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Assassination of Danish ‘Muhammad’ Cartoonist Foiled, Burj Khalifa Opens, Arts Audience in US Shrinks

The controversial Mohammad cartoon. (image via FriendlyAtheist.com)
The controversial Muhammad image that almost cost cartoonist Kurt Westergaard his life. (image via FriendlyAtheist.com)

Police in Denmark have foiled an attempt on the life of the notorious cartoonist who drew the Muslim prophet Muhammad and caused outrage among conservative Muslims. An intelligence officer said that, “The arrested man has according to PET’s information close relations to the Somali terrorist group, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaida leaders in eastern Africa.”

According to the NY Times:

Westergaard could not be reached for comment. He told his employer, the Jyllands-Posten daily, that the assailant shouted ”revenge” and ”blood” as he tried to enter the bathroom where Westergaard and [his 5-year-old granddaughter] had sought shelter.

Today in Dubai, the world’s tallest building, named Burj Khalifa (formerly Burj Dubai), opens. The structure is being celebrated in the Gulf region as a major acheivement and the very pro-autocrat Gulf News announced “Host of facilities promises to make the Burj Khalifa a must-stop attraction for all travellers to the Middle East.”

Christopher Hawthorne at the LA Times has a more cynical take:

And so here is the Burj Dubai’s real symbolic importance: It is mostly empty, and is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Though most of its 900 apartments have been sold, virtually all were bought three years ago … and primarily as investments, not as places to live … And there’s virtually no demand in Dubai at the moment for office space. The Burj Dubai has 37 floors of office space.

While my take on the building is more LA Times than Gulf News, what Hawthorne fails to mention is even the Empire State Building had trouble signing tenants when it opened in 1931. What quickly became the ultimate symbol of New York didn’t even become profitable until 1950. I also don’t agree with Hawthorne’s assessment of the building as a “tombstone … for some ruined ideas,” I think it would be fairer to call it a monument to gluttony.

Reporter clammor for shots from the observation deck at the Burj Khalifa (via Spiegel Online)
A reporter poses for a shot from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa. (via Spiegel Online)

Spiegel Online has a slideshow of the engineering marvel, which includes photos from the observation deck on the 124th floor. The Burj Khalifa is officially 828 meters (2,717 feet) tall.

In what people are hoping is not a bad sign for American culture, the US National Endowment for the Arts released its sixth Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, and the report details the decline in attendance for nearly all art forms between 2002 and 2008.

In 2008, 34.6% of adult Americans attended at least one “benchmark arts activity” (e.g. jazz concert, a play, art gallery), in 2002, the number was 39.2%, and in 1992, it was 41%.

For museum or gallery vists, the number dropped from 26.5% to 22.7%. Which begs the question, who was the recent glut of museums and galleries for?

The only good sign in the report was the increase in the reading of literature (defined as plays, poetry, novels and short stories), which increased from 46.7 to 50.2%.  Coincidentally, the survey revealed that Oregon ranked No. 1 in the percentage of adults attending art museums and craft festivals. (via CBC)

This past weekend, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art opened in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the core of its collection are 1,400 artworks donated by the family of Andreas Bechtler, a Charlotte resident and native of Switzerland who inherited and assembled the collection. Included in this unique artistic stash are works by Le Corbusier, Degas, Max Ernst, Sam Francis, Klee, Léger, Miró, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Mark Tobey. (via CultureKiosque)

Commissioned by Michael Jackson and painted over a 17-year period, these unusual artworks were painted by David Nordahl. In them, the late King of Pop appears in a variety of intimate poses such as this one seemingly modelled on Michelangelo's David, with half naked cherubs surrounding the star. (click through for more Jackson art, via Telegraph)
Commissioned by Michael Jackson, this work by David Nordahl is nothing if not creepy. (click through for more Jackson art, via The Telegraph)

In more unusual museums news, Arizona’s West Valley Art Museum is seeking suggestions for a home for its $3 million, 400-piece collection. The financially troubled museum was sold last month, one day before it was to hit the auction block.

In the UK, The Independent reports that 40 museums are under threat because of the cuts in public funding, which is being funneled to the 2012 Olympics in London.

And in Los Angeles, Bank of America customers get free admission to participating museums (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Autry National Center of the American West, the Museum of Latin American Art and MUZEO) on Saturday and Sunday. All they have to do is present their Bank of America ATM, credit or check card plus a valid photo ID to gain free admission.

The art collection of pop legend Michael Jackson has been under scrutiny over the last month by people who see pedophiliac imagery in the works that portray Jackson surrounded by child-like cherubs.  One of the pictures, called “Michael” (pictured left), shows the star with very light colored skin and striking the same pose as Michelangelo’s “David.”

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