Smithsonian Reorganizes Its Art Museums

For the first time, the Smithsonian has put control of its five art museums under the control of one person. The new director is Ned Rifkin, director of the Hirshhorn Museum. “The Smithsonian’s art museums have previously been overseen by two under-secretaries, and the science museums by a third. Now, for the first time in its 168-year history, the Smithsonian’s vast art collections, research, public and outreach programmes have been brought together under one manager, and art has gained a measure of parity with science and history, the Smithsonian’s traditional areas of focus.”

The Top Museum Shows Of 2003

The Art Newspaper is out with its annual survey of museum attendance. “Our survey of exhibition attendance in 2003 reveals a decline in the number of visitors to museum shows on both sides of the Atlantic. Only 190 exhibitions in this survey pulled in more than 1,000 visitors a day in 2003, compared with 215 in 2002. In 2002, over 320 shows attracted more than 760 visitors a day while in 2003, only 259 exhibitions hit the same target. The reasons for this fall can be found in the global economic slump and the decline in international tourism which followed the war in Iraq.”

Porn Sites Sue Credit Card Companies Over Piracy

The music and movie industries have been combatting digital copying and downloading. Now the porn industry, which has led the web in many of its money-making innovations, is suing to protect its content. Last week adult entertainment businesses sued credit card companies that service websites that offer stolen porn. “The reason it was so hard to make money is because while we were paying for our content, there were many websites out there that were competing against us that were stealing theirs. It’s pretty impossible to compete in that situation.”

Plenty of Mouth, But Not Much Money

A new poll of residents of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area found overwhelming support for the area’s thriving cultural scene, with 85% saying that the arts improve the cities’ quality of life, and 92% saying that the arts have significant value for children. But when pressed further, poll respondants revealed a distinct split between general expressions of support for the arts, and the type of specific support which translates into ticket sales and contributions. “Only a quarter of those who attended an arts event in 2001 made a financial contribution to an arts group that year. Less than a third of those surveyed rated government support for the arts as ‘very important.'”

Much Ado About God

“The advent of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ has brought with it a controversy that seems, at least at first glance, familiar, even ritualistic. Once again a filmmaker has brought his interpretation of Scripture to the screen and once again, before most audiences have had a chance to see the picture, there are expressions of outrage, accusations of bigotry and bad taste, and an outpouring of contentious publicity.” But this time, the pious are standing with the Hollywood elite, and the protesters are those who view the film’s pro-Christian message as narrow-minded at best, and anti-Semitic at worst. We’ve come a long way from the era when religious blockbusters were at the core of Hollywood’s popular appeal.

Why Harlem Can’t Give Up On Its Boys

The scandal that enveloped the Boys’ Choir of Harlem this year is a serious problem not just for the choir and its school, but for the surrounding community. Since its founding, the school has been one of a handful of institutions which has refused to give up on Harlem’s underprivileged youth, and has consistently turned out students who go on to academic and professional success elsewhere. But on top of that, the organization has created a respected musical ensemble where many thought one could never emerge.

A Chance To Shine

The Royal Shakespeare Company will give its unsung understudies a chance to shine next season, with one show per production in which “all the lead roles will be played by the understudies, and stars may be called on to carry spears and stand around quietly without bumping into the set.”

More Drama At The Riopelle Estate

“A Montreal auctioneer reached an out-of-court settlement yesterday with the estate of legendary Quebec painter Jean-Paul Riopelle after the auctioneer had sued to recover costs associated with an aborted sale of the late artist’s work. Iégor de Saint-Hippolyte had been hired last fall by Huguette Vachon, Riopelle’s widow and primary executor of his estate, to host a sale of about 50 works by the artist who died in 2002. The sale, scheduled for mid-November last year, was opposed by two of Riopelle’s daughters who obtained an injunction against it. Total presale value of the paintings and sculpture was estimated at $13-million.”