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A LIST AT WHITNEY GALA|
The Whitney Museum raised nearly $1 million for art acquisitions at its recent "Whitney Gala 2000," according to Fashion Wire Daily. Approximately 460 art patrons shelled out $2,500 a ticket to dine with a crowd that included Harper's Bazaar editor Kate Betts, Robert De Niro, Bryant Gumbel, Estée Lauder heiress Jane Lauder, model Stephanie Seymour, Conde Nast editorial director James Truman and Miramax executive Harvey Weinstein. The dinner, by Manhattan caterers Glorious Foods, featured lobster bisque, lamb chops and mint mango sorbet. Music for the subsequent dance party in the basement was provided by R&B funk band Chic. Chuck Close, which the online fashion wire said was "possibly the only fine artist in the house," said he looked forward to the Whitney Biennial, which opens to the public Mar. 23. "The best thing is that I don't know a lot of the artists," he said," which is always a good sign."
ARTISTS FOR OPEN AUSTRIA
Not everyone supports curator and critic Robert Fleck's call for an art boycott of Austrian museums and galleries as a response to the inclusion of Jörg Haider's far-right Freedom Party in Austria's new coalition government. Lorand Hegyi, director of the Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation in Vienna, has organized "Agenda: Artists for an Open Austria" at the Galerie Ernst Hilger in Paris, opening Mar. 10, 2000. Hegyi argues that the boycott serves only to isolate the country and pave the way for a right-wing takeover of Austrian culture. For more information, visit http://www.e-flux.com/welcome/Ernst-Hilger.
WHENCE THE BELLAGIO COLLECTION?
What is the fate of Steve Wynn's famed Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas, now that MGM Grand has agreed to buy Mirage Resorts for $6.4 billion? The $300 million collection, part-owned by Wynn and part-owned by Mirage, includes Picasso's Portrait of Dora Maar (1942), Jackson Pollock's Frieze (1953-1955), Rembrandt's Portrait of a Man in a Red Doublet (1633) and Van Gogh's Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat (1890). Wynn's art got a lot of free press, but Mirage stockholders complained that it was a low-earning asset. Some observers have speculated that Wynn, whose eyesight is gradually failing from a hereditary disease, will devote himself further to art collecting. The sale should net him more than $500 million, according to news reports. A Bellagio Gallery spokesperson declined to speculate on the collection's future, and would only say that the MGM deal encompassed all of Mirage's assets, including the gallery.
FINCH ON DAVIDBOWIE.COM
Famed Artnet.com scribe Charlie Finch is now to be found on davidbowie.com too, via an audio file of Finch's two-hour lecture at New York University on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. The presentation, to some 40 art students, is an overview of the New York art scene with special attention to hot young stars like Cecily Brown, Damien Loeb and Inka Essenhigh. Bowie is running the talk in six 20-minute segments, beginning Mar. 13.
MISSING RIVERA PAINTINGS FOUND IN RUSSIA?
Two long-lost works by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera may have been found in a storage warehouse belonging to Moscow's Pushkin Museum, according to news reports. The operative word here is "may," as details remain murky. The Mexican newspaper La Jornada reported last week that Rivera's Nightmare of War and Glorious Victory, which last appeared in an exhibition that traveled to China and Russia in the late 1950s, had been found in a Moscow warehouse and that one or both were seen by Paris-based curator Christina Burrus.
A Pushkin representative confirmed that the museum did indeed have Glorious Victory, but denied it had Nightmare of War. But Mexico's National Institute of Fine Arts director Gerardo Estrada says Pushkin officials hinted the museum would be willing to lend Nightmare for $200,000, according to the Associated Press. Burrus reportedly declined to speak about the mural-sized paintings, but indicated she might publish something regarding the matter later. There is no word on the whereabouts of other works missing from the same exhibition, including Frida Kahlo's the Wounded Table and two pieces by Pablo O'Higgins.
FREEZE ON ALBERTO GIACOMETTI ASSOCIATION
The French government has frozen the Alberto Giacometti Association's assets, halted several major loans of works and put the group under control of a judicial administrator, the Wall Street Journal reports. The French Ministry of the Interior has rejected the association's attempt to form the Giacometti Foundation, an institution mandated by the artist's widow's will designed to keep the sculptor's $120 million estate free of France's 60 percent inheritance taxes. The government claims that the association's budget is insufficient and has put state agent Helene Da Camara in charge of the group's $3.5 million in capital, ordered a complete inventory of its holdings and halted any art from leaving the association's warehouse. The association, created in 1989 by Giacometti's widow, has been at the center of a court battle for control between director Mary Lisa Palmer and the widow's executor, Roland Dumas, since her death in 1993.
AMERICAN MUSEUMS ROOTING OUT NAZI LOOT
American museums are following the lead of their British counterparts by undertaking a detailed investigation into which artworks in their collections might be the results of Nazi plunder, according to a report by Reuters. The Museum of Modern Art examined its collection recently, determined approximately 400 pieces that might have been held in Europe during World War II, and has announced it is considering identifying 12 works of art that need further research; the World Jewish Congress is reportedly demanding that MoMA identify all 400 works publicly in order to allow rival heirs to make a case for ownership. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is planning to publish an accounting of its holdings in the next four to five weeks. A report on federal museums is due from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States by the end of the year. The National Gallery of Art is one of the few museums already offering the provenance of all its work, with the information made available on its website.
SOTHEBY'S AND CHRISTIE'S EARNINGS 1999
Whether or not Christie's and Sotheby's engaged in price-fixing, their sales results for 1999 are curiously identical -- $2.3 billion each, an increase of over 15 percent over 1998 sales for both houses. Sotheby's set aside $4.2 million and suspended its 10-cent quarterly dividend, citing the cash needs required for the funding of sothebys.com, the completion of the York Avenue expansion project and the uncertainties surrounding the Department of Justice investigation.
DARGER IN BROOKLYN
Avant-garde director Bob McGrath's Ridge Theater presents At Jennie Richee, a work-in-progress based on the life and work of famed Chicago outsider artist Henry Darger, at St. Ann's Church in Brooklyn, Mar. 9-11, 2000. The show is written by Mac Wellman with music by Julia Wolfe and costumes by Pilar Limosner. The show starts at 8 p.m.; call (718) 858-2424 for more info.
MFA HOUSTON UNVEILS MAJOR EXPANSION
The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston opens its new $83-million, 192,447-square-foot Audrey Jones Beck Building on Mar. 25, 2000. The three-level structure, designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, doubles the museum's gallery space, catapulting the MFAH from the 30th to the sixth-largest art museum in the nation in terms of exhibition space. The new building houses the John A. and Audrey Jones Beck collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art as well as Baroque art from the collection of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, and also includes the museum's first permanent galleries dedicated to American art to 1945.
-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech