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Artnet News

Seattle's Nisqually Quake, which struck western Washington state yesterday, Feb. 28, at about 10:54 a.m., hit 6.8 on the Richter Scale and injured approximately 200 people, though no one was killed. The major city museums -- the Seattle Art Museum and the Henry Art Gallery -- mostly occupy quake-proof new buildings and escaped with little or no damage. Steven Holl's new Bellevue Art Museum, which opened Jan. 13, was designed to withstand a quake of this power and more. "We did rock and roll," said a spokesperson. "But the building came through beautifully."

The Pioneer Square district, home to many galleries and artist's studios, was not so lucky. The Dale Chihuly Studios reported some broken glass, as did Bryan Ohno Gallery. Some of the sculpture in wax by Maria Porges at James Harris Gallery was lost and the artist is recasting; the façade of the gallery building itself is damaged and the structure may be red-tagged, or condemned. If so, Harris plans to store his inventory in extra space at Greg Kucera Gallery and reopen for business a.s.a.p. The Kucera Gallery itself fared better than most, with its retrofitted building weathering the quake well -- though burst water pipes had the dealer scrambling to protect works on paper by James Castle, Helen Frankenthaler and Kiki Smith.

The William Traver Gallery (which is not in the Pioneer Square area) represents 80 to 90 artists, about half of whom work in glass, and many pieces in storage and on view on shelves and in display cases were broken. Perhaps $800,000 worth of work was destroyed, Traver said. There's no insurance -- no one will insure a glass gallery -- but "sympathy should go to the artists," who are responsible for losses in such "catastrophic events." Elliott Brown Gallery reports losing a single, $18,000 glass work by Richard Marquis.

Foster/White Gallery, which represents Dale Chihuly, also reported no damage, and plans to go ahead with tonight's "First Thursday" opening, a show of works by woodcarver Elaine Hanowell with paintings by Donald Cole. "We were very lucky," said dealer Francine Seders, who reported that a chimney fell off her building but no damages to people or artworks.

No reports on damage to the Seattle area's many public art works have come in. The status of the artworks at Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport, which was hard-hit by the quake, is still uncertain. The state of the grand chandeliers by Dale Chihuly at Beneroya Hall, home of the Seattle symphony, is also undetermined at press time.

The ninth annual Wexner Prize has been awarded to Italian architect Renzo Piano, whose designs include the Pompidou Center in Paris (1977), the Kansai airport terminal in Osaka (1994) and the forthcoming New York Times headquarters in Manhattan. This marks the first time that the $50,000 award has gone to an architect. Piano will visit the Wexner Center on April 19 to receive the prize. Piano's other designs include the 1984 Menil Collection museum building in Houston and the 1999 Potsdamer Platz reconstruction in Berlin. He is also at work on forthcoming renovations and expansions of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Harvard Art Museums.

The destruction of Buddhist art in Afghanistan has begun, with museums in Kabul, Ghazni, Heart and Jalalabad cleaned out by troops from the Taliban Ministry of Vice and Virtue, according to a report by the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news service. "All statues will be destroyed," Taliban Information minister Mullah Qudratullah Jamal told reporters in the capital Kabul. "Whatever means of destruction are needed to demolish the statues will be used." The Taliban has also targeted two 2,000-year-old monumental Buddhas carved from the cliffside near Bamiyan. India has vowed action to stop the destruction. "We will make all attempts to stop the demolition of Lord Buddha's statue," parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan told parliament.