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Australian art critic Benjamin Genocchio is being threatened with a $50-million lawsuit for his fighting front-page words in the Australian newspaper on "The Italians: Three Centuries of Italian Art," a blockbuster collection of 107 Italian Old Masters on view at the National Gallery of Art in Canberra. The fearless art scribe, who has been dragged into court several times previously for his blunt opinions, called the much-ballyhooed show "a resoundingly average exhibition of minor pictures by second and third division artists," and noted that many of the works were poorly restored. The description prompted Italian culture chief Vittorio Sgarbi to denounce the review and promise to sue the newspaper for defamation. "The journalist needs to go back to school," Sgarbi said, "primary school." Sgarbi is a well-known critic in Italy, where he presents a daily TV commentary titled Sgarbi quotidiani, which translates as "daily Sgarbi" and "daily acts of unpleasantness."

National Gallery director Brian Kennedy, who has caught heat in the past for canceling an appearance at his museum of the "Sensation" exhibition, called Genocchio's review "second-rate criticism, sloppy journalism and an appalling insult." Genocchio said that he stands by his review, which also noted that shows of Old Masters were so rare in Australia that "The Italians" should be "heartily applauded," though he thinks that the best show of Old Masters to hit the country had been "Rubens and the Italian Renaissance" at the NGA 10 years ago.

A new contemporary art fair is due to open in Monterrey, Mexico, Apr. 4-7, 2002. The Muestra 001: Contemporary Art Fair is billed as "a meeting point for promotion of Hispanic and Latin American art collectionism in an art environment of international exchange." Under the direction Charles Merewether and taking place at the Cintermex business center, Muestra includes more than 40 galleries and cultural institutions, including Chac Mool Gallery, Luis Adelantado and Praxis. Daily admission is $50. For more info, try

Israeli-born video artist Irit Batsry, who has lived and worked in New York since 1983, is winner of the Whitney Museum's second Bucksbaum Award, the $100,000 prize and artist-in-residency awarded to an artist in the Whitney Biennial. The artist's 80-minute film, These Are Not My Images (Neither There nor Here) (2002), shot on video and digitally edited, is set in Southern India and revolves around three characters, a Western filmmaker, a half-blind guide and a local filmmaker. The film has several remaining screenings at the museum: Tues.-Thurs. at 3:45 p.m., Friday at 4:45 p.m. and also on Saturday, Apr. 13 at 4 p.m., Sunday Apr. 28 at 4 p.m., Sunday May 5 at 3:45 p.m. and Sunday May 26 at 3:45 p.m.

The 25th Sao Paulo Bienal has opened, and curator Alfons Hug has done away with the historical section. "Sao Paulo has always been the only biennial among the 50 that exist worldwide to have a historic nucleus," he told the Associated Press. "To eliminate it is not revolutionary, it's very obvious." It's also controversial, as the country's most influential newsweekly called it "a biennial without content" -- a comment not that different than those garnered by the "2002 Biennial Exhibition" at the Whitney Museum. The Sao Paulo show, the largest in the southern hemisphere, is on view Mar. 23-June 2, 2002, with 190 artists from 70 countries taking up the theme of "Iconografias Metropolitanas" at the 30,000-square-meter exhibition space on three floors of the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion.

Museum-watchers are abuzz over the profile of Menil Collection chief curator Matthew Drutt in the April 2002 issue of Artnews, written by Houston artist and critic Christopher French. Two of the juicy Drutt-quotes in the piece have the Tom Krens protégé "preaching the gospel of change" at the directorless Menil, which needs to be moved past the "freeze-dried snapshot" left at founder Dominique de Menil's death in 1997. Notable in this regard is a planned 2004 survey of the Neue Sachlichkeit, a movement that was distinctly overlooked by de Menil, who favored art that was French and spiritual. Also on the schedule, Anna Gaskell in September 2002, Donald Judd and the Malevich retrospective from the Guggenheim in 2003.

Canadian photographer Jeff Wall has been named winner of the 2002 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, a prize consisting of SEK 500,000 (about $48,800) and a gold medal. The award ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 9, 2002 in Göteborg, Sweden.

Installation artist Domenica Gonzalez-Foerster has won the 2002 Marcel Duchamp Prize, a €35,000 award that also carries with it an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Oct. 15-Dec. 15, 2002. Gonzalez-Foerster, who lives in Paris, was born in 1965 and has showed her work at Galerie Jennifer Flay in Paris, Schipper + Krome in Berlin and at Portikus in Frankfurt.

The Edith-Ruß-Haus fur Medienkunst in Oldenburg, Germany, has announced its stipend recipients for 2002: Johan Grimonprez, the team of Dagmar Keller and Martin Wittwer, and Florian Zeyfang. Each individual stipend totals over €10,000.

A national exhibition and competition titled "Build a Better Doghouse for Snoopy" opens at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., Apr. 6-May 5, 2002, coinciding with "Speak Softly and Carry a Beagle: The Art of Charles Schulz," the Charles Schultz retrospective currently on view there. "New Digs" features over 50 3D submissions in both full-scale and miniature categories, with the winners to be selected by a jury including New York Times art critic Deborah Solomon and the sculptor Jarvis Rockwell.

Celebrated British yBa Tracey Emin has made the news for losing her cat. According to the London Times, after Emin's cat Docket wandered off, the artist put up a few lost-cat posters in her neighborhood -- but they were all taken down by souvenir-seekers who thought any graphic by Emin might be worth something. White Cube, the artist's dealer, hastened to announce that the fliers weren't some kind of Conceptual Art piece. The good news? Docket was found and is now safe and sound.

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