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Artnet News
Sotheby's and Christie's are facing their worst shortage of property in nearly a decade, according to Alexandra Peers in the Wall Street Journal. With just a day to go before the deadline for the spring art sales, consignments at the auction houses are running short by about $120 million, nearly a quarter of the total $500 million the auctioneers hope to sell. And that's with unprecedented moves to attract works, Peers says -- waiving sales commissions, offering to sell art privately before the auctions and offering to hang contemporary art next to Impressionist masterpieces. The test of the market begins with Asia Week on Monday, Mar. 20, in which art worth $50 million goes on sale.

Auction house insiders were quick to contradict the WSJ report, however. "We're not under any more of a crunch than usual," said one source. "The evening sales are shaping up to be comparable if not better than last year." Though the auctioneeers are still mum on details, Christie's has announced the sale of Gustave Caillebotte's L'Homme au Balcon (1880) at a presale estimate of $6 million-$8 million -- not that high for an Impressionist superstar.

Resale royalties are coming to Britain -- but not for 15 years. British dealers fought tooth and claw to forestall the dreaded droit de suite, which they say will drive the country's lucrative art business overseas. Resale royalties allow artists to retain a stake in their works as the value increases. Under the deal, payments go to living artists, and then to their heirs for 70 years after the artists' death. The tax is on a sliding scale, beginning at a rate of four percent on art resales of 50,000 euros or less (a euro is worth about $1), dropping to 0.25 percent on works that sell for above 500,000 euros. No tax is to be charged on transactions under 4,000 euros and the maximum resale royalty is limited to 12,500 euros. Other countries in the European Union, which get five years to implement the royalty, are crying foul because of Britain's special deal.

Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn has cut himself a sweet deal on the famed $400-million art collection he assembled for the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. As part of the celebrated $6.5-billion MGM Grand purchase of Mirage Resorts, the MGM Grand gains control of about half the collection, according to the Las Vegas Sun. And thought the casino can sell any of its works, Wynn has the right to preempt any sale and buy the work himself for the appraised value or the book value of the work, whichever is higher. Presumably, the deal allows the casino to sell art that Wynn doesn't want, but gives Wynn a favorable price on the works he does. Wynn has been leasing his half of the collection to the Vegas gallery for over $5 million a year. Other provisions in Wynn's deal include the right to purchase Mirage Resort's Gulfstream III corporate jet at fair market value (approximately $12 million) within ten days of the merger's completion.

In a bizarre footnote to the Sanitation sensation embroiling artist Hans Haacke and the Whitney Biennial 2000, the presumably progressive Village Voice seems to have succumbed to real-estate envy -- a condition admittedly rampant in New York City. In its current issue, the downtown weekly reveals that Haacke was able to purchase his 2,000-square-foot Bowery loft from the city for about $67,000 in 1998. The relative bargain was part of mayor Rudolph Giuliani's effort to move city-owned property back onto the tax rolls by selling buildings to their tenants. The Voice's real estate writer seems to think that there's something wrong with allowing a person to buy their own home at a favorable price, especially if it's a result of a Republican policy. Asked if he saw a contradiction in criticizing the mayor while personally benefiting from his policies, Haacke told the Voice "the two things are totally unrelated."

The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) unveils Guests and Foreigners: Corporal Histories, a new art installation by Joseph Kosuth at its New York offices at 120 Wall Street on Mar. 21. Using photographs, philosophical quotations and a narrative dateline, the work establishes a chronology of the AIDS epidemic, the evolution of amfAR, and the continued quest for effective treatments and a preventive vaccine. Kosuth is a longtime amfAR supporter and has donated the mural to the organization. For more info, call 1-800-39amfar.

The art-dealing powerhouse Nahmad family, known for its warehouses full of Impressionist and modern works, opened a New York flagship this week next to the Carlyle Hotel on the corner of Madison Ave. and 76th St. The new Helly Nahmad gallery is run Helly Nahmad, whose first cousin has the same name and runs an eponymous gallery on Cork Street in London. The New York space has a previous life as the Davlyn Gallery, operated by Helly's father David Nahmad. Works by Picasso, Monet, Leger, Degas, Modigliani, Renoir and others lined the gallery's white marble walls at the opening on Mar. 14, where a chic Euro crowd, including supermodel-du-jour Giselle, toasted the 20-something dealer. The swank bi-level space was designed by the fashionable architect Peter Marino, who also did the Valentino, Christian Dior and Armani boutiques in New York. Just don't mistake the white "HN" insignia on the glass doors for Harvey Nichols.

Director Mary Harron's movie version of Brett Easton Ellis' ultra-violent novel American Psycho features painstaking reproductions of some iconic paintings from the era, writes Anthony Haden-Guest in this week's New York Observer. Originals were not used "because of all the blood and stuff," said film designer Gideon Ponte, who re-created the Warhols for Harron's 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol. Among the artists who approved their work being copied were Peter Halley, Robert Longo and Richard Prince. A couple of artists said no to the project, including David Salle and Julian Schnabel, who himself failed to secure the approval of Jean-Michel Basquiat's estate for the use of the late artist's work in his 1996 biopic. The movie opens April 14.

As if being included in the coveted Whitney Biennial weren't enough, the Mad-Ave. museum is now giving $100,000 to some lucky biennial artist. Dubbed the Bucksbaum Award (after Whitney trustee Melva Bucksbaum's Bucksbaum Family Foundation), the cash grant goes to an artist chosen from the biennial by a jury composed of the museum's director, contemporary art curator and three other individuals chosen every two years. This year's jury consists of director Maxwell Anderson, contemporary art curator Lawrence Rinder, Renaissance Society education director Hamza Walker, Stuart Collection director Mary L. Beebe and ArtPace founder Linda Pace.

The National Gallery of Art has announced a quartet of new acquisitions donated by members of its blue-ribbon collector's committee. Top of the list is a 1986 self-portrait by Andy Warhol -- the artist's familiar black-and-white image in white wig, in this version silkscreened in a grid of four on pink and yellow backgrounds. Also coming into the NGA collection is a 1966 photo of a mother and child by famed biker photog Danny Lyon, an untitled 1942 ink and watercolor drawing by Ad Reinhardt, and a portfolio of works by snapshot lenser Garry Winogrand.

Swiss Institute director Annette Schindler has resigned from the SoHo exhibition space to become the founding curator and director of an as-yet-unnamed institution for new media in Basel, Switzerland. Schindler has held the position since 1997; her most recent show is "Prophecies," which closed last week. Her resignation becomes effective June 30. The institute is currently still seeking a successor.

The Bronx River Art Center and Gallery presents "e-Europe," an international exhibition of contemporary Eastern European artists who have recently emigrated to the U.S. Curated by Irina Danilova, the show is on view Mar. 18-Apr. 21, 2000, and includes works by Horia Cadariu, Alla Georgieva, Andread Mihalovic and Traian Stanescu. A cybercast of the opening reception, featuring a musical performance by Steven Sandberg and Alaya, can be seen online at on Mar. 18 from 3 to 6 p.m.

The Campaign against Censorship in the Arts (CACA) and the International Association of Art Critics present Indecent Exposure, a conference on art censorship and camera-based art Mar. 25-26 at the Omni Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati. Presenters include civil liberties activist William Messer, First Amendment attorney H. Louis Sirkin, historian David Haberstich, artist Carol Jacobson and others. For more information call CACA at (513) 221-3686. The conference comes ten years after Cincinnati police shut down the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati to gather evidence for a grand jury indictment of the center and its director on criminal obscenity charges for an exhibition of Mapplethorpe's work.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech