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The Miho Museum, which opened a new I.M. Pei-designed facility in 1997 in Japan's Shigaraki Mountains north of Kyoto, Japan, has admitted it holds a ca 48-inch-tall Buddhist carving of the Bodhisattva that was stolen from China's Boxing County offices in 1994. In a letter to the Museum Security Network, the museum's legal counsel, Mario J. Roberty, confirms that the statue is in fact stolen and asserts that China has no legal claim for restitution under Japanese law. But Roberty says the Miho Museum "would strictly adhere to its high moral standards" and "solve" the situation. The theft was publicized on Apr. 20 by the New York Times, which reported that blue-chip London Asian art dealer Eskenazi Ltd., who sold the piece to the Miho, had refused to say where the buddha had been obtained.

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced $50.2 million in grants for 2000. Of the three major grant categories, education gets the lion's share, tallying $6.2 million, followed by "access" grants of $4.4 million (designed to bring the arts to a broad public) and heritage and preservation awards of $3.8 million. State and regional agencies get 40 percent of NEA grant funds, a total of $35.8 million. NEA emphasis in education and partnership -- sending federal funds to state and regional agencies for regranting -- is a response to congressional anxiety about awards for controversial art projects.
    Among the top 244 education grants in the visual arts:
  • $150,000 to the Education Development Center in Newton, Mass., to research the effects of an arts curriculum on overall student learning.
  • $80,000 to Florida State University to research and develop ways to assess the effectiveness of arts education in grades K through 12.
  • $50,000 to the Northern Indiana Art Association, an inner-city arts center in Munster, for programs aimed at residents of northwest Indiana and suburban Chicago.

  • Among the 208 heritage and preservation grants:
  • $20,000 to support BOMB Magazine's online archive of over 600 interviews.

  • $42,000 to the Cambridge Arts Council for the first national conference on the conservation of public art.

  • $10,000 to the Dia Center for the Arts in New York to document Michael Heizer's City earthwork project in Garden Valley, Nev.

  • $15,000 to the Guggenheim Museum in New York to support a conservation research project on copper alloy sheet metal sculptures by Donald Judd.

  • $47,000 to the NAMES Project Foundation in San Francisco for a searchable, online database documenting the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

  • $17,000 to Rhizome Communications in New York for the development of a database for online art.

  • Among the 208 access grants:
  • $50,000 to Alternate Roots in Atlanta for artist residencies and community projects in under-served areas in the Southeast.

  • $25,000 to the Video Data Bank in Chicago to develop a website for its extensive collection of art videotapes and interviews with artists.

  • $40,000 to Art Resources Transfer in New York to provide books, videos and other publications about contemporary art to libraries nationwide.

  • $45,000 to the Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City, Mo., to support ExhibitsUSA, a national touring exhibition program.

  • $36,500 to Space One Eleven in Birmingham, Ala., for a cyberspace art project.

  • $40,000 to the Whitney Museum to tour smaller shows from its permanent collection.

  • Among the largest partnership grants:
  • $840,000 to Arts Midwest in Minneapolis, serving Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

  • $831,200 to the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, serving Delaware, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Virgin Islands and West Virginia.

  • $960,600 to the Western States Arts Federation, serving Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

  • $836,00 to the California Arts Council.

  • $683,900 to the New York State Council on the Arts.

  • $665,100 to the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Despite fears of weak spring auctions, Christie's has snagged an important work by Salon favorite William Bouguereau for its 19th-century European art sale on May 1. Bouguereau's La Charité (1878), which shows the artist's favorite model, Augustine, surrounded by five cherubic bare-bottomed toddlers, is estimated at $2,000,000-$3,000,000. Fresh to the market, the painting has been in the collection of American banking tycoon and philanthropist Joseph W. Drexel since 1878, when it made its debut at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. The record for a Bouguereau at auction is $2,642,500, set at Sotheby's in 1998.

The Warhol Foundation has licensed rights to produce and sell a selection of silver and enamel jewelry based on works by the Prince of Pop. The mini-sculptures, featuring almost 60 designs based on Warhol's early shoe and cat illustrations plus his later images of flowers, are made by Brooklyn sculptor Elliott Arkin, a master jeweler and comic stylist who has exhibited his sculpture in the past at Allan Stone Gallery in New York. Arkin helped artist Tom Otterness fabricate his design for the 1998 Whitney Museum American Art Award and also made the commemorative sculpture of the Three Tenors in 1996. Arkin already manufactures and distributes a line of 3-D earrings, pins and brooches based on classic art works -- images from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, Munch's The Scream, van Gogh's Sunflowers and Grant Wood's American Gothic. The Warhol line is expected to hit stores in mid-May, at prices ranging from $25 to $100.

Marlborough International Fine Art, accused by the estate of Francis Bacon of systematically defrauding the artist and his sole heir, is also under legal fire from the Kurt Schwitters estate, the New York Times reports. In 1998 a Norway court allowed the Schwitters heirs to terminate their contract with Marlborough on the grounds that the gallery had failed to provide a usable inventory of the artist's works, refused to disclose the location and value of the works and had made late and only partial payments from the sale of 39 works to a German museum. But an appeals court reversed the decision on Mar. 29, granting Marlborough $1.5 million in court costs. Now the heirs are appealing that decision in Norway's supreme court. 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 21-year-old, Ohio-based arts tabloid Dialogue has undertaken a format change in order to stay in business. In its March-April issue, executive editor Meg Galipault announced that the magazine had to find a sponsor or shut down. But several local companies came up with an unspecified amount of cash, and the publication moved to reduce its size from its current ca. 11 x 15 inches to a standard 8½ x 11 in. The sportier-sized May/June issue features its annual focus on Chicago; check out its website for subscription information.

After two years of research, curators Alice Rose George and Lee Marks have compiled "Hope Photographs," a show of over 100 uplifting images that goes on view Apr. 30-July 4 at the Katonah (N.Y.) Museum of Art. Using Jacques Henry Lartique's 1910 photograph of an airplane takeoff as a thematic springboard, the exhibition ranges from Lennart Nilsson's 1965 photograph of a sperm entering an egg to Witold Krassowski's 1994 image of a tailor at his sewing machine in a Rwandan refugee camp. Among the 90 photographers in the show are Harry Callahan, Keith Carter, William Eggleston, Nan Goldin, Joel Meyerowitz, Syliva Plachy and Cindy Sherman. Admission is $3; call (914) 232-9555, ext. 0, for more details.

The new Center for Figurative Painting has been launched in New York at 115 West 30th St., suite 202, by real estate developer Henry Justin. Premiere exhibition is "The Big Idea," a Paul Georges retrospective, May 6-June 10. In addition to Georges' oeuvre, the gallery's collection focuses on the works of Leland Bell, Peter Heinemann, Aristodimos Kaldis and Albert Kresch, all post-War New York figurative painters. Admission is free; call (212) 868-3452 for more information.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is closing its 20,000-sq.-foot modern and contemporary art galleries, which house such masterpieces as Duchamp's Large Glass (1915-23) and Picasso's Three Musicians (1921), until next fall for renovations supervised by Gluckman Mayner Architects. Plans call for the refurbishment of wall and floor surfaces and new furnishings, but the galleries are to retain the spare character of the museum's landmark 1928 building interior.

New kid on the (Chelsea) block LFL Gallery opens its doors on the fourth floor at 531 West 26th St. with the appropriately titled exhibition, "Open," May 2-May 27. The show features conceptual works by Alejandro Cardenas, Holly Coulis, Matt Dilling, Ridley Howard, Young Suh Suk, Aaron Wexler and Kevin Zuker. Call (212) 631-7700 for more info.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech