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Art by numbers

Adages ventured out of its cubicles last week for a breath of fresh air. First stop: a SoHo art gallery, where Adages attended an art opening for Ron Burkhardt, CEO of Burkardt & Hillman. To the layman, Ron's art looked like scribblings on agency letterhead painted over with a wash of watercolor. A closer look revealed names of business contacts and women's phone numbers. "Yes, all the pieces had phone numbers of my girlfriends," said the perennial bachelor. "Talk about revealing your soul, which is what artists are supposed to do. I laid mine out in the most intimate and scary way." Ron sold several pieces, mostly to women whose phone numbers were on display. "There were numbers of five or six girls on a page," said Ron, "and they all saw them and realized I was dating them all at the same time. It was pretty transparent. I probably made a lot of enemies last night."

The party's over?

Next stop: the Half King, a bar in N.Y.'s Chelsea owned by Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm and lately a poster-boy foreign correspondent for the glossies. hosted a business journalists-only panel with a promising premise: "Media Culpa: Did the Business Media Cause the Recession?" On hand were James Surowiecki and Malcolm Gladwell, both of the New Yorker, snarky Bloomberg reporter Christopher Byron and Geoff Lewis, formerly of CNBC. Gladwell, also the author of The Tipping Point and a fixture at ad industry events, once again lived up to his name, bubbling happily over every human potential. His antidote for depression-inducing journalism: "There should be more nerds writing about stuff," he gurgled with goodwill. Byron, on the other hand, snarled. If a depression can be laid at anyone's door, it should start at his. "Everyone in this room lives for the moment when they can stand up in the pressroom and announce that everything is awful, that we are all going to die," Byron said gleefully. "Everyone here wants to break that story."

Creative muse

Adages received a copy of a letter addressed to Richard Fizdale, the recently retired CEO of Leo Burnett, from Norman Muse, former worldwide chief creative officer at Burnett.

"After many years of doing nothing," writes Norm to Rick, who is still vice chairman at Burnett parent Bcom3 Group, "or nothing very noticeable, to improve Burnett's creative product, or even paying much attention to it, I find it more than a little strange that you would now...decide to lambaste your colleagues."

As reported March 6 in the Chicago Tribune, Rick criticized the agency's creative output in a memo to its top creative directors written shortly after his retirement. "Please rise above this sophomoric, uninspired...idea-less, uncrafted blob of work," Rick wrote.

Norm was not happy about it. "Coming into office you took credit for work you had nothing to do with," he wrote. "Now, as you're leaving, how can you duck responsibility for work you should have had everything to do with, stuff created on your watch?"

It gets worse. "Now get the hell off the premises, man," Norm rails. "Your demise has been more prolonged than Francisco Franco's!"

Norm could not be reached for comment.

Quiz show

Who said advertising is pornographic? The answer: Balthasar Klossowski, a.k.a Balthus, an artist responsible for creating a body of work obsessed with adolescent bodies. He should know.

With reporting by Kate MacArthur.

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