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Artnet News
The Professional and Administrative Staff Association of the Museum of Modern Art (PASTA-MOMA) is threatening to strike on Friday, Apr. 28, if current contract talks don't bear fruit. About a third of the museum staff -- everything from clerks to junior curators -- belongs to Local 2110 UAW, which is girding for pickets seven days a week outside the museum. PASTA-MOMA complains of substandard wages, benefit cuts and the museum's "open shop" policy, which allows employees to be covered by union contracts without paying union dues. According to Local 2110 president Maida Rosenstein, the union seeks an increase in starting salaries from $17,000 to $20,000 and a five percent annual raise. The museum has agreed only to a three percent raise. Rosenstein adds that MoMA refuses to give employees specific information on the forthcoming construction project and what it might mean to staff jobs. The museum declined to comment while negotiations are in progress.

The Louvre's new collection of 120 African sculptures and artifacts may include works that were stolen, critics say. The International Council of Museums has pointed out two recently purchased Nok terracottas, originally from Nigeria, which have been under strict Nigerian sale and export restrictions since 1943, and UNESCO has written officially to the French authorities demanding a full explanation. French President Jacques Chirac, who battled for years to include primitive art in the Louvre, has promised to make the restitution of plundered works a priority. Plus, he said, those countries that have lost works would be proud to have their cultures recognized by the Louvre. France has also signed an agreement with the Nigerian government to train Nigerian curators in restoration and museum management in exchange for keeping the Nok statues.

The Royal Academy's first 24-hour exhibition, "Monet and the 20th Century," proved so popular that it made it to the English Tourism Council's list of top ten attractions of 1999, placing it alongside Madame Tussaud's waxworks museum and the Tower of London in popularity with tourists. The number of visitors to the RA rose to 1.39 million last year from 912,714 in 1998, when it ranked 19th on the list.

Philippe de Montebello, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's director, is showing even more of the dramatic flair that museum visitors have become accustomed to -- on Apr. 27, he reads poetry in French as part of "Painters in Paris: A Reading" in the museum's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. De Montebello is accompanied by Irene Worth (recently seen as Princess Alina in the film Onegin), who tackles some prose passages in English. Featured are texts by authors associated with the School of Paris, including Guillaume Apollinaire, Andre Breton, Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. The pricey event -- tickets are $25! -- complements the current blockbuster, "Painters in Paris: 1895-1950," Mar. 8-Dec. 31. Call (212) 570-3949 for more info.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has listed approximately 370 paintings from its collection that have gaps in provenance between 1933 and 1940 and might potentially have been looted during the Holocaust. The list includes Claude Monet's The Red Hood, Madame Monet (1868) and Henri Matisse's Interior with an Etruscan Vase (1940), both among the museum's top attractions.

The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College presents the largest exhibition of works by Russian dissident artist Ilya Kabakov in the U.S., June 18-Sep. 3, 2000. "Ilya Kabakov: 1968-1998" features early drawings, paintings, sculptures and previously unexhibited installations, including the Red Corner (1983) and Reverse (1998). Admission is free; call (914) 758-7598 for more information.

The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation has announced the tenth Space Program grant awards of free studio spaces in TriBeCa for one year. The 14 winners are Nina Bovasso, Jane Creech, Katherine Daniels, Nuno de Campos, Tara Donovan, Linda Herritt, Julia Kunin, Tracy Miller, Sarah Oppenheimer, Mick O'Shea, Andrew Sonpon, Dannielle Tegeder, Khanh Vo and Susanne Walters. The jury consisted of artists Cynthia Carlson, Philip Pearlstein, Christy Rupp, Katy Schimert and Fred Wilson.

Get ready to run back to H & R Block! A scant two weeks after the most dreaded day on the calendar -- April 15 -- Bay Area conceptualist and book maven Charles Gute is unveiling his Art Tax Act of 2000 at the Patricia Sweetow Gallery in San Francisco, May 2-June 3. Gute's devilish proposal, done up in the chillingly realistic format of an official Congressional bill and accompanying resolution, calls for new taxes on art materials in order to slow the current societal tendency towards rampant art-making. Under Gute's proposal, a Bureau of Art Fabrication would collect the new taxes, and channel some of the proceeds towards programs for artist rehabilitation. Call (415) 788-5126 for more details.

The Internet art bug even reaches deep into Iran, which now has its first virtual art gallery. Dideh Gallery, which keeps a real-world office in Munich as well as in Iran, features contemporary works by Iranian artists in continually updated exhibitions. The gallery website is bi-lingual -- English and Persian, bringing to international light the emerging creative stirrings rising from post-Revolutionary suppression.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech