Jerry Saltz wrote "Downward Spiral: The Guggenheim Museum Touches Bottom" [February 19] in a short and very straightforward manner, so I will respond in kind.

Saltz criticized an arts institution that is growing, experimenting, learning, and teaching like no other in the world. In doing so, he joins the company of the 15th-century friar Girolamo Savonarola, who denounced the ill-conceived rebirth of Greco- Roman culture in Italy, epitomized by the carving of nude figures out of marble in the tradition of the pagan Greeks. According to the good friar, such carving was certainly an indication that art was selling out to the baser nature of man.

Saltz also joins those who had the foresight to label the exhibit of the Salon des Refusés in France in 1863 reprehensible. The artists exhibited at this show were, according to the detractors, inept amateurs masquerading as visionaries.

Similarly, spectators at the first impressionist show spat on Manet's The Luncheon on the Grass. People will always do such things, and writers like Saltz will always speak of downward spirals. These acts, however, like Saltz's words, are void of vision and will not deter true pioneers, who will be remembered far longer than any critic. To paraphrase a great visionary whose legacy I'm sure everyone can appreciate, by all means, Mr. Saltz, continue to look to the Guggenheim's past and ask, why? I'm sure the institution will be more than happy to continue to look toward the Guggenheim's future and ask, why not?

William Myers


Re Jerry Saltz's "Downward Spiral": I had a recent encounter with the Las Vegas franchise of the Guggenheim Museum. I took off for my first ever trip to Vegas with some friends and proceeded to spend most of the weekend drinking myself silly and throwing money to the four winds, which is pretty much my definition of a great time. However, we did make a pit stop at Guggenheim Hermitage and Guggenheim Motorcycle while on our whirlwind tour of the city's various vices.

It was great and I loved it. And out of the alcoholic fog, I have a vivid memory of some really outstanding art and a fascinating illustration of the development of industrial design (as seen through the lens of the motorcycle). I didn't buy the T-shirt (they didn't have my size or I would have), but I was happy to find a small, quiet respite in the midst of the madness. I am devoted to the idea of little outposts of art in such unlikely places. If it means a dilution of the prestige of the Guggenheim brand name, so be it. There are worse things that could be done than to make art accessible to the masses.

Dana Loftis
Chattanooga, Tennessee


I completely understood what Sylvana Foa was saying in "Escaping the Hell of the Holy Land" [February 19]. I am one of those "new immigrants" (eight years in Israel, now 25 years old) contemplating leaving for some of the same reasons stated in Foa's article. I can't live in a country whose leadership stands for the complete opposite of everything I believe in and strive for in life.

I think that I'm one of the last loyal left-wingers here. Many people are converting to the easier solution: the right. The only thing that pinches me when I think about leaving is the fact that Yasir Arafat is also aware of this trend. The dissipation of Israelis only weakens Israel, and one day there might not be anyone left to fight for this land. I don't know whether we deserve this territory or not, but I think Israelis and Palestinians can live as neighbors very peacefully.

Ronen Hirsch
Jerusalem, Israel


I read Sylvana Foa's story concerning the emigration of Israelis from Israel with interest. Those whom she interviewed were correct; Israel is a troubled place. Much of the angst is due to the refusal to accept the right of the Palestinians to their own country on contiguous land, and the Israeli government's pandering to the most unproductive members of Israeli society. But Foa failed to enunciate clearly the supreme irony: Israelis of the professional class have no hope, and must flee to New York, Australia, and other points thousands of miles away, primarily because the most unreasonable of their countrymen—the settlers—refuse to travel the mere scores of miles from the West Bank and Gaza to relocate within the internationally recognized boundaries of Israel.

Albert A. Chapar Jr.
Conyers, Georgia


A little reminder to all Israelis: When our parents came to Israel, they faced worse conditions than we do now. The country was poor, they lived in tents, and they were attacked right and left by hostile neighbors. Most of them had left behind all their possessions, relatives, their culture and language, to build a new home in Israel. And they did build a home for their children, however shaky it is. However, with the "Americanization" of Israel in the past 30 years, we've become spoiled. By comparing life in Israel to life in the U.S. or European countries, Israelis may indeed feel less fortunate. Just like many Palestinians feel when comparing their lives to more fortunate Israelis.

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