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Guggenheim Cuts Staff
“A growing number of museums around the country have raised admission fees and cut staff to try to weather the financial setbacks they have faced since the pandemic began,” reports the New York Times. “When the Guggenheim raised the price for adult admissions to $30 from $25 over the summer, it cited a lack of visitors and declining membership at a moment when expenses have skyrocketed because of inflation, increased labor costs and insurance, as well as rising shipping fees… The layoffs included two deputy directors, but also some longtime rank-and-file employees from the departments of visitor services and communications.”
Longtime Christie’s Head Steps Down
“After working at Christie’s in London for thirty-eight years, Jussi Pylkkänen is leaving the auction house to become an independent art adviser. His last appearance on the podium will be on December 7, when he will lead Christie’s evening sale of old masters in London,” reports the New York Times. Pylkkänen holds the record for sales of the second-highest and highest-priced auction sales, including the “Last Leonardo”: “After a protracted, gasp-inducing duel between two telephone bidders, Pylkkänen finally knocked the ‘Salvator Mundi’ down for $450.3 million with fees, a record for any artwork, either at auction or privately.”
Asks the Times, “Does the fact that the buyer was Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who, according to U.S. security agencies, approved the murder of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, ever give you—or Christie’s—pause for thought?” Pylkkänen: “I don’t comment on the buyers. I’m sorry.”
Global Art Business: Better, Not Booming
“The global art business is cooling: While choice works by desirable artists can still fetch sky-high prices, the market is not what it used to be before the pandemic,” reports the New York Times. “‘We’ve come out of a period of unprecedented growth in the numbers of artists collected and valued, and the prices which people pay, and those kinds of buying cycles always go through shifts—in good times and bad,’ said Allan Schwartzman, a New York-based art adviser… According to the Art Basel and UBS Survey of Global Collecting 2023, published in November and written by the economist Clare McAndrew, sales by the four major auction houses were down sixteen percent in the first half of 2023 compared with a year earlier.”
Indianapolis Still Shaken By Abrupt Departure Of Museum CEO
“Almost three weeks after the sudden departure of Newfields’ CEO, community members—and even staff—continue to question what happened and how to move forward,” reports the Indianapolis Star (via MSN). “They are expressing shock that Colette Pierce Burnette would serve just fifteen months in the role, especially since they said [she] was quickly building new and needed relationships. They are expressing frustration with the lack of explanation around her November 10 departure. They are expressing uncertainty about Newfields’ Board of Trustees and leadership, given the tumult that has returned after the museum’s controversial 2021 job post that called to maintain its ‘traditional, core, white art audience’ while diversifying its visitors.”
Who’s Going To Plot A Downtown Transformation?
“With vacancy rates rising and valuations falling hard, civic and business leaders are starting to talk about what can be done with office space few companies want anymore,” writes David Roeder at the Sun-Times. “Chicago leads U.S. metro markets with almost a quarter of its commercial mortgage-backed securities in distress. Several prominent towers are in that category, such as the Civic Opera Building, the 30 North La Salle building, the Palmer House and the massive 175 West Jackson [as] vacancy rates keep rising as companies cut back on space or toss unused floors onto the sublease market.”
“One brash developer said Chicago should take out outmoded space by bulldozing blocks to create its version of New York’s Central Park… Three insiders separately [said] if open space makes the central core more appealing, why not build landscaped decks over the Kennedy Expressway as it passes through downtown?”
AIA Chicago Names 2023 Distinguished Service And Presidential Citation Honorees
Three individuals who “have exemplified the mission of AIA Chicago and provided outstanding service to the membership of the chapter and the residents of Chicago” have been honored by the group. Susan Benjamin; Maya Bird-Murphy of Mobile Makers; and Abraham Lacy of the Far South Community Development Corporation are recipients of the 2023 Distinguished Service Awards. The recipients will be celebrated at the Building Together: Awards Program and Holiday Open House on Thursday, December 7, at the Chicago Architecture Center. AIA Chicago will also honor Maureen Durack and the Executive Service Corps Team with the 2023 Presidential Citation: “Maureen guided the chapter in transformational change with a clear vision.” More here.
Chicago Back-To-Office Rate Lingers At Fifty Percent
“After reaching a post-pandemic record high of 61.4 percent the week of November 15, then falling to 40.4 percent after Thanksgiving, the most recent average percentage of Chicago workers who are back in the office has hit 52.5 percent,” reports Crain’s.
Little Village’s Apollo’s 2000 Theater Seeks Landmark Status
“The longtime owners of a grand old movie palace in Little Village want to get it declared a Chicago landmark, both for its ornate architecture and as a monument to the United States as a land of possibilities,” reports Crain’s. “Lidia and Javier Galindo were immigrants from Durango, Mexico in their twenties when Javier renovated the crumbling old movie theater, a candidate for demolition, into a nightclub in 1988. Later that year, they bought it. In the ensuing thirty-five years, they’ve hosted wrestling matches, quinceañeras, former presidential candidate Al Gore, architecture fans and, in their early days, Mexican rock stars.”
The Galindos “will present their building to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks today for preliminary landmark recommendation, the first step toward an official designation… Landmarking has not only a symbolic but a practical side… Maintaining the monumental brick and terra cotta facade is a ‘financial hardship’ for the family… but with landmark status, they’d be able to seek funding through the city’s Adopt-A-Landmark Fund and other grants.”
Preservation Chicago Is Hiring
Preservation Chicago is looking for a development manager to increase their effectiveness. “The Development Manager is a new position at our growing organization and will be critical to Preservation Chicago’s future impact and sustainability [and] will play a significant role in Preservation Chicago’s development strategy, including securing major gifts, writing new grants, and managing existing grant reports, cultivating individual Preservation Circle donors, and increasing online donations.” Details here.
City Towed 263 Cars On First Night, Crisp, Clear And Snowless, Of Overnight Parking Ban
“The yearly ban, in effect 3am-7am each day from December 1 to April 1, is enforced regardless of snow,” reports the Sun-Times. Vehicle owners “are charged with a minimum $150 towing fee, a $60 ticket and a $25-per-day storage fee… The ban covers 107 miles of streets across the city, including parts of Madison, Division, Central, Archer, Kedzie, King, Cottage Grove, 79th and 103rd.”
DINING & DRINKING
First Bites Bash Is Back
Choose Chicago announced tickets are on sale for First Bites Bash, the celebratory kick-off event for the seventeenth annual Chicago Restaurant Week. The event will be held Thursday, January 18, 2024, 6pm-9pm, at the Field Museum. Donations will be made to Pilot Light, a Chicago-based nonprofit that partners with teachers to integrate food education into learning, and to the James Beard Foundation. Tickets here.
McDonald’s To Open Ten Thousand More Locations In Next Four Years
“Ahead of a daylong event for investors, the Chicago burger giant said Wednesday that it aims to have 50,000 restaurants in operation worldwide by the end of 2027,” reports NBC 5. “McDonald’s had 40,275 restaurants at the start of this year.” Adds the Sun-Times: “Other national chains are expanding at a rapid clip as well. Starbucks said last month it expects to have 55,000 stores globally by 2030, up from 38,000 today.”
Chicago Restaurants Happen To Plant Flag In Affordable Locations
“Chicago has one of the hottest food scenes in the country, and while many associated this scene with the West Loop or River North, foodies in the know say you can find some of the most delicious and exciting foods in the neighborhoods,” enthuses WGN 9. “One of those restaurants could be Atelier, which opened last February and is located on the North Side at the former site of Michelin-star restaurant Elizabeth… The fine dining spot [is] squeezed in between a soccer store and a tire shop on Western Avenue in Lincoln Square.”
Teeny Tiny Tropical Bar Tops Holiday Season
Cindy’s has opened the Teeny Tiny Tropical Bar at the thirteenth-floor, glass atrium South Terrace Bar of the Chicago Athletic Association through March 31 (5pm-10pm daily, walk-ins only). Featuring tropical cocktails and a limited bar menu, tastes include “Shake Ya Tailfeather,” with Appleton Estate Signature Blend, Kaffir Lime Infused Rum, Rhum JM Agricole Blanc, Campari, Caramelized Pineapple Puree, Mango Puree, Lime, Miso Syrup, Xocolatl Mole Bitters; “Rum Ham,” with Mt. Gay Black Barrel, Coruba Dark Rum, Uruapan Charanda, Tempus Fugit Crème de Banane, Guava Puree, Lemon, Grapefruit juice, Liquid Alchemist Orgeat, Jamaican Jerk Bitters; and “Rabbit Season,” with Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Bittermens Tepache Liqueur, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Lemon juice, Carrot juice, Coconut cream. Instagram here.
FILM & TELEVISION
Sundance Preem For Lolla Doc Series
The Sundance Film Festival’s fortieth edition, January 18-24, 2024 in Park City and Salt Lake City (with some films available online January 25-28), has been announced with ninety-one projects. Of Midwest note, the world premiere of the three-part limited series, “Lolla: The Story Of Lollapalooza,” from director-producer Michael John Warren. “In the summer of 1991, the Lollapalooza music festival was born. What started as a farewell tour for the band Jane’s Addiction rose from the underground to launch a cultural movement and change music forever.” Only the first two parts will be shown, limiting the chance we’ll see footage of former Mayor Lightfoot dancing. The full Sundance 2024 program is here.
Actors Approve Contract With Apathetic Thirty-Eight-Percent Vote
“SAG-AFTRA members voted to ratify the deal that successfully ended the historic 118-day strike,” reports ABC News. “The contract was approved with seventy-eight percent voting in favor of the deal. SAG-AFTRA didn’t reveal the exact number of members who voted but said it was 38.15 percent of the union.” Tallies the Hollywood Reporter, “The union has valued the new three-year contract at over $1 billion, more than three times the value of the union’s 2020 deal.” Adds the New York Times, “Some members were not happy about the contract’s artificial intelligence protections.”
Television Comedy Powerhouse And Progressive Force Norman Lear Was 101
“Writer-producer-developer Norman Lear, who revolutionized American comedy with such daring, immensely popular early-seventies sitcoms as ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Sanford and Son,’ died on Tuesday. He was 101,” writes Variety. “One of Hollywood’s most outspoken liberals and progressive philanthropists, Lear founded the advocacy group People for the American Way in 1981 to counteract the activities of the conservative Moral Majority.”
Lear and his partner Bud Yorkin “came to prominence writing for Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin’s variety show in the 1950s, and at one time, Lear had nine shows on the air and finished one season with three of the top four highest-rated series,” writes the Hollywood Reporter. “As the producer of ‘All in the Family’ and many other shows, Mr. Lear showed that it was possible to be topical, funny and immensely popular,” reports the New York Times. (Lear outlived his key obituary writer.)
Times chief TV critic James Poniewozik appraises: “He made TV about rich Black people (‘The Jeffersons’) and working-class Black people (‘Good Times,’ ‘Sanford and Son’), about feminists (‘Maude’) and divorced women (‘One Day at a Time’) and dissatisfied housewives (‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’)… Lear was inspired in part, he said, by his own minority experience as a Jew in America, in the era of the antisemitic radio demagogue Father Charles Coughlin. In his TV work Lear built a counterweapon, a bigger and better soapbox.” The video Lear posted to X/Twitter on the morning of his 101st birthday, “dribbling a bit,” is here.
Keep The Change, Ya Filthy Animals: TikTok Agog At “Home Alone” Grocery Bill
“Of all the outlandish occurrences that take place in ‘Home Alone’—a movie about a family forgetting to bring their child on an international trip, and that child later outsmarting and nearly killing two grown men—the most unrealistic aspect, at least according to many of today’s viewers, is… the cost of groceries circa 1990,” reports WGN 9. One TikTok user compared similar groceries at Target.com, “claiming that Kevin would be spending $64 (before taxes) on similar items today… At a Target in the Chicago area, the total cost of identical items (where available) and conservatively-priced substitutes totaled only around $47, according to online price information—albeit before the added cost of a pack of Army men, which Target.com does not… show as available.”
Florida: Public School Libraries Are “A Forum For Government Speech,” Not A “Forum For Free Expression”
“Public-school systems, including their libraries, convey the government’s message,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody writes in legal brief, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. “Florida’s government is arguing that school districts have a First Amendment right to remove LGBTQ books. Or any book, for that matter… First Amendment experts and advocates… all had grave warnings about what court support for the state’s argument could mean… ‘There’s considerable irony in that those who seek to limit access to books in school libraries often say they’re fighting for parental rights,’ said [the] director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University. ‘If government speech determines what books can be in the library, the government is essentially saying your children can only see the ideas that the government has approved.'”
Canada’s CBC Joins Britain’s BBC In Paring Away At National Broadcasting
CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, reports AP, “will cut 600 jobs and reduce its English and French programming budgets… The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Radio-Canada, the French-language version, said the bulk of the layoffs will come from its corporate divisions such as technology and infrastructure. It also identified 200 vacancies that will go unfilled as it contends with $92 million in budget pressures… CBC will be reducing its English and French programming budgets, resulting in fewer renewals and acquisitions, fewer new television series, less episodes of existing shows and digital original series.” The federal government “attributed the cuts to rising production costs, declining television advertising revenue and fierce competition from the tech digital giants.” CBC has around “6,500 permanent employees, about 2,000 temporary workers and roughly 760 contract staff.”
Tonight, Tonight: Billy Corgan Will Co-Host Local TV New Year’s Eve Show Live From Madame ZuZu’s Tea Shop
“Rock star, wrestling promoter and tea merchant Billy Corgan is adding another title to his wide-ranging résumé: TV host,” reports the Sun-Times. “The Smashing Pumpkins leader and his fashion designer wife, Chloe Mendel, will be among six personalities presenting a New Year’s Eve program” from three parties and shown on Channel 5. Featured will be music by Corgan and an assembly of jazz musicians. “Co-hosting will be ‘Chicago Today’ hosts at the renovated Ramova Theatre in Bridgeport, and news anchor Evrod Cassimy alongside CMT host Marley Sherwood at the Palmer House Hilton.”
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Friends Of The Parks Executive Director Exits
“After eight years of ‘good trouble,’ Juanita Irizarry is leaving Friends of the Parks,” reports the Sun-Times. “Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, furious over the legal battle that forced movie mogul George Lucas to cancel plans for a $743 million museum on the lakefront, derisively branded Irizarry’s organization ‘Friends of the Parking Lot.'” Said Irizarry, “The organization is coming into a period of strategic planning, and I didn’t see myself being here in the long term. Friends of the Parks is coming up on its fiftieth anniversary in 2025. It really is an exciting time for the organization to consider how it wants to position itself for the next fifty years. It just seemed like time to pass the baton.”
Chicago 2024 Convention Host Committee To Spread Business To Minorities
“The Democratic National Committee has pledged that all of Chicago’s communities benefit—and minority contractors share—from next year’s convention at United Center,” reports Lynn Sweet at the Sun-Times. “The Chicago 2024 Host Committee has launched its Host Committee Business Diversity Advisory Council, to ‘establish diversity spend goals and advise on convention equity practices, community engagement strategies and contract and event execution plans.'”
How The US Postal Inspection Service Is Tracking Mail Thieves
“A court record shows how the oft-overlooked United States Postal Inspection Service turned to all manner of tech to investigate someone stealing from mailboxes,” reports 404 Media. “To track down an alleged mail thief, a US postal inspector used license plate reader technology, GPS data collected by a rental car company, and, most damning of all, hid a camera inside one of the targeted blue post boxes which captured the suspect’s full face as they allegedly helped themselves to swathes of peoples’ mail.”
Times Analyzes Imminent Danger Of A Second Trump Term
“Donald Trump has long exhibited authoritarian impulses, but his policy operation is now more sophisticated, and the buffers to check him are weaker”: The New York Times assigns star reporters Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Jonathan Swan [free link] to examine what’s in store if the forty-fifth president returns to the White House. “Mr. Trump’s violent and authoritarian rhetoric on the 2024 campaign trail has attracted growing alarm and comparisons to historical fascist dictators and contemporary populist strongmen. In recent weeks, he has dehumanized his adversaries as ‘vermin’ who must be ‘rooted out,’ declared that immigrants are ‘poisoning the blood of our country,’ encouraged the shooting of shoplifters and suggested that the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, deserved to be executed for treason.”
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