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Weekend, June 14, 15


The Art Of The Virus "Last December, Daccia Bloomstone, a 25-year-old Toronto artist, worked with a friend to set up up a commercial art gallery in downtown Toronto. They called it Virus Arts." This, of course, was before the SARS epidemic hit, making the whole art-as-infectious-virus notion quite a bit scarier. Still, says Liam Lacey, it may be time to lay aside the old canard that human culture, and indeed humanity itself, is a virus upon the earth. "The life-threatening viruses that have hit this country recently, severe acute respiratory syndrome, mad cow and West Nile, with monkeypox threatening, are a reality check for the pervasiveness and elasticity of the extraordinary widespread viral analogy in popular culture." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/14/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 8:59 am

Ideas Wanted Toronto's IdeaCity conference, which gets underway this weekend, is an intellectual celebration without direction, and that's exactly how organizers want it. The hope is that, by bringing together some of Canada's greatest thinkers for the mental equivalent of a jam session, great ideas will emerge, and walling in such broad-minded folks with a single 'theme' would seem to be antithetical to the effort. "But the event is still trying to find its feet conceptually. Some of the participants are genuinely 'ideas' people, but others are pop singers and wilderness adventurers." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/14/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 8:46 am

History For Hire? "A scientist financed by, say, the tobacco industry, is expected to declare whose wallet is behind his research. But what about a historian? The question may seem odd, but it has suddenly become more urgent as medical historians are becoming witnesses in some of the country's most important and expensive lawsuits. This practice is causing a fierce debate among historians over the ethics of testifying for industries accused of endangering the public's health." The New York Times 06/14/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 7:10 am

Visual Arts

A Gift With Broad Implications Eli Broad's $60 million gift to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art towards the construction of a new wing is being hailed as an unexpected windfall at a time when many museums are having to postpone or cancel expansion projects. But the gift's impact may be more far-reaching than even Broad himself expected, says Christopher Reynolds: "Although its key goal is the creation of a new contemporary art building, LACMA's leaders are already imagining how this will change the shape of their institution." Los Angeles Times 06/14/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 9:58 am

  • Previously: Broad Donates Money For New Contemporary Art Museum Philanthropist Eli Broad has agreed to fund a new building for contemporary art for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "In a memorandum of understanding with museum leaders, Broad has laid out plans to pay for 'every penny' of a new, 70,000-square-foot building, said LACMA board Chairman Wally Weisman. The new building, tentatively dubbed the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA and projected to cost roughly $50 million, would stand along Wilshire Boulevard just east of the former May Co. building now known as LACMA West." Los Angeles Times 06/12/03

Can't Anyone Paint A Face Anymore? When did it become so impossible for an artist to sit down and crank out a recognizable representation of an actual human being? Has contemporary art become so self-conscious, and so detached from the real world, that a decent portrait is no longer achievable? The dearth of quality portrait painters is such a problem, in fact, that Britain's National Portrait Gallery has been reduced to holding a contest to find an artist capable of doing the job. The gallery generally "has to make do with the artists available; and when they are famous in their own right, it then has to deal with the consequences, for example, of blowing untold funds on a Lucian Freud or a Hockney." The Observer (UK) 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 9:33 am

When Art And War Collide The Dead Sea Scrolls go on display in Montreal this week, and if you think that's not a big deal, you ought to have a word with the curator who had to get them there. From the Palestinian uprising in 2000, to the 9/11 attacks, to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, global events have conspired to keep the scrolls out of Canada for years, and no one in Montreal dared believe that their exhibit woul actually go of as scheduled until the scrolls physically arrived this month. The Montreal exhibit marks the first time that all three scrolls have been exhibited together outside of Israel. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/14/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 8:51 am

New Urbanism Comes To Denver In Denver, where an abandoned railroad yard long considered a blight on the downtown area has been transformed into "a vibrant new inner-city neighborhood with a mix of offices, residential units and retail businesses," architect Todd Johnson and his Design Workshop are being celebrated as shining examples of the New Urbanism. At the heart of the Denver design was the notion that it is no longer enough just to build an urban landscape and expect people to flock to it. But the tired notion of getting suburbanites to return to downtown by bringing the suburbs to the city hasn't worked either. The key to a successful urban design, says Johnson, is to create a space that makes people want to move around in it, preferably on foot, with lots of other people. Denver Post 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 8:27 am

Architects In Crisis Few people think of architecture as a job requiring much in the way of crisis management skills. But a recent symposium in Boston examined the way that architects and engineers have handled some of the most devastating architectural crises in recent decades. From a collapsed hotel balcony in Kansas City, to a Manhattan skyscraper that could have toppled in a high wind, the all-too-human reactions to tragedies of human error changed the way many in the architectural trade view their jobs. Boston Globe 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 7:55 am


Neither The Best Nor The Worst Of Times The sky is not about to fall down on the world of symphony orchestras, but neither is the future outlook as rosy as some industry soothsayers think, says Paul Horsley. The fact is that orchestras with responsible fiscal policies are thriving, even in the down economy, but that doesn't make it any easier for the groups in trouble to dig their way out of the financial hole. The 'X factor' in orchestral success remains a commitment to artistic quality, and the orchestras that stay afloat are the ones that can find a way to maintain their standard, even as they cut the necessary monetary corners. Kansas City Star 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 9:42 am

A String Quartet Too Hot To Handle "The culture wars don't often invade the rarefied world of chamber music. But the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival's directors have decided to omit the sexually explicit and homoerotic narration accompanying a new piece by Pulitzer-winning composer David Del Tredici... To the composer, who is well-known for celebrating his homosexuality in his music, the issue boils down to censorship fueled by homophobia. To Tocco, who is also gay, the issue is the festival's responsibility to an audience that includes children. Trapped in the crossfire are the musicians in the Elements Quartet, which commissioned the work from Del Tredici and offered the world premiere performance to the festival." Detroit Free Press 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 8:35 am

How To Hold A Composer Accountable One of the frequent charges leveled against composers over the last few decades has been that they are increasingly distant from, and even uninterested in, their audience. A special interactive concert made an effort to reconnect the two this weekend in New England: three composers each presented new works to the audience, and spoke briefly about their inspirations and objectives in composition. Then, the audience got a crack at questioning the composer, speaking up about what did and didn't make a connection, and even asking for segments of some works to be repeated. "It sounds like the very thing that composers dread," says Keith Powers, and yet it seems to have made everyone involved a little wiser, and a lot happier. Boston Herald 06/14/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 7:00 am

Arts Issues

Is Britain's New Labour Party Destroying The Arts? "New Labour has wrecked culture in the sense of encouraging the lowest common denominator. It is total populism. That's the reason why so many of us [in the arts] hate them - not just for our political differences." So says playwright Tariq Ali, joining a chorus of cultural figures in the UK decrying the ruling party's abandonment of high culture. Part of the anti-Labour venom is surely a result of Tony Blair's unpopular support for the American war in Iraq, but the split runs deeper than a single issue. Where Labour was once thought to be the political ally of the serious art world, it seems increasingly clear to many artists that New Labour isn't interested in anything but making the masses happy. The Guardian (UK) 06/14/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 9:15 am

Fash Bash Crash Fash Bash, the massive annual fundraising event staged by the Detroit Institute for the Arts, has been cancelled by the museum after a sponsor for the event could not be found. Fash Bash raised better than $500,000 for the DIA in 2001, but primary sponsor Marshall Field's pulled its support after that year to focus on similar shows in Chicago and Minneapolis. Without a large corporation to pick up the tab, last year's event actually ended up costing the DIA money, a disaster which the museum was determined not to repeat. Detroit News 06/14/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 8:40 am


An Architectural Clash of the Titans Jacques Herzog and Rem Koolhaas see themselves as the twin giants of the architectural industry, says Deyan Sudjic, and like any other rival titans, they cannot seem to resist the temptation to one-up each other. "Between them, they have transformed architectural debate... [but] the relationship between them is becoming more like that between Godzilla and King Kong. They can't help but go swarming all over the skyline, trying to take pokes at each other. And in the end, they are interested in entirely different things." Herzog's magnificent new Prada store in Tokyo is the latest salvo in the friendly battle: it "comes hard on the heels of Koolhaas's much- publicised New York flagship for Prada, and effortlessly eclipses it." The Observer (UK) 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 9:28 am

Goodbye, Atticus Actor Gregory Peck, best remembered as Atticus Finch in the celebrated film adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, has died of natural causes at his California home. "Possessed of a soul-stirring voice called 'one of the world's great musical instruments' by violinist Isaac Stern, and a face chiseled from the same bedrock as Abe Lincoln's, Mr. Peck towered over the American cultural landscape for six decades. He consistently played men who saw wrong and did right." Peck was 87. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/13/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 8:15 am

  • The Thinking Man's Hero A few days before Gregory Peck's death, his characterization of Atticus Finch was recognized by the American Film Institute as having created the "greatest hero" in the history of American film. That such a title, however subjective it may be, could be bestowed on a protagonist who threw no punches, rode no galloping horses, and in fact, lost his court fight to save an innocent man, is yet one more indication of Peck's skill as an actor. In an industry that glorifies violence, and celebrates the culture of shoot-first-ask-questions-later, Peck managed to make a hero of a vulnerable pacifist. It was a role that suited him well. Chicago Tribune 06/15/03
    Posted: 06/15/2003 8:07 am


The Golden Age Of Chidren's Theatre? With the Minneapolis-based Children's Theatre Company collecting the Tony award for best regional theatre, is the world of high drama finally ready to embrace truly excellent productions for kids? More important, should audiences now expect the same high level of performance and production from shows directed at children as they do from 'adult' theatre? "For decades the field was seen as the theatrical bush leagues, the province of sanctimonious pedagogues, dramaturgical amateurs and dubious actors in animal suits. But those prejudices have been eroding, and now there is a highly visible emblem of this shift." The New York Times 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 10:27 am

The Changing Face of The West End "Three of London's major theater institutions - the Royal National Theatre, the Donmar Warehouse and the Almeida Theatre in Islington - acquired new artistic directors in the past year. A fourth company, the Old Vic, has a new head as well, a starry American one: Kevin Spacey, who plans to act in and direct Old Vic productions." But can any amount of new blood manage to pull the West End out of what has become an embarrassing and extended slump? Michael Phillips sees some promising signs. Chicago Tribune 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 8:13 am


Harry's Too Heavy In Scotland, where the new Harry Potter book will hit shelves on Saturday, the postal service is concerned about the health of its carriers, who will be expected to deliver thousands of the books preordered from online booksellers in a single day. At issue is the unusual size of the fifth Potter tome - the UK edition runs 768 pages, and weighs in at a full kilogram. So what's the solution? The Royal Mail may be forced to dispatch a special fleet of vans just to deliver Harry. BBC 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 7:13 am


Are There Too Many Holocaust Films? It's a touchy question. Such a momentous and terrible event as the Holocaust surely deserves to be memorialized on film. But with so many new documentaries being released every year, is the supply outstripping the demand? More importantly, is the sharpness of the message dulled by such a glut of messengers? That notion is starting to make it more difficult for filmmakers wanting to focus on the Holocaust to win financial backing. The New York Times 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 10:16 am


New Orleans Finds Its Dancing Shoes "Call it the original populist movement: dancing for the people and by the people, all different people. Cross-cultural boogieing -- that was this city's first contribution to the national identity." But somewhere between the Louisiana Purchase and the modern era, New Orleans lost its claim to being one of America's centers of the arts. Still, the evidence of the Crescent City's dance roots is everywhere, and the idea of dance as an art of the people, rather than an elite craft, is central to the heritage. "The people of [19th-century] New Orleans were multicultural in a meaningful way, mixing blood and traditions to make new and vital arts. Perhaps that is a model to revitalize dance today." Washington Post 06/15/03
Posted: 06/15/2003 10:42 am

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