Volume 18, Number 1 .... January 1996


Susana Zubiate, Column Editor

Axe About to fall on NEA

by Walter Robinson in Art in America, November 1995, p.27.

The future looks dark as the budget axe is taken to the National Endowment for the Arts. Though the legislation has not yet passed the full Congress and though the President can still veto it, at present, the House and Senate conference committee has agreed to cut the NEA's 1996 budget from $175 million to $99.5 million. NEA faces major restructuring. Forty percent layoffs in staff and changes in the application process are anticipated. Replacement categories for the previously discipline -based categories are now "creation and presentation", "education and access", "heritage and preservation", and "planning and stabilization". The effect of these new categories will be to have different organizational groups such as museum exhibitions competing against opera or ballet for grants.

"Artwork Destroyed"

Los Angeles Times, Saturday, November 4, 1995, p. F2.

Four sculptures by Columbian artist Doris Salcedo were destroyed by U.S. Custom Service officials at John F. Kennedy airport. Pieces of the sculptures were hammered off as the custom officers searched, unsuccessfully, for narcotics. The sculptures were en route to the Carnegie Museum which plans to file a claim for the damage with the federal agency.

"Detective Work That Leaves No Footprints"

by Robert Lee Hotz in Los Angeles Times, Thursday, November 16, 1995, pp. A1, A26, A27.

"Getty researchers are preserving an ancient African trail by reburying it. They are battling erosion, vandals - and controversy."

Since 1993 the Getty Conservation Institute has been working, at the request of the Tanzanian department of antiquities, to unearth, document and preserve the 3.6 million year old Laetoli footprints. Made of volcanic ash, the fragile footprints were being subjected to seasonal rains, disruption by plant roots, and were in possible danger of vandalism.

The Getty team, under the supervision of Martha Demas, has documented the site, created a digital map of the area, made more accurate casts of the prints, and then has re-buried the footprints. The burial consisted of two inches of sand, a layer of a special cloth designed to absorb water without allowing erosion, a distinctive layer of gray soil used as a marker for the site, another layer of sand, a sheet of woven fabric that has an herbicide incorporated into the cloth that is designed to leach out over the next eighty years, more soil, another sheet of material to block roots, a nylon sheet to retard erosion, and a final layer of soil.

Controversy lies in whether the footprints should eventually be taken from their original site and displayed and preserved in a museum. They are considered by some as being too fragile to move yet others believe that to leave them in the remote and unprotected location means that they will eventually succumb to the elements.

"Disk Sets"

by P.R. in ARTnews, summer 1995, p.62.

A four CD-ROM set entitled Encyclopedia of Techniques of the Work of Art is being co-produced by the Louvre and Apple Computer. The set "will concentrate on historic techniques, tools, and materials in four fields of art: painting, graphic art, sculpture, and "objects d'art"." The first of the four discs will be completed by the end of this year.

""Endless" Problem"

by Susan E. Milligan and Judd Tilly in ARTnews, October 1995, pp.126 - 130.

"One of the icons of 20th-century sculpture, Constantin Brancusi's Endless Column, along with the artist's entire sculptural complex at Tirgu Jiu, has fallen into disrepair. But and ambitious restoration plan conceived by a Romanian Brancusi authority has scholars and other experts feeling uneasy."

The damaged sculptures, particularly Brancusi's Endless Column, pose a conservation problem which is being addressed by conservators on both sides of the Atlantic. While the renovation of the entire complex raises opposition from the local population as well as Brancusi scholars. Discussion regarding the restoration of sculptures is addressed by members of the J. Paul Getty Foundation and Getty Conservation Institute, and the Romanian Ministry of Culture Institute for Restoration.

The "uneasiness" centers around the initiator and manager of the project, Radu Varia, as well as the extent of the restoration plan.

"Monuments in Peril"

in Art in America, p. 35.

The world Monuments Fund has developed a World Monuments Watch program which will develop a list of 100 cultural sites that are in dire need of protection. American Express has donated five million dollars for the project which will be used as seed money to raise matching funds.

"Royal Heads Roll"

by A. L. in ARTnews, Summer 1995, p.64.

Henry Moore's King and Queen were vandalized in Dumfries, Scotland. The heads of the figures were sawed off earlier this Spring. In Canbarra, Australia a sculpture by Greg Taylor of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were also severely vandalized. The head of the queen was broken off and a sledgehammer was taken to the figure of the prince.

"World's Oldest Paintings"

by Paul G. Bahn in Archaeology, September/ October 1995. p. 20.

Some of the paintings at Chauvet Cave in southern France have recently been carbon dated . Of the eight samples of charcoal that were taken from the paintings and the cave floor, those of two rhinos and a bison have been dated to approximately 32,000 before present. Up until now the oldest dated painting was that of a hand stencil dated about 27,000 years BP. Sophisticated art in the form of small carvings is already known from this earlier period but it was thought that artists of the time had not yet mastered depicting three-dimensional forms. The possibility that the paintings were made by occupants using charcoal from fireplaces of earlier dwellers warns caution regarding the actual date of execution of the paintings.

"Hirst Wins Turner Prize"

in the L. A. Times, Nov. 30, 1995, F2.

Damien Hirst, the British artist who has repeatedly shocked the public with sculptures using dead animals and dying insects, is this year's winner of Britain's Turner Prize, a prestigious yet controversial art award that aims to expand ideas of what constitutes art. The 30-year old Hirst--who has pickled a shark and a sheep and made a rotting cow and a bull copulate with the help of hydraulics--was the hot favorite for the $30,970 prize, presented by musician Brian Eno Tuesday night at London's Tate Gallery. Hirst is currently showing one of his most recent pieces at the Tate: the split carcasses of a dead cow and its calf floating in green formaldehyde. This year's selection of Turner finalists provoked the usual cries of "rubbish" from traditionalists--Hirst's competitors were Mona Hatoum who used medical technology to video the inside of her body through every orifice; Callum Innes, whose abstract paintings include blank white canvases; and Mark Wallinger, who made his name showing a live horse as a work of art.

"Small Museums Prove Easy Prey for Art Thieves"

by Maria Puente in USA Today, Friday, Dec. 1, 1995.

Thousands of small museums across the country are easy targets for thieves who are stealing everything from Native American treasures to historic jewelry. While many of the thefts don't come close to the multimillion dollar heists at bigger museums, the local thefts are devastating to communities. At least 24 local museums have been robbed in the last three years. One disturbing pattern: about half the cases involve theft of Native American artifacts worth thousands of dollars on the exploding market for such material in the US, Europe, and Japan.

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