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MetLife Might Pass on Albers Mural

July 10, 2001

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NEW YORK (AP) _ A giant mural by Josef Albers that has hung in the lobby of Manhattan’s MetLife Building for years has been stored away for months as the lobby is being renovated, and the building’s owners say they have no plans to rehang it.

``Manhattan,″ a red, white and black mural made up of crisply interlocking forms of color, was passed by tens of thousands of people each day as they crossed the lobby on Park Avenue on their way to Grand Central Terminal.

The work stands in the way of the company’s effort to draw more light into the lobby and make access more open, Kevin Foley, a spokesman for MetLife told The New York Times in Monday’s editions. The discovery that there is asbestos in the tiles that make up the mural added to the concern.

Foley said the company has no intention to destroy or sell the mural, but would like to find a new home for the piece, which stands 28 feet high and 55 feet wide.

Albers, a German-born artist and colorist, designed the piece as his homage to New York, the city to which he immigrated in 1933. He was commissioned to make the mural by Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus Modernist design school and one of the architects designing the building in the 1960s for Pan American World Airways. MetLife took over the building in 1981.


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A nonprofit group that manages historic theaters in Ohio and Illinois has been hired to run the historic Shubert Theater.

CAPA President Douglas Kridler said Monday the group could bring management experience and economies of scale to help the Shubert, which is in debt and faces tough competition from other area theaters.

Over 32 years, CAPA has saved and revitalized several historic theaters, including the Chicago Theatre, the Ohio Theatre and the Southern Theatre in Columbus, Ohio.

CAPA has created a separate group called the Connecticut Association for the Performing Arts to run the Shubert.

The Shubert is known as the ``birthplace of the nation’s greatest hits″ for hosting pre-Broadway previews of ``South Pacific,″ ``The Sound of Music″ and other musicals.

The 1,600-seat theater, which opened in 1914, is owned by the city. The theater was previously run by a New Haven-area board of directors, but city leaders decided to seek new management after the group reported a deficit of over $1 million for the past season.


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VICTORVILLE, Calif. (AP) _ The Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum may hit the trail.

``We have to survive,″ said Roy ``Dusty″ Rogers Jr. ``If the museum doesn’t survive here, it will somewhere else.″

With the death of his parents, Rogers said, the Internal Revenue Service swooped in to levy a 58 percent tax on the estate. That bill is the main reason why the Rogers family finished auctioning off a large portion of the couple’s personal possessions Friday.

The nearly $150,000 in property taxes also is a heavy burden.

The museum has received offers to relocate to Utah, Las Vegas, Idaho and Branson, Mo., Rogers said, adding that Branson is probably the most likely spot.

``They still believe in God and country, and the median age of visitors is 55 and up. Branson is ideal, more than seven million people visit there every year and it is a destination,″ he said.

Average annual museum attendance in Victorville runs around 50,000, Rogers said. That number was expected to increase to 188,000 the first year in Branson.

Evans died earlier this year. She was 88. Rogers died in 1998 at age 86.


OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ New Age music composer Chip Davis has abandoned plans to build an outdoor amphitheater because of court challenges from a neighboring golf course.

Davis, founder of Mannheim Steamroller, announced plans five years ago for the 17,000-seat amphitheater along Interstate 80 between Omaha and Lincoln.

The project also included plans for a children’s music camp, a hotel, restaurants and beer garden on 173 acres that Davis purchased in 1997.

Work has been stalled since late 1998 on the $35 million entertainment complex because it has been tied up in lawsuits filed by Nebco Inc., the owner of the adjacent Quarry Oaks golf course.

Davis said he’s given up because of the threat of continued litigation by Nebco. The company protested that concerts in the amphitheater would create excessive noise and traffic jams in the area.

He founded the American Gramaphone record company in Omaha in 1974 and started Mannheim Steamroller, best known for its Christmas music.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ Call them ``diamonds in the dust.″

Caked in a quarter-inch of dirt in the attic of a former Masonic temple, three recently discovered paintings turned out to be worth $215,000 at auction.

``I thought it was just junk,″ said Norman Buecker, a member of the Masons who helped clean out the building before its June 1 sale. ``That’s how much I know.″

The most valuable painting sold for $180,000. The untitled oil painting depicts an American Indian sitting on a couch with a pumpkin on his lap. It was painted about 1925 by Oscar E. Berninghaus, a St. Louis-born artist.

``This is the most money a painting has ever gone for at auction in Springfield, as far as I know,″ said Patricia Doyle of Patricia Doyle Auction House. It’s also the largest-ever deal for the auction house.

A painting of sailboats by Edgar Payne sold for $26,000, and a coastal landscape by Dedrick Stuber went for $9,000.

Bidders clogged six phone lines during the Berninghaus auction, and many were surprised at the price, said dealer Tom Mann.

Ken Shewmaker, the Masons’ local board chairman, said the money _ more than half of the sale price of the Masons’ downtown temple last spring _ would be invested in the organization’s new headquarters.

No one knows how the Masons came to own the paintings.

``Probably somebody died and the family didn’t know what to do with the stuff, so they gave it to us and put it in the attic,″ Buecker said.

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