Gallery Director, Magazine Chief Feud

San Diego County Arts Writer

Dennis Komac hardly expected to start a running feud when he took ARTnews magazine to task for its treatment of local painter Richard Baker. The New York-based journal's November issue included Baker in a survey of 18 of the nation's rising artists, but featured only a black-and-white, cropped reproduction of a Baker painting while the other artists featured got larger, full-color displays.

So Komac, director of San Diego State University's art gallery, wrote ARTnews editor and publisher Milton Esterow, protesting "the casual, biased and unprofessional manner" in which the journal seemed to underrate San Diego artists.

Esterow wrote back, suggesting that the Komac who complained "is obviously an imposter. I cannot believe that the director of the University Art Gallery of San Diego University (sic) would write in such a casual, biased and unprofessional manner."

Taken aback by what he deemed Esterow's "cavalier, flippant and arrogant" attitude, Komac fired off another missive, this one calling into question "all of the editorial content and the veracity of all reproductions in the magazine." Komac went so far as to charge ARTnews--one of the most prestigious fine-arts journals--with failing to adhere "to minimum standards for our profession."

Well, the bleat goes on. Late last week, Komac's office received Esterow's scurrilous reply: " . . . Someone told me Dennis Komac is a prostitute," read Esterow's letter in part. "I don't know, but you are certainly hanging out on street corners. . . . when you accuse ARTnews of journalistic whoredom. . . . " Komac, who had been taking a few days off when the letter arrived, wasn't due back at SDSU until this week, so he has yet to formulate his New Year's wish for Milton Esterow.

NEW YEAR, NEW NAMES: The early days of 1985 hold some major arts announcements in store. Perhaps this week or next the developer of downtown's Horton Plaza shopping center, Ernest Hahn and Co., will finally name the three major sculptors whose public works will (one hopes) grace the center when it opens in August. And on Thursday morning at the downtown Fox Theatre, future home of the San Diego Symphony, maestro David Atherton will name the orchestra's new concertmaster/first violinist, replacing the late William Henry. Symphony sources have said only that this is "a major musician," recruited from out-of-town.

GLOBE GIFT: It's touted as the second largest individual gift in the history of the Old Globe Theatre--a $400,000 endowment to be received by the Globe after the death of its anonymous donor, through the San Diego Community Foundation. As announced by Old Globe managing director Tom Hall, the gift will generate interest income for the Globe's general fund, leaving the $400,000 principal intact.

Obviously, such an endowment relieves some of the Globe's fund-raising pressure, especially now that it is forging ahead with the rebuilding of its outdoor Festival Stage, razed by a recent arson fire. For the record, the Globe's largest gift was an estimated $1 million from Helen Edison, a La Jolla widow who donated the sum in memory of her late husband, for whom the Globe named its Simon Edison Center for the Perfoming Arts.

ARTBEATS: Walter A. Smyk, developer of downtown's luxury condominium tower, Meridian, has been named to the six-member board of the proposed San Diego Art Center, slated to open next year in the renovated Balboa Theatre. Art Center director Sebastian (Lefty) Adler cited Smyk's "commitment to downtown San Diego's revitalization and his practical understanding of urban architecture" as key reasons for the appointment. . . . And "Photography in California: 1945-1980" stacks up as a major exhibition of state-bred art, opening Jan. 15 at Balboa Park's Museum of Photographic Art. Louise Katzman, assistant curator of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, has organized the display. Among the 50 photographers represented are Jo Ann Callis, Richard Misrach, Jack Welpott, Minor White, Judy Dater and Arthur Ollman. Ollman is also executive director of the Museum of Photographic Art.

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