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The 45th Winter Antiques Show opens Jan. 15-24, 1999, at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue and 67th Street in New York. Its 73 dealers are presenting an astonishing range of material, including: a scrimsaw whale tooth engraved on board the H.M.S. Beagle during Charles Darwin's expedition around the Horn; a floor plan for the first floor of the Titanic; a letter from Napoleon to Marie Louise; a 16h-century suit of armor; and three stained-glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones depicting Dante, Chaucer and Homer. The show also presents two special exhibitions: "A Centennial Celebration: Collections from the New York State Historical Association" and a selection of watercolor portraits by designer Mark Hampton of celebrity clients including Brooke Astor, Anne Bass and Bill Blass. The show is a benefit for the East Side House Settlement in the South Bronx; general admission is $16 and includes a catalogue.

France has put off opening its auction market to outside companies like Sotheby's and Christie's, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The French government has commissioned a study on the issue, which will be debated by parliament next June. French auctioneers oppose the move. Sotheby's and Christie's hope to "recreate the Grand Tour," according to the Journal, allowing collectors to "do the continent" and "ship home souvenirs." The delay throws a monkey wrench into Sotheby's planned spring auction of the $30-million contents of the Chateau de Groussay, owned by the late Mexican silver heir Charles de Beistegui. Sotheby's still sells French property in Monaco.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has extended the exhibition "Van Gogh's Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam," which opens Jan. 17, to May 16 (it was originally scheduled to close Apr. 4). This allows the museum to issue 300,000 more tickets to the show, which is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum won't estimate a gross on ticket sales, though the top price is a record-setting $20. (Museum memberships, always a great bargain, begin at $65 for individuals and include two van Gogh show tickets, as well as free admission in general and other benefits.)

The name-brand auction of 1999 looks to be the $110 million estate of Betsy Cushing Roosevelt Whitney at Sotheby's New York on Apr. 22-25 (furniture and decorative arts) and May 10 (fine art). Highlight for the art world are two ca. $30-million paintings, an 1893-94 Cézanne still life once in the collection of Dr. Albert C. Barnes and an early version of Georges Seurat's Island on the Grand Jatte. Other painting lots include two ca. $5-million Cubist works by Pablo Picasso bought from the Gertrude Stein collection in 1968. Sotheby's sold $11.8 million of Whitney jewelry last October.

Tajan and Piasa dominated Paris auctions during 1998. Tajan recorded a global turnover of $78 million, while Piasa placed second with $63 million. Piasa's good showing is due to the Dora Maar estate sales, which totaled $39.9 million, and the sale of Eugene Delacroix's painting, Arab Horsemen Fighting, for $9 million, a world auction record for the painter.

-- Adrian Darmon

The Whitney Museum plans to sell 23 paintings from the folk art collection of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch at its Folk Art sale in New York on Sunday, Jan. 17, 1999. The works, estimated to total $400,000-$600,000, were given to the museum in the late 1960s; proceeds are earmarked for acquisitions. Top lots include folk portraits by T. Skynner, R. Peckham and B. Doyle and a ca. 1830 depiction of Adam & Eve.

SMART WEB SITE FROM WEXNER CENTER The Wexner Center in Columbus and the Ohio State University Art Critical Practices Program have launched a new web site, The Fold, billed as "a progressive online forum for ideas about the arts." The site currently has three papers on 1998 Wexner Prize recipient Gerhard Richter presented at the American Society for Aesthetics in 1997 and a fourth paper by Ohio State prof Laura Lisbon. The Fold also hosts artists' projects, beginning with a work by Beth Stryker and Sawad Brooks.

NMAA DEBUTS NEW WEB SITE The National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has launched a redesigned web site, featuring more than 3,000 images from the NMAA collection, 14 virtual exhibitions, a bilingual kids' webzine Del Corazón! and an online reference librarian (who handles nearly 7,000 queries a year). The site also features an online retrospective designed by artist Robert Cottingham in collaboration with the museum in conjunction with the exhibition, "Eyeing America: Robert Cottingham Prints" (to Jan. 31, 1999).

The late Rea and Lela Axline have left $30 million endowments to both the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla and the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

The new China Art Objects Gallery opens today, Jan. 14, at 933 Chung King Road in Los Angeles with a joint installation by Steve Hanson and Pae White. The space is opened by Hanson, Mark Heffernan, Giovanni Intra and Amy Yao. For more info call (213) 613-0384.

The 48th Venice Biennale opens on June 13 and runs through Nov. 7. Installation artist Ann Hamilton is the U.S. representative and painter Gary Hume will be in the British pavilion.

A mild earthquake shook the city of Pisa on Jan. 12 but the city's famed Leaning Tower was not affected, said Italian geophysical officials. Workers have begun fixing giant steel braces to attempt to reinforce the 189-foot-tall structure, which has been closed to the public since 1990.