May 1999 Volume 21 Number 2

Articles You May Have Missed

"Mulan Cells Rake It In", from the Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, March 9, 1999

A weekend sale of artwork from Disney's "Mulan" fetched $507,000 at Sotheby's New York, sailing past pre-sale estimates.

Buyers cheered as an animated image of the villain Shan Yu and his falcon sold for $43,700 to a private collector from Texas--far eclipsing its estimated price tag of $1,200.

Other highlights included a cell (estimated at $2,000) of Mulan and her love interest, Captain Shang, which went for a whopping $39,100.

The record for a sale of animation artwork belongs to another Disney film: Cells from "The Lion King" took in nearly $2 million at Sotheby's in 1995.

"3 Mummies of Incan Sacrifice Unearthed", from the Washington Post, Wednesday, April 7, 1999

Archeologists have unearthed the frozen remains of two girls and a boy at the top of a cloud-swept volcano in the Andes, where Incan priests sacrificed them to the gods five centuries ago. The mummies are in such good condition that the organs are intact and, in at least one body, it appears that frozen blood still fills the heart.

The 500-year-old children "appear to be the best preserved Inca mummies ever found" and are in better condition than most, if not all, mummies from any period, according to Johan Reinhard, co-leader of the American-Argentine-Peruvian team that made the discovery. "The arms looked perfect, even down to visible hairs,".

The children were clothed, and the site held an unusually rich collection of undisturbed Incan treasures laid out presumably to appease the mountain gods. The trove included about three dozen gold, silver and shell statues, half of them clothed, as well as bundles of ornate textiles, moccasins and pottery--some still containing food.

Researchers have not yet determined the cause of death of the children, who were between age 8 and 14 when they died. The typical methods of ritual killing were strangulation, live burial and blows to the head. Between about 1438 and 1532, the Incas expanded their empire until it occupied a 2,500-mile swath along the Pacific coast of South America, from Colombia to central Chile. Admired for their agriculture, architecture and engineering, the Incas were conquered within three years by the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in 1532.

Reinhard said the mountaintop sacrifice might have been preceded by weeks or months of ritual preparation and exhausting travel, mostly on foot. The volcano summit was at least 124 miles from the nearest Inca village.

"Worthy of the Louvre, or the Salvation Army",by Stephanie Simon, in the Los Angeles Times, Thurs., April 1, 1999

St. Paul, Minn. Some see beauty in what is to many a house covered by shoes. New owner, to neighbors' applause, plans to give it the boot.

Justin Walker is big on shoes.

He owns lots of them--a dozen pairs, maybe more. Much as he appreciates shoes, however, Walker does not consider them art. Especially not when they're tacked up by the thousands all over a house he walks by every day.

"Maybe it's art to some people," he says, dutifully considerate of other tastes. Then he peers again at the house, its ratty siding bristling with shoes of every description. There are white toddler sneakers. There are beaded blue moccasins. There are yellow rain boots and black flip-flops, polka-dot deck shoes and red high heels. There are lots of very dirty gray laces.

"It's . . . different," Walker says at last. But is it art? "Not," he says finally, "to me." And not to many others who live and work near the Shoe House, a local landmark that has drawn tourists--and questions--ever since Tyree Guyton, a Detroit artist specializing in urban junkscapes, created it in August 1996.

"I don't have any idea what to think about it," says Burlie Burnett, a mechanic who works nearby. Upon reflection, however, he comes up with a position: "They should tear it down."

Such disparaging comments, of course, don't disqualify the Shoe House as art. "If all the art in museums were put up for public vote, there would be very few things left in museums," says Seymour Rosen, who heads a nonprofit group dedicated to saving folk art.

Beyond its in-your-face insistence that art can bloom in the most unlikely of contexts, the Shoe House is intended to symbolize diverse people coming together in harmony. Each sole represents a soul. Art experts aren't sure that message comes across, but they delight in the whimsy and color of the place nonetheless.

"Fabulous," Lyndel King, chief curator of the Weisman Art Museum, calls it. "A piece of wacky, eccentric folk art."

Wacky, eccentric junk is more like it, Ying Vang responds. And although he's no curator, his opinion matters. That's because Vang bought the Shoe House last month, after it had sat on the market for more than a year. He immediately announced plans to redecorate. "It might look good to someone else," he says, "but not to me."

A Hmong immigrant who believes shoes belong on feet, Vang finds it odd that someone can tack penny loafers and bedroom slippers on a turn-of-the-century Craftsman house and call it art. He plans to rent the house, and figures tenants can do without shoelaces rapping on the windows and the musty smell of old leather after rain. As soon as he can get a ladder and a crowbar, he vows, the Shoe House will be unshod.

Guyton's fans say they're disappointed to be losing the Shoe House, as the city of Detroit recently demolished several of the artist's other works: abandoned buildings decorated with painted polka dots and encrusted with cast-offs.

Guyton, 43, is suing Detroit for his loss. He doesn't plan similar action in St. Paul, however, as the Shoe House was never intended to be permanent. Guyton decorated the house on commission from the Minnesota Mus. of American Art at the invitation of the owner. He hoped the project could set a precedent in urban centers around the country.

Folk art lovers from far-flung cities did make sole-searching pilgrimages to the Shoe House. But it never became a catalyst for urban renewal, even in its own neighborhood. Locals say drug pushers and prostitutes still haunt the fraying streets around the Shoe House. Having fabled art--or junk--hasn't done much to stop the stabbings and the shootings and the babies born in parking lots. So, although he appreciates the Shoe House as a "conversation piece," neighbor Bob Schilling figures the area can do without it. "It's already served its purpose," he says. "Whatever that was."

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