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It's Whitney Biennial time, and American art critics have their knives out again. The premier showcase for new work by American artists has, in recent years, become a guaranteed magnet for critical bile. The 1993 show was lambasted for being preachy and PC. In 1995, the pre- show hype reached unprecedented intensity, and a backlash followed when the selections turned out to be bland and safe. This time, the build-up has been carefully orchestrated; for months, the Whitney remained tight- lipped, closely guarding its list of featured artists (as a PR ploy, it worked). The exhibition, which has just opened to mixed-to-negative reviews, is a moderately diverting mishmash. But at least it never sinks to the level of the catalogue essay, which takes the form of a rambling dialogue between curators Louise Neri and Lisa Phillips. Neri's observation, that the artists are "testing the limits ... of the existential question: "What am I doing here?" earns the considered response: "Well, that may be one of the big questions for the end of the century." Deep stuff.

Larry Flynt, perennial thorn in the side of the establishment, gatecrashed the Academy Awards on Monday. Columbia Pictures, the distributors of The People vs Larry Flynt, failed to send the porn magnate an invite, claiming that they had run out of tickets; Flynt showed up as the guest of Best Actor nominee Woody Harrelson (who plays him in the Milos Forman film). Despite a poor box-office showing and only two Oscar nominations, the controversy surrounding the movie continued to thicken in the week leading up to the Oscars. One of Flynt's daughters, Theresa, placed a full-page ad in Daily Variety, in which she accused the academy of being influenced by a feminist "witch hunt", and called her father "a hero who has inspired us, fired our ambitions and taught us to live our lives honestly, courageously and without fear of public opinion"; in a neat counterpoint, Tonya, the daughter who has publicly accused Flynt of sexual abuse, held a press conference a few days later to protest at the film's glorification of an unapologetically exploitative career.

On the heels of I Shot Andy Warhol and Basquiat, the latest art-world movie was to have been a biopic of the late photographer, Diane Arbus, based on Patricia Bosworth's biography and starring Barbra Streisand. A report in the New York Observer reveals that Streisand has now abandoned the project. One theory being put forward is that Barbra, who "refuses to cut her finger-nails", would have been unable to handle the sophisticated camera equipment.

Finally, some cheering news for music fans: Alanis Morissette may never record again! According to recent rumours, the strident songstress, whose Jagged Little Pill album has already muscled its way into 15 million American households, is supposedly suffering anxiety attacks over that Difficult Second Album. As Alanis herself might say: Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?

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