Castro Theatre renovation plans hit with a major setback by City Hall
An interior view of the Castro Theater. Photo: Stephen Lam / The Chronicle 2022

In a setback for event maker Another Planet Entertainment‘s plans to renovate the landmark Castro Theater, San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission unanimously accepted a recommendation to preserve existing seating at the 100-year-old venue.

After an impassioned public hearing that lasted more than five hours on Wednesday, Feb. 1, the commission voted 6-0, with one abstention, to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that it accept a Castro Theater landmark designation amendment which was initiated by supervisor Rafael Mandelman. “to include both outside and inside character-defining characteristics, and update the statement of significance to include LGBTQ historical associations.”

That recommendation, which the Council will consider next month, appears to reject Another Planet’s latest plan for removing some seats and leveling the raised floor of the Castro District Hall.

Last week, the Berkeley-based promotions company unveiled a new proposal that will include motorized raking floors, allowing for a flexible seating plan for a range of events from film screenings to live concerts that Another Planet spokesman David Perry said “isn’t just the best”. , but the only way to keep the Castro open.” The company had previously planned to remove some permanent seats.

Another Planet Entertainment’s revised revamped seating renovation plans for the Castro Theater. Photo: Another Planet Entertainment

Meanwhile, the Castro Theater Conservancy, which has advocated for preserving the theater’s character, was asked Wednesday by Another Planet to submit a proposal on how it would run the theater as a nonprofit. The proposal would commit the Conservancy to raise $20 million to repair and upgrade the building within the first two years of the lease term.

The Conservancy said it hopes to operate the Castro as a “multi-use entertainment venue that hosts film festivals, comedy shows, concerts, drag acts and other events, with a strong commitment to LGBTQ-oriented programming.”

The past few days have seen several statements of support for Another Planet’s plans for the motorized rake seats. James Woolley, executive director of Frameline Film Festival, was among the only local film community leaders to publicly support Another Planet. Frameline, the world’s oldest and largest LGBTQ film festival, has hosted its events at the Castro every June for nearly half a century.

“We feel that these latest proposed modifications to the seat will help ensure that Frameline’s home remains at the Castro for years to come,” Woolley told The Chronicle.

The Gay Men’s Chorus, which has performed its Christmas show at the theater for 33 years, also issued a statement in support of Another Planet’s “operation and rejuvenation of the Castro Theater.”

But the Historic Preservation Commission seemed unfazed by that support. About a hundred people, appearing both in person and virtually, spoke during Wednesday’s hearing, which ran from 12:30 p.m. to about 6:15 p.m. Most speakers urged the commission to recommend that the interior of the theater, including the seats, receive local landmark status.

The commission agreed. President Diane Matsuda, Vice President Ruchira Nageswaran and Commissioners Kate Black, Chris Foley, Richard SE Johns and Lydia So voted to recommend Mandelman’s amendment to the Board of Supervisors. Commissioner Jason Wright recused himself before the hearing began.

Audience members hold up signs about saving the theater’s seats during the community meeting at the Castro Theater about the planned renovation of the historic space in San Francisco on August 11, 2022. The renovation by Another Planet Entertainment includes a controversial plan to change seating scheme by removing existing theater seats and replacing them with removable seats to accommodate musical performances. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

The decision comes a year after Another Planet Entertainment, which produces San Francisco’s outdoor megafest Outside Lands at Golden Gate Park, announced it was taking over management of the venue from the Nasser family, the family of Lebanese immigrants who own the movie palace. built in 1922. on the block between Castro and 17th streets.

The theater, which turned 100 last June, was designed by renowned San Francisco architect Timothy Pflueger and has long served as the heart of the city’s film and LGBTQ communities. Over the decades, it has hosted significant movie premieres such as the neighborhood set “Milk” in 2008 and more recently, “Matrix Resurrections” in 2021 and “Everything Everywhere All At Once” in 2022.

Along with seating reconfigurations, changes proposed by Another Planet include installing an HVAC system and heating, restoring the building’s decorative features and renovating its lobby.

But such ambitious plans are not a new challenge for Another Planet. The company already operates several popular Bay venues, such as the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in 2010, when the city would close the music venue, and the Fox Theater in 2008. The latter, a former Oakland movie house, reopened as part of a $75 million renovation after sitting vacant for 42 years sat Both venues currently do not have floor seating, but have provided folding chairs during certain events such as comedy shows.

Still, another planet’s plans to revive the Castro, which was showing its age after years of neglect, were met with immediate resistance.

The initial rollout of the management change last year was heavily criticized for not involving community partners like the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District or Castro Merchants Association.

  • G. Allen Johnson, Tony Bravo, Aidin Vaziri

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Prying eyes: Neighbors win privacy feud with UK Tate gallery

LONDON (AP) – Britain’s Supreme Court says people who live in glass houses also have a right to privacy.

The court ruled on Wednesday that a viewing platform at London’s Tate Modern art gallery made residents of luxury glass-walled apartments next door feel like animals in a zoo, and impeded “the ordinary use and enjoyment” of their homes.

The judges overturned earlier lower court rulings which sided with Tate Modern in the long-running privacy battle between the gallery – one of London’s biggest tourist attractions – and residents of four flats in the neighboring Neo Bankside complex.

Judge George Leggatt said the platform was visited by hundreds of thousands of people a year, who “regularly take pictures of the inside of the flats and sometimes post them on social media.”

“It is not difficult to imagine how oppressive living in such conditions would feel to any ordinary person – much like being put on display in a zoo,” he wrote in the court’s majority ruling.

“There is no doubt that the viewing and photography that takes place from the Tate’s building causes a substantial interference with the ordinary use and enjoyment of the plaintiffs’ property.”

The court ruled that the gallery violated “the common law of private nuisance”. Three judges supported the majority decision and two dissented.

Tate Modern opened in 2000 in a former power station on the south bank of the River Thames. It helped transform the surrounding Bankside neighborhood from a riverside into an arts and nightlife center with luxury apartment towers.

The viewing terrace is part of a pyramid-shaped extension opened at the gallery in 2016, which sees more than 5 million visitors a year. Neo Bankside was completed a few years earlier.

Lawyers for the residents argued that the platform on the 10th floor, which is used by more than half a million gallery visitors a year, constitutes an “unrelenting” invasion of residents’ privacy. They said gallery visitors subjected the apartments to “intense visual scrutiny”, with some using binoculars and zoom lenses to get a better look.

The gallery said residents could solve the problem by closing their blinds or putting up curtains – and judges at the High Court and Court of Appeal agreed.

But the High Court found that the viewing platform was an “abnormal” use of Tate Modern’s land, and the beleaguered residents had a point.

“The plaintiffs cannot be compelled to live every day behind net curtains or with their blinds drawn to protect themselves from the effects of intrusion caused by the abnormal use the Tate makes of its land,” the judges said.

The residents demanded that the gallery shield their apartments from view, or to pay compensation. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the High Court to decide on the appropriate remedy.

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Lydia Tár Is Not an Art Monster

“This is always the question that engages the listener. That’s never the answer, right?” Famed conductor Lydia Tár asks a student at Juilliard in Todd Field’s magisterial new film. According to this standard, Tar self pass: It is rife with questions between interpretations like a gymnast balanced on a beam. Critics and commentators differ not only on its meaning, but on the principles of the plot. Is Tár, played by a magnificently commanding Cate Blanchett, a sexual predator or a victim of “cancel culture”? Does she demonstrate the importance of separating art from its makers, or is her demise proof that there is in fact a close relationship between traditionalist aesthetics and reactionary politics? Is her downfall even real, or is it hallucinated? Is Tár an artist or an art monster?

What is clear enough is that Tár is a member of the cultural elect. A conductor of the esteemed Berlin Philharmonic and a celebrated composer, she is one of the lucky few lucky enough to make a decent living in the arts – and one of the even luckier few who can afford to continue in high style. She speeds through the streets of Berlin in a steel Porsche, dons a tailored wardrobe of sleek jackets, composes new music in a studio she rents solely as a workspace, and returns each night to an apartment furnished with glittering and clearly expensively furnished. .

The wife and child who greet her there sit back to her endless flurry of professional commitments. Tár has a touching relationship with her daughter, but she is mostly too busy moving from one speaking engagement to the next to spend much time with her family. When we first encounter her, she is not motherly, but struggles to project humility on stage Resident of New York Festival, where Adam Gopnik recounts her many achievements: a Ph.D. in musicology, countless awards, apprenticeship with none other than the legendary Leonard Bernstein. After that, she barely manages to squeeze in a lunch date with a colleague before being forced to present a master class at Juilliard, where she teaches the art of asking questions.

Yet Tár did not take her own judicious remarks to heart. She doesn’t ask. She claims, even pompously. Her polemic is directed at a student who declares himself too much of a “BIPOC pangender person” to appreciate Bach or Beethoven. This lackluster straw man, by far the movie’s weakest point, ends by calling Tár a bitch and storming out of the classroom. She pauses long enough to yell after him that he’s a robot before continuing her monologue. Both of them have a point, although neither seems to have learned much from their exchange. After the masterclass, Tár flies back to Berlin in a private jet. Once she arrives, she gets right back to the all-consuming business of ruthlessly succeeding—though the more she succeeds, the less time she spends making art. Perhaps she is not an art monster or an artist, but a monster of a different kind.

Back in Berlin, Tár carries out her daily routine – jogging so frantically that we wonder what (or who) she wants to chase, preparing for an important performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. the inexperienced woman probably does not deserve. At one point, Tár’s beleaguered assistant warns her that she’s received “another strange email from Krista.” We still don’t know who Krista is, much less how many strange emails she’s been sending, when the assistant breaks the news that she killed herself.

Now the pace of the film accelerates like a broken metronome beating faster and faster. Hermeneutic entanglement increases, and patterns emerge as possible clues. The documentary quality of the opening sequence, in which Gopnik plays himself, gives way to a swirling fever dream. Ominous shadows flicker at the edges of the frame, and a terrible scream rings out as Tár jogs through the park. In the abandoned apartment complex where the pretty young cellist lives, there is a growling dog so large that it seems to have escaped from another world – or is this monster a paranoid fantasy? And, for that matter, is everything else? Tár has always been sensitive to noise, and the cacophony of the city begins to gnaw at her unbearably. Even the hum of the fridge is enough to wake her up at night.

In twisted twists, we discover that Krista was a promising student in a fellowship program that Tár spearheaded. Something happened between the teacher and her pupil, and Tár sent a series of e-mails to other leading conductors warning them not to take on Krista. Perhaps Tár seduced Krista, or perhaps their relationship was consensual (though questionably asymmetrical). Perhaps their romance soured for no particular reason, or perhaps Tár maliciously dropped her protégé. Maybe Tár destroyed the ingenue’s career without cause, or maybe Krista really was as upset as Tár claimed. Maybe Tár is disgraced and fired for her alleged misconduct and arranges a really embarrassing affair with a reputation management consultant who advises her to “rebuild from the ground up…” or maybe the last third of the movie is a long nightmare.

Anyway, we watch as Tár takes refuge in an unnamed South Asian country, where she prepares to conduct again. She mounted the podium with her usual rigid dignity and turned to the musicians. Only then does the camera pan to reveal the audience – a bunch of cosplayers dressed as characters from the video game Monster Hunter. Tár conducts a video game soundtrack. On the face of it, her humiliation seems to be complete.

Tar teems with questions, and it is surely abundant enough to support the many varied answers that critics have proposed. Field’s film is about mortality, generational conflict and guilt that prowls around like a predator, but it is at least as much about how an artist can be swallowed up by her own image – until she is no longer an artist at all.

“You have to sublimate yourself, your ego and, yes, your identity. You have to actually stand before the public and God and wipe it out yourself, Tár declares quite grandiosely in her master class. She is right, but again she is not following her own advice. Instead of erasing herself, she poses for photo shoots and writes a memoir called Tár on Tár.

Want to be Tár Tár on Táror is she forced to be Tár on Tár based on her position? There’s no doubt that she enjoys tormenting her students and bullying her subordinates, and in fact, her magnetic aura is what makes her so mesmerizing (if difficult) to watch. But fatigue and regret soften her ice-cold mien when she dutifully quotes quotable syllables at the Resident of New York Festival, talking to her assistant about recording an upcoming gig, looking up her own name on Twitter – in short, doing everything but making music or listening to music.

Tár may be compulsively drawn to what she knows in her core to be the superficiality of a role that can only be justified by music itself, but at least she shrinks from her own indulgences. Many times she retreats to her studio to compose, but on each occasion she is interrupted and gives up. In over two and a half hours of footage, she never listens to music for the sheer joy of it. The one time she puts on a jazz record at home, she intends to calm her panicked wife, whose anxiety pills she stole.

Blanchett’s performance is the most important of the many aspects of Field’s film that divided audiences. Is it gripping? Is it affected? I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Tár’s crisis, but a writer I admired told me that he found the actress almost sickeningly fake. It’s true that Blanchett’s gestures are conspicuously considered and her tone laden with self-importance, yet falsity befits a figure so utterly hollowed out in an advertisement for herself. After Tár’s shame, we learn that she comes from humble origins and that her patrician mannerisms are in fact one component of the crumbling facade she has cultivated so strenuously for so long. Perhaps it’s the ghost of Linda Tarr, a working-class girl from Staten Island who watched Bernstein lectures on VHS, that Tár hopes to escape on her jogs. Even the name she adopts as an indication of sophistication is a grotesque anagrammatic distortion of the word art.

So the end of the film can be perversely redemptive. Finally, fate gives Tár the chance to destroy herself in the service of her art. The cynical reading of her surprising new project is that she is doing just what the sleazy reputation management consultant encouraged her to do – to rebuild from the ground up. But Tár takes her responsibilities more seriously than she needs to if they are simply a means to reputation resurrection. She is as deadly serious about her new assignment as she once was about Mahler’s fifth – if not more so, because now she has nothing else to be dead serious about. For the first time we see how she works. Instead of flitting from distraction to distraction, she searches music libraries for the composer’s score, and when she finds it, she crouches over it in a restaurant with a pen, her face furrowed with concentration. “Let’s talk about the composer’s intention with this piece,” she says to her orchestra during rehearsal. When the prestige and social rewards are stripped away, the only thing left is the music itself — and even a sentimental and bombastic soundtrack is infinitely preferable to silence.

Despite the pomposity of her self-presentation, Tár has long been less of an art monster than a reputation management monster. The question that “engages” the film’s audience, as Tár herself would put it, is whether it is too late for her to become a different and more dangerous animal. Perhaps she is as surprised as I am to find that she is finally confronting what little is left to her with dignity – that she is, at least briefly, proving herself to be an artist after all.

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Museum for Art in Wood receives $10 million endowment and a new name

The Center for Art in Wood announced Monday that it will receive a $10 million donation from the Windgate Foundation. In the same announcement, the center also said it would change its name to the Museum of Art in Wood.

“The museum is not really undergoing any transformation,” said Jennifer-Navva Milliken, the executive director and chief curator. “It is the name that captures the way the museum functions. My hope is that the public will be able to better understand what to expect [and] how to come in and use us, and enjoy and explore.”

The Windgate Foundation split the $10 million gift so that $3.5 million will be managed by the Arkansas Community Foundation, which will pay out a quarterly unrestricted grant to the museum. The remaining $6.5 million is managed by the museum, which invested the funds. The interest earned will be used for general operating support.

In the past decade, the Windgate Foundation has awarded significant gifts to the museum, including $2 million in 2013 and $2 million in 2017. “But this donation is “by far the largest,” Milliken said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not still fundraising doesn’t have to raise, we absolutely do, [but] it allows us to think about security in a way we couldn’t before.”

She added that the name change was already discussed when the news of the donation came, and it is not part of the donation. “We are already acting as a museum. We have a permanent and growing collection of artwork [and] are preserved, managed and researched according to museum standards.”

The museum’s collection contains 1,200 objects, and its research library contains 1,000 books and reading materials on the history of woodturning and woodworking. Located in Old Town, the museum is open to visitors Wednesday through Sunday.

Founded as the Woodturning Center in 1986, the museum hosts various exhibitions throughout the year. The next one, “The Mashrabiya Project,” is “the most ambitious programming” in the organization’s history, according to Milliken. Opening March 3, the show will explore intricate wooden window screens called mashrabiya and explore the importance of this architectural element in Islamic culture.

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Box Art Brawl: Viewtiful Joe
Image: Nintendo Life

Hello folks, welcome to another edition of Box Art Brawl!

For last week’s brawl, we looked at one of a handful of Virtual Boy games (and one that many of you even forgot existed): Panic Bomber. It wasn’t a particularly close race for this one, with Japan winning comfortably with 71% of the vote. Well done, Japan!

This week we’re going back to the GameCube era to take a look at one of Hideki Kamiya’s best games: Viewtiful Joe! We have different cover designs across all three major regions this time, so it’s going to be a proper three-way battle. Nice.

Launched in 2003, Viewtiful Joe was released exclusively for the GameCube as part of the ‘Capcom Five’; five (well, technically four) games that Capcom promised to create specifically for the GameCube to boost hardware sales and demonstrate strong third-party support, including the legendary Resident Evil 4. Of course, by now most of us know how everything finally happened: three of the four games came to other platforms, with only PN03 remaining exclusive to the GameCube.

Nevertheless, Viewtiful Joe was a critical success, albeit not particularly a commercial one. It spawned a direct sequel and a few spin-off games, and honestly, we’re just itching for Capcom to get it ported to the Switch!

Be sure to cast your votes in the poll below; but first let’s look at the box art designs themselves.

North America

Vivid Joe NA
Image: Capcom

North America’s design for Viewtiful Joe is probably the most “traditional” of all the variants, in that it simply features the titular protagonist against a fairly busy background, filled to the brim with the game’s various enemies. It’s absolutely gorgeous, full of color from corner to side, with the logo itself nice and bold at the top. Lovely!


Huh? Twooooo?!

Yip. Europe got two box art variants for Viewtiful Joe, although the only difference between them is the color: one is yellow and the other pink – ta-ta! Otherwise, we have the protagonist himself in the same pose as the North American variant, and both designs have the same background as each other. Why were there two variants? There was just! This writer remembers struggling with the pink one and being quite disappointed, but looking back now..? Yes, they are both very cute.


Vivid Joe JP Pink
Image: Capcom

Japan’s design is quite interesting, as it’s the only one of the bunch that features the game’s signature film reel visual at the top. Our protagonist is striking a different (though arguably more iconic) pose than the western design, and we’ve got a really nice pink gradient going on with the background, including some nice petals around Joe. This is a great design overall!

Thank you for voting! We’ll see you next time for another round of the Box Art Brawl.

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The Fabelmans will never be fought over like Tár, but it has far more to say about the joy of art | Charlotte Higgins

For a film that, if you want to be blunt about it, tanked at the box office, Tár has provoked an inordinate amount of conversation. It is possible that the discourse surrounding the film – about a powerful, highly successful and extremely problematic conductor named Lydia Tár, played by Cate Blanchett – is as interesting as the film itself.

I have heard various, conflicting interpretations of Tár: that it is a shameful misrepresentation of the field of classical music; that it is all too real; that it is all too surreal; that it carries an intellectual power rare in the movies; that it is not half as clever as it thinks it is; that it is not about conducting, it is about power; that it’s not about power, it’s about narcissism; that it is about a clash of ethics between the generations; that it is about third wave feminism; that its central character, in all her “unlikeability”, is touchingly complex; that its central character is irredeemably hateful; that it is a fascinating, level-headed anatomization of “cancel culture”; that it is actually a “regressive” movie that “bitterly aims” at identity politics. Then there is an extensive online debate devoted to decoding his eerie final act. There is something exciting about a film that is such an open text, that requires so much discussion.

However, this is not unproblematic. The classical music world is talking about Tár, and not in a good way. (A leading London conservatoire, for example, politely declined to host the British premiere.) The anxiety stems, not least, from the fact that the biography of the central character bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the conductor Marin Also displayed. Like Tár, she is American, was mentored by Leonard Bernstein, is a lesbian, is the partner and co-parent of a sometime orchestra player, and set a foundation for early-career female conductors. Alsop herself criticized the film, and I have some sympathy with her. Tár is, among other things, a bully and an abuser, and Alsop is not. Her larger point, however, is that a small handful of women have struggled to push through into major roles in conducting. Of those who “made it”, some are certainly more pleasant and better behaved than others. But literally none of them are shaped like the fictional Tár. The kind of abuse Tár committed – blackballing, use of power to extract sex – is unfortunately present in classical music, but the perpetrators, known mainly by rumor and word of mouth rather than, yet by open accusation, are men. Women in classical music may be bullies and behave horribly. But none, to my knowledge, have allegations of abuse hovering over them of the kind that led, for example, to the firing of the late James Levine from his position at the Metropolitan Opera.

Mark Ivanir, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener in A Late Quartet (2012). Photo: Kunsoog/Allstar

The counterargument to this perspective is that the film is not really “about” classical music in any meaningful way, and that the setting is secondary to its purpose. But that would be to overlook the fact that the film does want to tell us something about art, and works of art about art often have an intriguing meta-narrative to tell. Consider other films set in, or adjacent to, the world of classical music. There is, of course, Amadeus; Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, Denis Dercourt’s The Page Turner, the Du Pré biography, Hilary and Jackie, Shine, A Late Quartet (memorably with Philip Seymour Hoffman as an embittered second violinist) . What do they have in common? Here’s a clue: the main characters in George Cukor’s Gaslight – the film that gave its name to an entire form of abuse – are an aspiring opera singer and a pianist.

Not all of these films deal with abuse and violence, but all deal with obsession and mental illness in one way or another. I can’t escape the idea that classical music provides a way for filmmakers to represent some of their darkest, most twisted thoughts about art and creativity. In a way, one can see why: of all the corners of the interlocking artistic worlds, classical music, along with ballet, requires the most rare, intense form of lifelong commitment. It offers creators of fiction an extreme version of art making.

Films about films, on the other hand, tend to be colored by nostalgia or sentimentality (think La La Land, or Sam Mendes’ new Empire of Light). Steven Spielberg’s latest film, The Fabelmans, written with Tony Kushner, has a bit of both: it’s actually Spielberg’s own Bildungsroman, even origin myth, and – of course! – there is an early moment in which the main character, Sam, goes to the cinema for the first time as a child. Of course we see the reflected light from the screen playing over his face; naturally, in this way, the flickers indelibly work their magic on him.

The Fablemans
“The Fabelmans are poignant and accurate about what art actually is, feels like and consists of.” Photo: no credit

The Fabelmans are far more interesting than this description suggests, and, like Tár, have something to say about power, in this case that which is invested in the bearer of the film camera – the reluctant holder of secrets, the hero-maker, the manipulator. Classical music is also invoked in the movie by Sam’s mother, a thwarted pianist, again covering that familiar thematic territory of loss and mental illness. However, the Fabelmans are poignant and accurate about what art actually is, feels like and consists of. There’s a beautiful hint of this in his great name: the name Spielberg recalls the German or Yiddish for “play”; the word Fabelman from the word for “story”. In this movie, stories arise from play: there is a clear line from Sam’s first films, made for fun with his fellow scouts, to the work for which the real Spielberg is known.

Joy, playfulness: these are qualities completely absent from the vision of art presented by Todd Field’s Tár, perhaps deliberately so. Lydia Tár is a dictator – a model of power for conductors in sharp decline, and in fact largely out of reach for women, based heavily on traditionally male patterns of authority. Most encounters between conductors and orchestral musicians actually function, at their best, through collaboration and, yes, playfulness; conductors tend to use persuasion and charm rather than blunt command to get their ideas across. The balance of power is not entirely on the conductors’ side: orchestra players can be merciless towards conductors they do not respect.

There is one film I haven’t mentioned that deals with conductors and composers, and also ballet: Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948). Here, too, there is abuse, and obsession, and mental illness. Like The Fabelmans, like Tár, it suggests that art and domestic life are impossible to reconcile. But unlike Tár, in the midst of its darkness, it presents a joyful image of what it is to love art, to be an artist, to be part of a company of artists. Unlike Tár, which invokes rather than says anything particularly interesting about Mahler, The Red Shoes contains a strange and lovely work of art unto itself in the form of the ballet-within-the-film also called The Red Shoes. It is a film that has nurtured generations of impressionable youngsters into artists. Will Tár ever have that galvanizing effect? Discuss.

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Murder convict sketched Dubai golf courses in prison. Then, his paintings got him out – News

Golf artist Valentino Dixon is a special guest at the ongoing Dubai Desert Classic

Photo by Shihab

Published: Fri 27 Jan 2023, 16:40

Last updated: Fri 27 Jan 2023, 18:18

Art can be liberating. For the imprisoned Valentino Dixon, it was also his ticket to freedom.

Dixon languished in a notorious American prison for 27 years for a crime he did not commit. Then a painting he did while behind bars got him out.

Today, Dixon, 54, is a special guest at the ongoing Dubai Desert Classic.

Khaleej Times caught up with the renowned golf artist whose remarkable story of resilience, sport and artistic talent has inspired millions around the world, while also endearing him to fans such as Tiger Woods and Barack Obama.

Dixon was 21 in 1991 when he was arrested and wrongfully convicted for a fatal shooting at a nightclub in his hometown of Buffalo, New York.

Multiple witnesses and a confession from the real killer could not save him from being sentenced to 39 years in prison at the brutal maximum security Attica Correctional Facility in New York.

Escape into art

In his 6X10 cell, Dixon found escape in art. “I was in prison in my eighth year when my uncle sent me some colored pencils and paper and encouraged me to draw,” Dixon recalls. “Uncle Ronnie said, ‘if you can reclaim your talent, you can reclaim your life’. I loved to draw as a child. Uncle Ronnie’s advice reignited my passion for art. I told myself, I can’t waste my life, even if I’m in prison.”

Photo by Shihab

Photo by Shihab

Over the next 20 years, Dixon made hundreds of paintings, often drawing up to 10 hours a day.

As his reputation grew in Attica, he received a request from golf enthusiast prison warden James Conway to draw the legendary 12th hole of the Augusta National Golf Club for him.


Unknown to Dixon, his cellmate was also an avid golfer. “He subscribed to the monthly magazine Golf Digest. One day he threw a magazine at me and said, ‘You need to draw more golf courses, pick what you want’.

“At first I balked at the idea. I said to myself, ‘Why should I draw golf courses of all things. But as I flipped through the pages of the magazine, I felt a strange sense of peace. It looked beautiful. photographs of lush golf courses from around the world. Looking at the rolling landscapes of sylvian splendor inspired me to recreate them,” says Dixon who went on to draw more than 130 golf courses, including many from Dubai. His artwork finally attracted the attention of Golf Digest who titled a story about him Golf saved my life.

The story, which questioned the flimsy nature of Dixon’s trial, went viral. Before long, Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative took up his case.

After their efforts, Dixon was acquitted of murder charges on September 19, 2018. He came to court in handcuffs, but walked out free after the man who confessed to the actual murder pleaded guilty in court to manslaughter.

Embrace Islam

Dixon, who changed his name to Tariq Ramzan Abdullah after converting to Islam in 1999, said he had no bitterness.

“If I was angry, I wouldn’t be at peace with myself. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy life. That’s what my faith has taught me,” said Dixon, who will sell some of his artwork at a silent auction on the sidelines of the Dubai Desert Classic this week.

A portion of the proceeds go to his prison reform foundation called the Art of Freedom, which campaigns against wrongful convictions.

“It’s a great feeling to be in Dubai and visit its famous golf courses that I sketched in my darkest hours,” he said, holding up a drawing of the Montgomerie Golf Club at Emirates Hills.

The Dubai Creek Golf Course and Yacht Club, Emirates Golf Club, Al Bada Golf Club and the Arabian Ranches Golf Club are among seven Dubai golf courses that feature prominently in his collection.

“Drawing these golf courses while sitting alone in my little cell, I never thought I’d be touring there one day. But look, here I am — in Dubai, the most beautiful place on the planet.”


Obama shares Dixon’s story on Instagram

In December 2020, former US President Barack Obama shared Dixon’s story to his 34 million Instagram followers, posting a photo of him receiving the master artist’s artwork from Michelle Obama for Christmas.

“This is an incredible piece, but the story behind it is even better,” Obama wrote in the caption.

The story so far

1991: Valentino Dixon is sentenced to 39 years in prison for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Torriano Jackson after a late-night fight outside a restaurant in Buffalo, New York. Valentino, then 21, had a six-month-old daughter at the time.

1999: Dixon’s uncle Ronnie Brown visits him at Attica Correctional Facility in New York and gives him some colored pencils and paper and encourages him to draw.

2011: Retiring prison warden James Conway requests Dixon to tee the 12th hole of the legendary Augusta National Golf Club. Encouraged by a cellmate, Dixon goes on to recreate more than 130 golf courses.

2012: Golf Digest features Valentino in its Golf Saved my Life column. Subsequent articles conclude that he was wrongfully convicted

2013: The Golf Channel has a story on Valentino’s case that is getting national attention.

2018: Dixon walks out a free man after Georgetown University’s Prison and Justice Initiative reinvestigates the case and pleads guilty to the real killer

2019: Dixon receives a gold medal from the Vatican while American golfer Jack Nicklaus compares him to Nelson Mandela

2020: Former US President Barack Obama shares Dixon story after receiving his artwork as a Christmas gift from wife Michelle Obama

2022: Dixon publishes a book: The Soul of an Unfreed Man: Drawing my way to Freedom

2023: Dixon visits Dubai Desert Classic as a special guest

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A stitch in time: the enduring influence of the Gee’s Bend quilters | Art

Aanyone who thought abstract art was a club of white, male “lone geniuses” got an unexpected wake-up call in 2002 when quilts from the Alabama hamlet of Gee’s Bend first toured American museums. The quilt’s luscious hues, clipped shapes and improvised visual rhythms have drawn comparisons to Paul Klee and Henri Matisse. Their creators were an intergenerational community of African-American women who to this day work in the small neighborhood that was once a slave owner’s plantation.

For Legacy Russell, an American feminist theorist and curator, the quilters’ impact has only grown in the two decades since that beautiful museum tour. The New Bend, the traveling exhibit she curated, explores the legacy of the Gee’s Bend quilters and the artists who continue to work in their lineage, bringing together a 13-strong lineup of radical textile artists.

Sojourner Truth Parsons applies quilting methodology to buzzing paintings whose dancing, tumbling geometries in summer sky blue and tangerine recall Matisse’s cutouts. “While she is a painter, she is inspired by quilting in her own family traditions,” says Russell of the artist of Mi’kmaq, African-Canadian and settler heritage. “Quilting is instructive in how these artists expand what their visual plane might look like.”

Quilting’s importance as a way for marginalized people to channel expression is key to each artist in the exhibit. Russell wants to expand how the quilters’ achievements are understood in ways that go beyond the condescending labels of “craft” or “folk art.” “These are designations that have a very challenging history in terms of being hugely racialized, classed and gendered,” she says.

The Right to (My) Life from 2017, by Atlanta-based Dawn Williams Boyd, plays on quilts’ associations of domestic comfort and security, and their place in women’s lives. The crowd scene shows a caring black mother whose arms protectively surround her young family, while anti-abortion protesters wave banners and a pensive white woman is escorted out of her chauffeur-driven car. “Dawn calls her works ‘rag paintings’ to overturn our assumptions about what painting practices can look like,” says Russell.

Craft’s revival has typically been framed as an antidote to life online, with a focus on touch, communal practice, and a slower way of making. Yet it is textile history’s connection to computer technology that interests Russell, whose recent book Glitch Feminism tackles the potential for fluid identities in the digital age. For example, punch cards used to create weaving patterns on looms paved the way for the binary code that would enable the first computers. Textiles’ technological credentials are at the fore in Ctrl+Alt+Del, a Jacquard-woven tapestry by New Yorker Qualeasha Wood, in which she positions herself as a self-created deity: a haloed selfie on her computer desk, surrounded by heavenly emojis and clouds.

The Gee’s Bend quilters’ threads – from their artistic innovations to their work’s political implications and community history – have been picked up by artists far and wide. “The Gee’s Bend quilters are not in our rear view,” confirms the curator. “They all come together at the same point in history. We ask, ‘What does that dialogue really look like?'”

The new radical… three more highlights from The New Bend

Photo: Qualeasha Wood/Kendra Jayne Patrick

Qualeasha Wood’s Ctrl+Alt+Del, 2021
Qualeasha Wood’s tapestry brings a medium that was once the sole preserve of the ruling class into a contemporary online world where individuals are free to shape their own identity. It is made on a Jacquard loom, whose punch cards paved the way for the creation of computers.

Basil Kincaid's Midnight Prayers & The Journey of Becoming, 2022.
Photo: Basil Kincaid Studio

Basil Kincaid’s Midnight Prayers & The Journey of Becoming, 2022
Basil Kincaid comes from a long matriarchal line of quilters and, like those at Gee’s Bend, repurposes donated or found materials to create silhouette figures that explore black history and trauma.

Zadie Xa's Shrine Painting 2: Western Yellowcedar, 2022
Photo: Keith Lubow/Zadie Xa/Hauser & Wirth

Zadie Xa’s Shrine Painting 2: Western Yellowcedar, 2022
As curator Russell notes, “Artists from all kinds of backgrounds have been influenced by Gee’s Bend.” Korean-Canadian artist Zadie Xa draws on ancient Korean feminist shamanism and rural women’s communal quilting traditions.

The New Bend is at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, until May 8.

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BP sponsorship of Royal Opera House ends after 33 years | Royal Opera House

Campaigners hailed a “seismic shift” in arts funding after the Royal Opera House confirmed it was ending its sponsorship relationship with BP after more than three decades.

The oil and gas multinational has been a sponsor of the ROH since 1988, most recently under a five-year agreement that began in 2018. However, the opera house said in a statement on Wednesday that there was an “agreement” that the funding would not be renewed.

“We are grateful to BP for their sponsorship over 33 years which has enabled thousands across the country to see free opera and ballet through our BP Big Screens,” a spokesperson said.

They said the two parties “agreed that the partnership would not extend beyond December 22, when BP’s contract came to an end.”

The ROH decision will put further pressure on the British Museum, which is now one of the last major art institutions still receiving funding from the energy firm. The museum’s current exhibition Hieroglyphics, which is the last under its five-year funding deal with BP, ends on February 19, and it has so far declined to say whether it plans to renew.

The Science Museum has also stubbornly stuck to its fossil fuel sponsors, Shell and Adani, despite prolonged protests. The two museums are now increasingly isolated.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Portrait Gallery have cut ties with BP in recent years, after decades of sponsorship, and the BFI, National Theatre, National Gallery and Tate Galleries, among others, have rejected oil company sponsorship. Explaining the RSC’s decision in 2019, the company’s directors said: “Amidst the climate emergency, which we acknowledge, young people are now clearly telling us that the BP sponsorship is putting a barrier between them and their wish to liaise with the RSC. We cannot ignore that message.”

Chris Garrard, a composer and the director of the campaign group Culture Unstained, said: “What we are witnessing is a seismic shift, an almost total wholesale rejection of the art of BP’s brand and the climate-destructive business it represents. Through the curtain on fossil fuel financing, the Royal Opera House can now play a leading role in creating the culture above oil that we so urgently need.”

The move was also welcomed by Mark Padmore, a tenor who performed with the ROH. He said: “We in the cultural sector need to ask tough questions and encourage better practice. We must place sustainability, fairness, inclusiveness and generosity at the heart of everything we do. I welcome the decision to end the sponsorship of the Royal Opera House by fossil fuel companies.”

The loss of BP funding to the ROH follows a 9% cut in its core grant from Arts Council England, which the institution says will contribute to “significant financial challenges going forward, alongside our colleagues in the sector”. However, Culture Unstained said that based on its accounts, BP’s sponsorship represents less than 0.5% of the ROH’s annual income, “and despite the ROH being BP’s ‘longest existing arts partner’, its sponsorship payment would not exceed the joint salaries of the ROH’s chief executive and musical director.”

BP said: “We are proud to have supported the Royal Opera House for over three decades. Over that time, BP Big Screens has brought world-class opera and ballet performances to thousands of people across the UK for free, and more recently we have supported some of the ROH’s sustainability initiatives. As our partnership agreement came to an end at the end of last year, we wish the Royal Opera House every success for the future.”

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John Akomfrah to represent Britain at Venice Biennale | John Akomfrah

Artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah will represent the UK at the Venice Biennale in 2024, the British Council has announced.

Honored with a knighthood in the 2023 honors list, Akomfrah is known for his art films and multi-screen video installations that explore issues such as racial injustice, diasporic identities, migration and climate collapse. Next year, the Ghanaian-born artist’s work will fill the British Pavilion at Venice from April to November.

Akomfrah (65) initially rose to prominence in the early 1980s as a founder of the Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), one of the first groups to challenge how the black British community was represented on screen and in the media. The BAFC’s first film, Handsworth Songs, explored the events surrounding the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London through a combination of archive footage, stills, newly shot footage and newsreel.

Akomfrah’s other work includes the three-screen installation The Unfinished Conversation (2012), a portrait of cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s life and work; Mnemosyne (2010), which exposed the economic hardship and casual racism faced by migrants in the UK; Vertigo Sea (2015), a three-screen installation that focused on the disorder and cruelty of the whaling industry and juxtaposed it with scenes of generations of migrants making epic ocean crossings in search of a better life; and Purple (2017), his largest film installation to date, which addressed the climate crisis.

He previously told the Guardian that moving to the UK at the age of four gave him a “moral obligation” to make works that engage with the debate on migration and counter the “rhetoric of contamination” used by many used to describe the flow of refugees. Europe.

In 2017, the artist won the Artes Mundi Prize, the UK’s largest award for international art. He also previously participated in the 2019 Venice Biennale with his piece Four Nocturnes – commissioned for the first Ghana pavilion and reflecting the complex, intertwined relationship between humanity’s destruction of the natural world and destruction of the self.

A silence from John Akomfrah’s Four Nocturnes, 2019. Photo: Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery

Akomfrah accepted the commission from the British Council and said it was a “great privilege and honour” to be asked to represent the UK at the international art exhibition. “This is without a doubt one of the most exciting opportunities an artist can be offered,” he said.

“I see this invitation as recognition of and a platform for everyone I’ve worked with over the decades, and who continue to make my work possible. I am grateful to have a moment to explore the complex history and significance of this institution and the nation it represents, as well as its architectural home in Venice – with all the stories it has told and will continue to tell.”

The British Council has been responsible for the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale since 1937. Artists including recent Golden Lion winner Sonia Boyce, Tracey Emin, Phyllida Barlow and Steve McQueen have all represented the UK in the past.

Skinder Hundal, Global Director of Art at the British Council and Commissioner of the British Pavilion, said: “With a career spanning four decades, the judges felt that Akomfrah has made a very important contribution to the British and international contemporary art scene has. John’s inspiring style and narrative are constantly evolving, revealing key ideas and questions about the world we live in.

“The quality and contextual depth of his artistry never fails to evoke deep reflection and awe. For the British Council to have such an important British-Ghanaian artist in Venice is an exciting moment.”

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