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The British art industry has managed to delay the implementation of European Union droit de suite rules once again. Under the resale royalty provision, widely accepted in continental Europe and due to be adopted in Britain as well, artists and their estates are entitled to a royalty payment of up to four percent on the resale of an artist's works for up to 70 years after his or her death. British arts advocates claim that the law would drive business overseas to the U.S. and Switzerland and entail the loss of 8,500 jobs. EU trade ministers have agreed to consider Britain's latest compromise proposal, which limits resale royalties to living artists, and are also taking up a suggestion that royalties be restricted to works of art sold for more than $204,000. The wrangle is expected to continue for some time.

Sotheby's London sale of Impressionist and modern art on Dec. 7, which totaled $66 million, had notably ghoulish overtones. Centerpiece of the auction was a collection of 25 works by Pablo Picasso owned by murdered designer Gianni Versace, which fetched $17.5 million for his estate. A drawing by Vincent van Gogh, Oliviers avec les Alpilles au Fond, sold for $8.45 million to the Museum of Modern Art; it had belonged to a Breslau businessman who died in a concentration camp, and was returned this summer by the National Gallery in Berlin to a descendant of the original owner, who put it in the sale. Top lot of the auction was Paul Cézanne's Bouillore et Fruits, which sold for $29.5 million to an anonymous buyer. The work had been stolen 20 years ago from two married English pediatricians, Harry and Ruth Bakwin, who have since died. The work was mysteriously returned to their heirs after being discovered by an insurance underwriter.

New York's Asia Society has announced $30-million expansion to be completed in late 2001 that will double the exhibition space at its Park Avenue facility, adding new galleries designed by Bartholomew Voorsanger for the permanent display of the Society's Rockefeller Collection of Asian Art. In the meantime, the Asia Society takes up temporary residence in Christie's old headquarters at 502 Park Avenue at 59th Street. The temporary space, slated to be occupied for 18 months, is to be called Asia Society Midtown. Opening Feb. 3 there is "Spiritual Perfection: Hindu, Buddhist and Jain Sculpture of South and Southeast Asia."

Greece has presented a draft resolution to the United Nations general assembly calling for the return or restitution of cultural property to its country of origin. Although not mentioned, the resolution is understood to stem from the conflict that has been brewing between Greece and Britain over a giant frieze that was taken from the Parthenon in 1801 by Thomas Bruce, the seventh earl of Elgin and then British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which at the time included Greece. The British government maintains that it bought the marbles legally, while Greece contends that they were stolen and wants them returned in time for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The Brits had further egg on their face when a book recently revealed that museum cleaners had significantly damaged the marbles 60 years ago and the museum covered up the blunder.

Britain's Royal Academy of Arts has elected modernist sculptor Phillip King as its 24th president, replacing Sir Philip Dowson, who is retiring. The election was strongly debated in light of controversy over the Academy's 1997 exhibition "Sensation," which led three academicians to resign in protest. King announced that he will champion traditional works as well as avant-garde art.

AICA 1998-1999 AWARDS
The U.S. branch of the International Association of Art Critics has announced "best of show" awards for the 1998-99 season. Among the museum exhibitions honored are "Off Limits: Rutgers University and the Avant-Garde, 1957-1963" at the Newark Museum; "Eleanor Antin" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and "Jackson Pollock" at the Museum of Modern Art, which also earned an award for best catalogue. The commercial gallery exhibition winners include "Frank Gehry" at Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles and "Tim Hawkinson" at Ace Gallery in New York.

The Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, founded by John Cage and Jasper Johns, has awarded $25,000 grants to 15 artists for 1999. The winners are artists Rochelle Feinstein, Martin Kersels and Siobhan Liddell; choreographers Jennifer Lacey, Stephen Petronio and Terry Creach; composers Jonathan Bepler, John Bischoff and Carl Stone; writers Jaime Manrique and Gary Lutz; poets Paul Violi and C.D. Wright; theater director Marin Acosta; and the Everett Dance Theatre. Grants totalling $62,000 were awarded to 33 U.S. arts organizations, including Art in General, Artists Space, Asia Society, Bomb Magazine, the Drawing Center and the Franklin Furnace Archive. A special grant of $10,000 in memory of the choreographer Viola Farber, a member of the board of directors who died December 1998, was awarded to Sarah Lawrence College graduating senior Rashaun Mitchell.

Two New York galleries are responding to Y2K hysteria with optimistic defiance. Trans Hudson Gallery offers "Ypay2K," Dec. 7, 1999-Jan. 15, 2000, an exhibition of art priced under $200 by Nicola Benizzi, Kelly B. Darr, Karin F. Giusti, Rupert Goldsworthy, Jessie Joo, Henry Sanchez and others. Uptown, Fischbach Gallery starts off the new millennium with "Y2$," Jan. 6-Feb. 5, 2000, featuring works selling for $2,000 by gallery artists, including Lois Dodd, Glen Holland, Susan ShatteR, Billy Sullivan and Susan Walp.