War Is Good For Art?

War may be terrible, but it’s good for art, writes Jan Dalley. The 20th Century “produced in the western world a rich array of art inspired by war, and invented or exploited new art forms with which artists of all sorts could express their responses. War is, let’s face it, a great subject. And once the subject was liberated from the constraints of previous centuries – that was, the adherence to right-thinking patriotic norms that demanded unconditional and uncritical support (“my country right or wrong”) – there was a flowering of art in response to conflict.”

New York City Revives Decency Commission

New York City’s “Decency Commission is back. But this time “instead of acting as a culture vice squad, their role includes recommending policy, writing reports, and coordinating city, State, and federal agencies. Jitters concerning the return of a Decency Commission are understandable. It was only a few years ago that Rudolph Giuliani reconstituted the long-dormant commission to advise on what kinds of art should get city funds.”

Sotheby’s Catches Up To Christie’s

After two years, Sotheby’s has caught up with rival Christie’s in art sales. “Annual turnover figures published this month show that in the year ending 31 December 2002, Sotheby’s sold $1.77 billion (£1.11 billion) worth of art, while Christie’s announced sales of $1.9 billion (£1.3 billion). But the Christie’s figure included private treaty sales of $120 million, so for auction sales the two companies are about even.”

BBC And Arts – Got To Be More Than Rolf Eh?

The BBC’s arts coverage is constantly under attack. But the fixer can’t be more down-market pop art, can it? Is the public broadcaster fixated on the large ratings for Rolf Harris’s art odyssey? “What next? Will the Rolf Experience be followed by Cliff Richard on Beethoven? Will audiences of five to seven million become the benchmark – a favourite word of TV planners – by which other arts programmes are judged? Having won such audiences, can they settle for less?”

Ontario Flatlines Arts Budget

Hopes had been high that Ontario’s government would increase the province’s $25 million arts budget this year. But when the budget was announced, there was nothing new for the arts. Arts leaders are disappointed – the amount has stayed the same for the past five years. “We had made some very strong arguments for the value of the arts and the contribution they make to life in Ontario. There appears to be nothing in it for the arts. The community is going to be very disappointed.”

A New House For Jazz

America’s best jazz clubs present great artists, but to small audiences. Lincoln Center’s new jazz complex – a collaboration between architect Rafael Vinoly and acoustician Russell Johnson – now being built at Columbus Circle, will be a versatile institution meant to promote jazz in many forms.

The Best Case Against Media Consolidation

When the CEO of the second largest chain of radio stations in America decided to ban the Dixie Chicks from his airwaves because of political remarks one of the group’s mambers made, the Chicks’ airplay vanished. “The downside of media consolidation is that we now allow a few people’s overreaction to become policy. It opens up a very dangerous can of worms. In this case, one of the CEOs decided he wanted to make a statement. . . . But consolidation means that group ownership can do anything it wants . . . .”

Trading Up – Boston’s MFA Sells Art To Buy Art

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is selling a Renoir and two Degas pastels, hoping to raise $12-17 million so the museum can buy an [unnamed] 19th Century painting it wants to acquire. “It will be by far the most money raised through a sale in the MFA’s history. It will also mark the museum’s highest profile deaccession since 1984. That’s when the MFA traded two Renoir pastels and a Monet painting – plus $600,000 – to a New York dealer for a Jackson Pollock painting. It was a controversial move, and an assistant curator resigned in protest. But this week, MFA officials stressed that support for the deaccession was unanimous from the five curators in the art of Europe department, the 27-person collections committee, and the 70-member board of trustees.”

Crowds Change The Art Experience

Epic lines at New York’s major museum shows make going to see some art a confusing and difficult experience. “You either have to get in the very front, in which case you get pushed, or in the very back, in which case you can’t see. It’s not like you can stand in front of a painting and wait. You’ll get trampled.”

The Hermitage In 90 Minutes

Filmmaker Alexander Sokurov’s film tribute to the Hermitage is unexpected and amazing. “Russian Ark was made in a single hour-and-a-half-long shot, unedited. It took that hour and a half to film (after two years of preparation) and takes the same time to watch. It is the first film to be made in this way, exploiting digital technology not to bend reality but to do justice to it – no film on celluloid could continue unbroken for this amount of time.”