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Artnet News
The estate of Francis Bacon has filed suit against Marlborough International Fine Art in Britain's civil and criminal High Court, claiming that the international gallery chain systematically defrauded the late British expressionist and his sole heir, John Edwards. According to the suit, the gallery consistently undervalued Bacon's paintings, buying them directly from the artist for well below market value and subsequently selling them for many times the price. The suit also alleges that Marlborough cannot account for the whereabouts of many paintings. In the 1970s, Marlborough was hit with a $9-million fine for its role in a notorious scandal involving the estate of Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko. The Bacon estate claims that many of the activities in its case occurred in the same time period as the Rothko infractions. The court action was first reported in the U.S. by Carol Vogel in the New York Times.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild has given in to pressure by a political group called the Sexual Assault Response Team to remove the label by the Swiss erotic artist Balthus from her 1993 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, the New York Post's "Page Six" reports. The label, specially designed for the wine bottle, features a picture of a nude young girl that the activists considered child porn. It has been replaced with a blank label for its unveiling at the Four Seasons in New York on Mar. 25. Other artists who have created labels for the wine include Salvador Dalí, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.

Art collectors are flocking to Phillips New York to participate in its May 11 sale of Impressionist and modern art, consigning works worth a total of $80 million. Centerpiece of the sale is Kasimir Malevich's Suprematist Composition (ca. 1919-1920), which does not carry a presale estimate due to its rarity, being the first Suprematist painting by the artist offered at auction since his death. Experts believe it could fetch up to $15 million. Last year's Impressionist and modern auction last year totaled a mere $3.6 million. Phillips' good fortune is due to the ongoing anti-trust investigation plaguing top-tier auctioneers Sotheby's and Christie's, as well as the purchase of Phillips last year by French luxury-goods magnate Bernard Arnault. The presale exhibition is on view at the American Craft Museum, May 5-10, prior to the auction there on May 11.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., has received 84 artworks valued at over $80 million from the Hall Family Foundation. The gift includes sculptures by Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Isamu Noguchi, Claes Oldenburg and 52 pieces by Henry Moore, most already on loan to the museum and displayed in its 17-acre sculpture park. The foundation, created by Hallmark Cards heirs Joyce C. Hall and his wife Elizabeth, has also contributed an unspecified amount to the museum's current capital campaign to finance an $80 million expansion and renovation.

Christie's has appointed Rick Wester as the new international director of its photograph department; he joined the auction house in 1992 as head of the New York photographs department and is credited with helping the significant rise in Christie's share of the market. Also, Andreas Rumbler has been named managing director of Christie's Germany. Rumbler joined the company in 1990 and has been director of the 20th-century art department since 1998, a position he retains.

Is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery? You be the judge. On Mar. 17, during a special collector's viewing for hip figurative painter Elizabeth Peyton at Gavin Brown's Enterprise (GBE) on 15th Street in Manhattan, a pair of artist-provocateurs named Michael Paul Rossi and Eneas set up shop in a newsstand-size space right next to GBE, at 422 W. 14th St. Calling their "gallery" Eneas and Rossi Enterprises (ERE), the pair showed three paintings closely resembling Peyton's colorful renditions of London's young and celebrated. One ERE work, according to Michael Rossi, was "a deconstructed version of Peyton's picture of Liam Gallagher and Jarvis Cocker." Rossi told Artnet News that he and Eneas will most likely try to sell the works.

According to several sources with insider knowledge of the events, things started to heat up when a gallery-goer complimented Peyton on her paintings at the neighboring space. According to ERE, Gavin Brown spray-painted "Remember the Falklands" across the window of Eneas and Rossi (Eneas is Argentinean), referring to the 1982 military confrontation between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. Brown did not deny spraying the façade. In response, Enaeas and Rossi retaliated by spraying on Gavin Brown's windows, "Remember the Boston Tea Party," referring of course to colonial America's attempt to break loose from Britain's tariff control.

As of Mar. 23, Gavin Brown reportedly convinced ERE's landlord to remove the Peyton-esque works. ERE has leased the space for 2 years. Stay-tuned!

The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington presents the Henry Collects: Video, Mar. 24-June 25, featuring three video installations on view continuously for a month each: Sam Taylor-Wood's Hysteria, 1997, which runs Mar. 24-Apr. 23, Bill Viola's Anthem, 1983, on view Apr. 28-May 28 and Nic Nicosia's Middletown, 1997, June 2-June 25. Call (206) 543-2280 for more details.

On the heels of its attendance record-breaking "Monet at Giverny," The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., presents "James Tissot: Victorian Life/Modern Love, an exhibition of the 19th-century French painter's portrayals of Victorian society," Mar. 24- July 2. Organized by Malcom Warner, curator at the Yale Center for British Art, and the American Federation of the Arts, the show is the first North American retrospective of the artist's work since 1968. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased by phone at 1-888-223-6000.

Legendary American filmmaker Stan Brakhage receives an honorary doctorate from Bard College on Mar. 28. The presentation will be followed by the premiere screenings of three Brakhage films, The God of Day Had Gone Down Upon Him, Persian Series No. 9 and Water for Maya. Admission is free; call (914) 758-7512 for more info.

The New-York Historical Society presents 92 year-old historian Jacques Barzun in a rare public appearance talking with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. about his monumental new book, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (HarperCollins, $35.00), Apr. 4 at 6 p.m. Admission is free, but reservations are required; call (212) 873-3400, extension 0.

The USC School of Fine Arts presents Donald Kuspit's three-part Getty Lecture series, "Subjectivity in Modern and Postmodern Art," Apr. 4, 6 and 10. The first lecture, "The Romantic Subject: Art as the Embodiment of Creative Illness," examines the modern revival of the mad artist. The second, "Non-Objectivity as a Crisis of Subjectivity," examines the meaning of nonobjective art for Kandinsky, Mondrian, Motherwell and Rothko. The third lecture, "Semiotic Anti-Subject: Post-Modernism's Repudiation of Subjectivity," argues that the core of postmodernism is its cynicism about subjectivity, especially an artist's subjectivity. Admission is free but parking is $6; call (213) 740-ARTS for more information.

Is your Morris Louis looking a little dingy these days? The Morris Louis Conservation Fund is seeking applications from public museums that own a Louis work in need of conservation. The grant project was created to preserve and promote the artist's work and hopes to raise awareness of how to best conserve Color Field paintings; any organization which has federal tax-exemption and has at least one Louis painting qualifies to make an application. For more information call (202) 457-0200.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech