As Broadway’s leading deep-pockets theater owner and producer, Rocco Landesman was a high-profile sophisticate fond of the grand gesture and the big money play. As chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Rocco Landesman has disappeared into the Witness Protection Program.
Like a subject who has been given a secret identity by the Feds, Landesman frequents out-of-the-way places in Middle America where no one will know who he is and he will be sure not to be recognized. In addition, the programs and events which Rocco is rumored to attend are so dull and formulaic, that his continued anonymity and lack of significant impact in the U.S. arts world is assured.
Consider Rocco Landesman’s schedule for this very month, September. On Sept. 10, 2010, he participated in a panel called "The Impact of Arts and Culture on Communities” in Winston-Salem, N.C. In conjunction with this appearance, the NEA released some words to live by from Rocco, and I quote, "Art Works is a noun, Art Works is a verb, Art Works is a declarative sentence."
Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony the next day for the Milton Rhodes Center in Winston-Salem, Landesman rested until Sept. 16, when he arrived without fanfare in Madison, Wisc., to kick off "The Year of the Arts" with local university chancellor Biddy Milton. The following day, he quietly toured the artist-in-residence program at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. He remarked to no one in particular that he was looking forward to a stop in Columbus, Oh., on Sept. 27 to add some comments to a conference called "The Urban Paradigm: The Practice of Economic Development in a Changed Landscape."
Now, there those who argue that the Obama Administration has deliberately discouraged Landesman from saying anything flamboyant about any work of art whatsoever, lest he stir up "controversy," but this would be analogous to the Council of Fashion Designers ordering Rocco’s colorfully dressed brother, Artforum publisher Knight Landesman, to wear a gray sharkskin suit every day for the rest of his life. It is more likely that Rocco has his own reasons to disappear like Arthur Cravan into the bland bowels of art-ignorant America. Perhaps he really is wondering how it plays in Peoria. Or perhaps he has a fondness for bratwurst and is surreptitiously sampling the fiery furters from one burg to the next.
Whatever Rocco is doing he has abandoned any role of significance in the arts at a time when innovation and bold statements, backed up by the nation’s putative art czar, are needed more than ever.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).