Category Archives: New York Times

New York Times stories

Judge strkes down California’s resale royalty act.

A federal district judge has struck down as unconstitutional a California law that gave artists a part of the profits when their work is resold.

The artists Chuck Close and Laddie John Dill and the estate of the artist Robert Graham brought a class-action suit in November against the auction giants Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and against eBay, arguing they had failed to pay them money owed under the California Resale Royalties Act. That act, which took effect in 1977, was the first of its kind passed in the United States. It required state residents who resold a work of art, even out of state, to pay the creating artist 5 percent of the price over $1,000; anyone selling art in California was also subject to the law.

Artists in most of the United States have long complained that unlike composers, filmmakers or writers, they do not receive a share of any future sales — known by the French expression droit de suite — under copyright law.

In her ruling on Thursday, Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen did more than simply find against Mr. Close and his colleagues: Because the law has the effect of controlling sales “wholly outside the boundaries” of California, she ruled that it violates the commerce clause of the Constitution and that therefore “the entire statute must fall.”

You can read the full item on Artsblog



the correct title of Boo’s book is “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”

Extraordinary book – Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”

I lived in India for a few months, working for United Press International back when there was a UPI, but I did not begin to grasp what I learned from reading Boo’s new book. There are a lot of people who write about poverty and social justice but few who really spend the time with poor people to understand what their lives are like on a day-to-day basis and the web of obstacles — both self-imposed and external — that prevent them from bettering their lives. Katherine Boo is one of them and she has produced an important and riveting accounting of a Mumbai slum that will stay with you regardless of your interest in India. Boo is a beautiful writer and her book is compulsive reading.  Chip McGrath did a profile of her in the Times, which you can read here and for the New York Times review, click here.

My memorable visit with Maurice Sendak and his surprising admission that he was gay.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to spend a day with Maurice Sendak a few years ago. A great man and a great artist. Here’s the story I wrote about him for the Times:

Concerns Beyond Just Where the Wild Things Are

Joyce Dopkeen/The New York Times

Maurice Sendak, shown in 2006, has had a year of loss.

Published: September 9, 2008

Maurice Sendak’s 80th year — which ended with his birthday earlier this summer and is being celebrated on Monday night with a benefit at the 92nd Street Y — was a tough one. He has been gripped by grief since the death of his longtime partner; a recent triple-bypass has temporarily left him too weak to work or take long walks with his dog; and he is plagued by Norman Rockwell.

Or, to be more accurate, he is plagued by the question that has repeatedly been asked about Norman Rockwell: was he a great artist or a mere illustrator?

“Mere illustrator,” he said, repeating the phrase with contempt. It’s not that Mr. Sendak, who has illustrated more than 100 books, including many he wrote, is angry that people question Rockwell’s talent; rather, he fears he has not risen above the “mere illustrator” label himself.

Never mind that Mr. Sendak’s originality and emotional honesty have changed the shape of children’s literature; that his work is featured in museums; that he has designed costumes and sets for operas, ballets and theater; that he has won a chest full of awards and prizes including a National Medal of the Arts. As the playwright Tony Kushner, one of his collaborators, said, “He’s one of the most important, if not the most important, writers and artists ever to work in children’s literature. In fact, he’s a significant writer and artist in literature. Period.”

Mr. Sendak protested, “But Tony is my friend.”

Mr. Sendak, a square-shaped gnome, was sitting in the dining room of his Connecticut retreat. His shoulders are a bit stooped, but his fingers are long and delicate. When he hears that the 92nd Street Y event is sold out, his eyebrows rise in surprise.

“They must be coming to see the other people,” he said, referring to guests like Mr. Kushner, Meryl Streep, James Gandolfini, Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers and Catherine Keener.

Even his heart attack doesn’t seem up to snuff. People aren’t impressed with a triple bypass, he lamented; now it has to be a quadruple: “You feel like such a failure.”

That Mr. Sendak fears that his work is inadequate, that he is racked with insecurity and anxiety, is no surprise. For more than 50 years that has been the hallmark of his art. The extermination of most of his relatives and millions of other Jews by the Nazis; the intrusive, unemployed immigrants who survived and crowded his parents’ small apartment; his sickly childhood; his mother’s dark moods; his own ever-present depression — all lurk below the surface of his work, frequently breaking through in meticulously drawn, fantastical ways.

He is not, as children’s book writers are often supposed, an everyman’s grandpapa. His hatreds are fierce and grand, as if produced by Cecil B. DeMille. He hates his uncle (who made a cruel comment about him when he was a boy); he hates anything to do with God or religion, and Judaism in particular (“We were the ‘chosen people,’ chosen to be killed?”); he hates Salman Rushdie (for writing an excoriating review of one of his books); he hates syrupy animation, which is why he is thrilled with Mr. Jonze’s coming film of his book “Where the Wild Things Are,” despite rumors of studio discontent.

“I hate people,” he said at one point, extolling the superior company of dogs, like his sweet-tempered German shepherd, Herman (after Melville).

He is, at heart, a curmudgeon, but a delightful one, with a vast range of knowledge, a wicked sense of humor and a talent for storytelling and mimicry.

When Mr. Sendak received the 1996 National Medal of Arts, President Bill Clinton told him about one of his own childhood fantasies that involved wearing a long coat with brass buttons when he grew up.

“But Mr. President, you’re only going to be president for a year more,” Mr. Sendak said, “you still have time to be a doorman.”

Mr. Sendak insisted he was trying to be ingratiating, not funny.

Against all probability, some of the nightmares that have relentlessly pursued him since childhood — like the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping — have been laid to rest. A couple of weeks ago a dealer found one of the tiny reproductions of the kidnapper’s ladder that were sold as souvenirs at the New Jersey trial.

“I was floored,” Mr. Sendak said. He traded one of his drawings for it. “That ends my obsession with the case,” he said.

His fascination with the kidnapping, like many of the other details of his life, has been repeated endlessly over the years in the hundreds of interviews he has given. Was there anything he had never been asked? He paused for a few moments and answered, “Well, that I’m gay.”

“I just didn’t think it was anybody’s business,” Mr. Sendak added. He lived with Eugene Glynn, a psychoanalyst, for 50 years before Dr. Glynn’s death in May 2007. He never told his parents: “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.”

Children protect their parents, Mr. Sendak said. It was like the time he had a heart attack at 39. His mother was dying from cancer in the hospital, and he decided to keep the news to himself, something he now regrets.

A gay artist in New York is not exactly uncommon, but Mr. Sendak said that the idea of a gay man writing children books would have hurt his career when he was in his 20s and 30s.

His latest book is one he started about four years ago, right after Dr. Glynn became sick with lung cancer. The illness and setting up of round-the-clock care in their home were just “so unbelievable,” he explained. Mr. Sendak is mostly finished with it, but he admitted that for the first time, “I feel extremely vulnerable.”

He is afraid — not of death, which is as familiar to him as a child’s teddy bear — but of not being able to finish his work: “I feel like I don’t have a lot of time left.”

After Dr. Glynn’s death, Mr. Sendak said he was “still trying to figure out what I’m doing here.”

“I wanted to take his place,” he said. “His death became a demarcation.” He added that he lost touch with many of his friends, unable to return phone calls and reply to e-mail messages.

Mr. Sendak is pleased with the coming birthday celebration, just as he is about his awards and honors, but in the end, he maintained, they don’t add up to much. They “never penetrated,” he said. “They were like rubber bullets.”

It’s not that he isn’t grateful. “They made me happy, but at a certain point in your life, you see through them,” he said. “You don’t mock them, you don’t hate them, you feel sorry for them” — tiny, inert emblems that just aren’t up to the task of answering pressing questions about meaning, soul-touching greatness and durability.

So he spends his days pondering his heroes: Mozart, Keats, Blake, Melville and Dickinson. He admires and yearns for their “ability to be private, the ability to be alone, the ability to follow some spiritual course not written down by anybody.”

Mr. Sendak is quick to insist that a vast distance stands between his own accomplishments and theirs. “I’m not one of those people,” he said. “I can’t pretend to be.”

Still, he has the feeling that “I will do something yet that is purely for me but will create for someone in the future that passion that Blake and Keats did in me.”

What he has failed to consider, though, is that he may already have.

Artist family says Knoedler sold fake works it was warned about #art

The list of possibly forged works sold by Knoedler and its former president, Ann Freedman, grows as the family of the late artist Richard Diebenkorn says that the gallery sold drawings that it had been warned were fakes. As I detail in today’s New York Times:

A few months after the abstract painter Richard Diebenkorn died in 1993 his family visited Knoedler & Company, the gallery on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that had long been his dealer. His wife, Phyllis; his daughter, Gretchen; and an art scholar went to see two gouache drawings that the gallery had recently acquired and that it hoped to sell as works from Diebenkorn’s celebrated Ocean Park series.

The disputed drawing attributed to Diebenkorn

What happened at the meeting nearly two decades ago is now a matter of dispute, one that has only grown in significance as the gallery, once venerable and now closed, battles accusations that it sold many works of modern art that were actually sophisticated forgeries.

The Diebenkorn family says it made it plain that day, before the drawings were sold, that it suspected the drawings were fakes.

“They didn’t look quite right, and we said, ‘The provenance is wacky and the story behind the provenance makes no sense,’ ” said Richard Grant, the artist’s son-in-law and the executive director of the Diebenkorn Foundation.

The gallery and its former president, Ann Freedman, say the family embraced the drawings as legitimate.”

National Museum of Natural History scores its biggest donation ever – $35 million

His politics are way out in right field, but there is something appealing about a guy who loves dinosaurs. David H. Koch, philanthropist and conservative bankroller is giving the money to overhaul the dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian’s natural history museum on the mall.

Read the NYTimes story here.

U.S. Release documents related to Bin Laden killing

The Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy released a selection of documents discovered during the 2011 raid in Abbottabbad, Pakistan, that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. As an article by Peter Baker in the New York Times details, the documents include information about rifts in the Al Qaeda’s top  leadership about tactics and marketing(!) The Times posts selections from the documents.

By Peter Baker

“A decade after the terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center and demolished part of the Pentagon, leaders of the terrorist group debated how closely to affiliate with other extremist organizations, how much it should target the United States, how to win the support of Muslims, whether to attack drug runners to steal their money and even whether the infamous network should change its name.

One document found in Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, suggested that the name Al Qaeda had “lessened Muslims’ feelings that we belong to them” and lacked any religious connection. The name, Arabic for “The Base,” was first used to refer to some of the muhajedeen fighting the Soviets in the 1980s.”…..

“’ He was at pains advising them to abort domestic attacks that cause Muslim civilian casualties and instead focus on the United States, ‘our desired goal,’ ” the center’s report said. “Bin Laden’s frustration with regional jihadi groups and his seeming inability to exercise control over their actions and public statements is the most compelling story to be told on the basis of the 17 declassified documents.” “

Is Google Art Project failing to deal with artists and their copyrights?

A preview of an article in tomorrow’s paper that is already up on the Web about artists’ copyright. Whether a painting appears in Titanic 3D or on a coffee cup, the artist owns the image — at least for 70 years after his or her death.

Whose Copyright Is It, Anyway?

Published: April 24, 2012

It is there in the new 3-D version of “Titanic,” as it was in James Cameron’s original film: a modified version of Picasso’s painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” aboard the ship as it sinks.  Of course that 1907 masterpiece was never lost to the North Atlantic. It has been at the Museum of Modern Art for decades — which is precisely the reason the Picasso estate, which owns the copyright to the image, refused Mr. Cameron’s original request to include it in his 1997 movie.

But Mr. Cameron used it anyway.

After Artists Rights Society, a company that guards intellectual property rights for more than 50,000 visual artists or their estates, including Picasso’s, complained, however, Mr. Cameron agreed to pay a fee for the right to use the image.

With the rerelease of “Titanic,” the society wants Mr. Cameron to pay again, asserting that the 3-D version is a new work, not covered under the previous agreement….

“I don’t expect we’ll have any difficulty,” said Theodore Feder, president of the society, who contacted Mr. Cameron last week.

Latest Etan Patz search finds nothing — except continuing heartache for family

The Midlife Cowboy

Variety reports that HBO has signed up Ira Glasser to work on an HBO series based on “This American Life” segment — The Midlife Cowboy.

‘This American Life’ seg inspires HBO project

Rob Thomas, Owen Wilson, Ira Glass developing drama

Owen Wilson Wilson

HBO has teamed with Rob Thomas, Ira Glass and Owen Wilson to develop a drama series inspired by a “This American Life” segment about a man who deals with a midlife crisis by rescuing two kidnapped kids in Mexico.

Thomas (“Veronica Mars”) is penning the script for the project, tentatively titled “Thrillsville.”

The series will be a fictionalized spin on aspects of the “Midlife Cowboy” seg that aired on the public radio series in March 2010. James Spring, a San Diego man who had in his youth been a methamphetamine smuggler before becoming an advertising copywriter and family man, detailed the story of how the approach of his 40th birthday inspired him to do something significant to help others.

His quest led him to mount a search for two young girls who were kidnapped in Northern California in connection with drug-trade violence and taken to Baja California.

The media coverage of Spring’s success in finding the girls led him to a new career investigating missing persons cases.”