Peter Plagens

True Value

This year, no fads, no fancy stuff, no journalistic conceits and no padding (except this introduction). We know there's a surplus of the new and the clever in the world.

Seattle's Purple Haze

When founder and benefactor Paul Allen, executive director Jody Allen Patton (Paul's sister) and a team of designers, curators, educators and techies open the $250 million Experience Music Project to the public in Seattle on June 23, it will undoubtedly be the most electronically glossy, groovily interactive museum-and-then-some on the face of the planet.

New Bid On The Block

What do you get by combining Louis Vuitton, a rented museum, a famous abstract painting of two rectangles, the Justice Department and Sharon Stone? Answer: a toehold in the snobby world of New York art auctions.

Britannia Rules The Wave

Here's the way Tate director Nick Serota says it happened back in the early '90s: "I got a key and went in. There was rain dripping through the skylight into this huge room onto a great mass of rusting boilers and turbines, and a great pool of water below.

When Art Was Truly Nouveau

In December 1895, a parisian art dealer named Siegfried Bing opened a gallery called L'Art Nouveau, thereby giving a name to a kind of federation of related art styles that swept the Western world at the turn of the last century.

Critical Moment

East Is East The marvelous Om Puri plays a proud Pakistani patriarch in swinging '70s London whose seven children rebel against his traditional ways, with his English wife (Linda Bassett) caught in the middle.

Art In The Fast Lane

Cutting-edge artists come along all the time. But only once in a while do more than a couple seem like real contenders, and rarely do you see a half dozen who benchmark a new sensibility.

It's Izzard,

In Toronto, on the opening night of his new North American tour, comedian Eddie Izzard stops his routine suddenly. He smiles broadly, straight out at the theaterful of people, and says, "I'm talking crap.

Good God?

In "City of God," the character who clearly speaks for author E. L. Doctorow says that if you believe in both God and reincarnation, "it may be reasonably assumed that a certain bacterium living in the anus of a particularly ancient hatchet-fish at the bottom of the ocean is the recycled and fully sentient soul of Adolf Hitler." Building a novel around such heavy moralizing isn't easy.

Critical Moment

MOVIES The Cup Soccer mania hits the young novices in a Buddhist monastery, who scheme to watch the World Cup on TV. This Bhutanese movie, cast with real monks, is a low-key charmer. (3 stars)D.A.

Critical Moment

MUSIC D'Angelo, 'Voodoo'(Cheeba Sounds) Despite that nude video, he's not faking the funk; "Voodoo" conjures up Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and Marvin Gaye. The result: pure black magic.

Hollywood's Big Art Deal

Every Saturday afternoon, the fledgling contemporary-art dealers at 6150 Wilshire Boulevard--just west of the L.A. County Museum of Art on the old "Miracle Mile"--gather in the courtyard outside their cluster of tailored, track-lighted white boxes to enjoy a casual barbecue.

Norman Rockwell Revisited

In pre-television times, Americans got their images from the printed page, where they could linger over them as long as they wanted. For both sentimental impact and delicious detail, there was no printed-page artist like Norman Rockwell.

Working With Words

Some artists speak. Others whisper. A few even sing. In her just-opened retrospective exhibition at The Geffen Contemporary (the Museum of Contemporary Art's giant retooled police car garage in downtown Los Angeles), Barbara Kruger mostly shouts. (The show runs through Feb. 13, after which it travels to New York).

Expressionism Italian Style

How can an artist appear both offhandedly hip and achingly sincere at the same time? If you're Francesco Clemente and famous for being a neoexpressionist painter, it's a matter of balancing "neo" stuff with the "expressionist" part.

Holy Elephant Dung!

Arnold Lehman, director of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, says the directive came as a complete surprise. "At 10:45 a.m. on Sept. 21, I got a call from the cultural-affairs commissioner with a message from Mayor Giuliani: cancel the exhibition or the city will terminate all funding for the museum.

King Of Pop

Leo Castelli wasn't contemporary art's biggest dealer--in either sense. He stood about 5 feet 4 inches, and such galleries as Gagosian and Pace/Wildenstein have been doing a lot more business in recent years.

Barney For Grown-Ups

Matthew Barney, 32, was recruited by Yale to play football, but left the team to model for the Gap. Then he took up art. When he was 24, his first solo show in New York (which included a workout bench fashioned from vaseline, exhibited in a freezer) was a SoHo sensation.

A Visionary Hits Venice

First, Ann Hamilton completely gutted the U.S. pavilion at this year's Venice Biennale exhibition of international contemporary art. Then she constructed a ripply glass wall across the courtyard.

Talent Pool

We're a little late, we admit. The way events were transpiring in Europe, art didn't seem such a high priority. But now that a few rays of sunshine are poking through the summer clouds, the idea of trotting around the continent to see some of the good things that humanity can come up with doesn't seem so, well, let-them-eat-cake-ish.

First Views Of The West

What Mars is to all of us now, California and the West used to be--150 years ago--to folks back East. They heard stories about it, were skeptical and longed for concrete evidence of what it was like to be there.

One Leonardo, To Stay

Paintings come and paintings go--most of the time in super slo-mo. It's so slow, in fact, that we think they're not changing at all, that once the paint has dried, they'll be around in the same state forever.

Have Pen, Will Amuse

I am among the few who continue to draw after childhood," Saul Steinberg once said, "continuing and perfecting childhood drawing--without the traditional interruption of academic training." Steinberg, who died in New York last week at the age of 84, wielded a whimsically wicked pen, pencil and watercolor brush for 60 years.

Millennial Biennial

Doing the impossible is as American as it gets. We've put a man on the moon and the Dow over the 10,000 mark. Next, we might even create an art exhibition that tells the story of the whole incredible 20th century.

Degas In New Orleans

Celestine Musson, the mother of the great French impressionist painter Edgar Degas, was born in New Orleans. And thereby hangs a tale. In France Celestine married a banker, Auguste De Gas (he favored the pseudo-aristocratic spelling of his last name), and bore him three sons: Edgar and his two younger brothers, Rene and Achille.

Millennial Biennial

Doing the impossible is as American as it gets. We've put a man on the moon and the Dow over the 10,000 mark. Next, we might even create an art exhibition that tells the story of the whole incredible 20th century.

Metropolitan Gentleman

At a fancy Parisian hotel not long ago, an American journalist told Philippe de Montebello he was "heartbroken" over a Renaissance painting by Dosso Dossi in a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.