Was Lester Bangs The Best Rock Critic Of The 70s?

A new book makes the case. But Sasha Frere-Jones maintains that making the case is problematic. “Picking an All-Time No. 1 in any category is an exercise that’s generally more fun than scientific. This is especially true when picking top critics, a breed who succeed precisely by being in and of their time. There’s a good chance Bangs owns the ’70s but carving him in marble for all time does his gifts no service.”

Theft – Artwork At Risk

The theft last week of an important Leonardo painting “highlights the difficulties of safeguarding valuable works of art while allowing access for the public. It is the latest in a series of robberies of art works so famous that they would be impossible to sell on the open market. Still missing are Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee”, and Vermeer’s “The Concert”, stolen in March 1990 from Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston by thieves dressed as policemen. Even art world insiders can only speculate as to their whereabouts and the motives of such robberies. Theories being put forward by the police and experts for this latest theft include links to terrorist groups and drugs gangs. Benvenuto Cellini’s salt, a masterpiece of 16th-century goldwork, was stolen in May from Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum.”

Leonardo Theft – Opportunity Waiting To Happen?

Last week’s theft of a Leonardo in Scotland makes obvious the lack of security for artwork in many museums. “In recent years, the UK has become a target for the international gangs, who have learned that security of artworks in Britain is largely a matter of trust between owner and visitor. There are two famous stories about the Duke of Buccleuch that exemplify this. It is said the duke was once asked where the toilets were in the castle and he replied: ‘Along the corridor and turn right at the Holbein’.”

Afghan Treasure Surfaces

Much of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage was destroyed during the country’s civil war and rule of the Taliban. But “Afghanistan’s legendary 2 000-year-old Tillya Tepe Bactrian gold hoard is safe and sound after lying hidden in a bank vault for the past 14 years, President Hamid Karzai said on Friday. The priceless collection of gold ornaments dating back about 2 000 years was safely stored in a presidential palace vault throughout the civil war and Taliban regime.”

Trying To Save Munch

The Oslo city council has approved $6.6. million to preserve the works of Edvard Munch. “Very few of Munch’s paintings are in top condition. Most of them are now peeling so much that we have no chance of doing our job with so few staff. The classic Skrik was painted on cardboard and is so even more vulnerable to damage. Munch never applied any protective layering to his paintings. He wanted to keep the matt finish, so he never varnished his paintings.”

The Multi-Purpose Public Space

What’s needed for the World Trade Center space, argues Justin Davidson, is something that can serve many functions. A new exhibition gives “a sense of how many simultaneous functions a public space can serve. Italian urbanists long ago understood the beauty of an open square – or ellipse, lopsided trapezoid, or whatever shape streets and houses would permit – on which civic, religious and commercial institutions front and which different generations adapt to their own purposes. These are hybrid areas, where the sacred rubs up against the profane.”

John Shearman, Art Historian, 72

John Shearman, an art historian and scholar who consulted with the Vatican on the restoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, has died at the age of 72. “Dr. Shearman probably achieved the most fame for his discovery that the vault of the Sistine Chapel was cracked along its length in 1504, four years before Michelangelo began work on it. Because the old decoration — incorporating stars and some geometrical shapes — was ruined, a new ceiling was needed.”

Music’s Hot New Thing

“In the generations of German composers younger than Wolfgang Rihm, Matthias Pintscher is the one with the most impressive track record. He is still in his early 30s, yet has been attracting international attention for a decade. He conducted his first stage work, a ballet called Gesprungene Glocken, at the Berlin Staatsoper at the age of 23, and his first opera, Thomas Chatterton, which was based on the life and mysterious death of the 18th-century English poet, was premiered in Dresden in 1998. Another opera has been commissioned for the Salzburg festival, provisionally titled Heliogabal, though at present that project seems to be on hold, while a third, L’Espace Dernier, will be premiered at the Opéra Bastille in Paris in February.”

CBC Archives – Ready For Online?

Now that the BBC is planning to make its archives available online for free, will the CBC do the same? “The CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, already has a section on its Web site that contains clips from historically significant radio and television broadcasts. The CBC Archive, active for more than a year, contains clips as varied as speeches from Prairie populist Tommy Douglas and Justin Trudeau’s eulogy at this father’s funeral.” But everything online? Not yet

Cutting To Survive

How are America’s arts groups dealing with a down economy? They’re cutting back. “Among those groups trimming programming, the Brooklyn Museum of Art closed its doors for two weeks in August and canceled some exhibits, the Boston Ballet cut twenty performances to save $1.6 million, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra replaced a planned three-act opera with a one-act. Some groups have had to put aside artistic integrity to survive financially.”