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The medieval treasury of Basel Cathedral, which miraculously survived a devastating earthquake, the plague and numerous wars as well as iconoclasm, the Protestant Reformation and secularization only to be dispersed in the 19th century, has been reunited for the exhibition "The Treasury of Basel Cathedral" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Feb. 28-May 27, 2001. The show features more than 75 objects, dating from the early 11th through the early 16th century, many of silver and gold and encrusted with gems and semi-precious stones.

The treasures on view range from the simple Burial Crown of Queen Anna (ca. 1281) to the lavish Statuette of Saint Christopher (1425-50). Also on display are three assemblages of the actual relics -- bones of saints as well as two vials of the Holy Blood -- made by nuns in 1903 after the city of Basel ordered that they be removed from the reliquaries and monstances and either burned or thrown into the Rhine. The show is made possible in part by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has ordered the destruction of all statues in the country, including the pair of monumental 5th-century Buddhas at Bamiyan near Kabul. The Taliban has decided that such works of art are insulting to Islam. "Because God is one God and these statues are there to be worshipped, and that is wrong, they should be destroyed so that they are not worshipped now or in the future," Omar said in his edict, published on Jan. 26 by the Taliban-run Bakhtar News Agency. Afghanistan's national museum, which has been damaged in the civil war and looted of many of its holdings, has many sculptures that would also be destroyed under the order.

Islam historically prohibits its followers from making images of living things, other than trees and plants, and the fundamentalist Taliban has banned all photography as idolatry. In 1997, the Taliban searched Afghan homes for family photos, paintings, toy animals and crucifixes as part of a purge on un-Islamic images. UNESCO has appealed to the Taliban to preserve works of art, and a team of western diplomats is currently in Kabul in an attempt to convince the government to preserve Afghanistan's artistic heritage.

Swiss-based financier Marc Rich has been accused of winning his pardon from President Bill Clinton in part by mounting a vast campaign of charitable donations in Israel via his Rich Foundation in Tel Aviv, headed by executive director Avner Azulay. One of the foundation's beneficiaries was the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which received $2.6 million from Rich for naming a wing in honor of his daughter Gabrielle, who died of leukemia in 1997. Letters to Clinton vouching for the 66-year-old commodities trader were received from dozens of Israeli notables, including former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit and Israel Philharmonic director Zubin Mehta.

The Graduate Center of the City University of New York is opening a new, 1,800-square-foot public gallery in the old B. Altmans Building at 365 Fifth Avenue. Called the Art Gallery of the Graduate Center/CUNY, the new space is run by CUNY art historian Diane Kelder. It opens with "Elective Affinities: Prints by Goya and Manet," Mar. 1-Apr. 17, 2001, a show of 56 etchings and lithographs from the collections of the Arthur Ross Foundation and the New York Public Library. Plans call for four exhibitions a year, including one organized by art history students in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. The next show on the slate is by ISP students, and has the working title "The Play is the Thing," on transgressive toys.

Art-world insiders are flocking to the new Pageant Gallery in downtown Los Angeles for a private preview this week. Opened by the Judd Foundation's Madeleine Hoffmann, the gallery's first project is hosting Gavin Brown's Chelsea gallery -- including the British dealer's hip Passerby bar -- and will feature an installation by Rirkrit Tiravanija. It's expected to draw the after-show crowd of the FischerSpooner performances at the Standard/Downtown Los Angeles. The 2,700-square-foot storefront gallery, which is located at 124 West 4th Street, opens to the public sometime in March. "It's going to be a project space," said Hoffmann. "I just want the exhibitions to flow." For info call (213) 253-0522.

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Treasury of the Basel Cathedral


Rirkrit Tiravanija