CLINTON BANS IMPORTS OF ANCIENT ITALIAN ART
In one of his final acts, departing president Bill Clinton has banned the import of ancient Italian art into the U.S. The embargo, which is enforced by the U.S. Customs Service, covers pre-classical, classical and Roman-period archeological artifacts dating from the 9th century B.C. through the 400 A.D., and encompasses everything from pottery, jewelry and tiles to major sculptures and armor. The new restrictions are designed to help protect archeological sites in Italy, but dealers and collectors of ancient artifacts say the measure is impossible to enforce in a fair or logical manner. "It covers all classical art from 30 modern Mediterranean countries," said one dealer. "The extent of the ban is uncalled for." Future imports of such artifacts are allowed only if accompanied by export permits from Italy or documentation proving that the article in question left Italy before Jan. 23, 2001.
GIULIANI PROPOSES $68 MIL FOR NEW GUGG
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is earmarking $68 million in his final budget package for a new Guggenheim Museum facility in Lower Manhattan, reports the New York Times. The proposal is part of the Mayor's 10-year city construction plan, which includes a record $1.2 billion for city museums and cultural institutions. Highlights include $65 million for the Museum of Modern Art's ongoing expansion, $31.2 million during 2000-2008 for the Metropolitan Museum for reconstruction and expansion and $2.5 million during 2000-2005 to the Studio Museum in Harlem for construction of the sculpture garden.
NEW CONTEMPORARY ART FAIR FOR MADRID
Madrid's art world is abuzz with the introduction of a new contemporary art fair scheduled to debut in December, reports local daily ABC. The as yet unnamed fair is to concentrate exclusively on Spanish galleries, distinguishing itself from the international focus of competitor ARCO. The new exposition is organized by the Madrid Art Galleries Association (AMGA), who last year broke ties with the Art Madrid fair.
DEALER SUES SOTHEBY'S FOR BAD MARKETING
New Mexico dealer Al Luckett's breach of contract lawsuit of $3 million plus punitive damages against Sotheby's has gone to trial in federal court, reports the Albuquerque Journal. Luckett charges that the auction house failed to adequately market his collection of art and antiques, which he valued at $4 million but which sold at auction for $1.06 million in Jan. 1998. Luckett claims that Sotheby's mailed the sale catalogue too late -- within three weeks of the sale -- and also failed to provide a proper academic vetting session for the material and introduce buyers to the collection at special luncheons and dinners. Sotheby's denies the charges, saying it fulfilled its obligations and mailed catalogues in its typical fashion, and adds that the collection's lower estimate was $1.56 million.
LUCE GRANTS $10 MIL TO SMITHSONIAN
The Henry Luce Foundation, which has been leading the campaign for "open storage" at museums by helping to pay for such expanded exhibition galleries at the Metropolitan Museum and the New-York Historical Society, has now turned its attention to the Smithsonian Institution. A new four-year $10-million grant to the American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., establishes and endows the Luce Foundation Center for American Art to allow the museum to increase the percentage of its collection exhibited from five to 40 percent -- a stash of over 5,000 paintings and sculptures.
A ROOM OF HER OWN FOR MONA LISA Virginia Woolf said "a woman needs a room of her own," and the Mona Lisa is finally getting one, according to the London Guardian. The move is part of a £15-million expansion and restoration plan which has lovers of Venetian Renaissance paintings cheering, as they have had to contend with the throngs of tourists crowding around the Leonardo favorite to look at works such as Veronese's The Marriage at Cana. Other improvements include the restoration of the Apollo Gallery -- the model for Louis XIV's Hall of Mirrors at Versailles -- and the gallery of ancient Greek sculpture that houses the Venus de Milo. The redesign is slated to be completed in 2003.
GET IN FREE AT BRITISH MUSEUMS
You can't keep a good idea down in Britain, especially a Socialist one. British prime minister Tony Blair's government is nearing a deal to offer free admission to all the country's museums as promised in the 1999 elections, according to press reports. While the scheme would involve a £23-million annual subsidy to the affected institutions, museums have balked at the idea. It seems that allowing people in for free would mean the museums aren't businesses, and therefore would have to pay Value Added Taxes that would cost some £100 million a year. With any luck, a plan can be worked out between the Department of Culture and the British Treasury to change the VAT rules. At present the British Museum, the Tate, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery do not charge admission; adults continue to pay at the Hayward Gallery, the Royal Academy, Victoria & Albert and the Imperial War Museum. Institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would not be affected by the deal.
'60S REDUX AT TATE MODERN
The Tate Modern is presenting "Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972," the first major exhibition in England of the influential Italian art movement, May 31-Aug. 19, 2001. The show features some 140 works by 14 artists, including large-scale installations by Luciano Fabro and Guiseppe Penone and early examples of Mario Merz's memorable igloo sculptures. The exhibition then travels to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis before moving to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
PALM BEACH ART & ANTIQUE FAIR
The fifth installment of the Palm Beach International Art & Antique Fair opens Feb. 1-11. With 75 international dealers at hand, fair organizer David Lester expects sales to top the $100 million-plus reached last year. The event kicks off with a preview gala benefit for the Norton Museum of Art on Feb. 1. General admission is $12 and benefit tickets start at $250. Call (561) 220-2690 for more info, or visit the fair's website.
NEW SCHOOL'S NEW ACQUISITIONS
Former SoHo dealer Stefano Basilico, now curator at the New School, unveils his new acquisitions in the school's fourth-floor Bridge Gallery at 66 W. 12th St. on Jan. 30. Among his recent procurements are works by Shimon Attie, Tom Friedman, Barnaby Furnas, Glenn Ligon, John L. Miller, Dave Muller, Andy Warhol and Debra Zeolla.
GREENBURGER AWARDS RESUME
The Francis J. Greenburger Awards are back after a 10-year hiatus. First presented in 1986, the $5,000 awards are decided by five jurors, who each select an artist. This year Miami Museum of Contemporary Art director Bonnie Clearwater has selected painter Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, artist Chuck Close has picked painter Mark Greenwold, collector Werner H. Kramarsky has chosen painter Albert York, gallerist John Weber has selected painter/sculptor Sven Lukin and critic and curator Lilly Wei has picked painter Nancy Haynes.
SEATTLE ART MUSEUM RAISES $46 MILLION
The Seattle Art Museum has successfully wrapped up its six-year Century Endowment Campaign with over $46 million in gifts, far exceeding the campaign's goal of $30 million. Proceeds support the SAM, the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Olympic Sculpture Park. More than 280 donors contributed, including 18 generous souls who gave $1 million or more.