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Artnet News
Top story for the art world on Monday, Feb. 21 -- President's Day -- was the surprise resignation of Sotheby's president and ceo Diana "Dede" Brooks. Sotheby's owner, billionaire shopping center developer A. Alfred Taubman, also stepped down as the firm's board chairman. Brooks successor is William Ruprecht, Sotheby's managing director for North and South America since 1994. New board chairman is Michael Sovern, former president of Columbia University who headed a New York commission on integrity in government in the 1980s. Taubman, 75, acquired Sotheby's in 1983 and retains his controlling interest in the company and a seat on its board of directors.

The dramatic ousters are the latest developments in the international price-fixing scandal that is now the subject of an ongoing U.S. Justice Department antitrust probe as well as investigations by the European Commission and fair trading offices in Australia and Britain. Since 1997 the Justice Department has been examining the art market, focusing in part on possible collusion in setting fees charged to consignors. In 1995, Christie's replaced its long-standing 10 percent fee with a sliding scale of two percent to 10 percent, and Sotheby's soon adopted a similar policy. The Sherman Antitrust Act prohibits price-fixing as illegal restraint of trade, punishable by fines and imprisonment.

Last month, Christie's said that it was cooperating in the U.S. probe, and recently announced changes in its price commission structure. In addition, as of last week, at least nine antitrust suits seeking class-action status were filed against both auctioneers, and more are likely. On Tuesday, Feb. 22, Sotheby's stock price sank to a new low of 15 1/2.

New York City is swarming with art historians as the College Art Association presents its 88th annual conference at the New York Hilton, Feb. 23-26, 2000. Keynote speakers at the Feb. 23 convocation in the Hilton's Grand Ballroom are Christo and Jeanne-Claude, followed immediately by a gala reception at the Museum of Modern Art. In addition to a big trade-book fair and a job market for hungry art historians, the CAA's big show is over 160 panels arranged around two main themes, "The Historiography of Art History" and "Modeling Nature." Among the selections: Bernini, Tintoretto and van Dyck in "Artistic Devotion: Private Practice and Public Images," chaired by Anne Bertrand and Ann Sutherland Harris; naturist culture, a lesbian diaspora, queer craft and "the truth about Grant Wood" in "Regionist Practices on the Margins of Queer Culture," chaired by Michael Plante; medieval automata, teleprompters and the cyborg in "Bodies/Machines," chaired by Caroline A. Jones; virtual-reality Frankensteins and avant-garde software in "Social Simulation in the Digital Domain," chaired by Barbara London; and "Lets Be Outrageous! Let's Misbehave! Can Radical Art Beget Radical Evil?" chaired by Ronald Jones.

Could SoHo be bulking up to compensate for the flight of galleries to West Chelsea? Curator and critic Bill Arning's "Gym Culture 2000" opens at Thread-Waxing Space, Mar. 24-April 29, featuring 30 artists, including Tom Cole, Andre Herbert, Nancy Hwang and David Scher. A week later, as if playing spotting partner from up the street, the New Museum presents "Picturing the Modern Amazon," Mar. 30-July 2, devoted to hyper-muscular and physically strong women. The exhibition includes everything from comic books to paintings and installations by over 60 artists, including Matthew Barney, Judy Chicago, Louise Bourgeois, Renée Cox and Nicole Eisenman.

Meanwhile, Chelsea seems less than happy at the new crowds. Venetia Kapernekas Fine Arts gives us a "Focus on Pain, on Destruction, Power, Death," Feb. 17-Mar. 19, featuring works by Meg Cranston, Herbert Hinteregger, Lucy McKenzie, Vangelis Viahos and others. And Gary Tatintsian Gallery invites you to "Go Fuck Yourself…," Feb. 17-Mar. 10, featuring works by William Anastasi, Luca Buvoli, John Gossage, Ilya Kabakov and Elizabeth Zawada. "I have a tiny penis," reads one work. Both galleries are located at 526 W. 26th Street.

SM'ART (Salon du Mobilier et de l'Objet d'Art), the Paris trade fair for furniture and objets d'art created after 1950, has been canceled after the exhibitors reportedly could not afford the project. The fair was originally scheduled for the prestigious Carrousel du Louvre, Oct. 19-23, 2000.

Yale art historian Thomas Crow has been named director of the Getty Research Institute, succeeding Deborah Marrow, interim director since Salvatore Settis left the post Jan. 1999.

The Israel Museum has transferred ownership of Claude Pissarro's Boulevard Montmartre: Spring, 1897, a painting estimated to be worth approximately $8 million, to Gerta Silberberg, daughter-in-law of Max Silberberg, a Jewish collector who perished in the Holocaust. The painting will remain where it is, as Silberberg has offered it to the museum on a long-term loan. Silberberg recently sold Vincent van Gogh's Oliviers avec les Alpilles au Fond, for $8.45 million to the Museum of Modern Art after it was returned to her by the National Gallery in Berlin, and she is reportedly planning to use some of the proceeds to fund a search for other missing works, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Britain has established the Spoliatory Advisory Panel, a tribunal to help descendants of victims of Nazi thefts bring claims and to mediate between them and the museums. The panel will be headed by retired Appeal Court judge Sir David Hirst, and it will have the power to recommend whether a work should remain at the museum and compensation be paid to the claimant, though its decisions will not be binding. National museums around the country have started to examine the provenance of all works acquired after the war to find any works that may have been stolen, looted or bought through intimidation by the Nazis; the London Telegraph reports that Brit arts minister Alan Howarth estimates the numbers to be "significantly" below 100, but the Jerusalem Post estimates that the numbers are more likely to be in the thousands, with more than 100 in the Tate Gallery alone.

Tracy Williams, head of contemporary art at Christie's New York, has left the scandal-scarred auctioneer to head the new Zwirner & Wirth Gallery in New York, according to a report in Friday's Wall Street Journal.

Friedentstreich Hundertwasser, 71, Austrian painter and architect known for his colorful compositions and building designs featuring rooftop gardens, died of a heart attack Feb. 19, 2000, while on board the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship. Among his many achievements, Hundertwasser was awarded the Austrian State Prize, the country's highest cultural award, in 1981.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech