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Artnet News
2/29/00
 
     
  TAKEOVER TALK BOUNCES SOTHEBY'S STOCK
The day traders must be having fun with Sotheby's stock. After the Independent on Sunday, a London paper, reported that eBay was set to mount a $1.6 billion takeover bid for the troubled auction house, Sotheby's shares rose about $6, from a close of $19.50 on Friday to a high of just over $25 on Monday -- more than 20 percent. But by lunchtime, eBay had announced, "We're not buying them," and Sotheby's stock settled back down to near its opening price. Sotheby's shares have gyrated from a 52-week high of $47 last April to a low of $14.50 last week.

Meanwhile, other developments keep making news in the price-fixing scandal spawned by a U.S. Justice Department anti-trust probe of possible collusion on fees at Sotheby's and Christie's:
  • Key to the antitrust investigation is a memo written in the mid-1990s by Christie's then-chairman Anthony Tennant to his ceo Christopher Davidge detailing a discussion with Sotheby's chief A. Alfred Taubman on commission rates at the two houses, according to a report in the London Telegraph. The text of the memo remains confidential.

  • London dealer David Mason of the MacConnal-Mason Gallery, specialists in 19th-century art, is leading a consortium of 25 dealers and collectors worldwide in a plan to take Sotheby's and Christie's to the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg in an effort to abolish the auction houses' buyer's commission. A similar suit had been brought by the British Antique Dealers Association alleging the auction houses colluded over the introduction of the unpopular fee in the mid-'70s, but the case was abandoned due to lack of evidence, according to the London Times.

  • Sotheby's announced a new commission structure for both buyers and sellers. Effective Apr. 1, 2000, in its live auctions, Sotheby's is charging a buyer's premium of 20 percent on the first $15,000, 15 percent on the next $85,000 and 10 percent on any amount over $100,000. The buyer's commission for internet auctions remains a flat 10 percent. Three weeks ago, Christie's announced changes (due Mar. 31) that are only slightly different -- 17.5 percent on the first $80,000 and ten percent on the remainder. The fees Sotheby's charges consignors remains unchanged for transactions under $100,000, and ranges from two to eight percent for big players in the market.

CONDO ANIMATION ONLINE
East Village artist George Condo, whose work is usually seen at PaceWildenstein and Deitch Projects, has gone online with a special animation made for the web. The animated cartoon stars several Condo creatures -- the Pod People -- as well as a musical soundtrack by Danny Elfman (uncle of Jenna) on Razorfish's RSUB.com. Condo's multimedia adventures continue with Condo Painting, a 90-minute film on the artist by John McNaughton (a real Hollywood director who made Mad Dog and Glory and Portrait of a Serial Killer), that premieres on Mar. 10 at the Angelica film complex in New York's SoHo district. The USA/October Films movie traces the evolution, over a period of months and through at least three almost-complete reworkings, of a single painting called Big Red.

GUERRILLA GIRLS READING
Heads up, you patriarchal toadies, feminist pranksters the Guerrilla Girls are at Barnes & Noble at Astor Place in New York at 7:30 p.m. on Mar. 2, 2000, to read from their revisionist art history book, The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art (Viking Penguin, $18.95). The reading and talk marks the group's first New York appearance in two years. Call (212) 420-1322 for more info.

L.A.'S BOATHOUSE GALLERY RETURNS
The Boathouse Gallery, one of Los Angeles' premiere showcases for Latino art, has finally reopened after $550,000 in repairs for damages suffered in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The debut exhibition, "Hecho en Califas: The Last Decade," curated by San Diego artist Richard Alexander Lou, features 31 contemporary Californian artists, runs Jan. 20-Mar. 25, 2000, and will travel to five other venues in the state. Call (323) 223-2475 for more info.

MATISSE LEAVES BALTIMORE
The Baltimore Museum of Art is sending over 60 paintings, drawings and prints by Henri Matisse from its beloved Cone Collection on the road while the museum wing that usually houses the works undergoes renovations. The exhibition is slated to open at the Denver Art Museum, Mar. 12-June 25, 2000, and subsequently travels to the Birmingham (Ala.) Museum of Art, July 16-Sep. 10. The Cone holdings make a triumphal return in spring 2001 to a completely redesigned wing featuring 50-percent more space, new installations and new interpretive materials.

FOTOFEST 2000
FotoFest 2000, the eighth international "month of photography" event, rolls into Houston, Mar. 3-Apr. 3, 2000. The citywide exposition of approximately 60 shows encompasses two exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, "Conceptual Photography from the Museum Collection," Mar. 3-May 7, 2000, and "Irving Penn: A Career in Photography," Mar. 25-June 4, as well as "Lunar Landscapes: Unmanned Space Photography" at the Menil Collection, Mar. 9-June 4, and "10 x 2 + 2: Twenty-two Texas Artists," Mar. 4-Apr. 15, at the alternative gallery DiverseWorks. Among the gallery shows are Chris Rauschenberg's "Mexico" at Gremillion & Co. Fine Art, Mar. 9-Apr. 3; "The Archives of Milton Greene" at Robert McClain & Company, Mar. 2-Mar. 25; Lucienne Bloch at Parkerson Gallery, Feb. 19-Mar. 18; Liliana Porter at Sicardi Gallery, Mar. 2-Apr. 3; and Kimberly Gremillion's "Shadow Vision" and Michele Grinstead's "Hidden View" at Bernabé Somoza Gallery, Mar.3-Apr. 3, 2000. This year's edition marks the beginning of FotoFest's involvement in the Festival of Light, a new international collaboration among 22 of the world's major photography festivals from cities in 16 countries, making the programs available to a collective audience of over seven million people. Call (713) 223-5522 for more info.

FIGHT OVER LEONARDO
The Leonardo Foundation, a nonprofit organization that publishes a journal dedicated to art and science, is being sued for over a million dollars by Leonardo Finance in Nanterre, France. The French outfit, which has recently trademarked the names "Leonardo," "Leonardo Finance," "Leonardo Partners," "Leonardo Experts" and "Leonardo Angels," charges the art group with trademark infringement and loss of business, claiming that a search engine request using the word "Leonardo" brings up web sites of both organizations. The Internet arts community has been quick to respond with web protests by Teo Spiller and the Whitney Biennial 2000-featured artist "corporation" ®TMark.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech