There was a time when museums were viewed as institutions of contemplative learning. No more. “Contemporary museums can often seem more like attention- grabbing playgrounds and amusement parks than the glass-cased, heavily labeled temples of old. Now, if a child or reasonably game adult doesn’t get his senses bombarded, his hands and/or feet soaked and clothing streaked with some foreign substance at a museum, he might as well have stayed home and surfed the information-crammed Internet.”
The Barnes Collection, a stunning private-turned-public accumulation of Renoirs, Mattisses, and other masterpieces housed in a Philadelphia suburb, has been in dire financial straits for quite some time, and a new book details the chaotic mess that has led the Barnes to such a desperate state. But author John Anderson is not interested in merely laying out a history of mismanagement. His book also points towards what is yet to come – the likely appropriation of the Barnes treasures by the city’s political and cultural elites, who have a history with this sort of thing, and who have long been strangely irked by the legacy left behind by Alfred Barnes.
“In a long-awaited decision, a US federal court has rejected an appeal by a New York antiquities dealer who argued that he should not be convicted of violating US law for having dealt in Egyptian antiquities. The objects are claimed as Egyptian property under Egyptian law. The dealer, Frederick Schultz, was sentenced in June 2002 to 33 months in prison for conspiracy to receive stolen property, but argued that Egypt’s claim to own the objects under its patrimony law did not make them ‘stolen’ in the U.S.”
Despite the large number of news stories devoted to the financial crunch facing the orchestral industry, plenty of orchestras are doing just fine, thank you. Case in point: the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which is using a combination of cutting-edge marketing strategy and reverence for the history of the industry to stay on the right side of the financial ledger. And budget-slashing boards at other major American orchestras also might want to make note of the fact that the CSO is accomplishing all this while continuing to make recordings, appear on nationwide TV broadcasts, and mount extensive (and expensive) national and international tours.
“Despite a shortened season and fewer ticket sales than usual, the Seattle Opera ended the season on a high note… For the 11th consecutive year, the opera has ended the season in the black. For 2002-03, the opera spent exactly what its budget projected: $14.3 million.” Not all the news was bright – slumping ticket sales are always a concern – but the company’s board says that prospects for the future are brighter because of the financial conservatism the company has adopted for the present.
“The Guggenheim Foundation and the mayor of Taichung, Jason Hu, have unveiled a proposal for a new Guggenheim Museum in Taichung, Taiwan. Plans for a spectacular new building have already been designed by the world-renowned deconstructionist architect Zaha Hadid… [T]he museum would be part of a larger cultural complex to include an opera house designed by Jean Nouvel, who designed the proposed Rio de Janeiro Guggenheim, and a new Taichung City Hall to be designed by Frank Gehry… This is the Guggenheim Foundation’s fifth attempt to open a museum in Asia, four plans for Japan having failed, and is the latest of a series of proposed Guggenheim’s throughout the world.”
The Recording Industry Association of America is filing supoenas as quickly as it can draft them for ISPs, compelling them to turn over names of suspected copyright infringing downloaders. “This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Filing information subpoenas is exactly what we said we’d do a couple of weeks ago when we announced that we were gathering evidence to file lawsuits.’ The trade group said it would probably file several hundred lawsuits this summer.”
“The Taiwanese city of Taichung is the latest to pin its hopes for international cultural recognition and economic regeneration on the Guggenheim Foundation. The plan is for a trademark signature museum building, this time an eye-catching design with moveable sections by architect Zaha Hadid, an opera house and other cultural projects. The Guggenheim will decide in September whether to approve the plan, but these are uncertain times.”
Is the recording industry’s aggressive attack on music downloaders doomed to fail? “What has emerged through numerous interviews in person and over the phone is the voice of a new generation that says the industry is out of touch and needs to get with the times – stop charging so much for CDs, move its business online where millions of consumers already are, and stop trying to make criminals out of people who love its product.”
A new study showing that Cleveland’s arts industry has lost 163 jobs and millions of dollars in the last year is raising serious red flags among the area’s cultural and political power players. The arts are hurting all over, of course, but in Cleveland, which has never made arts funding a priority, the economic pain is multiplied, and arts advocates are saying that only a large infusion of cash can hope to turn around the city’s slumping cultural fortunes.