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Artnet News
In honor of Black History Month, presents "Embrace Heritage," the first serious online auction of important contemporary art by Black artists. Organized by auction specialist Quashelle Curtis, the special event features over 100 works spanning three decades by Black artists from over 10 countries. The event runs throughout the month of February, and features works by leading African-American artists, including Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Robert Duncanson, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis and Alma Thomas. Some standouts in the auction are Pierre Louis Prospere's colorfully Matissean Erzulie Freda, 1980 (est. $750-$850); Martin Puryear's dynamic litho Mile of Sculpture, 1984 (est. $1,000-$1,500); and Ed Clark's lyrical untitled canvases from 1992 (est. $4,000-$5,000).

The 31st installment of Art Basel, June 21-26, 2000, includes 250 of the world's best modern and contemporary galleries in the exposition halls of the Swiss city's Round Court Building. New fair manager Samuel Keller notes that 39 galleries are showing at Art Basel for the first time, including New Yorkers Cheim & Reid, McKee and Barry Friedman, Paris galleries Villepoix, Nelson and Thierry Marlat, London's Michael Hoppen and Eric Franck, and Tokyo's Katsuya Ikeuchi.

This year also sees the introduction of "Art Unlimited," a show of over-sized installations and art projects in the 12,000-square-meter space of the new Glass Hall, designed by Swiss architect and art collector Theo Hotz and connected to the art fair's usual facility by a short footbridge. The new sector replaces Art Basel's previous "Art Video Forum" and "Art Sculpture" sectors, though it will include a "video-and-mediathèque" and an Internet lounge with snack bar. Keller told Artnet News that this initiative is calculated to show that galleries are on the cutting-edge when it comes to new art, whether it be commercial or not.

Projects for "Art Unlimited" are to be selected by fair management and a jury including former Kunstmuseum Lucerne director Martin Schwander and Simon Lamunière, director of the Biennale de l'Image Contemporaine in Geneva and curator at the Internet art exhibition at Documenta X in Kassel. Dealers are invited to propose projects, which if accepted will require a space rental of 5,000 Swiss Francs, less than a fifth of the normal fee.

One of the most watched aspects of the fair, the popular "Art Statements" section, makes a comeback with its presentations of highly sought-after solo exhibitions by emerging artists -- of the 260 projects submitted only 26 were accepted. Several former participants have become very successful, including Mariko Mori, Jorge Pardo, Vanessa Beecroft and William Kentridge. This year's "Statement" artists are Heike Baranowsky, Julie Becker, Jeremy Blake, Francis Cape, Sam Durant, Rachel Feinstein, Maria Friberg, Mathieu Mercier, Claudia + Julia Müller, Ola Pehrson, Simon Periton, Alexandra Ranner, Jeroen de Rijke + Willem de Rooij, Navin Rawanchaikul, Adi Rosenblum + Markus Muntean, Daniel Roth, Constance Ruhm, Borre Saethre, Pietro Sanguinetti, Bob & Roberta Smith, Sean Snyder, Monserrat Soto, Yoshihiro Suda, Vibeke Tandberg, Zhou Thiehai, Gregor Zivic.

An estimated 50,000 visitors and more than 1,000 media representatives are expected at Art Basel. For more info, call +41 61 686 20 20.

Gerald Peters has agreed to refund the $5 million the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art shelled out for the "Canyon Suite" watercolors that turned out not to be by Georgia O'Keeffe, according to the Associated Press. Neither Peters nor the museum returned several calls requesting comment.

The fallout from the recent announcement that Christie's is cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust investigation of the art market has begun. Impressionist collector Herbert Black, who is president of American Iron & Metal Co., has filed a class-action suit against both Christie's and Sotheby's for allegedly colluding to fix commission prices on a series of art and antiques sales over the past seven years. According to the Wall Street Journal, Black's attorney is Christopher Lovell, who is known for striking big settlements in class-action suits, including a recent one for $1.03 billion against Wall Street brokerage houses alleging price fixing in the NASDAQ.

Staffers from the Saint Louis Art Museum rolled into town this week and feted the media to puff its forthcoming "Wonderland" exhibition, slated for July 1-Sep. 24, 2000. During a scrumptious lunch at chic eatery Asia de Cuba, the assembled journalists were treated to remarks from curator Rochelle Steiner, a nicely produced video promoting the exhibition and short conversations with participating artists Teresita Fernández, Stephen Hendee and Joep van Lieshout. As a result of the festivities, Artnet News returned to the office late in the afternoon, convinced that "Wonderland" would indeed spark imaginative flights of fancy. Along the aforementioned artists, the show features works by Janet Cardiff, Olafur Eliasson, Bill Klaila, Ernesto Neto, Pipilotti Rist, Gregor Schneider and Jennifer Steinkamp.

The Asia Society opens its temporary midtown gallery at 502 Park Ave. at 59th St. with "Spiritual Perfection: Religious Sculpture of South and Southeast Asia," Feb. 3-Apr. 1, 2000. The organization's headquarters building at 725 Park Ave. is undergoing a $30-million renovation, due to be completed in fall 2001. Also moving to midtown -- the Asia Society store.

Former Seattle art dealer Linda Farris, who operated her namesake gallery from 1970 to 1995, has come up with an innovative way to collect cutting-edge art. She has formed the ContemporaryArtProject (CAP), a limited-liability corporation that buys contemporary art, keeps it for a while and then gives it to museums. Members of CAP must commit $15,000 a year for three years for art purchases; the art is rotated in their homes until it's donated. CAP's first purchases include works by Karin Davie, Sue de Beer, Kim Dingle and Will Cotton. More information on the ContemporaryArtProject can be found on their website.

The glamorous $1-billion-dollar Getty Center in Los Angeles, though it doesn't charge admission, is notorious for the long waiting list for reservations in its parking garage. But now, college students with school I.D. can park without prior parking arrangements -- no matter how many people are in the car. We envision squads of old autos packed with frat boys lining up at the gate.

The Cleveland Museum of Art's landmark 1916 neo-classical marble building is slated to receive a $12 million-$15 million renovation by Philadelphia architectural firm Vitetta. The improvements include a 26 percent increase in overall space to 491,000 square feet, a new public entry, an underground garage and an outdoor sculpture garden. Some $8 million in private funds have been raised and the museum has requested a $3-million capital appropriations award from the state of Ohio.

"Defining Craft I: Collecting for the New Millennium," an exhibition of over 150 works highlighting the museum's permanent collection, opens at the American Craft Museum in New York, Feb. 9-May 7, 2000. The show features work by Robert Arneson, Arline Fisch, Viola Frey, Jack Lenor Larsen, Wendy Ramshaw, Lenore Tawney and Peter Voulkos, among others.

A group calling itself the Poway Liberation Army has sent a ransom letter to local San Diego newspaper the North County Times claiming responsibility for stealing ten rare pieces of Native American pottery from the Museum of Man in San Diego on Jan. 10, just days before the opening of the exhibition "The Magic of Mata Ortiz." The letter demands that the city of San Diego forfeit the neighborhoods at its northeastern edges and give them to the adjoining city of Poway, an upper-middle class suburb. The San Diego police department says it has never heard of the group before, and that the letter does not include any evidence to suggest that the group is in possession of the stolen artifacts.

Three people have been executed in China for stealing 15 murals originally excavated from a Tang dynasty concubine's tomb in the central Shaanxi province. Five accomplices received lesser sentences. Only two of the murals were recovered after being sold in the city of Guangzhou, near Hong Kong.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech