate facilities, and eventually add a second permanent facility for modern and contemporary art in Allston." The Art Newspaper 04/20/06

French Galleries Sales Boom "French art dealers have been cheered — and rather surprised — by the results of a study released last month, which showed that art galleries in France turned over five times more than auction houses in 2004." The Art Newspaper 04/20/06

How To Grow Your Museum Without Letting Anyone In The Cleveland Museum of Art might be closed to the public for the next few years as it undergoes a massive $258 million renovation and expansion, but the museum's national and international profile may actually grow during the shutdown, thanks to a carefully planned series of traveling exhibitions which will highlight the Cleveland collection. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/20/06

Please Touch The Art Institute of Chicago has invested in a new technology designed to help it better serve a demographic usually left out of the museum-going experience: the blind. "The Michigan Avenue museum has re-created a handful of its art on portable, machine-etched plastic, which will help the blind to imagine what they cannot view. Called TacTiles, the 8-inch-by-10-inch boards replicate in relief the brush strokes of such masters as Renoir and Miro." Chicago Sun-Times 04/20/06

Growing Into Its Own Collection It's been three years since New York's Morgan Library last welcomed visitors to view its impressive collection of modern art, and when it relaunches itself next week following a $102 million renovation, it will do so with a flourish designed to elevate its status in the culture-rich Big Apple. "For the 82-year-old Morgan, the point is to proclaim that it is not just a well-preserved relic from Manhattan's Gilded Age, but a modern museum with world-class collections and a full schedule of special exhibitions. For the first time it will have space to show off considerably more of its own treasures, including a rare Gutenberg Bible, ancient Near Eastern seals and drawings by masters like Leonardo, Rubens, Degas and Schiele." The New York Times 04/20/06

Wednesday, April 19

A Royal Collection No One Sees Queen Elizabeth's Royal Collection of art is vast. "It has 7,000 paintings, 500,000 prints and 30,000 watercolours and drawings. Apart from these few rooms off Buckingham Palace, you can also see parts of the collection in the other Queen's Gallery at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, and in the various royal palaces that are open to the public. But this is a fraction of the whole. Furthermore, it remains unclear precisely what is in the collection, and where it is displayed (or not). There is no publicly accessible inventory of the Royal Collection." The Guardian (UK) 04/20/06

Sotheby's: Our Price, Guaranteed Sotheby's is increasingly offering guaranteed sales prices to sellers. "If a picture sells for more than the guaranteed amount, the auction house keeps the extra money. If a picture doesn't sell, the house risks losing all or part of the guarantee if it can't resell the picture for enough money later." Bloomberg 04/19/06

Trying To Unravel Greek Antiquities Seizure Last week Greek authorities seized 300 illegally acquired artifacts on a remote island. "Last week's discovery was one of the biggest illegal antiquities cases in recent years, and police suspect international smuggling rings were involved, Greek culture minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said. However, he said there was no evidence yet supporting media reports of a link between the police raids and a dispute between Greece and the Getty Museum. Greece is seeking the return of four ancient artifacts from the museum, arguing that they were illegally exported." San Diego Union-Tribune (AP) 04/19/06

Tuesday, April 18

Greeks Investigating Antiques Smuggling Greek authorities say they are investigating a suspected conspiracy to smuggle antiquities hidden on a remote island to major museums and other buyers abroad. The New York Times 04/19/06

The Barcelona Solution It was not very long ago that the enormity of the 9/11 tragedy united New York City in ways that surprised even the idealists. But hard-bitten observers of the development scene predicted from the beginning that hope, crystallized in architects' renderings of soaring towers and austere landscapes of grief, would need to be tempered by 'reality.' They've gotten their way. At Ground Zero, design is distrusted and shunted aside at every turn in favor of the same enervating commercial product that can be erected and rented for a fraction of the cost elsewhere." But maybe Barcelona offers a better way? Bloomberg News 04/13/06

Dealers Scour Art Schools For Stars "With global auction sales hitting $4.2 billion last year and scores of new galleries fighting for inventory, some dealers are reaching out to a largely untapped group of American artists: the impossibly precocious. From art hubs like New York to spots like Fort Wayne, Ind., dealers, collectors and museum curators are scouting artists still in their teens and early 20s. Painters who aren't old enough to rent a car are hiring personal assistants, turning down interviews and having their work snapped up by such major collectors as Michael Ovitz and Charles Saatchi." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (WSJ) 04/17/06

De Montebello: Why Only The Americans? Metropolitan Museum of Art director Phillipe De Montebello wonders why American museums and collectors have been targeted for return of looted artifacts, but not those in other countries. "I must say I am puzzled at one thing, which is the absence of claims against collectors and museums in Germany, Spain, the U.K., Switzerland, Denmark and Japan, among others. They were buying from dealers at least as much as the dealers now under indictment in the United States. I think we should reflect on why only the U.S. is being the target of claims."
Los Angeles Times 04/18/06

Chicago Art Institute To Start Charging Admission For years, admission to the Chicago Art Institute has been by "suggested donation." "Patrons had to pay something, though one could pay as little as $1. Most visitors paid the full, posted price." No more. "Museum officials are now asking the Chicago Park District Board for permission to make the listed admission fee mandatory." Chicago Sun-Times 04/18/06

Monday, April 17

Ancient City Pays The Price Of War "Babylon, the mud-brick city with the million-dollar name, has paid the price of war. It has been ransacked, looted, torn up, paved over, neglected and roughly occupied. Archaeologists said American soldiers even used soil thick with priceless artifacts to stuff sandbags. But Iraqi leaders and United Nations officials are not giving up on it." The New York Times 04/18/06

British Embassies Lose Paintings Dozens of paintings have disappeared from British embassies around the world in the past decade. "At least 42 paintings, prints and sculptures from the Government Art Collection have been stolen, lost or destroyed, according to information gained through the Freedom of Information Act. None of the works were insured and apart from objects that were known to have been stolen, more than half the total simply disappeared for no known reason." The Independent (UK) 04/17/06

The Art Of Security Want to spend your days around art? That's what museum security guards do. So "when it comes to the people who guard art, visitors might be surprised to find that in more than a few cases, underneath that stern visage and pressed uniform there beats the heart of an artist." Los Angeles Times 04/16/06

Aussie Art Cracks Millionaires' Club The market for Australian art is on the rise, with a couple of million-dollar sales recently. The managing director of Sotheby's says "people were in for a few surprises in the next few years on what the Australian market could achieve. It's not fully priced … one could argue the whole market is undervalued." Sydney Morning Herald 04/16/06

The Smithsonian's Greek Revival Revival "The original Patent Office in Washington, D.C., considered one of the America's best examples of Greek revival architecture, is nearing the end of a $300 million renovation. When the building reopens on July 1, the two Smithsonian museums it houses - the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum - will be newly accessible to the public." All Things Considered (NPR) 04/13/06

Sunday, April 16

Philadelphia Museum Puts Its Collector Hat On The Philadelphia Museum of Art has more art than it could possibly exhibit. The museum has an acquistions budget of only $1.2 million a year. But there are signs the PMA is in an acquisitive mood... Philadelphia Inquirer 04/16/06

Texan Amateur Searches For Pyramids In Bosnia A bizarre dig in Bosnia threatens an archaeologically rich area. "The prospect of their own Valley of the Kings has captured the imagination of many Bosnians desperate for a way to boost the shattered economy and raise the national pride of a country racked by conflict. Opponents of the project are, however, horrified at the prospect of irreparable damage to an area they believe is important enough to be a tourist attraction without a pyramid, yet warrants further archaeological research." The Art Newspaper 04/15/06

Phillips Collection - Hiding Behind The Facade DC's Phillips Collection has built an extension behind its traditional facade. "Preserving this facade was a big mistake," writes Benjamin Forgey. It was "a fruitless exercise in neighborhood nostalgia. After nearly 30 years of experience with our preservation ordinance, we as a city ought to have learned not to fear the architectural future, but to embrace it. And then to apply the law accordingly. Thus, a great opportunity was lost. Instead of getting a new building that speaks honestly about what is behind its facade -- and that speaks for the 21st century while respecting its neighbors -- we got a timorous fake." Washington Post 04/16/06

Brit Antiques Market Continues To Slip Sales of British antiques are falling. "In 2004/05 dealers sold art and antiques worth an estimated total of £647m ($1.16 billion), down from an estimated £658m in 2003/04." The Art Newspaper 04/15/06

Tracking Down Munch Sixty years after Edvard Much died and 40 years since the Munch Museum opened in Oslo, scholars are trying to track down all the artist's work. And 70 major paintings are unaccounted for. "The paintings which cannot be found are probably in private collections. 'In some cases we have an idea who owns the works, but they have not replied when we’ve contacted them'." The Art Newspaper 04/15/06

Doonan: Do Artists Have A Special Place Over Us? Simon Doonan is under attack for allegedly stealing an artist's ideas for the store windows Doonan designs. "Underlying the whole debacle is the horribly flawed idea that artists are somehow at the apex of our society. According to this ridiculous thinking, artists are somehow innately superior to us window dressers, or to coffee-shop waitresses and strip-club fluffers. Being an artist is not just a job or vocation, but something holy and infinitely worthy. In this topsy-turvy retarded world, the option to place a monopoly on a found object would automatically fall to an artist over a window dresser." New York Observer 04/13/06

Dealers Scour Art Schools Today's market for contemporary art is so hot, dealers and collectors are turning to art schools. "Though the conventional image of an artist's mentor is not generally a venture capitalist, such a presence is not so surprising in an era when collectors from Wall Street are underwriting high prices for contemporary art. The art world is, in the end, a numbers game: as collectors, art fairs and galleries keep growing, while first-rate artworks for sale decrease, dealers and collectors are scouring the country's top graduate schools looking for the Warhols of the future." The New York Times 04/15/06

Friday, April 14

Italy Wrestles With Artifact Theft Italy has a huge antiquities theft problem. "In an average week, carabinieri fly helicopters over archaeological sites taking aerial photographs to reveal illegal diggings. They go on offshore dives to prevent unauthorized underwater excavations. Still other officers in their stylish black-and-red uniforms show up unannounced at antique shops, auction houses and outdoor markets, to videotape items for sale to match against the more than 2.5 million missing objects cataloged in the art squad's vast database." OpinionJournal.com 04/10/06

An Artist Too Big For A Retrospective? Retrospectives are the traditional and accepted means for taking a comprehensive career look at a major artist. But what happens if an artist's output proves too big to be contained by a retrospective? Eric Gibson argues that sculptor David Smith is one such artist... Wall Street Journal 04/13/06

Thursday, April 13

Is BritArt Regressing Into The Future? One of the most anticipated contemporary art moments of the year arrived this week in the UK, when Marc Quinn's much-ballyhooed sculpture of supermodel Kate Moss was unveiled. And that, says Jonathan Jones, should tell us all we need to know about the state of contemporary art in Britain. "After all the sensations, after the brilliant careers and after the fire, we have arrived by some cyclical divine joke in 18th-century London, where portraiture is god and the leading artists of the day compete to depict [celebrities.]" The Guardian (UK) 04/14/06

What Would A $1 Admission Charge Cost The Smithsonian? Some in Congress have proposed that the Smithsonian raise funds by instituting a $1 admission charge for its historically free museums. The plan could raise $25 million a year, but that's assuming that everyone who walked through the door last year would still have done so if it cost a buck. "All around there are all kinds of people who have deigned to come in: girls with Britney parts and translucent skin that fairly match the French portrait they just walked by, and old ladies with blue hair and jogging suits, and professorial-looking men with striped shirts and tan suit jackets. And quiet waterfalls and young women with red leather jackets and fading red hair. And teens in flip-flops and spaghetti straps." Would they be here if it wasn't free? Washington Post 04/13/06

Philly Museums Ahead Of The Game In Rejecting Looted Art It seems as if nearly every big museum in the U.S. has been sucked into the international debate over looted art and rightful ownership that has gripped the art world for more than a year now. But somehow, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been spared - in fact, not a single Philadelphia museum has had any problems of the variety plaguing the Met, the Getty, and so many others. "Thanks to policies long in place that aggressively discourage trade in cultural booty, this region's museums and academic institutions have turned their backs on the Indiana Joneses of the art and antiquities market and their dealer middlemen." Philadelphia Inquirer 04/13/06

Brazilian Wins Pritzker Prize "Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha has been awarded the 2006 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Mr. Mendes da Rocha - renowned for designing bold, open structures that blend with their surroundings - will receive a $100,000 grant and bronze medallion on May 30 at a ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey." The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 04/13/06

Is Shanghai About To Lose Its Modernist Face? Shanghai is experiencing a building boom like few other cities have ever seen, and within a few years, the entire city will be utterly transformed. "Many feel, though, that what Shanghai is losing is even more vital than what it will gain. Shanghai was China's first, and remains its most distinctive, experiment in modern urbanism, and conservationists say that much of what made it so special in the last century will soon fall victim to the wrecking ball." The New York Times 04/13/06

Rocks Are Now Art (Or So The Price Tag Says) "A meteorite believed to have come from an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter has sold for $93,000 (U.S.) at an auction of rare space sculptures. The 355-pound chunk of iron, thousands of years old and discovered in the Campo del Cielo crater field in Argentina, was one of 10 meteorites that went for high prices at a Bonhams New York natural-history auction. Known by its place of discovery as the 'Valley of the Sky' meteorite, the pristine item was purchased Tuesday by a private collector in the United States who bid by phone and plans to display it as a work of art." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/13/06

Wednesday, April 12

Principle May Trump Need In Transatlantic Art Deal A scandal may be brewing over a well-intentioned exchange program between the Louvre and two leading American museums, Chicago's Terra and Atlanta's High. Under the proposed plan, all three museums would loan some art across the pond, and American corporate sponsors would pay part of the cost of refurbishing some of the government-owned Louvre's galleries. And therein lies the problem: "Many in France's cultural establishment have what might be called an ideological distaste for linking public art and private money. And while in practice French museums routinely seek corporate sponsorship for exhibitions, anything approaching the American model of privately-financed culture sets off alarm bells." International Herald Tribune 04/13/06

Da Vinci Excerpts To Go On Display - Good Luck Seeing 'Em A selection of drawings, sketches, and jottings from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci will go on display for the first time this fall at London's Victoria & Albert Museum. "The display of these small, delicate, detailed works will present a challenge to the V&A, which expects up to 150,000 visitors in a year of unprecedented interest in Leonardo." The Guardian (UK) 04/13/06

Grading Museums On A Curve The shortlist is out for the 2006 Gulbenkian Prize, which honors Britain's best museum of the year, and one of the judges says that the experience has been eye-opening. "There are so many different museums that sometimes it's like comparing oranges with apples. And yet, when you get the measure of a place, there are a few magic ingredients. Top of the list is the sort of enthusiasm that's catching: an enthusiasm that means you turn up somewhere knowing little about a subject, and leave feeling inspired by it. Beyond that, there are things like how welcoming a place is; how easy it is to access information; how much sense the layout makes; in a nutshell, how user-friendly it is." Culture Vulture (Guardian Blogs) 04/13/06

Walker Expansion Draws Praise, But Not People It's been a year since Minneapolis's Walker Art Center opened its massive addition to the public, and the museum has gotten great press and serious local buzz ever since. Donations are also up, but the uptick in attendance the Walker had hoped for hasn't materialized. "The figures for the first post-expansion year are somewhat unexpected since museums often see a substantial upswing in visitors when they open a new wing, especially when it is designed by a high-profile firm such as Herzog & de Meuron." Minneapolis Star Tribune 04/12/06

The Dangers Of A Permanent Collection Of "Modern" Art "While there's something inherently contradictory in the notion of a contemporary art museum having a permanent collection, most do... Until last month, [Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art] had no collection. But last week it announced the acquisition of four more pieces, which will be part of a permanent collection put on display this fall... They cover a decent range of media, including video and installation. Yet building a collection, while necessary, presents a challenge. The museum should be wary of getting entrenched as a steward of culture rather than providing a vehicle for the iconoclasm of contemporary art." Boston Globe 04/12/06

Tuesday, April 11

Prices For Asian Art Going Sky High A sudden jump in the Asian art market is rapidly inflating prices for works that used to be bargains. "These sales have been dominated by Asian and, specifically, Chinese buyers, who believe that if a Picasso can sell for $100 million, then the best Chinese artists of the 20th century should be worth much more than they currently are." But those bidding up Asian art are no longer confined to the Far East - recent sales in New York and an upcoming one in London are proving that Western collectors are as high as anyone on the new popularity of Asian works. The Telegraph (UK) 04/12/06

Yeah, They Ruined A Few Cities. But The Furniture Is Great! As Modernism and its proponents continue their slow and steady creep back to respectability, some critics wonder if it wasn't the unfortunate results of the postmodern backlash that allowed Modernism to return so strongly decades later. "We have all but forgotten and forgiven the way Modernist ambitions for social housing and skyscraping - trumpeted by Le Corbusier and his allies - ended in a shockwave of disastrous tower blocks and alienating estates born of necessity in the 1950s and '60s. The reactive postmodern excesses of the 1980s and '90s, meanwhile, already look more dated than anything the heroic Modernists produced." The Telegraph (UK) 04/12/06

Goya's Last Years There may not have been a more overexposed dead artist in the last decade than Goya, whose work formed the backbone of one of the early "blockbuster" touring exhibitions. But Robert Hughes says that not only is all the attention justified, but a closer look at Goya's later works shows that this was that rarest of artistic geniuses who never lost his passion, his creativity, and his will to innovate. The Guardian (UK) 04/12/06

When Is Influence More Than Inspiration? "It is a simple fact that artists influence artists. But an artist overwhelmed by another's influence is far less interesting than one who makes use of the first artist's influences to develop his own individuality. Looking at this issue is 'Morandi's Legacy: Influences on British Art,' an exhibition at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in London until June 18. It takes a quiet master of 20th-century art, Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), and places his oils and etchings - still lifes and landscapes - next to more recent works of notable originality that may be connected in various ways with Morandi." The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 04/12/06

Berlin Biennale, Thinking Outside The Usual White Box This year's Berlin Biennale has apparently outgrown any single venue, and organizers are using the city itself as the staging area for the 8-year-old event. "Visitors were not simply making their way to and from a museum or some smartly retrofitted warehouse, the usual location for a big contemporary art survey. They were waiting in the cold spring air to enter private apartments, an office, a ballroom, a shuttered school, a former horse stable, the church, the cemetery and the white-walled galleries of the Berlin Biennial's organizer, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art." The New York Times 04/11/06

Monday, April 10

Getting Inside Kandinsky's Head A new exhibition of work by the Russian abstractionist Wassily Kandinsky will include a collection of letters and poems written by the painter, none of which have ever before been published in English. Curators say that the written materials will "shine a light on the painter's path to abstraction." The Guardian (UK) 04/11/06

Piano Does Morgan Renzo Piano's Morgan Library extension is a major addition, writes Nicolai Ouroussoff. "A sublime expression of the architect's preoccupation with light, the design transforms the world of robber barons and dust-coated scholars conjured by the old Morgan into a taut architectural composition bursting with civic hope. His triumph at the site, where order is brought to a jumble of buildings collected over nearly a century, should temporarily allay complaints that New York's cultural institutions shrink from a high level of architectural innovation." The New York Times 04/10/06

Mendes da Rocha Wins Pritzker Paulo Mendes da Rocha of Brazil has won the 2006 Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered the profession's highest honor. "Mr. Mendes da Rocha, 77, is best known for his Brazilian Sculpture Museum in São Paulo, where he is considered the unofficial dean of the city's Brutalist movement." The New York Times 04/10/06

Sunday, April 9

Dorment: The Whitney's Bold Biennial Richard Dorment wasn't expecting much of this year's Whitney Biennial after reading all the bad reviews. "Certainly the squalor and violence about which American critics complained is everywhere in evidence, but I can't think of a greater contrast than between the Whitney's direct, visceral response to what is happening in America today and the tepid, neoconceptual navel-gazing going on at Tate Britain." The Telegraph (UK) 04/09/06

Iraq Treasure To Tour Starting In DC A tour of Iraq's greatest art treasure - the Nimrud gold - will begin an international tour next February in Washington DC. "There are likely to be around ten venues, after Washington, and these will probably include museums in Berlin, London and Paris. The tour of 'The Gold of Nimrud' should raise around $10m for Iraq’s National Museum." The Art Newspaper 04/06/06

Havana Hardship Being a serious artist in Cuba is no easy matter, even though dictator Fidel Castro has made a point of using Cuban culture to soften his government's image abroad. "Throughout the city, museums have been refurbished, and installed with many politically charged works that speak both for and against the revolution, displays that seem to demonstrate the government's tolerance of dissenting voices." But beneath the surface, artists struggle for approval of their exhibitions, shows are canceled without warning, and the shadow of El Presidente looms large over every new work. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/09/06

The Neverending Battle Over Modernism Modernism absorbs a lot of body blows these days, and one UK critic recently claimed that the art movement was responsible for "more human misery than anything else in history." Hyperbole aside, though, was modernism really a bad thing? "The arguments boil down to claims that Modernism was inhuman, authoritarian and technically inept. But if it was really so bad, and if it was really confined to a tiny and irrelevant coterie, why does it look so good [in museum shows today,] and why was it so all-pervasive in its influence? Above all, why are its critics still so worried about it?" The Observer (UK) 04/09/06

  • Modernist Redux Love it or hate it, there's no denying that modernism is back in a big way. From the much-celebrated iPod to Frank Gehry's shiny monoliths to "all the chrome-and-leather furniture and cubic shelving that sells to our most fashion-forward loft dwellers: It was all first dreamed up in the 1920s or before." Washington Post 04/09/06

Conquering The Renaissance "When Ottoman ruler Mehmed II asked Venice for a 'good painter', he was sent Gentile Bellini, whose portrait of him brought a lasting touch of the Renaissance to the east." At the same time, the influence of Bellini's portrait on Western art was unmistakable, and may represent the original globalization of the European art world. The Guardian (UK) 04/08/06

If It Works, They'll Install A Few Warhols In The Food Court Video art frequently has trouble finding a permanent place in traditional museums and galleries. So why not try displaying it somewhere else? In, say, a shopping mall? "Encouraged by the popularity of their free summer film series, which featured James Bond movies one year and Marilyn Monroe pictures another, managers of [a suburban Colorado mall] have begun screening classic video art in their courtyard." The New York Times 04/09/06

Friday, April 7

Constable-Land Put On Hold Plans for a theme park-like attraction designed to showcase the life and work of John Constable in the British valley depicted in much of the artist's most famous work have been scrapped in the wake of vigorous opposition to the project. The developer in charge of the plans says he will revise them and try again soon. The Guardian (UK) 04/07/06

Chirac's Paris Museum Draws Fire From Press The €260 million Musée du Quai Branly - Paris's first major new museum since the Pompidou Centre opened in 1977 - opens this week after ten years of planning and construction. The museum, which celebates Asian and African culture and art, has been a favorite project of French President Jacque Chirac, "but when the museum's directors opened the site for previews this week before its June launch, historians were already questioning what they feared could be a patronising attempt to display African works in a 'mock jungle' setting that rehashed 'all France's old colonial cliches'." The Guardian (UK) 04/07/06

Art Market Continues To Boom With Record Turner Sale A Venice landscape painted by JMW Turner sold in New York this week for $35.9 million, bringing 80% more than its expected sale price and shattering the record for British paintings sold at auction. "The sale shows that the worldwide boom in the art market is lifting prices in almost all sectors of art... The Turner sale reflects the continued strength of the US market, which has led London and Paris in pushing up prices." Financial Times (UK) 04/06/06

Thursday, April 6

As Kids Stream In, Galleries Look To Child-Proofing "Up until a few years ago, the presence of children in art galleries and performance spaces wouldn't have been an issue — because there weren't any. They weren't prohibited per se, but they were simply seldom seen. The message was that art was for adults. But today's parents bring their children everywhere, and as more art lovers, collectors and artists themselves have kids, it has become perfectly normal to see little ones at openings." The influx of kids has gallery officials in a quandary - they're torn between delight that small fry are being exposed to culture, and abject terror that they'll break, smear, or deface something. Los Angeles Times 04/06/06

Five Klimts Meet Their Rightful Owner "For most of the last 60 years, Maria Altmann did not know that the celebrated Klimt paintings hanging in the Austrian Gallery in Vienna actually belonged to her. And when she learned that they most likely did, she also knew that recovering them was probably an impossible quest. But in an unexpected turn of events, the endless ripples of World War II history have washed up on the shore of a California museum, where this week the 90-year-old Mrs. Altmann came face to face with the sumptuous gold and sinuous lines of Gustav Klimt's portrait of her aunt." The New York Times 04/06/06

Rockwell Original Discovered (If Only We'd Known It Was Missing) For years, art experts have noted that the original copy of Norman Rockwell's painting, "Breaking Home Ties," appears to be lighter in color than the prints that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1954. The discrepancy has long been blamed on an overly aggressive cleaning of the work. But now, the truth has come out: cartoonist Don Trachte, who owned the painting for years, apparently made a sophisticated copy in the 1970s and hid the original in a secret compartment in his Vermont home, in an effort to avoid losing the Rockwell in a bitter divorce. It wasn't until last month that Trachte's sons discovered the genuine article, right where their father had left it. The New York Times 04/06/06

Wednesday, April 5

Glasgow Fair Tries To Take The Next Step "After 10 years of financial development but fluctuating quality and a growing belief that it was falling just too far downmarket to attract serious players, this year's Glasgow Art Fair is making determined efforts to mature. Of course, growing up is hard to do and the fair has come under concerted pressure from those local galleries who perceive themselves as unfairly excluded... For the visitor, the ability to breathe will be welcome, the atmosphere is far more visually careful, with spaces well hung and a better focus on individual artists rather than a pile-'em-high Wal-Mart approach to retailing that was beginning to prevail." The Herald (Glasgow) 04/06/06

The Year Of Rembrandt "This year, the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt's birth, will be celebrated with a broad spectrum of artistic activities across Europe, ranging from a major exhibition which contrasts Rembrandt with that other great painter of light, Caravaggio, to a stage musical about the Dutch master and a walk in his footsteps in his home city." The Guardian (UK) 04/05/06

This Year's Beck's Futures? It's All About The Shoes "Shoes pervade the London instalment of this year's Beck's Futures show, which opened at the ICA on Friday. Gallery-goers in Glasgow and Bristol, where the same shortlisted artists will soon be showing a different selection of works, may come away with a different impression. But in London, feet and shoes seem to be everywhere." The Guardian (UK) 04/05/06

Everyone Wants Guernica Picasso's "Guernica may denounce war, but Spaniards appear determined not to allow one of their most famous paintings any peace. Everybody in Spain, it sometimes seems, wants to get their hands on it. The latest claim comes from the Basque country." The Guardian (UK) 04/05/06

Fake Sheik Sentenced For Faux Rembrandt A man who admitted posing as a Saudi sheik as part of a scheme to sell a fake Rembrandt painting for $2.8 million, was sentenced Tuesday to 10 months in confinement in St. Louis. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 04/04/06

Museum-By-Phone "In recent months, a number of museums nationwide — including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles — have begun offering audio tours that can be accessed via mobile phones as an alternative to the audio devices often available for rent at exhibitions. Museum visitors are given a phone number to dial to begin the tour. Then information on individual artworks is heard by entering various codes on the keypad." Los Angeles Times 04/05/06

Tuesday, April 4

Returned Art - What Are The Obligations? Maria Altmann successfully sued the Austrian government for return of paintings by Gustav Klimt. Now she's loaned them to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The three-month loan to LACMA of a textbook painting is partly a gesture of gratitude to the city where Altmann emigrated. But it's also a holding action. With the seven-year legal battle over title to the art now settled, the heirs face a daunting question: What obligations — if any — does the family have in determining the ultimate fate of a painting of monumental cultural significance?" Los Angeles Times 04/04/06

Monday, April 3

An Art Market - Can It Continue Its Winning Ways? The art market is humming. But can it continue winning? "In the art world, there’s a clear delineation between those who experienced the last crash, in the early nineties, and those who didn’t. 'This market is fueled by collectors who have never been through a correction,' says art adviser Darlene Lutz, active since the eighties. 'The generations who did are watching this with disbelief. It’s like teenagers who have unprotected sex thinking they’ll never get pregnant. And then, whoops . . . look what happened'!" New York Magazine 03/27/06

Does MoMA Need To Reinvent? Has the Museum of Modern Art become too safe? Too museum-like? "No one doubts that MoMA remained the preeminent museum of its kind anywhere. But MoMA was traditionally a living idea, not a static monument. It aspired to be the center of an arts community. It considered itself an edgy institution that challenges and instructs." And now? New York Magazine 04/03/06

Date Set For Denver Museum Opening A date has been set for the opening of the new Daniel-Libeskind-designed Denver Art Museum building. It's October 7. "Planning for the building began in 1999 when Denver voters approved a $62.5 million bond issue. The project also prompted the DAM board to raise more than $50 million in endowment funds, and another $28 million for upgrades in the project." Rocky Mountain News 04/03/06

That Photo Prejudice... "These days, photo-based painting is as common as rain and just as inevitable, as younger artists such as Nick Mauss, Lucy McKenzie, and Wilhelm Sasnal take up the practice and exploit it. Yet it often complicates the public’s understanding of art and can easily put painters who use photographic aids, including computers and projectors, on the defensive. The question is: why? Why should a painting based on a photograph be considered a less legitimate work of art than one painted from observation or one that is simply abstract?" ARTnews 04/0/6

Gone Dotty - The Secret To Mona Lisa's Smile A researcher has reported that the secret to Mona Lisa's smile is "millions of invisible dots." The expert "reported that the technique is somewhat similar to pointillism used by the French Neo-Impressionists in the late 19th century. Examples of this micro-division of tones exist since the ancient Romans. Leonardo took an existing techniques, but used it to the extreme, like nobody else." Discovery 04/03/06

Christie's Retracts Sale Offering After Protests From Spanish Government Christie's has removed five beams from sale from a Cordoba mosque. "The church argued that the beams should not be sold as they have strong grounds to assert that the church retains ownership of the beams,'' it said, adding that the law firm had threatened an injunction against Christie's to prevent the sale." Bloomberg.com 04/03/06

Greeks Seize Artifacts From Ex-Getty Curator's House "In a surprise search Wednesday, Greek authorities seized 17 unregistered artifacts and a Byzantine icon from the vacation house of Marion True, the former J. Paul Getty Museum antiquities curator on trial in Rome on charges she trafficked in looted art. Among the objects seized, only a Hellenistic marble torso is thought to be archeologically significant." Los Angeles Times 04/03/06

Sunday, April 2

Architecture In Adversity (Good For New Orleans?) The reconstruction of New Orleans is a mess. But maybe that's good for architecture, writes Chris Hawthorne. "Without Category 5 levees, wetlands restoration along the Gulf Coast or a forward-thinking planning strategy in place, homeowners who choose to rebuild will have to acknowledge the possibility of future flooding in every design decision. And if they approach the reconstruction process with that level of wariness — with their eyes wide open — they will be tapping into a rich architectural tradition in this city, odd as that may sound." Los Angeles Times 04/02/06

These Colors Are Completely Unreliable "Colors: You can't trust them. To test this proposition: When next in a museum, first buy yourself a postcard, then go and find the painting it pretends to reproduce, and compare them side by side. You'll see. The card will be demolished by the real thing..." Washington Post 04/02/06

Archi-Terrorism? A shadowy group has threatened demolition and building contractors over projects they're trying to build. "The group says it is dedicated to stopping modern housing developments and the destruction of historic buildings. It claims that 'as a result of developers' greed and planners' indifference, the erosion of regional identity is at crisis point'." The Guardian (UK) 04/02/06

Canada's Small Museums Are Dying In Slow Motion Canada is in the midst of a museum-building boom. "But too often, say some in the museum community, this country's approach to its museums is like that of fathers who sire kids all over town but neglect to properly support them. Canada's heritage collections and sites are in chronic crisis. No one is actively trying to obliterate them in the way that the Taliban blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas; rather, neglect and underfunding threaten to accomplish the same result, in slow motion." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/01/06

In Baghdad, A Museum Waits For Peace Though it has been repaired, baghdad's national Museum has not reopened. "Even with thousands of pieces still missing, the museum houses an extraordinary collection by any standard. What is lacking is the peace it needs to admit the public. 'When a museum is reopened, it means that peace has come.' For now, it is a hollow place, devoid of life, empty of discourse. This echoing museum at the heart of Baghdad - that is to say, at the heart of the American project in Iraq - is an image of hope frustrated." The New York Times 04/02/06

Museums - Like It? Buy It By nature, many of us are pack rats and want to collect souvenirs wherever we go. Museums are picking up on this in a big way; most have gift shops that swell the bottom line. But a number of museums are also commissioning artists and selling the artwork... The new York Times 03/29/06

Peru Wants Machu Picchu Artifacts Returned Peru is seeking to get artifacts from Machu Picchu housed at Yale, returned. "When Yale launched a major touring exhibition featuring the artifacts three years ago, the Peruvian government started negotiations to get them back. Yale offered to divide the items up and help Peru install its share in a museum near the site. Peruvian officials would not agree to any joint projects until Yale acknowledged that all of the objects belong to the Peruvian people. Yale refused." NPR 03/31/06

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