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Overseas art-auction clients have filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit seeking class-action status against Christie's and Sotheby's auction houses, reports Ken Bensinger in the Wall Street Journal. The new suit, which is part of a trend in which plaintiffs from countries without class-action litigation instead file claims in U.S. courts, makes the same allegations of price-fixing as the high-profile case filed by U.S. art buyers earlier this year. United States District Judge Lawrence McKenna has been assigned to the proceedings; he is known to the art world for dismissing charges against three artists for selling art without a permit on New York Parks Department property in 1998.

The Museum of Modern Art and its striking PASTA-MOMA union have scheduled new negotiations for Friday, Sept. 8, over 18 weeks since the strike began on Apr. 28. The announcement of the talks came after a City Planning Commission hearing on MoMA's $650-million expansion on Sept. 6, where union members questioned the museum's claims that expansion will benefit the city's economy. The Daily News reports that commission chairman Joseph Rose said the strike will have no bearing on whether to grant zoning changes and a special permit; a decision is expected by Oct. 18.

Power-collector Charles Saatchi scored big P.R. points with the British press when he donated art estimated to be worth approximately £200,000 to nine cash-strapped U.K. museums. The 39 works were distributed through the Art Fund, an independent art charity, to seven contemporary art museums and galleries facing spending cuts. The gift included works by Jordan Baseman, Jeffrey Dennis, Katharine Dowson, John Greenwood, Ian McLean, Marcus Taylor, Keith Wilson and Richard Woods. Last year Saatchi was accused of unloading work he couldn't sell after he gave away 100 works valued at £600,000 to the Arts Council collection.

It was a close call for Julian Schnabel at the American Foundation for AIDS Research "Cinema Against AIDS" benefit on Aug. 31 in San Giorgio Maggiore. According to the New York Observer, the cocksure artist unexpectedly offered to create one of his trademark broken-plate portraits for the highest bidder at an auction presided over by Sharon Stone, instructing the actress to start the bidding at $150,000 -- only to get no response from the audience. Stone came to the rescue after an uncomfortable moment of silence and told the crowd, which included directors Robert Altman and Milos Forman and leading man Richard Gere, that she would take the portrait. Schnabel was in town to premiere Before Night Falls, his second directorial effort, at the Venice Film Festival.

Vanessa Beecroft is turning out to be the premiere tableau vivant artist of the moment -- witness "The Wonderful Wizard of Art," a profile of SoHo dealer Jeffrey Deitch and his stable of hip young artists in this month's Harper's Bazaar. The article opens with a luxurious two-page portrait art-directed by Beecroft and showing Deitch in a tux, standing by Yoko Ono and surrounded by 23 other artists in designer evening wear -- Mariko Mori poses demurely on the right in an Yves Saint Laurent sequined dress while Beecroft herself poses dramatically in the center of the picture with Martin Kersels. The tableau is staged on the set for Paul McCarthy's installation The Garden (1991-1992), which was loosely based on Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe. Fans of the rag trade also are taking note of the huge article on Gavin Brown (with a picture of the chic expat dealer kissing his wife, designer Lucy Barnes, by David Bailey) in this month's Vogue.

Over 60 artists are forsaking the usual gallery accommodations to show their works as part of a vast contemporary art yard sale in the schoolyard of the NYC Lab School in Chelsea on Sept. 9, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. The event, curated by artist and writer Barbara Pollack, is part of the Downtown Arts Festival 2000. Among the artists on hand are performance artist Tom Cole and his "Hamster Circus," sculptor Lisa Hoke with her basketball court, Rebecca Howard and her playhouse and Franco Mondini-Ruiz with his traveling "Botanica" that mixes precious antiques, forlorn junk and contemporary art. Students will also participate in the event, contributing their own artworks and creating a mural with Julia Jacquette. The school is located at 333 West 17th Street; admission is $5 and benefits the Lab School.

Move over David Letterman, conceptual artist Christine Hill is filming the premiere episode of her talk show project in front of a live studio audience on Oct. 6 at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in SoHo. The shoot is the climax of Pilot, the soup-to-nuts creation of an actual television pilot modeled on a late night talk show, from the development of the host persona to guest selections, writers' meetings and technician and musician rehearsals, on view at the gallery Sept. 7-Oct. 14. Hill's previous projects include last summer's SoHo walking tour agency in the Deitch Projects storefront and Volksboutique, a second hand clothing shop featured in Documenta X.

The new Bernarducci.Meisel.Gallery opens at 37 West 57th Street on Sat., Sept. 23, 2000, with "About Face: Early Works on Paper by Chuck Close and Franz Gertzsch." The gallery, on the sixth floor upstairs from Grant Selwyn, is an expansion of veteran Photo Realist dealer Louis K. Meisel's SoHo operation, opened in partnership with former East Village dealer Frank Bernarducci. For more info call (212) 593-3757.

Ian Berry has been named curator of the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, which opens this fall at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. Berry was previously an independent curator for the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, N.Y., where he organized "Showroom," the center's inaugural exhibition. The new $10.2-million facility was designed by Albuquerque architect Antoine Predock.

Keep your eyes open later this month for Wall Street Journal art news editor Alexandra Peers' new column, starting Sept. 15 or 22 and running every other week. The as-yet unnamed feature will concentrate mainly on news and will also highlight artists to watch.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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