Angry words sail in dispute over lakefront: Philanthropist riled by art museum director's comments
Thu Jan 23, 6:37 AM ET
A nasty encounter between retired industrialist Michael Cudahy and David Gordon, the new director of the Milwaukee Art Museum, has put the financially troubled museum on what appears to be a collision course with one of its biggest benefactors. At issue is a white, sail-like building that Pier Wisconsin and Cudahy want to build - and Gordon and his trustees hope to stop - just south of Santiago Calatrava's white, sail-like addition to the museum.
Full story at Milwaukee Journal http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/jan03/112711.asp
Frozen pipes close Mint Museum uptown
1/25/03 7:44 AM By: Sherry Jones, news14.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One local art museum, has also fallen victim to broken water pipes. The Mint Museum of Craft and Design in uptown Charlotte, suffered some damage from water, after frozen pipes that led to the sprinkler system on the fourth floor, burst. This spilled thousands of gallons of water throughout the building. A museum spokesperson says only two pieces of artwork were exposed to the water. Everything else was behind cases. The museum will be closed for the next few days, as workers there assess the damage.
Buyer beware: All is not as advertised at Asian antiquities dealer
A tony shop in the heart of Seattle's Pioneer Square gallery district beckons buyers to own a piece of Chinese history:
A rare glazed tile from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), for sale for $900. An elegant blue vase from the Song Dynasty (A.D. 960-1120), $3,800. An exquisite tricolor jar from the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907), $12,000. An elaborate bronze elephant from the Warring States Dynasty (475-221 B.C.), $120,000.
To the eyes of tourists and window-shoppers, the gallery's wares may seem striking in their age and beauty. To the eyes of experts, however, they are something quite different. The store's name offers an ironic if unintentional clue: Thesaurus Fine Arts. Just as a thesaurus is a book of words similar to other words, so are at least some of the so-called antique objects sold in Thesaurus Fine Arts only similar to the real thing. They are fakes, a Seattle Times investigation has found. Indeed, experts insist that most of the artifacts sold by Thesaurus in its shop and on the eBay Internet auction site are much newer than they are purported to be. Independent tests performed on two certificated pieces The Times purchased from the gallery found that they were copies worth only a fraction of their selling prices. The world demand for authentic Chinese antiquities is burgeoning, and with it the market for fakes. Fraudulent ceramic, jade and bronze artifacts are ending up with unsophisticated buyers — and occasionally even knowledgeable collectors. "It's a constant battle against fakes," said Julian Thompson, Chinese art specialist at the auction house Sotheby's. The pieces sold by Thesaurus Fine Arts are a trickle in the flood — but notable in that, unlike many fakes, they are purportedly backed by scientific evaluation. Experts say they know of no other art dealer in the United States that makes such sweeping claims on obviously phony pieces. The operators of the gallery, one of them a renowned economics professor and Nobel Prize candidate who has taught at Hong Kong University and the University of Washington, insist their goods are authentic and say they are "baffled" by findings otherwise. But Asian art experts consulted by The Times universally agreed Thesaurus is peddling frauds. The gallery also sells contemporary paintings, but it specializes in antiquities. While some of those might be authentic, the experts agree, there is no doubt that many are not. "They look bad through the window. You don't even have to look closely," said John Stevenson, former acting associate curator of Chinese art at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). "I didn't go into the store for a long time; they're so obviously reproductions." Robert Dootson, a prominent collector who is a SAM trustee and a member of its Asian Arts Council, stopped in at Thesaurus when the gallery opened in the summer of 1998. "I was interested when I went in there, but you just take one look and it's so obvious. And the prices: If it were the real thing, they'd be much more expensive," Dootson said. William Rathbun, curator emeritus of Asian art at the Seattle Art Museum, agreed.
"It's one of those too-good-to-be-true things," he said. "People I know are too savvy to go for that stuff." But many buyers — even some who consider themselves knowledgeable — are apparently not that savvy. Brian Jacobs, a Bellevue radiologist and Asian art collector, bought two items from Thesaurus last year. He dealt with Edith Crighton, 74, the genial manager of the gallery and president of the company. Jacobs says Crighton assured him that the pieces, jade disks with ornate carving, were from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 220) and provided certificates of authenticity. He talked her down to $3,066, one-third off the asking price and far less than the pieces would be worth if authentic. "I knew just enough to be dangerous," Jacobs says. "I was driving home, saying either I have the most beautiful objects I'd seen, even in books, or I just got rooked. And as I got closer, I realized I just got rooked. You don't win the lottery often." Jacobs checked with several other dealers who confirmed the deal was too good to be true. Citing those dealers, he returned the jade disks to Thesaurus, and Crighton — this time, not so genial — gave him a refund. Shortly afterward, an attorney for the gallery — Kirstin Dodge of Perkins Coie, Seattle's largest law firm — sent letters to three art dealers Jacobs had consulted. Dodge demanded they "immediately stop" making "disparaging and false comments about Thesaurus and its merchandise" and warned the dealers they could be sued for defaming and hurting the business. The sale of fake art is a thriving — and traditional — business in China. Furious, Jacobs filed complaints with every agency he could think of: the Seattle Police Department, the state Attorney General's Office, the U.S. Customs Service, the FBI. "Everybody said it was somebody else's jurisdiction," Jacobs says. "Those guys didn't want to touch it." So Jacobs, hoping to save others from being scammed, turned to the newspaper for help.
At 301 Occidental Ave. S., Thesaurus Fine Arts sits on the corner of the block that is the axis of Seattle's fine-art scene. On the first Thursday night of each month, the brick-paved, pedestrian-only square is the place to see and be seen. The gallery's neighbors include some of the city's most respected purveyors: Foster/White. Davidson. Grover/Thurston. Entering Thesaurus one afternoon last fall, a Times reporter — giving his name but not identifying himself as a journalist — was greeted by Crighton. The reporter purchased two pieces that were relatively inexpensive: A ceramic teapot purportedly from the Tang Dynasty, for $1,900, and a pottery tile from the Ming Dynasty, for $315. Both came with certificates of authenticity from scientific testing laboratories in Hong Kong. The teapot had dirt caked inside, which Crighton said came from centuries of being buried underground. She gave assurances that all of the store's wares were genuine, and where there was any doubt they were tested by independent scientific labs.
Satisfaction, she said, was guaranteed. "Nice sale," Crighton said to the reporter.
After buying the pieces, the newspaper had them evaluated by several local art experts, all of whom said they were inauthentic. But to be sure, the paper sent the pieces to be tested by two of the world's leading laboratories for establishing the age and authenticity of ceramics: Oxford Authentication in England, the world leader, and Daybreak Archaeometric Laboratory in Connecticut, which has tested for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art and more than 900 other clients. Both use a scientific procedure called thermoluminescence, or TL, testing. Similar to carbon dating, TL tests the age of ceramics and pottery by measuring the radiation absorbed since the last high-temperature firing. "As soon as I saw them, I saw they were fake," said Doreen Stoneham, founder of Oxford Authentication. Her test showed the Thesaurus objects — certified by the gallery as being at least 1,200 years old for the teapot and 400-600 years old for the tile — were certainly less than 100 years old and possibly new. Victor Bortolot, director of Daybreak Laboratory, went even further: "I would say they are less than 5 years old, probably much less," he said. Bortolot actually took samples from the same holes on the bottom of the objects bored by the Hong Kong labs that had vouched for their antiquity. Those labs also claimed to have performed TL testing on the pieces. John Fairman, a highly regarded dealer who has sold Chinese art at Honeychurch Antiques in Seattle and Hong Kong for a quarter-century, said the tile appeared to be "something you'd pick up there (in Hong Kong) for $10 or $15." Of the teapot, he said: "This is the kind of thing, had it been real, you'd sell very quickly at Sotheby's or Christie's for $20,000, $30,000, something like that." New testing certificates in hand, the Times reporter took the objects back to Thesaurus in December and got a quick refund from Crighton. "It's an embarrassment to me, and I'd like to give them to the supplier," she said at the time. "I'm sorry. I'm glad I'm quitting in July." When The Times attempted to buy other pieces from the store to have them tested, Crighton refused to sell them. Weeks later, Thesaurus was selling four other painted tiles nearly identical to the "Ming" tile the newspaper had bought for $315. Crighton confirmed they were from the same group of tiles. Now they were marked "Han" and priced at $900. In a few weeks, they'd aged more than 1,000 years and were almost three times as expensive. Crighton said a shopper must have placed the "Han" sign by mistake. She removed it. Then she was asked about the price tags on the edge of the tiles, which said "Han $900" in her handwriting. "Oh," Crighton said, pausing. "I just do what they tell me to do."
The Nobel candidate
Just who "they" are is difficult to ascertain. Company papers list employees as officers. Crighton says three married couples own Thesaurus; she would identify only the two people for whom she says she works under contract: Linda and Steven Cheung. "Linda and Steve pay my salary," she said. Steven Ng Sheong Cheung, 67, is a wealthy Hong Kong-born U.S. citizen with homes in Seattle, Hong Kong and Shanghai. He is famous in East Asia for his economics research, his books and his newspaper columns, and he has been Nobel laureate Milton Friedman's traveling companion on Friedman's trips to China and Hong Kong. Cheung himself has been a candidate for the Nobel in economics, finishing in the top 25 in the 2001 balloting. He also has had a long-running dispute with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and he acknowledges that he is under federal investigation for alleged tax evasion. "I've done nothing wrong," he said. Cheung says he developed an interest in antiques from his economics study of the effect of information on pricing in volatile markets. Although he confirms that he acts as an "advisor" to Thesaurus Fine Arts, he denies he is an owner or that he pays Crighton. He would not say whether his family owns it, saying ownership needs to be kept secret because of security concerns.
Many factors point to Cheung's active participation in the business:
• Crighton, listed in state papers as the company president, said "the principal owner" is an "Asian professor" who owns homes in Hong Kong and Seattle and whose daughter was getting married that evening in Seattle. The description fit Cheung precisely; that night, his daughter was married at St. James Cathedral and had a reception at SAM.
• Crighton, a former interior designer, says the Seattle law firm of Stafford Frey Cooper referred her to Cheung, who needed a store manager.
• A woman named Linda Su — Cheung's wife's name before marriage — is listed as administrator of www.thesaurusfinearts.com, the company's Web site.
• State documents list Arthur Circo of Mill Creek as chairman of the board. Circo, 64, says he is a real-estate broker for Cheung and not involved in the day-to-day operations of the gallery or Web site. Circo's business, Commercial Management and Leasing, is in a Mill Creek building owned by West Coast Land Investments, a corporation set up in 1981 with Cheung, his wife and his two children as officers. Asked about his connection to West Coast and Cheung's role in Thesaurus, Circo declined comment.
• Po Lau Leung, a City University of Hong Kong physicist who has tested antiques for Thesaurus, says Cheung or Cheung's assistant personally brought him all of those items — including the ceramic teapot purchased by The Times. Additionally, Leung says, Cheung bought his own testing equipment and set up another Hong Kong lab, called Adsigno Thermoluminescence Laboratory. Adsigno was the lab that provided the authentication for the tile The Times bought.
Cheung denies owning Adsigno — Latin for "to ascribe" — but won't say who does. He admits helping to set up the business and says the actual owners bought the equipment through him. Papers filed in Hong Kong show the owner of Adsigno as Arcadia International Ltd. of the British Virgin Islands and Arcadia Press, a Hong Kong company that has published some of Cheung's books. Adsigno doesn't have offices where it says it does, and doesn't return phone calls.
• The supplier of the testing equipment used by Adsigno says he sold it to Cheung for about $60,000.
Back in Seattle, visitors to Thesaurus find a loose-leaf notebook at the front desk with documents extolling the company and identifying Cheung as "Advisor." In that document, Cheung writes, "Having examined so many tested articles over the years, I am perhaps the best man on earth judging whether an article will pass the TL test with naked eyes." Stoneham, the Oxford Authentication founder, remarked in response: "My reactions to the reports and the puffed-up statement from the dealer are unprintable!" Earlier this month, Cheung said he had had the two pieces returned by The Times retested in the two Hong Kong labs. Now they test "shiny new," he said. "How come is it possible?" Cheung insisted they were antiques, not new, and that The Times or the mailing service must have re-fired the ceramics, which could alter the TL reading. "Somebody did that to frame Thesaurus," Cheung said. "This is fraud to do that. This is a crime." Stoneham of Oxford Authentication said her test would have detected any tampering, and there was none.
eBay sales abound
On the world's largest Internet-auction site, eBay, Thesaurus Fine Arts offers to test items at a lab of its choosing for a $250 fee. Thesaurus lists hundreds of items a year on eBay. With rolling weekly auctions, some items appear time after time. Yesterday, Thesaurus listed 18 items with minimum bids totaling $24,140. Auctions for five of the ceramic items claimed to have TL dating certificates. Auctions for two items priced at $120 and $200 say, "As the price is so low, it is not worthy to make the TL test." And an "excellent" green Qingbai Plate of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) "is too thin to be TL tested." The most expensive items, jade and bronze, can't be authenticated by TL tests. For these, Thesaurus writes, "the dating is assessed by at least two of our expert advisors." Those "expert advisors" are not identified. Experts consulted by The Times — a former museum curator and five reputable dealers in Seattle and Hong Kong — said most of the items are at best dubious and probably fake. A bronze mirror identified as being from the Tang Dynasty and listed for a $4,200 minimum bid was "highly suspect," said Stevenson, the former SAM curator. A Tang Dynasty jade Buddha head, with a starting bid of $3,800, was "patently wrong," Stevenson said. The Internet auction site provides an area for feedback from buyers and sellers, and the comments about Thesaurus are overwhelmingly positive. eBay buyers have posted 162 positive comments from 89 different log-ins since September 1999; there are two neutral comments and one negative. However, as eBay itself points out, there is no way to validate that the feedback does not come from people with an interest in helping or hurting a vendor. Examples of the positive feedback: "Now the BEST in my Chinese collection." "Another great object from a great dealer." "Absolutely breathtaking object, expert delivery and service. Thank you, TFA!!" The lone negative comment came from William Klebous of Australia: "FAKE, seller does not respond to evidence or eBay mediator, write me for details." Thesaurus responds on the site: "Non-sense! The Hongshan jade is authentic." Klebous said he bought two "Neolithic Hongshan" (3600-2000 B.C.) erotic jades from Thesaurus on eBay in December 2000 and January 2001. He said he showed the first one to a dealer, who pointed out modern tool markings and an artificial patina. Klebous complained to Thesaurus. After a long wait, Klebous said, he got this response: "My name is Steve; I am Thesaurus' expert advisor. I am very familiar of the Hongshan Jade sculpture you have purchased, and in my opinion there is no chance it is not authentic. Quite a few people may feel the price is too low to be authentic, but these people know nothing about the new finds. Refer your skeptical friends to me, so I may explain to them." That set off alarms for Klebous. It didn't answer specific concerns. He consulted books and other experts, who concluded the figures could not possibly be genuine. He again wrote Thesaurus. Three weeks later, he got a note back from "Steve of Thesaurus": "There is zero chance the Hongshan jade figures you purchased from Thesaurus are not authentic. No way they could be replicated. They were excavated in province of Shantung. I know about this as a matter of fact." Klebous then turned to his credit-card company and to eBay. He eventually got a refund. Kevin Pursglove, a spokesman for eBay, said the auction company requires "some pretty substantial information" before it can act against dealers for selling fakes. Experts say that even if it provides the occasional refund, Thesaurus can make money because of the huge markup on objects that aren't returned. Most buyers don't bother to have their purchases tested, especially if they pay just a few thousand dollars, because the TL tests cost as much as $500. Byron McMahon, a North Carolina collector, bought a glazed boar from Thesaurus at the Seattle store and a pot on eBay. "The shop fooled me," he said. "Normally, if they're in a nice place like that, they can't sell (fakes) long because they go out of business. Something's wrong there in Seattle." McMahon had the pot tested by Daybreak Laboratory. The test showed it was new. McMahon asked to return the items, but Thesaurus told him too much time had passed since his purchase. "They know exactly what they are doing," McMahon said. "I don't think they know anything but what a fake is."
Duff Wilson: 206-464-2288 or email@example.com. Sheila Farr: 206-464-2270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vandals destroy, deface Badlands pictographs
Published: January 23, 2003
By Rachel Odell
Using charcoal, someone drew over several pictographs in Dry Canyon in the Badlands east of Bend, defacing about five and destroying at least one of the irreplaceable images. Officials do not know exactly when the damage occurred, said John Zancanella, a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) archaeologist, during a tour of the site in the Badlands Wilderness Study Area. Bill Marlett, executive director for the Oregon Natural Desert Association, said the vandals struck sometime in the past several weeks. Marlett often hikes through the canyon for recreation and work. His organization wants Congress to declare the Badlands an official wilderness area. Within the canyon, the vandal or vandals built a fire pit that stretches about 4 feet across. The fire charred the sides and top of a hollowed rock that is about 6 feet tall. Someone used charcoal to write "truth," "light," and "healing" on the walls. The Taoist yin-yang symbol representing balance was also drawn. A vandal also used the charcoal to trace the outline of one pictograph. Damaging a federal resource can be a felony crime if the damage exceeds $1,000, said Roger Crisofi, law enforcement ranger for the BLM. A lesser charge would be a class A misdemeanor, which can result in up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, he said. Officials are investigating the damage to determine its extent and will likely have an assessment later this week, he said. The pictographs offer a snapshot into the past, said Duran Bobb of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. They are remnants of a time when Native Americans lived throughout Central Oregon and left paintings to immortalize rites of passage, among other things. Zancanella said no tribe lays claim to the pictographs in the Badlands, but added that the images are irreplaceable and important to protect. "This type of pictograph is not rare, but it is not common, either," Zancanella said. "They are a special part of this area." The damage infuriated Bend resident Dr. Stuart Garrett, who hiked the area last Friday after speaking with Marlett. Garrett e-mailed digital photographs of the damage to BLM officials and formally requested they close the access road that leads to the canyon as an emergency measure. "It is kind of sacrilegious," he said of the damage. "Whoever did it has a total lack of regard. To have an area like the Badlands within a 20 minute drive of Bend is very special, and then to have this spectacular evidence of Native American culture is really special. To not protect or cherish that is criminal." Marci Todd, assistant field manager for the BLM, said officials are considering how they will clean up the damage and whether they will close roads. The road that leads to the canyon is open year-round and accesses private property, she said. Sometimes agency officials will close similar roads by placing a locked gate across it and providing those who rely on it access to their homes with a key. Nonetheless, the open spaciousness of the Badlands makes closing access difficult, she said.
Road closures could also prove controversial.
The canyon where the damage occurred sits in the heart of the Badlands Wilderness Study Area, a tract of about 17,000 acres managed by the BLM. The designation means that officials recommended that Congress pass legislation to create a wilderness area, which would ban cars and off-road vehicles. Since that initial recommendation, the wilderness proposal has proved politically controversial. Environmentalists try to push the agenda while off-road highway advocates and some ranchers resist the creation of wilderness. Marlett said the vandalism underscores the importance of making the area inaccessible to vehicles. People are less likely to damage a resource if they have to walk to it, Marlett said. "What kind of legacy does the BLM want to leave Central Oregon?" he asked. "That the pictographs can be destroyed or that some areas need to be off limits to vehicles. When you allow such easy access, this type of thing is going to inevitably happen." Archeologist Zancanella said it was fortunate that the BLM had officially documented the pictographs. "The documentation allows us to know what we have lost," he said.
Anyone with any information about the vandalism should contact the BLM at 541-416-6700.
Rachel Odell can be reached at 541-617-7811 or email@example.com.
Test to determine age in ceramics is not foolproof — or scamproof
By Sheila Farr Seattle Times art critic
One of the ways to ensure the authenticity of ceramic objects is with a laboratory test pioneered in the 1960s at Oxford University for use in archaeology. Thermoluminescence, or TL, testing is a way of measuring radiation damage in solid material. Its most common use is in industry and medicine, for monitoring exposures of radiation in people and workplaces. In the art world, TL is a way to establish the authenticity of fired-clay objects. TL can tell whether a piece was fired in the distant past or only recently. Typically, the test is able to measure the time that has passed since the object was fired to within plus or minus 30 percent of the actual time span, depending on the type of clay and the testing method used. An object created 1,000 years ago will yield a TL result in the range of 700 to 1,300 years — clearly indicating an ancient, rather than a modern, date of firing, according to conservation scientist John Twilley of New York. After firing, natural radiation deposits energy in the ceramic year by year. Heating a sample to about 400 degrees Celsius releases this stored energy in the form of measurable light. Subsequent exposure of the sample to a known amount of radiation, followed by a second light measurement, allows the ceramic's historical radiation exposure to be gauged and its age calculated. "You are basically calculating a ratio between two amounts of light," Twilley says. However, even reputable labs can be fooled by fakes. "I have tested pieces previously tested in China," Twilley says. "In one case, the piece had been drilled repeatedly — the bottom looked like a sieve it had so many holes — but despite all that sampling, they failed to determine that the whole surface had been covered with modern material. It was entirely reconstructed." That's why Julian Thompson, Chinese art expert for Sotheby's in London, insists that TL testing be seen "as part of the jigsaw of evidence and only viewed in the context of a thorough and critical expert examination." Following is his list of ways TL tests can be falsified:
• Technical errors. Inaccurate results may come from problems with equipment or inexperienced operators.
• Fake certificates. A lab certificate can be photocopied and altered, substituting a different photograph or changing the results. • Composite objects. Some new ceramic pieces may incorporate clay from old objects. The base of a jar could be old, but the top might be a reproduction. A TL test shows the age only of the part that is sampled.
• Recarved objects. An old piece of pottery, such as a Han dynasty tomb brick, can be carved into a new shape. The test result will indicate that the piece is as old as the material it's carved from.
In addition, real antiques can be artificially enhanced to add value in a marketplace that prizes uniqueness. A little animal can be placed in a subject's folded hands, for instance, or the legs of a horse can be broken and reattached at more dramatic angles.
• Switched samples. If a laboratory accepts a sample drilled by an outside source along with a photograph, it risks authenticating a work based on a sample taken from some other piece. The certificate then may appear to authenticate a fake.
• Applying radiation. Modern porcelain objects can be irradiated with a controlled dose that will cause a TL test to indicate it is much older. For this reason, TL on porcelain must be used only to confirm a known provenance and an expert judgment of the piece.
Egyptian antiquities officials accused of smuggling
An Egyptian official appointed to protect the country's archaeological treasures has been arrested on suspicion of taking a bribe to allow 362 of those treasures to be smuggled to Spain. The arrests came after airport customs police discovered pieces from Egypt's pharaonic, Roman and Greek eras. It included 288 icons, 13 bracelets, 60 small statues and the head of a large statue packed in a box for air shipping to a private dealer in Spain. Airport officials said the merchant, Mohamed al-Shaaer, had a certificate from the government's Supreme Council of Antiquities identifying the items as modern fakes made in Cairo's main tourist bazaar. Customs police arrested al-Shaaer, Abdel Karim Abu Shanab, the top Supreme Council of Antiquities official in charge of tracking stolen artifacts and Mohamed Abdel Rahman Fahmy, an antiquities council inspector. Police said Al-Shaaer had paid a bribe of £3,334 to Abu Shanab and Fahmy in exchange for the fake certificate. The two officials and the merchant have been held for questioning for four days.
Matisse, Picasso and Concerns About the Crowds
By ROBIN POGREBIN
A certified blockbuster of an art show bearing a high-end ticket price is to open at the Museum of Modern Art in less than three weeks, with questions to be answered. Will those who want to see it make the trip to the Modern's temporary home in Queens? And if they do in anything like the numbers the show has drawn elsewhere, will the smaller space be able to handle them? Glenn D. Lowry, the director of the Modern, said the museum had prepared for what he expected to be 4,000 visitors a day to "Matisse Picasso," which opens on Feb. 13 and drew huge crowds in London and Paris. The museum is issuing timed $20 tickets that will admit people every half-hour. It has hired extra coat checkers and guards and plans for additional food in the cafe. Nevertheless a comparison of the Modern's 85,000-square-foot home, now under renovation, on West 53rd Street, with its temporary 25,000 square feet in Long Island City suggests potential pandemonium. MOMA QNS, as it is called, has only 40 seats in the cafe; the museum had 470 in Manhattan between its garden cafe and Sette Moma restaurant. And the Manhattan building is in the middle of Midtown, surrounded by hotels, shopping and tourists. Long Island City is not. Although the Queens space had some 3,500-visitor days around the holidays, the crowds for "Matisse Picasso" promise to be larger than anything the site has yet encountered, raising inevitable questions about how visitors will move through the building without clogging it and whether they will have room to appreciate the nearly 140 works by two of the 20th century's masters. John Richardson, the Picasso biographer, said it was important for the paintings and sculpture to have room to breathe and for visitors to be able to move easily among the pieces. "Especially for this subject, you want to go from one to the other and back again," he said. "It's not a linear thing." Some fellow aficionados are "worried that it's going to be a bit cramped," he said. "If it's a one-man show, you can cram things together a bit. But if they're making these big, major points about what these artists are getting from each other or sharing with each other, you want space between them." John Elderfield, the Modern's chief curator at large and one of six curators of the exhibition, said the show was indeed meant to juxtapose the works of the two artists to point up how they played off each other as both rivals and friends. "We are making very, very specific comparisons and presenting groups of works which demonstrate the mutual influence and reciprocal relationship between them," Mr. Elderfield said. "It was at times an uneasy relationship, at times close." Mr. Elderfield said the space in Queens would work to the advantage of the exhibition, which runs through May 19. "The real interest of MOMA QNS is it's a big, open factory space, so we have more flexibility than London or Paris did," he said. "To see classic Modernist works like this in a raw space is actually quite amazing for the contrast."
"The advantage of big rooms is there is more cross-reference between the paintings," he added. "The disadvantage is, if you don't get the hang right, it could look too crowded." The greatest challenge, Mr. Lowry said, is logistical. "The actual installation is less problematic than moving people in and out of the building," he said, "making sure it's not too crowded, that people can leave their coats and get their coats." The Modern estimates, for example, that people generally spend one to two hours in this type of exhibition and more time per picture at the beginning of an exhibition than at the end. "Museums have been dealing with major blockbusters for decades," Mr. Lowry said, "so there is a whole range of strategies that kick in." The museum's last Matisse show, in 1992, brought in 900,000 people, and the entire museum was used for the exhibition. Its Picasso and portraiture exhibition in 1996 drew 500,000. Nearly 500,000 people visited "Matisse Picasso" last May at the Tate Modern in London, which collaborated on the exhibition with the Picasso Museum and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Because of the demand, the Tate had to stay open 24 hours a day toward the end of the run. "People were there in the middle of the night to see it," Mr. Elderfield said. The show traveled afterward to the Grand Palais in Paris, where it was also a major success. Visitors will be admitted every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays and until 7:30 on Fridays and Saturdays. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or in person at MOMA QNS, the MOMA design store on 53rd Street or the MOMA design store in SoHo. People can also call a toll-free number: (866) 879-6662.
Stephen E. Weil, a scholar emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Education and Museum Studies, said the timed ticket had emerged as an effective approach to large crowds. "You can't control how long people are going to stay in an exhibition," he said. "But it's a reasonable attempt to try to regulate the flow." The Los Angeles County Museum of Art charged $20 for its van Gogh exhibition in 1999, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts charged $17.50 for its Monet show in 1998. The "Matisse Picasso" ticket amounts to an $8 surcharge over the museum's regular admission of $12. "I think it's an appropriate ticket for the scale and the quality of this exhibition," Mr. Lowry said. "It helps us keep the cost of the show under control but by no means will cover the cost of the show." The Philadelphia Museum of Art, which drew 770,000 people to its Cézanne exhibition in 1996, is charging $20 for its show on Degas and dance, which opens Feb. 12. "Getting several hundred thousand people through a gallery space is not unusual," said Gail Herrity, the Philadelphia museum's chief operating officer. "It's a wonderful challenge to have." At the Modern, 800 to 1,000 tickets a day will be set aside on a first-come basis, Mr. Lowry said, adding that he expected the exhibition to accommodate a maximum of 400 to 500 people per hour. Scalping, Mr. Lowry said, is to be expected. For its 1992 Matisse show, scalpers were selling the $12 ticket for $50; for the Art Institute of Chicago's Monet retrospective in 1995, scalpers reportedly got $200 for a $12.50 weekend ticket. "There is nothing we can do about it," Mr. Lowry said. Members get free tickets and will be admitted through a special entrance, Mr. Lowry said. The exhibition will take up about two-thirds of the museum: 11,000 to 14,000 square feet, roughly the same space it had at the Tate and would have had in Manhattan, Mr. Lowry said. "It's the same amount of gallery space we would have given it at 53rd Street," he said. "It's even more generous because we can put walls where we want them." That does not, however, address the problem of the ancillary spaces like the lobby, which is 1,500 square feet including the cafe and bookstore. That compares with 30,000 square feet at 53rd Street, raising the possibility that people will have to wait in line in the cold. "When we've done major shows, we've often had lines outside the building," Mr. Lowry said. "The reality is, it's no colder in Long Island City than it is in Midtown."
Although the Modern decided to do the show before it knew it was going to be in Queens, Mr. Lowry said he never considered abandoning it. "It is an exhibition we were committed to and couldn't consider not doing," he said. "And people in New York are curious and will come to see anything that merits attention." There is still the question of whether people will make the trip. The Modern has been advertising the exhibition heavily. As of Friday, the museum had sold 50,000 tickets. Laurie Beckelman, director of the new building program for the Museum of Arts and Design in Midtown, said "Matisse Picasso" was a smart marketing move for a museum that needed to get people to Queens. "It's clever to do a blockbuster out there," she said. "More people get on a plane to go see art in London or Paris than go to see art in other boroughs." Does the whole enterprise give Mr. Lowry agita? With $80 million to raise for the Modern's renovation project in Manhattan, he said, it's par for the course. "I wake up in the morning with agita," he said, "with or without `Matisse Picasso.' "
The Elgin Marbles and the Olympics - two icons of the culture of the loser
Two Olympian questions are up for debate in Westminster this week. Should Britain bid to bring the 2012 Games to London? And should Britain send the Elgin Marbles back to Greece, in time for next year’s Athens Olympics? For those who hope to live in a society that sets its sights high, the right answers are “Yes” and “No”, respectively. But these are miserabilist times. Even when the Government seems ready to give the right answer, it has less to do with raising horizons than with lowering costs. Accountancy triumphs over aspiration every time. As the Cabinet prepares to decide on the London bid, reports have it that ministers are suddenly keener on a proposal that they seemed to have ruled out. But despite his famous spirituality, Mr Blair does not appear to have been moved by the Olympic spirit. The Government is more open to a bid because somebody else has promised to foot the bill. The deal is that costs would be covered by council taxpayers,the National Lottery, the International Olympic Committee and television companies, making the Olympics effectively cost-free for the Government. An extra 20 quid a year for seven years on my council tax bill seems a small enough price to pay for the Olympics. The more positive vibes about the bid should be something to get excited about, especially for us residents of north-east London where much of the redevelopment is planned to take place. Yet there is something depressing about the penny-pinching, make-do-and-mend tone of the discussion. Take the vexed question of transport in London. An Olympic bid could be the hammer to beat the city’s transport infrastructure into shape, forcing through major projects. It seems more likely, however, that the Olympics would be bolted on to the existing systemic chaos. One report notes that ministers now think they can cope with the extra half-a-million spectators a day, simply by “holding the games in August, increasing buses, changing the traffic lights and altering the congestion charging”. Why not just stage all of the events in the middle of the night, when there is far less traffic and no trains to worry about? Many have suggested that the Government’s reluctance to back an Olympic bid reflects its fear of creating “another Dome” by building expensive stadia that turn into unused white elephants. But the difference between the projects is striking. Nobody ever knew what the Dome was for. It seemed useless even when it was open. By contrast, everybody knows what the Olympics are about. Yet a Government that poured millions into the Greenwich money pit seems desperate to avoid spending a penny on a solid gold event such as the Olympic Games. Yesterday, Mr Blair announced that the Cabinet’s decision would depend on two factors: “affordability” and “winnability”. In other words, we won’t bid unless it can be done on the cheap, and we won’t risk entering the race if there is any chance of being beaten, especially by the French. Would he advise Olympic competitors to take the same attitude?
And it’s not just the Government. Last week Ken Livingstone, London’s mayor, championed an Olympic bid as a blow against Britain’s “we can’t do this” culture. Which sounded a little rich, coming from a leader who cannot organise a fireworks display in a capital city, and whose office describes New Year’s Eve as “not an event, it’s a public order problem”. Meanwhile, at a reception elsewhere in Westminster today, British politicians, Olympic medallists, actors and actresses will call for the Parthenon marbles to be returned to Athens. The marbles debate embodies much the same spirit of low expectations as the discussion about the London Olympics. The tone is increasingly set by a defeatist campaign that looks upon the presence of these antiquities, at the heart of the British Museum’s unique display of human history, as if it were an object of national shame. Perhaps they should call themselves “Luvvies for Self-Loathing”. It remains to be seen how firmly the Government — which has defended the marbles’ presence more on pragmatic than principled grounds — will hold the line. Britain should bid to get the Olympics, and fight to hold on to the marbles, for similar reasons: to demonstrate that our society values something higher than the bottom line, and that it believes not only in itself but in our universal human culture. It might be easier to thrash out these issues if both debates were not quite so clogged up with quotes from sporting celebrities, reading from somebody else’s script about everything from social inclusion to cultural imperialism. Never mind keeping politics out of sport, let’s kick sportspeople out of politics.
Arsonists attack farming museum
An investigation is underway after a North Yorkshire museum was targeted by arsonists. Three huts in the replica Viking village at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming at Murton, near York, were severely damaged by fire. Firefighters, who were called to the scene shortly before 0600 GMT on Sunday, believe the fire was started deliberately. Museum site manager Dave Thurwell said he couldn't understand why anyone would damage the huts. He said: "Literally hundreds of people have put thousands of hours into the construction of the whole of this village. "All this site is used for is to provide lots of pleasure and education for thousands of children and adults. "It's sick. What possible reason could anybody have for doing this?"
As the nation comes ever closer to war with Iraq, Americans should take a closer look at our prospective foe ...
The cradle of civilization
By Kit Miniclier Denver Post staff writer Sunday, January 26, 2003 -
While President Bush describes Iraq as the "axis of evil" and the lair of a defiant Saddam Hussein, young American military cadets are learning that it is also the cradle of Western civilization. "It is an ironic twist of fate to stand on the remains of a city in southern Iraq where the civilized world began and realize it could all end right there as well," cautions historian Bradley Parker. "Iraq is the cradle of Western civilization. It is how we came to be what we are. Mesopotamia was the center of the universe" 5,000 years ago, adds Parker, who teaches ancient Near Eastern history and archaeology at the University of Utah. "Mesopotamia was the oldest civilization anywhere on this planet. It is older than China or the Americas," adds history professor Michael Cook of Princeton University. The area produced the first form of writing in the Western world; wheeled vehicles; cultivated and irrigated crops; domesticated livestock; the calendar; mathematics; and astronomers and philosophers who laid the groundwork for future Greek thinkers. Some biblical scholars even suggest it is the site of Adam and Eve's Garden of Eden and the birthplace of Abraham. As combat troops once again leave nearby Fort Carson for the Persian Gulf, freshman cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs are receiving a thought-provoking lecture from their history teacher: "President Bush speaks of the need to 'defend civilization,"' Lt. Col. Dave Kirkham tells his students. "Then I point out the irony of defending civilization against the cradle of civilization," adds Kirkham, deputy director for international history at the academy. Kirkham says ancient Mesopotamia, which covered modern-day Iraq, "is deemed to be where it all started." The city-states of antiquity flourished in Mesopotamia, in the Fertile Crescent, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that included what is now Iraq. The practice of growing grain had spread from the Fertile Crescent to the north, then west to the Atlantic and east to the Pacific by the time of Jesus Christ. Nomadic hunter-gatherers first settled in villages and began raising crops in the area more than 1,100 years before the first pyramid was built in Egypt. Americans might "think twice about going to war with Iraq" if they realized its historic significance, says veteran archaeologist McGuire Gibson of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. "People don't understand that Iraq is more important than Egypt in world heritage. The whole country is an archaeological site." Ur, believed to be the Western world's first city, flourished in Mesopotamia about 5,500 years ago. Its famed temple, or ziggurat, to the moon god was damaged during the Gulf War of 1991. Allied forces left four massive bomb craters, including one within the temple complex, and 400 bullet holes in the temple walls, Gibson says.
The Sumerians, the earliest known inhabitants of Mesopotamia, were living in independent city-states more than 6,000 years ago. By 3200 B.C., they had invented the earliest form of Western writing - cuneiform - using a sharp-pointed stylus to inscribe wedge-shaped characters in soft clay tablets. Mistakes could be corrected with a smudge of a finger. Upon completion, the tablets were baked to preserve them. It took years to become an accomplished scribe because the Sumerian alphabet had about 550 different characters. One of the oldest works of literature in existence is "The Epic of Gilgamesh," a long, narrative Sumerian poem about Gilgamesh, a king of Uruk in Babylonia about 2700 B.C. For centuries, scholars hailed cuneiform as the world's first written language. Now they believe writing, wheels, irrigation and other advances were developed independently in China, India, Central America and Egypt, perhaps coinciding with the development of cuneiform. However, the Sumerians are still credited with dividing the hour into 60 minutes and a circle into 360 degrees while they were developing basic algebra and geometry.
The civilization of Mesopotamia flourished for about 2,600 years under an ever-changing series of rulers. The Babylonian King Hammurabi (1795-1750 B.C.) is best remembered for "The Code of Hammurabi," believed to be the first major set of laws in recorded history. The code also set wages, limited interest rates on loans, permitted women to own property and engage in business, and provided harsher punishments for offenses against priests or members of the nobility. Beer was one of ancient Mesopotamia's many inventions, dating back nearly 6,000 years. It was liberally rationed according to one's status in life. The elite were permitted five liters a day, lesser folk only two. Fifty years after Hammurabi's death, the Babylonian Empire was overthrown by Hittites. More than 500 years later the Assyrians took over. The most powerful, aggressive and creative ruler was King Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.). His military leadership expanded the empire of Babylon from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. He captured Jerusalem, defeated Egypt and conquered Syria and Palestine. Nebuchadnezzar also oversaw the rebuilding of the mud brick walls and buildings of old Babylon, as well as the rebuilding and strengthening of its life-giving canals and waterways. At the same time, he created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Legend has it that the lush gardens, fed by an elaborate irrigation system and towering 300 feet above the ground, were created to please his wife, who came from a faraway, hilly country. In 539 B.C., the army of Cyrus the Great, which included fearful war elephants and chariots equipped with leg-chopping scythes, captured Babylon. Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, entered the walled city without a fight. More than 200 years later, in 331 B.C., history repeated itself as Alexander the Great marched into Babylon unchallenged. Alexander, then just 33 years old, was pleased that he didn't need to besiege the city. Instead, he led his troops over a road ceremoniously covered with welcoming flowers and garlands. He died there eight years later. Eleven years later, the Greek Seleucid Dynasty conquered Mesopotamia and moved the commercial center from Babylon to Seleucia.
That touched off off more than 1,000 years of conflict over Mesopotamia between Greeks, Romans and Persians before a new center of Mesopotamia was created northeast of Babylon. Founded in the year A.D. 762, Baghdad was sacked and looted in A.D. 1258, 234 years before Christopher Columbus reached the "new world." see map Located in the middle of ancient Mesopotamia, Baghdad flourished for 496 years and was the biggest city in the world west of China. Christened "Paris of the Orient" by latter-day historians, Baghdad was a major center of learning and a crossroad of ideas and trade between East and West. It quickly became the spiritual, political, intellectual and cultural hub of the Islamic world, which had captured all of Mesopotamia, Iran and parts of central Asia, Spain and Egypt by A.D. 711. By the ninth century, when Europe was in the Dark Ages, the caliph of Baghdad built a "House of Wisdom" for students, scholars and scribes. A magnet for thinkers and scholars, it became the Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard of its day. In the House of Wisdom, ideas were freely discussed and literature from across the known world, brought in by camel caravan or sailing dhow, was preserved, studied and translated. Cultural diversity was truly celebrated in what Iraqis refer to as the Golden Age of Learning about A.D. 800. Christians, Jews, Muslims and "infidels" discussed the merits of their religious, racial and ethnic beliefs in public debates. Debaters weren't permitted to read from scripture or shout down opponents. Instead, they had to mount arguments based on reason, following a protocol which pre-dated Roberts Rules of Order by eons. Eventually, control of Baghdad became a bone of contention between warring factions. In A.D. 945, people from the Caspian region known as Buyids took control and left the old rulers to provide a powerless symbol of unity and legitimate government for the Muslim community. When the Mongols attacked the city in A.D. 1258, they slaughtered an estimated 800,000 people, says Ahmad Dallal, associate professor of Middle Eastern history at Stanford University. During the slaughter, the Tigris River "ran black" with the ink from hundreds of thousands of destroyed books, Dallal added. Control of the area constantly changed for the next 400 years as Turks, Mongols and Persians repeatedly captured and lost territory. The Ottoman Empire finally conquered what is now Iraq in A.D. 1640.
Friend or foe?
Violent "regime change," invasions, wars, revolts and massacres have been a way of life for 6,000 years in Mesopotamia. When Turkey entered World War I on the side of Germany, the British invaded Mesopotamia in 1914. When Britain marched on Baghdad in 1915 to protect future oil fields from the Germans, its army was roundly defeated, twice. England suffered 23,000 casualties in five months. An additional 10,000 British and Indian troops surrendered unconditionally in what was then the most humiliating defeat of the British Empire. It took three years, and disastrous defeats at Ctesiphon and Kut Al Amara, before the British captured Baghdad. During World War I, the British promised the Arabs national independence if they revolted against the Turks. The Arabs agreed to fight the Turks - but then the British reneged. Enraged by the betrayal and continued military occupation, the Iraqis rebelled in 1920 and Britain rushed in reinforcements from India, Iran and England. Iraq was established as a pro-British monarchy in 1922 and gained independence in 1932. "The modern problems of the Middle East go back to a couple of bad diplomatic decisions during World War I," says Melvin C. Smith, a civilian instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. "The British and French promised a Palestinian homeland, as well as a Jewish state," in return for a second front against the Turks, Smith says. Instead, the British and French took control of the Middle East, including Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. After putting down an anti-British revolt in 1920, Britain effectively controlled Iraq for 38 years, until the monarchy it installed was toppled in 1958. The creation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948, without the long-promised Palestinian state, sparked a series of wars, beginning with the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Eight years later, France, Great Britain and Israel invaded Egypt. Then Israel attacked Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the Six-Day War of June 1967. On Oct. 6, 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces attacked Israel in the Ramadan, or Yom Kippur, War. Then Israel invaded Lebanon in 1983. Iraq played a role directly, or indirectly, in each of them. Iraq's first commercial oil began flowing in the 1920s, but not before British and American firms gained control of both oil production and profits. The oil fields were seized by Iraq 45 years later. Adjacent Kuwait, with the world's third-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Iraq, was a British protectorate for 74 years before becoming an independent sheikhdom in 1961. Oil revenues helped Iraq build a modern education system to achieve a 70 percent literacy rate. At the same time, health care increased life expectancy to 69 for women and 66 for men. However, in 1980, within a year of seizing power, Saddam Hussein diverted oil revenues to launch a war against Iran. Historians estimate there were 375,000 Iraqi casualties during that eight-year war. Iraqi health authorities say more than 1.2 million citizens died during and after the 1991 Gulf War, in part because of health problems caused or aggravated by U.N. sanctions. Washington doesn't talk about it, but the United States strongly supported Hussein during his war against Iran. "Iraq acquired the means to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and the means to wage chemical and biological warfare because of the United States" and others who supported Hussein at the time, notes British historian Peter Sluglett. Any American invasion must be followed by several years of occupation in order to be as effective as the seven-year occupation of Japan after World War II, Sluglett adds. As Washington beats the drums of war, the world no longer sees the United States as "the good guys," says Yitzhak Nakash, Israel-born director of Islamic and Middle East Studies at Brandeis University. Nor is modern-day Iraq a cradle of modern civilization. Saddam Hussein has created "a culture of death" by elevating "the value of death over life," says David Kazzaz, a native Iraqi who is a research associate at the University of Denver. "The culture of death becomes a weapon of mass destruction. The Palestinians, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden use it," adds Kazzaz.
The cradle of Western civilization
Historians and archaeologists agree that the cradle of Western civilization is the Fertile Crescent, or the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers known as Mesopotamia. It covered modern-day Iraq. Virtually all of the requisites for Western civilization were developed in the city-states of ancient Mesopotamia, beginning in 8000 to 6000 B.C. They spread north to Greece, west to Rome and on to what became the British Isles, as well as east to the Orient. Although Mesopotamia was credited for centuries with producing the first writing system, scholars have concluded that writing and other innovations in science and the arts were being developed independently in ancient times in China, India, Central America and Egypt.
Among the firsts:
Cultivation of grains (8000 B.C.) Writing (cuneiform) (3200 B.C.) Wheeled vehicles (3200-3100 B.C.) Mathematics Astronomy Calendars Dividing the day into 24 hours Religion Irrigation techniques, canals, dams Domestication of livestock Plows Metal working Beer Architecture City building Urban plumbing Legal system (The Code of Hammarubi) Preservation of literature ("The Epic of Gilgamesh") Medical writings (2100 B.C.) Cobblestone streets Laws regarding liability of surgeons (1700 B.C.) Measuring and surveying instruments Bleaching and dying of fabrics Pottery
Christopher (Kit) Miniclier was Associated Press bureau chief in Cairo during the Yom Kippur, or Ramadan, War of 1973. He worked in Africa, the Middle East and Asia for AP before joining The Denver Post in 1978. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.