May 1998 Volume 20 Number 2

Articles You May Have Missed

Susana Zubiate, Column Editor

"Artifacts Disputed at Boston MFA", by David Ebony, in Art in America, February 1998, p.28.

Officials from Guatemala and Mali claim that a number of works in the new Brown and Carter Galleries for pre-Columbian, Columbian, African, and Oceanic art at the Boston Museum of Fine Art were looted and transported out of the respective countries illegally.

Approximately 100 pre-Columbian pieces from the archaeological site of Tikal in Guatemala and two pieces from Mali are at issue. The pre-Columbian objects were donated to the museum and the pieces from Mali are on loan. Officials from both countries have stated that they may bring lawsuits against the museum to regain the artwork.

The museum denies any wrongdoing, saying that each work in the museum's permanent collection is properly certified and that the museum does not require legal documentation of importation of objects on loan.

"First NEA Grants for 1998", Art in America, February 1998, ARTWORLD section.

The NEA has announced the first grants for fiscal year 1998. In the category of Heritage & Preservation, Indiana University received $85,000 to conserve and reinstall a Thomas Hart Benton mural from the Chicago International Exhibition of 1933; The Museum of Modern Art received $75,000 for the preservation of films; and the Walters Art Gallery received $65,000 for the documentation and conservation of its Egyptian collection.

"Graves to Wrap Monument", in Art in America, February 1998, p.29.

Architect Michael Graves has been commissioned to wrap the Washington Monument while it undergoes renovations which will include upgrading the climate control system, elevator repairs, and exterior restoration.

A blue grid translucent fabric whose blue horizontal and vertical lines echo the mortar and stone pattern of the monument will be used to veil the scaffolding while the structure is being worked on for the next few years. The wrapping and the scaffolding are both designed by Graves. His better known works include the design of the Disney headquarters in Burbank and his bird-whistle teapots.

"Newman 'Cathedra' Slashed at Stedelijk", by Stephanie Cash, in Art in America, January 1998, p.27.

The same vandal that slashed Barnett Newman "Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue" eleven years ago has struck again. He is said to have expressed anger that "Who's Afraid" had been restored. This time he slashed Newman "Cathedra" seven times because "Who's Afraid", which was still his intended target, is not on view.

The vandal, Gerard van Bladeren told police that he was attempting to restore his handiwork to "Who's Afraid", claiming that vandalism-by-slashing is his art. This is the third major incident of vandalism at Amsterdam's Stedelijk in the past eleven years.

Van Bladeren is currently out on bail. Maximum penalty for the crime is two years of jail and a $15,000 fine. After all of the controversy over the restoration of "Who's Afraid" (in litigation for five years) the conservation on "Cathedra" will be done by conservators at the Stedelijk instead of being contracted out.

"Report From St. Petersburg, Reshaping Old Museums for the New Russia", by Lee Rosenbaum, in Art in America, February 1998, p.45.

With new programming latitude but erratic financial support from the government, the city's leading art museums seek out new alliances and funding sources. An interesting article on the many obstacles and opportunities faced by the State Hermitage Museum and the State Russian Museum under the new government.

The complex mix of old and new world ideas are addressed and an overview of the steps which the institutions are currently taking toward achieving their ambitious goals are discussed (and often criticized).

Museum professionals in St. Petersburg are seizing the 300th anniversary celebration (in 2003) of Peter the Greats founding of the city as an opportunity to "reinvent" their institutions. The directors of the State Hermitage Museum and the State Russian Museum have gained new freedom and developed far reaching goals for their institutions, but have compromised financial security with the transformation of the government.

The changes have been accompanied by growing pains as new ways to manage and subsidize the meager and erratic income of the institutions are tested. Methods of fundraising include finding patrons, forming bonds with international private philanthropists (often described "strange alliances"), "exploiting its collections as cash cows", and lobbying to change government policy and law regarding cultural funding.

The ambitious goals include the acquisition of numerous historic complexes, major renovation of existing facilities, the building of new art complexes, the updating of programs, and "the exchange of ideas and art works with their Western colleagues." Critics find many of their actions questionable but what is made clear is the fact that these major art institutions have many obstacles to tackle and experience to gain after being isolated for so long from the rest of the art world.

"Louvre Visitors Searched After Theft", Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1998.

Police closed the Louvre and searched visitors after a guard discovered the theft of "The Sèvres Road", a painting by Corot. The thief apparently cut the painting from its frame. Police conducted body searches of all of the several hundred visitors who were still in the museum, and museum personnel were interrogated. Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot was a 19th century French painter known for his landscapes. The painting measures 13 inches by 19 inches.

"The Louvre It Ain't", Los Angeles Times, Feb. 15, 1998.

"While You Wait: Time Travel" is a group exhibition that brings the work of Los Angeles-based artists to - of all places - the Department of Motor Vehicles in Hollywood.

It's not as crazy as it sounds. A diverse and steady audience is what project coordinator Jamie Bush, 28, had in mind when he came up with the idea two years ago and brought it to the Hollywood DMV, which provides services to about 1,000 people daily. "It gives the artists huge exposure," Bush explained. "You have a captive audience in the form of hundreds of people who have nothing to do but stand around for hours being disgruntled; we've given them a diversion."

As it happened, siting the project at the DMV became central to the exhibition's theme. The mixed-media works all suggest impressions of how people relate to, and move through, time and space.

"Rauschenberg Dispute Settled", Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1998.

German art dealer Alfred Kren has settled his dispute with artist Robert Rauschenberg over an unpaid debt that had led to the seizure last month of 15 Rauschenberg works from a traveling museum exhibition. "I think everyone was happy that it was resolved," said Rauschenberg's attorney; no details of the settlement, reached through a court-appointed mediator, were disclosed.

A Texas judge had ruled last September that Rauschenberg owed Kren and the Austin Art Consortium $1.8 million for unpaid commissions, plus another $3.7 million in punitive damages.

When Rauschenberg failed to pay, Kren's lawyers seized the 15 artworks from an exhibition at Houston's Menil Collection, threatening to sell them to make up for the debt. The paintings, however, were later returned.

"On Broadway, 'Art' for art's sake", by David Patrick Stearns, in USA Today, March 2, 1998.

"Art" isn't a word often associated with a knockout Broadway comedy, but it's both the subject matter and the title of a delightful play that, if there's justice, will run at the Royale Theater for a long stint.

Written by French author Yasmina Reza and translated by Christopher Hampton, Art elegantly depicts three prosperous, middle-age longtime friends and their reactions to a blank white painting one of them spends $40,000 on.

A slender premise, yes, but the play is really about the way these characters color, personify and take deep offense at utterly neutral colors. It's also about the old war between the visionary and the prosaic, and it explores the attitudes of each side. Having so much truth and humor come out of so little gives the play a Seinfeld quality: it's about nothing and how crazily we react to it.

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