Culture In Brief

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Take the Monet and run

Two Impressionist oil paintings were stolen at gunpoint from the Musee des Beaux Arts in Nice when the director, Jean Fornis, was forced to give a guided tour of the gallery to two masked thieves. After demanding to see a double portrait by Degas, which was on loan to a Venetian gallery, they took Monet's Cliffs near Dieppe (1897) and Sisley's Poplar Avenue at Moret (1890). According to France's Ministry of Culture, both paintings are too well known to be sold.

Up in lights

Prince Charles has given his consent for London's Prince of Wales Theatre to be renamed in tribute to the late theatrical impresario Lord Delfont, who discovered Norman Wisdom, Morecambe and Wise and Little and Large. According to The Stage, however, such a change can only take place after the run of shows presently booked into the theatre under its current name.

Cutting Thais

Thai film censors have ordered organisers of the Bangkok Film Festival to suppress certain scenes from a New Zealand Comedy, Topless Women Talk About Their Lives. Staff have been instructed to black out the scenes in question by putting their hands in front of the projector. Thailand's English-language Bangkok Post noted that it was: "odd indeed... when the city's red-light areas are bursting with topless women talking about all sorts of things under the noses of the police."

Brains before dung

The pounds 30,000 Jerwood Painting Prize has been won by the German-born artist Madeleine Strindberg, with two yellow and silver acrylic-on-canvas paintings showing slices of the human brain. Strindberg was artist in residence at the National Gallery 10 years ago and is currently senior lecturer in fine art at the University of Brighton. She was chosen over nine other artists, including the favourite for the Turner prize, Chris Ofili, known for his works featuring elephant dung. The award was presented by the Culture Secretary Chris Smith at the newly-opened Jerwood Space arts centre in Southwark, a converted Victorian school building.

Millennium bugs

In an odd coincidence, two film companies, Disney and DreamWorks, are simultaneously releasing animated films about insects. The central character's of both DreamWorks' Antz and Disney's A Bug's Life are scrawny, awkward ants who struggle to save their colonies from marauding creatures while attempting to impress a beautiful princess ant. Both of these pictures have used the computer generated imagery (CGI) behind the highly successful Toy Story. The technique, which costs $1million per minute, is 30% more expensive than traditional animation, but very much quicker: it can save up to three years. A gala screening of Antz rounded off this year's Toronto International Film Festival which officials said produced record box office takings C$1.9 million (pounds 800,000).

Starr signs in their eyes

All three of the publishers who produced inexpensive versions of Kenneth Starr's report to congress about the Clinton sex scandal are planning sequels. Pocket Books, Prima Publishing and PublicAffairs Books plan to package the additional material from the investigation that the House Judiciary Committee have just voted to release. This numbers some 2,800 pages and is expected to include transcripts of Clinton's deposition, Lewinsky's own grand jury testimony, letters sent from Lewinsky to the President and several internal prosecution memoranda.

Fragile China

The premiere of a production of an ancient Chinese opera, due to take place in Paris in November, has been cancelled because the Shanghai Municipal Culture Bureau will not allow the 53 cast members from the Shanghai Kunju Opera Company to leave China. The Peony Pavilion, written by Tang Xianxu in 1598, is twenty hours long and considered a masterpiece of the ancient Kunqu Chinese operatic style. The piece was to be staged over 10 evenings at the Grande Halle de la Villette as part of the Paris Autumn Festival. The company had already been prevented from travelling to New York for a premiere at the Lincoln Center last July when the Shanghai authorities judged that certain features of the production, such as sexual terms and the on-stage presence of a chamber pot, would show China in an unflattering light.

Less choice, please

A survey published this week has found that most British TV viewers want only a limited number of new stations. The digital communications company Nokia polled 1,008 adults and found that: "a US-style channel overload... providing more choice but at the expense of quality" was undesirable. Less than a third of those surveyed said they wanted more than 25 channels and over half thought that the approaching digital revolution meant more channels than they would like.