Category: Smithsonian

Monster Mash: Getty's Aphrodite unveiled in Sicily; Smithsonian asks employees to accept buyouts

May 18, 2011 |  7:50 am


Mighty Aphrodite: The J. Paul Getty Museum's statue of Aphrodite was unveiled in its new home in Sicily on Tuesday. (Los Angeles Times)

Hard times: Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough has asked many of the institution's federal employees to consider a new offer of buyouts or early retirement. (Washington Post)

New criteria: The New York Board of Regents has approved new rules for deaccessioning artworks. (WNYC)

Star writers: An omnibus production of one-act plays by Woody Allen, Ethan Coen and Elaine May is heading to Broadway. (Playbill)

Coming soon: San Francisco is getting a new center for live jazz performance. (Chicago Tribune)

Cultivating younger audiences: New York's Lincoln Center Theater is starting a program to provide $30 seats to its performances for people ages 21 to 35. (New York Times)

Starchitect: An interview with renowned architect Norman Foster. (CNN)

Consolation prizes: Daniel Radcliffe, who was snubbed in the Tony Award nominations, was honored at's Audience Choice Awards. (Variety)

Delayed: Berlin's Staatsoper opera house will reopen a year later than originally planned. (Associated Press, via Sacramento Bee)

Popular: The fitness company Ballet Beautiful has experienced a surge in business after training Natalie Portman for the film "Black Swan." (CNN)

New leader: The AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas has named Mark J. Weinstein, former head of the Washington National Opera, as president and chief executive officer. (Associated Press, via Wall Street Journal)

In memoriam: The Vienna State Opera this week will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Gustav Mahler. (Agence France-Presse)

Also in the L.A. Times: Federal arts grants include $2.5 million for Southern California groups.

-- David Ng

Photo: The Getty Museum's Aphrodite sculpture is unveiled in the town of Aidone in Sicily. Credit: Ralph Frammolino

Bill and Melinda Gates portrait unveiled at National Portrait Gallery

May 17, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Gates Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, have been officially immortalized in a new painting at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The artwork, which was unveiled Tuesday morning, was painted by Jon Friedman and is on display in the museum's "Recent Acquisitions" exhibition.

The painting was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and is part of the museum's permanent collection.

The portrait emphasizes the Gateses' humanitarian efforts, which are conducted through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The screen behind them in the painting reads "All Lives Have Equal Value.") The artwork makes no direct visual reference to Microsoft, the software company that Gates founded with Paul Allen in 1975.

The couple issued a joint statement Tuesday: "It is an honor to have our portrait joining those of so many outstanding Americans in the National Portrait Gallery. Our thanks go to Jon Friedman for creating the portrait in so thoughtful a manner, and for calling out the work of our foundation so evocatively."

Gates isn't the only businessman to earn a place in the National Portrait Gallery. Other prominent businessmen who are featured in the museum's collections include Ted Turner, Malcolm Forbes Jr., Rupert Murdoch and Hugh Hefner.

A spokeswoman for the National Portrait Gallery said that the museum features portraits of "individuals of all backgrounds and careers -- it's a matter of how significant you are in American history."


Gates2Smithsonian withdraws offer to buy endangered L.A. murals

Critic's Notebook: Smithsonian public forum on censorship? Not so much

Getting the facts straight about Wojnarowicz's 'A Fire in My Belly'

Critic's notebook: Smithsonian regents didn't solve the problem

-- David Ng

Photos, from top: The portrait of Bill and Melinda Gates by Jon Friedman at the National Portrait Gallery; Friedman with his portrait. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

Monster Mash: 'Chad Deity' wins top Obie Award; 'Spider-Man' musical shows respectable grosses; NEA grants $88 million

May 17, 2011 |  7:46 am

Diaz Honored: "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity," a pro-wrestling-themed comedy by Kristoffer Diaz, was the big winner at the 2011 Obie Awards, which honors off-Broadway productions. (Village Voice)

Back in business: Broadway's "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" played to 95% capacity and brought in $809,000 during its first weekend back in preview performances. (USA Today)

Arts funding: The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded $88 million through 1,145 grants to not-for-profit national, regional, state, and local organizations. (NEA)

Sneak peak: An early look at the upcoming NBC sitcom "Smash," about a songwriting duo trying to get a musical produced on Broadway. (Los Angeles Times)

Immortalized: The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery is installing a painting of Bill and Melinda Gates that the museum commissioned for its collection. (Associated Press, via Washington Post)

Abandoning ship?: The financially troubled Philadelphia Orchestra may lose one of its star cellists. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

New hire: L.A.'s Center Theatre Group has named Edward L. Rada as managing director. (Los Angeles Times)

Sold: The art collection of disgraced former healthcare executive Richard Scrushy has brought in more than $672,000 at auction. (Associated Press, via Washington Post)

Caveat emptor: Many foreign touring orchestras have names that misrepresent the truth about their composition and makeup. (New York Times)

Cultural heritage: A Hong Kong performing arts school will offer a Cantonese opera degree in an effort to preserve the rarefied art form. (Associated Press, via CBS News)

And in the L.A. Times: Christian Marclay's installation "The Clock" has its L.A. debut at LACMA; theater critic Charles McNulty reviews "Moscow, Cherry Town" at Long Beach Opera.

-- David Ng

Photo: Playwright Kristoffer Diaz. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Monster Mash: New 'Spider-Man' creative team greets the public; micro-sculpture of Britain's royal couple

April 27, 2011 |  7:50 am


This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

Positive spin: The new creative team of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" visited NBC's "Today" show Tuesday to discuss the revisions to the troubled Broadway musical. (NBC, via Hulu)

Royal couple: A microscopic sculpture of Prince William and his bride-to-be, Kate Middleton, has gone on display in Birmingham, England. (BBC News)

Get the guests: Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" will return to Broadway in October 2012, starring Tracy Letts and Amy Morton. (Playbill)

Prison time: The tagger known as Revok has been sentenced to 180 days in jail after a judge found that he had violated the terms of his probation in a previous vandalism conviction. (Los Angeles Times)

Major donation: The Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A. has received a gift of $100 million in buildings, land, cash and cars from the widow of its founder. (Los Angeles Times)

Strings attached: A mystery donor has given the University of Sydney in Australia a Picasso painting worth as much as $20 million on the condition that it is sold to fund scientific research. (Agence France-Presse)

Play for pay: Orchestra musicians with the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County walked out of Easter service over lack of pay. (Los Angeles Times)

Shakespeare and more: New York's Public Theater has announced the lineup for its upcoming season. (New York Times)

Heated: A panel addressing the censorship controversy at the Smithsonian has brought out impassioned rhetoric from curators and art experts. (Washington Post)

Exclusivity: The Gagosian Gallery has reached an agreement to be the sole gallery worldwide to sell and mount exhibitions of the work of photographer Richard Avedon. (Associated Press)

Before she was famous: The Catalina Island Museum is hosting an exhibition of rare artifacts from the life of Marilyn Monroe. (Los Angeles Times)

Singing about money: An economic index of home prices has been converted into an opera. (NPR)

Honored: The nominations for the Outer Critics Circle Awards, recognizing Broadway and off-Broadway productions, have been announced. (Theatermania)

Also in the L.A. Times: Jennifer Aniston will participate in the L.A. debut of the 24 Hour Plays, at the Broad Stage in June.

For the record: A previous version of this post had an incorrect opening date for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

-- David Ng

Photo: The Foxwoods Theatre in New York, home of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Credit: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press


Smithsonian withdraws offer to buy endangered L.A. murals

March 27, 2011 |  2:31 pm

Alston In a brief statement released Saturday, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture withdrew its bid to buy an important pair of 1949 murals from a historic building in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles and relocate them to Washington.

The murals were being sold as part of an asset liquidation process for a failed insurance company.The building's new tenants, a nonprofit social services agency, has expressed a desire to keep the two paintings in the place for which they were made.

The Smithsonian statement said, "The Museum’s bid – submitted in late 2010 – was in keeping with its strong commitment to obtaining historic and culturally significant works of art on behalf of the American people for exhibition in the nation’s capital and on national tours." Because of expressions of local interest in retaining the murals, however, the museum "has respectfully decided to withdraw" its $750,000 offer.

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Alston and Woodruff site-specific murals are endangered

March 23, 2011 | 12:18 pm

Allston When Michelangelo climbed the scaffold and began to paint the Sistine Chapel in 1508, he brought his exceptional intrinsic perceptions and artistic skills to three powerful extrinsic forces. The artist had to deal with the physical architecture of the space, the conceptual role of the chapel within the Vatican and the specific demands of the decisive patron, Pope Julius II.

The artist's brilliant negotiation of these intrinsic and extrinsic forces is integral to the masterpiece we see today.

Can you imagine, if such a thing were possible, the effect on Michelangelo's paintings if they were removed from the chapel and installed in the galleries of a museum? The images would remain unchanged, virtually identical to what they are in their present location, and many more people would get to see them than can be accommodated in a chapel of relatively modest size. But the aesthetic loss would be enormous. Michelangelo's Sistine murals are site-specific, drawing power and meaning from the place for which they were made.

Something similar, if on a lesser scale, will be argued in a Los Angeles courtroom Monday. As Times columnist Tim Rutten notes in a Wednesday op-ed, two site-specific murals completed in 1949 for the lobby of a major building in L.A.'s West Adams neighborhood may be ripped from their moorings and shipped off to a museum's galleries in Washington, D.C. Rutten has the details behind the possible loss. But the reason can be succinctly stated: Valued at $750,000, the two paintings were made on canvas that can be readily taken down from the walls.

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Critic's Notebook: Smithsonian public forum on censorship? Not so much

February 24, 2011 |  5:12 pm

Berenice Abbott 1927 Janet Flanner AP NPG Kicking the can down the road is a time-honored Washington custom, designed to achieve one of two things: Let enough time pass that (a) an original cast of characters changes, or (b) people forget what the original issue was. The Smithsonian Institution has now kicked the censorship can down the road.

Last November, Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough created a firestorm by bowing to a noisy pressure group and pulling a video-excerpt from an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery that had been on view -- and critically praised -- for a month. For weeks he remained silent as protests against his action grew. Finally emerging in a few brief January interviews and public appearances, Clough announced that a public forum on the controversy would be held in April.

That forum is now scheduled for April 26-27 -- but don't expect much from it. A working draft of the schedule of panels obtained by The Times shows that the can has not just been kicked down the road, it's been booted into the underbrush.

You can read my full commentary on those developments here.

--Christopher Knight

Photo: Berenice Abbott, "Janet Flanner," 1927. Credit: National Portrait Gallery / Associated Press

Obama budget proposal would slash 13.3% from cultural grantmakers while buoying D.C. arts institutions

February 15, 2011 |  5:51 pm

Obama budget cuts for the arts Funding for the nation's three main cultural grantmaking agencies would fall 13.3% under President Obama's proposed federal budget for 2011-12.

Obama is calling for 12.6% cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities;  the Institute of Museum and Library Services would take a 14.3% reduction. 

Cuts to the agencies' grantmaking ability would be even more severe, because the president's proposal calls for preserving staff salaries and taking all the cuts out of line items for "promotion of the arts" (NEA), "promotion of the humanities" (NEH) and "assistance to museums/assistance to libraries" (IMLS). The proposed line items represent a 24.6% loss for the NEA, 17.8% for the NEH, 33% for IMLS museum grants and 13% for its library grants.

Obama budget cuts for the arts

Only the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would escape a reduction in its grantmaking: Obama proposes a 3.5% increase for "general programming," although cuts in its support for stations' conversion to digital broadcasting would mean an overall 12.6% reduction, from $516 million to $451 million.

Americans for the Arts, a key Washington advocacy group that annually mounts a lobbying effort on Capitol Hill, issued a statement Monday opposing the arts reductions.

"We believe the administration has missed the mark with such a deep cut," the group said, describing the NEA's grants as "modest but critical" to the nonprofit arts sector. Obama's proposal is a short-sighted way of trying to reduce the national debt, Americans for the Arts argues, because federal arts grants support exhibitions and performances that attract audiences whose spending on a cultural day or night out helps drive economic growth.

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Getting the facts straight about Wojnarowicz's 'A Fire in My Belly'

February 2, 2011 |  3:09 pm


The art work at the center of the current Smithsonian Institution controversy -- David Wojnarowicz's "A Fire in My Belly" -- is perhaps the most talked about, argued about and blogged about piece of art of the past year. Not bad for a film that's a mere 13 minutes long (in one of its versions) and more than 20 years old.

But amid the heated debate over whether the Smithsonian was right to remove "Fire" from an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, a lot of the facts about the artwork have become clouded, obscured and even misconstrued by the public and various reports.

Two experts who have intimate knowledge of "Fire" -- Marvin Taylor and Brent Phillips at New York University's Fales Library & Special Collections -- have compiled a list of inaccuracies and misconceptions about the film. (A recent article in the Wall Street Journal features an interview with the archivists.) The fact sheet, which was compiled with the help of Tom Rauffenbart, who is the executor of the Wojnarowicz estate, contains eight points of clarification about "Fire."

Phillips and the PPOW Gallery in New York, which represents the late artist, sent Culture Monster the latest version of the fact sheet, which you can read it in its entirety  below. The gallery said it will be holding an exhibition starting March 4 called "Spirituality" of work by Wojnarowicz that will show "A Fire in My Belly" (in its original uncompleted version) and related works that will clarify the time frame of the film, when Wojnarowicz was diagnosed with AIDS and how this work and subsequent works by Wojnarowicz explore AIDS and religion, including Catholicism.

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Critic's notebook: Smithsonian regents didn't solve the problem

February 1, 2011 | 12:59 pm

Smithsonian close up
Monday's special report and press conference in response to the censorship scandal at Washington's National Portrait Gallery did not solve the Smithsonian Institution's problem. But it did imply a potential resolution, which doesn't have much time left to succeed.

In a nutshell: Uncensor the show.

A special review panel was convened by the Smithsonian Board of Regents to investigate the abrupt removal of an excerpt of a work of video art from an exhibition. The panel included two outsiders with deep Washington connections -- Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art, and CNN political analyst and Harvard professor David Gergen -- as well as regent John W. McCarter, president of Chicago's Field Museum and panel chair.

Their two salient conclusions:

-- Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough has been an effective leader overall and still enjoys the strong support of the regents and the special panel.

-- Clough stumbled badly when he made the hasty decision to remove the excerpt of David Wojnarowicz's video, "A Fire in My Belly," from the portrait gallery show.

Fair enough. The Smithsonian receives the lion's share of its funding from Congress -- six House and Senate members also serve as regents -- and he who pays the piper calls the tune. However prematurely, Clough thought he was protecting the Smithsonian from congressional critics, real and imagined.

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