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Foot and mouth disease has claimed its first art-related victim in Britain. Sotheby's has postponed the sale of the Leverhulme Collection, a three-day auction that was scheduled for May 15-17, 2001, at the premises of Thornton Manor, Wirral, Merseyside. The auction of the contents of the estate of the Viscount Leverhulme, which includes a collection of Old Master and British paintings, English and Continental furniture, porcelain, ceramics and other antiques, will now be held June 26-28. Highlights of the collection are slated to be on view at Sotheby's New York, Apr. 17-21.

The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art opens its much-anticipated "Public Offerings" exhibition of "breakthrough works" by 25 contemporary artists, Apr. 1-July 29, 2001. Organized by MOCA chief curator Paul Schimmel with project director Ciara Ennis, the show promises pivotal works, many exhibited in a historic context for the first time. Plus, every artist included in the show went to art school, either in Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, London or Tokyo.

Participants include Janine Antoni, Matthew Barney, Thomas Demand, Renée Green, Michael Joaquín Grey, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Toba Khedoori, Sharon Lockhart, Sarah Lucas, Steven McQueen, Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, Chris Ofili, Laura Owens, Tsuyoshi Ozawa, Jorge Pardo, Manfred Pernice, Jason Rhoades, Yutake Sone, Diana Thater, Rikrit Tiravanija, Rachel Whiteread, and Jane and Louise Wilson.

Among the trademark installations are Antoni's Gnaw (1992), featuring 600-pound cubes of lard and chocolate gnawed by the artist, from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art; Matthew Barney's Transexualis (1991), an installation including weight-lifting equipment made of cast petroleum jelly and housed in its own walk-in cooler, from the collection of the San Francisco MoMA; Green's Import/Export Funk Office (1992-93), originally made during a fellowship in Berlin; Hume's "hospital door" paintings from 1989-90; McQueen's Bear (1993), a film of two black men wrestling; seven "dung" paintings from 1993-94 by Ofili; and Tiravanija's Pad Thai (1990), a makeshift kitchen serving food to visitors.

The ninth annual Art Chicago is slated for May 11-14, 2001, at Navy Pier in the windy city. Sponsored by Thomas Blackman Associates, the four-day exposition includes presentations from 225 modern and contemporary galleries from 23 countries. This year's fair also includes the "International Invitational," a show of 21 "innovative" galleries that specialize in "provocative" artists, ranging from Andrew Kreps (New York) and Chicagoprojectroom (Los Angeles) to Sadie Coles (London) and Luis Campaña (Berlin). The May 10 gala preview benefits the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; tickets are $100; contact (312) 397-3868. Daily admission is $12.

Speaking of provocative, the International Center of Photography in New York opens three such shows at once, Mar. 29-June 10, 2001. "Behind Closed Doors: The Art of Hans Bellmer" presents 200 works by the French Surrealist best known for his erotic doll photos and sculptures in a show organized by Therese Lichtenstein and designed by Andrée Putman. "Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1918," features 65 daguerreotypes and other 19th-century photographs that suggest a broad-minded view towards intimacy between men during the Victorian era in an exhibition organized by critic and art historian David Deitcher. And last but not least, "Kiki Smith: Telling Tales" showcases new work from the celebrated New York body artist artist in her first solo show in the city in 10 years.

Wistful for those days over a quarter-century ago, when art was de-objectified and New York galleries were as liable to present an empty white room as they were a space full of paintings and sculptures? Then you're in luck, as two of the great Conceptual artists are readying new exhibitions. Opening Mar. 30 at Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert on West 19th Street in Chelsea is a show of "Early Works 1966-1973" by Robert Barry, who is celebrated for artworks that read like simple lists of everyday objects or conceptual states.

A week later, the British conceptualist Ian Wilson opens at Peter Blum Gallery in SoHo on Apr. 5, 2001, with a discussion -- the substance of Wilson's work -- scheduled for Apr. 26 at 6 p.m. The subject is "the absolute." Wilson's output from 1966 to 2001 are paired with works by Minimalist painter Robert Ryman from 1965 to 2000.

The Taliban of Afghanistan has destroyed all the pre-Islamic statues it could get its hands on, including the celebrated pair of monumental 5th-century Buddhas in Bamian. Reporters given a brief look on Mar. 22 at the national museum in Kabul, closed since 1996, describe a "shell-pocked, graffiti-scrawled structure" containing a display of about 50 objects, including ancient muskets, carved wooden screens and a 2nd-century Greek stone carving. Museum director Ahman Yar said that most of the museum's holdings had been looted during the country's civil war and the Soviet occupation. Taliban authorities say they intend to reopen the museum and stock it with artifacts stored elsewhere for safekeeping and taken from would-be smugglers.

Funnyman Steve Martin's exhibition of his art collection opens at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art on the Las Vegas strip, Apr. 7-Sept. 3, 2001. The show features 28 works by artists ranging from Seurat, Picasso and Hopper to Lichtenstein, Hockney, Eric Fischl and Martin Mull. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is lending works by Neil Jenney and David Park that Martin had donated to its collection. The show of Martin's works follows the loan exhibition from the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., which closes Mar. 25.

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Behind Closed Doors:
The Art of Hans Bellmer

Andrée Putman

David Deitcher

Recording Conceptual Art: Early Interviews with Barry, Huebler, Kaltenbach, LeWitt, Morris, Oppenheim, Siegelaub, Smithson, and Weiner

Robert Ryman

Eric Fischl