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The Dec. 25 issue of Forbes magazine takes a look investing in art and reaches an uncomplicated conclusion -- don't. In an article entitled Easy Come, Easy Gogh, the magazine repeats the well-known warning that "over the past 30 years, art has not been a good investment" in comparison to stocks or real estate, which have risen over 12 percent in the same period that art increased 9.5 percent. Furthermore, the good returns are disproportionately concentrated among works that started out at high values.

The financial gurus also spotlight a study by Lyons & Hannover LLC charting the price performance of 18 categories of collectibles compared to the stock market. Over the past five years, the only art that matched or beat the S&P 500 was U.S. regional art, Impressionism (both American and French), post-1950 American Modernism and photography. The worst category was European modernism, which is almost 50 points lower from the study's start of 100 points in 1995 (stocks are nearly 150 points above their starting point).

Other gloomy articles in the Forbes art issue include a profile of obsessive collectors who have ended up in jail, a list of 12 warning signs of a lousy art adviser and a piece on collecting Nazi memorabilia.

Despite reports that Guggenheim Museum director Thomas Krens is seriously considering Rio de Janeiro to host the museum's new branch, the city of Geelong, Australia, is not throwing in the towel just yet. Geelong's city council wants to set up an independent company to revive its bid, according to the Melbourne Age. The proposed company -- to be known as the Guggenheim Geelong Foundation -- would work with museum officials to promote the concept and raise $1.5 million (Australian) to fund a feasibility study. Meanwhile, Krens has reportedly postponed a visit to the city.

Now that city officials have approved the Boston Institute of Contemporary Arts' waterfront Fan Pier project, the organization is expanding its mission to include a permanent collection. Thanks to the anticipated tripling of the museum's capacity to 60,000-square-feet, the ICA is planning to dedicate a gallery exclusively to acquisitions, something it has been unable to do in its current cramped quarters. The museum has also announced a short-list of architects for the new museum, including Boston's Office dA, Switzerland's Peter Zumthor and two husband-and-wife teams, Iceland's Studio Granda and New York's Diller+Scofidio. The architects are scheduled to make public presentations in the spring of 2001 and completion of the museum is expected for 2004.

Germany's federal government has agreed to fund the purchase of the art collection of Berlin-born dealer Heinz Berggruen for the city of Berlin. But there's one catch -- private funding of half the acquisition price never materialized, so the discrepancy will be financed via sales from the collection itself. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the $200 million being asked for the group of 170 classical modernist works is only a fraction of its market value and hopes remain high that the sales -- of works still to be determined -- will not affect the core of the collection, which features 80 works by Pablo Picasso and 40 by Paul Klee.

The European Parliament has dealt a blow to the agreement between Britain and the European Union that delays the introduction of droit de suite in the country and limits the amount paid, reports the London Evening Standard. Parliament has reduced the transitional period for the introduction of the system from five years to two years, removed the cap on the total amount of levy on a transaction and reduced the threshold at which the levy becomes applicable. Opponents to the resale royalties system -- which gives a cut of up to five percent to the artists' estates every time their work is resold for up to 70 years after their death -- argue that the plan will just drive prices up, allowing both New York and Switzerland (not part of the EU) to undercut the European market.

The Menil Collection in Houston, Tex., presents "Pop Art: U.S./U.K. Connections, 1956-1966," the first major museum exhibition in America to explore the transatlantic beginnings of the highly influential art movement, Jan. 27-May 13, 2001. Curated by Glassel School art history program head David Brauer and former San Antonio Museum of Art contemporary art curator Jim Edwards, the show features 56 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, ranging from canonical works such as Richard Hamilton's collage What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? (1956) to works by lesser-known artists such as Pauline Boty and Joe Goode.

The Yale Center for British Art is the only U.S. venue for "Snowdon," the retrospective of the celebrated British photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, who married Princess Margaret in 1960 and became the Earl of Snowdon. The exhibition, on view June 16-Sept. 2, 2001, is organized by London's National Portrait Gallery and features over 200 works.

Kathleen Bartels has been appointed director of the Vancouver Art Gallery, effective March 2001. Bartels is currently assistant director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, where she has worked for the past 12 years... Stuart Horodner has been appointed curator of visual arts at the Portland (Ore.) Institute for Contemporary Art. He had been director and curator of the Bucknell Art Gallery in Lewisburg, Pa... Merrill Falkenberg has been named associate curator at the San Jose Museum of Art...

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has named sculptor Rachael Neubauer and painter Kathryn Van Dyke this year's winners of the Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art biennial award. The SECA prize includes an exhibition -- scheduled for Feb. 2-June 12, 2001 -- an accompanying catalogue and a "nominal" cash prize... New York artist Alan Finkel has won the first annual SculptureCenter prize for contemporary sculpture, which includes a cash award of $3,500...

The Ukranian Museum in New York has announced a $3.5 million gift from entrepeneur Eugene Shklar and wife Daymel Shklar for a new building and exhibition facility at 222 East Sixth St. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year... The Jewish Museum San Francisco has launched a new and improved website at The site includes a section devoted to the new facility, based on the Hebrew word chai (life) and designed by Daniel Libeskind...

CHEN ZEN, 1955-2000
Chen Zen, 45, Paris-based Chinese installation artist featured in last year's Venice Biennial, died of an undisclosed illness. His last installation in the Museum of Music in Paris this November elicited objections from the Chinese embassy for its use of chimes made out of bedpans.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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