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No sooner Asia week gets under way at the New York auction houses than new records are set. At Christie's Mar. 20 sale of "Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art," a ritual bronze wine jar, or fanglei, from the late Shang/early Western Zhou Dynasty (ca. 1600-1000 BC/ca. 1100-770 BC) sold to an unnamed private collector for $9,246,000. Two telephone bidders competed for the piece, bidding it up to a new world auction record for an Asian artwork. The previous record was $8.5 million for a Korean Choson period drag jar, sold at Christie's New York in October 1996. The total for the Tuesday sale was $13.9 million, the highest total ever achieved for a sale of Chinese art in New York.

The auction house price-fixing scandal is finally coming home to roost -- on the bottom line. Though Christie's reported that its sales in 2000 totaled $2.32 billion, up 12 percent from 1999, the French-owned auctioneer also announced plans to shutter Christie's East at the end of the year and move its operations into the house's Rockefeller Center headquarters; the 67th Street facility opened in 1979 to handle lower-priced wares. For 2000, Sotheby's sales plunged 16 percent, to $1.94 billion, which resulted in a net loss of $190 million for the year. One analyst predicted that Sotheby's would be unprofitable through 2003. Both Sotheby's and Christie's are splitting the cost of a $512-million settlement of class-action suits in the scandal.

Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto has been awarded the 2001 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. The prize, consisting of 500,000 Swedish kroner (about $50,000) and a gold medal, is awarded in a ceremony in Goteborg, Sweden, on Oct. 20, 2001.

The quiet Sculpture Center at 167 East 69th Street, long known for its traditional art classes in clay and welding as well as its quaint exhibitions, is moving into the high-test contemporary art mainstream. Under the leadership of board chief Armand Bartos and executive director Mary Ceruti, the organization has put its Manhattan building on the market for $4.75 million and plans to move to a new building at 44-19 Purves Street in Long Island City, Queens, near the location of the Museum of Modern Art's as-yet-unopened temporary facility. The new Sculpture Center has 4,500 square feet of gallery space, residences for visiting artists, a library and a 3,000-square-foot outdoor sculpture garden. "We're better off selling and then have money in our pockets," Bartos told the New York Times. The center expects to realize a $2-million profit after the sale. Attendance is expected to triple, from 6,000 to 18,000 annually. Amateur artists who have been taking classes at the space are mulling some kind of protest, claiming that the center's original charter dedicates the organization to serving hobbyists and professionals alike.

It's an Asian smorgasbord in New York this week. Brian and Anna Haughton's International Asian Art Fair presents about 60 international galleries at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue at 67th Street, Mar. 23-28, 2001. The gala preview, Mar. 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., benefits Asia Society. Tickets range from $100 (young patron) to $1,000 (collectors); for info call (212) 288-6400 x 280. Daily admission is $15 and includes the fair catalogue.

Down at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue at 26th Street is the 10th New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show, Mar. 22-25, 2001. Approximately 80 galleries are on hand. A series of eight lectures includes "Chinese Hat Finials as Rank Indicators in the Qing Dynasty" by Ken Rutherford on Saturday at 2 p.m. and "Clothes to Rule the Universe: The Chinese Textile Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago" by John E. Vollmer on Sunday at 11 a.m. Daily admission is $15. Call (212) 532-1516 for more information.

Frank O. Gehry has been named as architect of the new $100-million, 150,000-square-foot Dallas Museum of Natural History. The planned facility would be sited in the city's downtown arts district, which includes the $32-million Nasher Sculpture Garden that broke ground in January. "A Gehry building will attract a lot of money," said museum CEO Steve Runnels. Gehry is 72.

A 33-year-old British lord, Harry Dalmany, will pocket $20 million after threatening to sell off a life-size Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington that has hung on loan in the National Portrait Gallery since 1968. The dough is being put up by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation of Las Vegas, a nonprofit with assets of $1.3 billion that was founded by the late Oklahoma City newspaperman and that is currently headed by Fred W. Smith. The foundation kicked in another $10 million to pay for a three-year tour of the portrait around the U.S. and a new gallery to display the picture. The portrait was commissioned in 1796 by William Bingham as a gift to the Marquis of Lansdowne, a supporter of the American Revolution. The caddish Dalmeny, a deputy director of Sotheby's auction house in London, told the Dallas Morning News, "I can't shut the door any longer for people looking to buy it."

The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center kicks off its "2001 Atlanta Biennial: When the Wind Blows," Mar 30-June 2, 2001. Curator Teresa Bramlette promises work that ranges from the playful and whimsical to the eerie and dreamlike. Participants are Arge, Ryan Berg, Dreamspan, Didi Dunphy, Mark Guilbeau and Rian Kerrane, Mischo McKay, Scott Murphy, Samantha Simpson, Robin Starbuck, Angela Willcocks and Kathy Yancey.

Up in Purchase, N.Y., the Neuberger Museum of Art "2001 Biennial of Public Art" goes on view May 20-Oct. 7, at sites around the SUNY Purchase campus. Among the 15 artists are Laura Anderson Barbata, Suzy Sureck, Steed Taylor, Tom Doyle, Niki Ketchman and Gregory Lee Pickard. The selection jury included P.S. 1 programs director Tom Finkelpearl and Purchase College School of Art and Design dean Ken Strickland.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters has elected 14 new members, including artists Robert Mangold, Bruce Nauman, Dorothea Rockburne, Edward Ruscha and Peter Voulkos. Deconstructivist architect Peter Eisenmann was also inducted into the prestigious 250-person academy.

With "Bitstreams," its hot new exhibition tapping the digital zeitgeist, the Whitney Museum is down deep with Internet-based art. In conjunction with the show, the Whitney has launched a new website designed to be a digital arts portal., organized by Whitney new media curator Christiane Paul and designed by Allan Tarrantino and Tammy Wehr, includes an artist/project database, an archive of virtual galleries, a net-art exhibition area and an archive of Whitney digital art holdings.

Veteran 57th Street art dealer Gary Snyder is making the move to Chelsea, opening a new 4,000-square-foot gallery at 601 West 29th Street on May 18, 2001. Snyder's focus continues to be modern American art from the1920s to the 1960s, commencing with a show of hard-edge abstraction from California: "Four Abstract Classicists: Karl Benjamin, Frederick Hammersley, Lorser Feitelson and John McLaughlin" in the front gallery and "American Abstract Art of the 1930s and 1940s" in the larger back gallery.

Details of the planned Calder Museum in Philadelphia, to be designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, have been announced by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. To be sited on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the proposed 35,000-square-foot museum will house some 3,000 works on paper, 300 sculptures and 55 outdoor works, plus art from Calder's collection, including pieces by Marc Chagall, Max Ernst and Paul Klee. The estimated cost of the project is $50 million.

The Yale University Art Gallery unveils its renovated galleries for American paintings, sculpture and decorative arts on Mar. 24. The overhaul has uncovered columns and opened up a skylight in the center court of architect Edgerton Swartwout's third-floor gallery, opened in 1928. The reinstallation of decorative arts gives new weight to 20th-century decorative arts and adds Hispanic, Native American and Dutch contributions to the mix. The renovation includes one room, the Matrix Gallery, reserved for small exhibitions, the first of which focuses on contemporary design by Yale alumni.

The success of the "cow parade" -- a scheme that has placed plastic cows painted by artists on the streets of New York, Chicago and Zurich -- has not gone unremarked by other art promoters. Los Angeles is currently being populated with 400-pound, six-foot-tall ceramic angels decorated by artists, school kids and others. In all, 250 angels are to be sited around the city by the Volunteers of America and the Catholic Big Brothers in a charitable fund-raising scheme that ends May 17 with an auction of the statues by Sotheby's at the Los Angeles Music Center. Angel-decorators include 16-year-old artist Alexandra Nechita, Bentley painter Hiro Yamagata and 73-year-old Pierre Matisse, the grandson of the French artist. The unadorned angel is designed by artist Tony Sheets. Similar festivals in the works for this summer, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, include fiberglass overalls in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a fiberglass living-room furniture display in Chicago

Patrick McCaughey has announced that he would step down as director of the Yale Center for British Art as of June 30, 2001. McCaughey, who came to the British art center from the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn., has headed the Yale museum for five years. He plans to focus on research and writing; he remains senior research fellow at Yale through 2002.

Milo Cleveland Beach, director for 13 years of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., announced his retirement Monday. The 71-year-old Beach plans to devote more time to studying India's Mughal period.

S. DILLON RIPLEY, 1913-2001
S. Dillon Ripley, 87, head of the Smithsonian Institution from 1964 to '84, died of pneumonia on Mar. 12 in Washington, D.C. During his tenure he oversaw the construction of the Hirshhorn Museum and the Air and Space Museum and the launching of Smithsonian magazine. He studied ornithology at Yale and Harvard, and went to Southeast Asian with the OSS during World War II before becoming a professor at Yale and in 1959 director of the Peabody Museum there. He co-authored the 10-volume Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan.
-- compiled by Sherry Wong
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