Any museum would hope for a swarm of people waiting in front before 8 a.m., clamoring to get inside.
Unless they’re federal agents.
One January morning in 2008, the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park faced such a swarm. Armed with a search warrant to find allegedly looted Thai artifacts, federal agents spent all day inside the Mingei, sequestering 67 items museum staff identified as coming from the Ban Chiang archaeological site in Thailand.
Three and a half years later, those 67 items are still locked out of sight, I found out, even though there have been no criminal charges filed in San Diego. The museum’s heard nothing from the feds, though the U.S. Attorney’s Office in L.A. told me the investigation is continuing.
The story is filled with captivating details: The one person who was charged criminally died in federal custody. The undercover agent for the feds was from the National Parks Service, of all places. The raid came at a time when museums around the world were wrestling with questions of the legalities of procuring artifacts. I rounded up some further reading in a follow-up post.
You’re reading the Arts Report, our weekly compilation of the region’s arts and culture news.
Finding Their Place
• Peter Kalivas, a local dance force who’s danced and taught in New York City and Europe, wants to think unusually about where and when dance performances happen. Like a winery in Rancho Bernardo, where his PGK Project performed last weekend. We visited a rehearsal in El Cajon for Behind the Scene TV.
• Mark Patterson, the “Surfing Madonna” artist is eyeing a few “private, but visible” options along Coast Highway to reinstall his embattled and popular mosaic piece. (Union-Tribune)
• The blogger at bobfab.com posted more photos of the soon-to-be-obscured Shepard Fairey mural in Hillcrest. We spoke to the property owner and wrote about and photographed the fleeting street art recently.
• The new JDC Fine Art Gallery opened Friday amid the Kettner Boulevard hub of design firms, boutiques and galleries. The owner, Jennifer DeCarlo, favors “challenging, contemporary photography,” taste rooted in her time in Chicago. (CityBeat)
• I can’t resist linking to this photograph of 10 adorable children dressed as frogs from their recent performance of “Hippity Hoppity Frog” at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts and the county fair. (North County Times)
• One of the most active, fascinating people in local arts is Lynn Susholtz, a public artist, educator, activist and the force behind Art Produce Gallery and Stone Paper Scissors. The U-T profiled her last week.
• Wanting to put art in front of more people, a Tijuana gallery owner takes pieces of art and puts them up in maquiladoras so the factory workers can see them. (CityBeat)
From the story:
“I would die just sitting in the gallery,” Rivemar confessed. “I would die if I stayed inside of my gallery waiting for the people to come.”
• When the lights in Balboa Park went out due to a power outage last week, the half of the San Diego Museum of Art that’s housing the museum’s widely touted exhibition of Spanish masterpieces luckily stayed lit. (U-T) Curator John Marciari visited KPBS and highlighted that the exhibition is made up of a private collection, not usually seen in museums.
• Lots of theater reviews in the papers this week. For the Los Angeles Times, critics panned La Jolla Playhouse’s “Peer Gynt” but loved the way actors fleshed out characters in The Old Globe’s “Amadeus.”
• For the U-T, critic Jim Hebert found “Peer Gynt” feverish and fun and he wished for some tweaks to “Body Awareness” at Ion Theatre. Critic Anne Marie Welsh, also writing for the U-T, enjoys the wit but doesn’t like the way “too much gets wrapped up unconvincingly” at the end of the Moxie Theatre/Diversionary Theatre co-production of “Poster Boys.”
• And for the North County Times, critic Charlene Baldridge says if you’re going to see San Diego Repertory Theatre’s “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m in Therapy!” you’ll be entertained.
But, she warns, be prepared to suspend “prudery” to access the jokes about “the bathroom, aging and ethnicity.”
• The Toronto Symphony Orchestra boasts an enviable demographic statistic for symphonies looking to stick around: The symphony says 35 percent of its audience is younger than 35.
In an L.A. Times story, the symphony attributes the young contingent to making cheaper tickets available not just to students but to young professionals. The symphony’s CEO gives his young audience the benefit of the doubt that they’re not just coming to hear soundtracks to films; he says he wants orchestra concerts in five years to have more emphasis on intellectually challenging, big works.
The story quotes a 26-year-old patron:
“Young people today continue to crave big-picture themes like love, loss, death and revolution. There’s a unique quality to live classical music. When I’m in the concert hall, watching the orchestra, I’m thinking: ‘I’m going to download this second movement when I get home!’”
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Editor’s Note: The Arts Report will be taking a break for the rest of the month, returning August 9. Thanks for reading!