A – Z Guide: W

Christian Richters

The War On Looting

If triumphing in war is about winning strategic battles, then the countries—led by Italy—that have campaigned to halt the trade in looted antiquities are getting closer to victory. Like dominoes, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Princeton, and the Getty all fell in succession, agreeing to return disputed pieces. Most recently, Met benefactor Shelby White handed over to Italy ten objects from her collection just as the museum was sending back the famed Euphronios krater.

The following month a scandal involving ancient Ban Chiang artifacts from Thailand erupted amid an FBI investigation of potentially smuggled pieces in several California museums. Reports have suggested that institutions around the country could be implicated.

Meanwhile, the mother of all antiquities disputes, Greece’s fight for the Elgin Marbles—which were taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin and given to the British Museum in the early 19th century—is sure to ratchet up. An argument against returning the marbles has been that Greece lacked a proper setting for their display and care. That changes in September, with the opening of Bernard Tschumi’s state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum in Athens. There is even a gallery specifically for the marbles that’s filled with replicas—for now.

Woody Wields The Baton

“I can’t listen to that much Wagner—I start to get the urge to conquer Poland.” So quipped Woody Allen’s character in his 1993 film Manhattan Murder Mystery. Presumably the same doesn’t apply when he’s listening to Puccini, despite Mussolini’s embrace of the composer’s music. In September Allen will make his opera-directing debut in the Los Angeles Opera’s production of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, the third one-act piece in his “Trittico” triology.

The music-loving filmmaker famously plays New Orleans–style clarinet, and he often uses striking classical works in his movies. But he has insisted, in typically self-deprecating fashion, that he has no gift for music. Then again, he has also joked that incompetence never prevented him from “plunging in with enthusiasm.”

Schicchi is a comedy about a troublemaker in Florence who rewrites a dead man’s abundant will, accepts bribes from distraught family members, and ends up stealing the fortune before seeing that his immoral deeds have led a young couple to love. Almost sounds as if it could be Allen’s next movie.

L.A. Opera director Plácido Domingo, who has recruited film directors before, handed the trilogy’s other two, more tragic pieces to Exorcist director and seasoned opera hobbyist William Friedkin. But Woody, he has said, was definitely his “longest pursuit.”

Water Works

Olafur Eliasson seems to bend nature to his very whim. This summer, to coincide with his show at the Museum of Modern Art, the artist is creating four soaring waterfalls in collaboration with the Public Art Fund that will cascade into New York Harbor and the East River, one of them under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Wii Power

Studies have found that playing video games on Nintendo’s Wii can be good for everything from elderly fitness and physical therapy to improving a surgeon’s coordination. The ubiquitous Wii even had a cameo at this year’s Oscars, when host John Stewart briefly played the tennis on stage—a clear sign of our Wii obsession.

Williamstown Show

The underappreciated Clark Art Institute provides another reason besides theater to head to Williamstown, Massachusetts, this summer, when it unveils a new conservation and exhibitions building by Japanese architect Tadao Ando.