Since I've never seen any of the candidates' work in person, I chewed over the finalists with some arts pros (who will remain unnamed). They deemed the last pair most intriguing, particularly Hans-Ulrich Obrist, who has done a lot of work mediating between contemporary art and non-art venues and audiences. His fascinating-sounding international Cities on the Move project looked at "the change, flux, and move of Asian cities on the threshold of the 21st century," touring from venue to venue -- Bordeaux, Denmark, London, Helsinki, New York, and Bangkok -- and changing as it went. Like Obrist, none of these finalists, with the possible exception of long-resuméed local Carolyn Law, is likely to quell the letters-to-the-editor revolt against the imported degenerated/sophisticated library we're going to build, but in the main, they seem appropriate pairings with the Office for Metropolitan Architecture's design ideas.
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The Henry Art Gallery's already looking like a ghost ship since the departure of curators Sheryl Conkelton and Thom Collins -- and the Henry just added another high-level opening last week, when it announced that veteran staffer Claudia Bach would leave her deputy director post as of mid-June. I've always loved talking with Bach -- she's a smart cookie in a down-to-earth way, and quick to point out when I've written something stupid. I have no idea why she's leaving, but as with the earlier departures, it doesn't bode well for the increasingly directionless, personnel-shedding Henry. The museum's just coming to the close of a six-month strategic planning process, but most of the lead people in that process are leaving the institution, which could either mean the new staff will have a solid plan to guide them, or that they'll feel straitjacketed by that plan. In any case, here's hoping longtime director Richard Anderson hires some smart, strong-willed stars to replace those leaving, and gets them to work well together -- and soon. Otherwise, his head should be served up on the next platter leaving the kitchen.
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I ran an item a few weeks back about theaters aping the revenue-raising techniques of sports stadiums, resulting in things like the American Airlines Theater in New York. Last Wednesday's Wall Street Journal brought word that Seattle arts institutions -- well, at least A Contemporary Theatre and the Paramount -- are also learning from our rapacious, skybox-loving sports team owners. (Not that sports teams have anything to teach our arts institutions about getting governments to pitch in on construction budgets -- a game most of them are already good at.) According to WSJ reporter Brooks Barnes, ACT and the Paramount have figured out that to woo the corporate crowd that would otherwise leave the city at 5 pm, they have to offer luxury packages: separate entrances, free parking, corporate signage in the lobby, and free booze. The Paramount's gone so far as to refurbish a former smoking den as a private bar. There are still glitches, though. Any self-respecting stadium would give its patrons private elevators and booze in their seats, while at the Paramount, business patrons will have to slog all the way up from the basement bar to their reserved seats at the front of the balcony, a trek that almost killed the drunken redneck next to me at the recent George Jones show. Hope there's paramedics on hand for the fat lawyer set.
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