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The New York Buildings Department has begun a crackdown on illegally converted lofts and apartments in Brooklyn, and the operation is targeting Williamsburg and D.U.M.B.O. (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), two areas heavily favored by artists. At issue is the buildings' lack of certificates of occupancy that would guarantee the safety of the tenants. A total of 121 structures are being investigated, with as many as 2,000 residents possibly risking being turned out of doors. The clearout has started already with three converted warehouses in D.U.M.B.O. that led to the eviction of some 60 tenants. City councilman Ken Fisher, who represents the affected neighborhoods, blames the city for the crisis after it failed to act on a report of the problem for 11 months and is calling for a comprehensive rezoning of industrial areas to allow for residential use, according to the New York Daily News.

Minnesota's McKnight Foundation has released the results from its most recent poll of 405 artists from around the state about their economic and creative well-being. The survey, based on a 1946 survey of British writers, features six questions, including "How much do you think an artist needs to live on?" and "Have you any specific advice to give to young people who wish to earn a living from art?" Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents said they are having trouble meeting their need for a minimum annual income through their art alone and advocate a variety of steps institutions could take to help support artists. The foundation has responded to the survey by increasing its fellowships to $25,000 from the previous range of $8,000-$16,000. You can read the results to Six Questions, 2,430 Answers online.

Miramax's $12 million Frida Kahlo biopic starring Salma Hayek seems to be winning the race against MGM's similar production starring Jennifer Lopez, reports Variety. The Miramax project, to be directed by Julie Taymor, has signed Alfred Molina to star as Diego Rivera, Ashley Judd to play Tina Modotti and Edward Norton to make a cameo appearance as Nelson Rockefeller. The studio is also in advanced discussions with Antonio Banderas to appear as David Siqueiros and with Geoffrey Rush to play Leon Trotsky. Meanwhile, MGM's Francis Ford Coppola production, written by Luis Valdez, is having difficulties securing its funding and running out of time with looming strikes from the Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild. Valdez has been trying to bring the painter to the silver screen for a decade, but protests had KO'd previous plans after non-Hispanic Laura San Giacomo and later Madonna were named for the leading role.

European super-curator Harald Szeemann, artistic director for the 49th Venice Biennale, has finally announced some details of the forthcoming fest June 10-Nov. 4, 2001. The Aperto founder describes this year's theme as "the Plateau of Mankind, a place where you look and are looked at." The show, which covers nearly 400,000 sq. feet of exhibition area, is to devote itself both to the great artistic revolutions of the 20th century -- including works by Joseph Beuys, Richard Serra and Cy Twombly -- and to new approaches to the arts, featuring the work of young contemporary artists. The Teatro alle Tese is being described as the heart of the exhibition and is to feature contributions from the fields of cinema, dance, music and theater. Stay tuned for more details.

And speaking of arts festivals, Tucson, Arizona has a new one -- Downtown Underground, a three-day event featuring works in all media from southwestern artists, Feb. 9-11, 2001. Proceeds from the fair will be donated to various charities supporting the revitalization of economic growth in the city's downtown area.

President Clinton has presented the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal to honor 24 individuals and institutions supporting the growth of the arts and humanities to the general public. Among the arts medalists were painter Chuck Close, Chicago arts patron Lewis Manilow and sculptor Claes Oldenburg.

The Marlborough Gallery is holding the first Oskar Kokoschka retrospective in New York in over a decade to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Austrian painter's death, Feb. 16-March 17, 2001. The exhibition, organized by the gallery's Sheri L. Pasquarella and Robert T. Buck, features more than 30 paintings, watercolors and drawings from public and private collections from the U.S. and Europe.

The third issue of the Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal at concludes the first volume of the Internet periodical and continues with its selection of first-run articles. Among the works included in this installment are Arthur Danto's "Marcel Duchamp and the End of Taste," Leif Erikkson's comprehensive view of the impact of Duchamp's anti-art stance on Sweden from 1933 to 1970, Mark Pohlad's look at Duchamp as conservator and the first English translation of the beginning chapter of Jean Clair's recent book on the provocative artist. The successful site is also planning to make the transition to print next year with a monthly page in NYArts Magazine and the projected publication of the Best of Tout Fait Volume One from the Art Science Research Laboratory.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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