The Good News and The Bad News

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Let's start with good news, shall we? It seems that the initial reports of total destruction of the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad turned out to be greatly exaggerated. There is encouraging information in today's New York Times about the many treasures moved from the museum to secret locations before the war broke out. What looters did steal are mostly objects kept in the museum's basements and, though valuable as historical and cultural research material, these objects are not from the A-list of the most important artworks. American and Iraqi officials seem confident in their knowledge of "where the hiding places are", though these places have not yet been visited because of security reasons.

Meanwhile, in what can only be described as serendipity, the NY Metropolitan Museum opened an exhibition called "Art of the First Cities", devoted to the ancient culture of the first cities in human history. For obvious reasons, nothing could be borrowed from Baghdad for this exhibition. The extremely rare and exceptionally beautiful artifacts gathered by the Metropolitan make you think about all those still unaccounted for masterpieces hidden in some secret places in Iraq. Hopefully we will hear more good news in the coming days.

Schindler LandscapingHere in L.A., there is a serious issue brewing over one of the city's most important cultural landmarks, the Schindler House, a masterpiece of 20th century modern architecture. Hidden on Kings Road in a residential area of West Hollywood, it's already partially squeezed on the north side by a dull apartment building. Now there is an imminent danger that the small house immediately south of Schindler's masterpiece will be replaced by yet another big apartment building. This would forever ruin the balance achieved by Schindler who landscaped the grounds around his one-story house to create the illusion of a large serene space, despite the modest size of the actual lot.

Schindler HouseThe MAK Center, the Austrian cultural organization that operates the Schindler House as a museum, is holding an invitational competition in search of an ideal architectural solution for the problem. Among 22 participating architectural firms there are some little-known names as well as international stars. Frank Gehry is among the members of the jury. For my money the most promising proposal so far is the suggestion to permit the developer to trade his property next to the Schindler House, for a small park a block away. It's a win-win solution. Instead of an overwhelming apartment building, the Schindler House would get an extra open space for a neighbor. The latest press release indicates that "it is unclear how the city will respond, but at least the possibility of a 'happy ending' does exist."

FOR MORE INFORMATION: The MAK Center L.A. 835 North Kings Road West Hollywood, CA 90069 Kimberli Meyer, Director (323) 651-1510 Katie Klapper, Press Representative (323) 874-9667

Edward Goldman is the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. --