Why Christo And Central Park Are Made For Each Other

A former New York City parks commissioner who denied permission for Christo to stage his “Gates” project in Central Park 22 years ago explains why he thinks the project is now a good idea. “Now there is both a time and a place for Christo and his ‘Gates.’ Now they cannot hurt the park or distract us, as they surely would have in 1981, from our duty to preserve and maintain it forever. ‘The Gates’ will visit the park briefly, like the New York City Marathon, which wends through and terminates there, or Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park at the open-air Delacorte Theater. And its colorful, whimsical embrace of the restored landscape will make us stare, laugh, gasp, prance, gawk, and say, to no one in particular, ‘Isn’t the park wonderful. . . . Isn’t New York amazing’.”

Teachers Strike Met Opera

“About 30 teaching artists employed by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Metropolitan Opera Guild went on strike Tuesday, demanding pension and health benefits.” The teaching artists train classroom teachers in opera education, and also teach children about the genre. They are seeking to have their status at the Met upgraded from independent contractors to full employees, an issue they say that Met Opera officials have refused even to discuss. They also wish to be represented by the American Federation of Musicians union local, a right granted to many other Lincoln Center employees.

Trying The Soft Sell

Hollywood has been watching the heavy-handed tactics of the recording industry as it attempts to put an end to illegal online file-swapping, and it can’t have failed to notice that that none of the hardball tactics have yet made a dent in the problem. So the Motion Picture Association of America is trying more of a good cop routine in its own battle against movie piracy. A new series of anti-piracy ads will begin running this week, with the message coming from set designers, craft people, and other lower-level movie types, rather than from studio execs, for whom consumers are unlikely to have a lot of sympathy.

Spain Gets Tough With File-Swappers. Really Tough.

“In what is being touted as the largest legal action of its kind, a Spanish law firm has announced plans to file a copyright-violation complaint against 4,000 individuals who allegedly have swapped illegal files over peer-to-peer networks in that country.” The law firm says it will demand the maximum sentence for every software pirate it convicts. That sentence is four years in prison.

BBC (Finally) Reinvigorates Its Architecture Policy

“For years BBC buildings have been like BBC coffee. Both carry the same beigegrey miasma of depression which makes it a miracle that any programme of quality ever emits from the corporation’s portals. The defining monument is the broadcast centre in west London known as White City One, a building with all the charisma of a plastic cup out of a drinks dispenser.” But a turnaround appears to be in the works, with plans to erect several dazzling new buildings in the near future, with the main jewel being “a music centre, also in White City, currently budgeted at £54 million and the subject of an architectural competition.”

Is The Mercury Prize Passé?

“The Mercury Music Prize is on the way to becoming the wounded beast of music awards ceremonies. Its raison d’etre is to reflect the best in British music, not just that which sells, but perhaps it has not yet recovered from Alan McGee’s lambasting of the 2000 shortlist as a bunch of ‘bedwetters’… But a bigger problem for the Mercury is the public’s dwindling trust in it as a recommendation of what to buy. It seems ages since a Mercury victory could propel a relatively unknown artist to national success, but the panel has only itself to blame for rewarding a series of worthy but unlistenable albums.”

Musical Or Opera? Does It Matter?

Terry Teachout is intrigued by a recent New York Times Magazine piece which referred to a new off-Broadway show as a “serious chamber musical.” That sounds an awful lot like a description of an opera, doesn’t it? While the distinction may be purely semantic, it’s important, nonetheless, says Teachout in his ArtsJournal blog, and composers are not well served when they try to pass off their serious work as typical Broadway ear candy.

Rough Cuts At Cleveland Museum

“The job held by veteran curator Michael Cunningham, a respected expert in Japanese and Korean art, has been eliminated by the Cleveland Museum of Art as part of its effort to balance its budget… The museum [has also] cut the jobs of four other members of the curatorial staff, all of whom were research or curatorial assistants. The museum, suffering from declines in the value of its endowment, is making the cuts to reduce expenses and trim its 2004 operating budget from $33 million to $29.7 million. A total of 37 jobs are being eliminated, a figure that includes the curatorial cuts, and 18 will remain unfilled.”

How To Make Your Museum More Fun

Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art has a new young fan of its exhibits, although, truth be told, he was built for the purpose. ‘Charlie’ is “an unassuming robot-child with a sweet disposition, inquisitive eyes and a blue tricycle slung low to the ground… Stand and peruse the webs of multicolored and metallic paints in Jackson Pollock’s august 1949 drip-painting, ‘No. 1,’ and the little android with the prominent nose and the permanent grin might well pedal up silently behind you to join the fun. Then, with a twist of his head and a roll of his eyes he’s off, riding into another gallery to check out what might be going on.”

Hollywood Keeping Immigrant Stories At Arm’s Length

“When this nation of immigrants began flocking to the movies, they went to see stories about themselves. From 1905, when nickelodeons first appeared, to the end of the 1920s, when Hollywood began to create a star system, innumerable romances, comedies and melodramas featured immigrants and working-class laborers as their central characters… [But] in recent years, Hollywood has shied away from exploring the immigrant experience, in part because it’s become such a political hot potato, in part because well-heeled studio executives find it hard to identify with the subject.”