The New Investers

“Art investment funds represent something of a revolution in the relationship between art and commerce. A dozen art-only investment funds are now trying to raise money from investors looking to cash in on the art market’s current boom. Last year, Picasso’s ‘Boy with a Pipe,’ which had been sold in 1950 for thirty thousand dollars, went at auction for a hundred and four million, while a Canaletto that had fetched two hundred and eighty thousand pounds in 1973 sold for more than eleven million pounds three decades later. Next to such numbers, those shares of Wal-Mart that haven’t budged in five years start to look pretty dull.”

Who Is The Real JT LeRoy?

The elusive author’s behavior makes many question who he is or if he really exists. “For all its abuse and kinky sex, the JT story is really just another heartwarming rags-to-riches tale for the punk generation. But what if America isn’t really the sort of place where a street urchin can charm his way to the top, through diligence and talent; what if instead it’s the sort of place where heartwarming stories of abused children who triumph through adversity are made up and marketed?”

When The CIA Was In The Culture Business

“The target audience for cultural propaganda in the Cold War was foreign élites—in particular, left-wing intellectuals and avant-garde writers and artists who might still have some attachment, sincere, sentimental, or opportunistic, to Communism and the Soviet Union. The essence of the courtship was: it’s possible to be left-wing, avant-garde, and anti-Communist. Look at these American artists and intellectuals, happily criticizing bourgeois capitalism and shocking mainstream tastes, all safely protected by the laws of a free society.”

Wallace & Gromit Warehouse Goes Up In Smoke

A warehouse fire at Britain’s acclaimed Aardman Studios (the people behind “Wallace & Gromit”) has resulted in the loss of a significant collection of original drawings, sets, and archives relating to some of the UK’s most beloved animated characters. “The firm stored most of its past works in the warehouse and the biggest loss was the original Wallace and Gromit storyboards by creator Nick Park.”

But Do They Get Residuals?

San Francisco’s homeless population has been enjoying a bit of a windfall lately, along with a bit of Hollywood fame and fortune, courtesy of the crew shooting Will Smith’s latest movie. The filmmakers have employed some 200 homeless as paid extras in the film, offering them the official L.A. rate in exchange for an easy afternoon’s work.

Microchips Are A Bigger Tourist Draw Than Cesar Chavez?

Tourist attractions targeted at ethnic minorities have become an important factor in the cultural health of many urban centers, especially in those with large immigrant populations. But in San Jose, the center of Silicon Valley, “there is nothing to alert… visitors that they’re in the childhood home of Cesar Chavez, the epicenter of a worldwide protest by black Olympic athletes, or a place with one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Vietnamese-Americans.” Instead, all efforts seem to be focused on drawing attention to the area’s famously tech-heavy economy.

Making Amends In Sydney

The Sydney Opera House is widely considered to be one of the more stunning feats of architecture ever conceived, but more than three decades after its completion, its creator has yet to see the inside in person. “It’s almost 40 years since [architect Jorn] Utzon turned his back on the Opera House, vowing never to set foot in Australia again. In 1966 he was eased off the project, and he was conspicuously absent from the building’s gala opening in 1973… [But] for the past decade, Utzon has been involved (by phone and fax) in a six-part, A$70m venue improvement programme for the Opera House.” The compromises forced on the project by the Australian government in the 1960s have been reversed, and for the first time, the Opera House will soon be exactly as Utzon first intended.

Rubens To Head Home?

“The most stupendous overmantel in Europe, a sensuous masterpiece by Rubens showing the sleeping Samson sprawled across the lap of his beautiful but treacherous Delilah, may soon be displayed in the room for which it was originally painted. The 17th century painting now lives in London at the National Gallery, which is gathering up loans of Rubens paintings for a major exhibition opening at the end of this month. However, the gallery is considering loaning it back next year to the Rockox House Museum in Antwerp, home of Rubens’s friend Nicolaas Rockox.”

Gergiev In London: A Win-Win Situation

When the London Symphony announced that the dynamic Russian conductor Valerie Gergiev had agreed to become its next music director, the reaction from around the music world was uniformly positive. “Snaring the world’s most charismatic conductor has made the LSO the envy of the orchestral world. But like most marriages the relationship is based on a shrewd calculation of mutual interests… What the orchestra needed was someone capable of matching and maintaining its marketprofile, not just at its Barbican base but through tours, recordings and media visibility… As for Gergiev, tying a knot with London’s best-connected orchestra represents a strategic west European foothold – a grade above his longstanding Rotterdam Philharmonic post but without making more demands on his time.”

A Playwright For All Seasons

Harold Pinter is 75 this week, and Alastair McCauley says that the playwright’s long career has been a gift not only to audiences, but to actors and critics as well. “The pauses in Pinter are like the spaces between people in the paintings of Cezanne, Seurat, or Picasso: expressive, charged, firm. They dramatise the tension between characters… When staging his own plays, he doesn’t let his actors into secrets: the mystery is there for them, too. But actors have said he gives them confidence, not least because he knows how vulnerable they can feel.”