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Artnet News
Not everyone is happy with Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn's sweet deal on the $400-million art collection he assembled for the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. As has been widely publicized, in the $6.5-billion MGM Grand purchase of Mirage Resorts, Wynn received right of first refusal on works from the collection -- and at a special price, conceivably enabling him to buy works and immediately resell them at a profit. Several Mirage shareholders didn't look kindly on the arrangement and have filed a suit in Clark County District Court in an attempt to stall the deal, according to a report in the New York Observer. The lawsuit accuses Wynn of structuring his deal at the expense of shareholders, and Mirage board members of failing in their duty to maximize share values when they agreed to the deal.

First, the U.S. Supreme Court tagged Po-Mo supremo Jeff Koons for copying a commercial art postcard for his 1988 String of Puppies sculpture. Now, toy designer Norman Emms is demanding payment from Brit bad-boy Damien Hirst after the artist copied his £14.99 children's science model for Hymn, a 20 ft. painted bronze sculpture. Charles Saatchi, who bought the piece for £1 million, a record price for the artist, told the London Times that he was unaware of the source of Hirst's inspiration, and offered to make amends by selling the models in the shop at his gallery when the piece goes on exhibit beginning mid-April. Humbrol, the company that manufactures the anatomical torso announced that it is taking advice on legal action.

Investment brokerage baron Charles Schwab, his wife Helen and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are considering suing the Madeleine Haas Russell Trust for breaching an oral contract to sell them Pablo Picasso's Nu au Fauteuil Noir, 1932, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. According to the Schwabs, the plan called for them to pay for 60 percent of the purchase and give the museum the money to buy the other 40 percent; they would then make their share of their painting a promised gift to the museum upon their deaths. Russell's heirs say they were led to believe the painting would be held by the museum, which would ultimately own it. They decided to stop the sale when they learned the Schwabs' plan. The erotic painting depicting Picasso's mistress Marie-Therese Walter was sold instead to chairman of the Limited Leslie Wexner at a Christie's auction for $45.1 million last Nov. The Schwabs claim the heirs reneged on the contract and say they may sue.

A proposed installation by conceptual artist Hans Haacke for the Reichstag, home of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, has been narrowly approved by lawmakers after having elicited vigorous opposition. Haacke's proposal is a large wooden trough filled with soil from every parliamentary constituency in Germany, a potential garden that Haacke hopes will sprout into an unpredictable bed of native central European flora. A neon sign reading "Der Bevölkerung" ("To the Population") hangs above it. The message challenges the inscription over the entrance to the Reichstag that reads "Dem Deutschen Volke" ("To the German People") -- a reference with Nazi overtones to what Haacke calls "some kind of mythical Volk" rather than the entire population of Germany, which now includes many immigrants. Critics had denounced Haacke's project as inappropriate despite approval by the Bundestag's art advisory board, but the lower house voted 260-258 in favor of the work Apr. 5, the AP reports.

Much was made of the wide public interest in"Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America," the collection of photographs and postcards documenting lynchings throughout America that was exhibited first at the Roth Horwitz Gallery on the upper West Side of Manhattan and now at the New-York Historical Society (to June 18). But Dread Scott, a contemporary New York artist known for his provocative art installations (including one at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989, in which viewers were invited to stand on an American flag), has taken pains to remind us that vigilante violence is not solely the province of history. Scott has installed Jasper the Ghost, a public sculpture memorializing the 1998 lynching of James Byrd in Jasper, Tex., at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, N.Y. (to Apr. 16). The work consists of a 50-foot section of blacktop, a truck bumper, 500 feet of chain hanging from five telephone poles and several bones attached to the chains. "Clearly, at a time when police are killing unarmed people of color at will," Scott said, "lynching is hardly a thing of the past."

The spring photo sales at New York auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's are proving that the art boom is extending well into the darkroom. Sotheby's sale on Apr. 5 of photos from the 7-11 collection totaled $2.7 million for 77 of 83 lots sold, with new records for Paul Strand ($335,750), Edward Weston ($313,750) and a Man Ray rayograph ($258,750). For complete auction results, go the's Fine Art Auctions Report.

"Salvador Dalí's Optical Illusions," on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn., Jan. 21-Mar. 26, 2000, has broken all records for attendance, admission revenue and museum shop sales at the museum. Approximately 80,000 persons from at least 33 states swarmed to the show, netting the Atheneum an estimated $400,000 in admission and grossing more than $262,000 in sales at its shop. The show now travels to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., Apr. 19-June 18, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, July 23-Oct. 1.

The Judith Rothschild Foundation has announced grants totaling $200,000 to increase the visibility of under-recognized, recently deceased American artists. A selection of the grants, ranging in amount from $6,000 to $25,000, go towards museum exhibitions and catalogues for artists including Charles Alston at the Cinque Gallery in New York City, Joe Brainard at the Berkeley Art Museum, self-taught African-American artist Sam Doyle at the High Museum in Atlanta, Ida Kohlmeyer at the Newcomb Art Gallery in New Orleans, Robert Overby at the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Peter Takal at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock and Adja Yunkers at the Bayly Art Museum in Charlottesville, Va. Other grants awarded include the purchase of Joan Brown's sculpture Untitled (Bird) for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the documentation and cataloguing of drawings for the estate of New York sculptor Al Taylor.

The Sydney and Frances Lewis Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art have reopened at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts after a year's hiatus. The new installation features works that have been in storage since the 1980s along with a number of new acquisitions, including a wall drawing by Sol LeWitt and pieces by Helen Frankenthaler, Francesco Clemente and Elizabeth Murray. Two special exhibitions opened simultaneously to inaugurate the galleries on Apr. 4, "Vanitas: Meditations on Life and Death in Contemporary Art," featuring 14 contemporary artists, including Tony Feher, Robert Gober, Mona Hatoum and Rachel Whiteread, which runs through June 18, and "Landscapes Transformed: Photographs from the Permanent Collection," including works by Walker Evans, Ansel Adams and Sally Mann, on view through Dec. 10.

Michael E. Shapiro has been appointed director of the High Museum in Atlanta. Shapiro has been employed by the High since 1995 and most recently held the position of acting director. Shapiro's selection follows an extensive five-month search; he replaces Ned Rifkin, who announced his departure for Houston's Menil Collection Nov. 1999.

Elsa Longhauser, director of the Moore College of Art and Design's Galleries at Moore, has been named director of the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Longhauser had been curator at Moore since 1983, and a national search for a replacement begins this summer.

Don't like the "Whitney Biennial 2000"? Try "1900: Art at the Crossroads" at the Guggenheim Museum, May 19-Sept. 10, 2000, specializing in all the hot artists of 100 years ago. The Gugg's own revisionist art historian, curator Robert Rosenblum, promises paintings and sculptures of lesser-known artists whose achievements are only now being acknowledged, as well as works by established artists of the period, including William Adolphe Bouguereau, Edward Burne-Jones, Thomas Eakins and Edward Munch and just emerging revolutionary figures such as Giacomo Balla, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse and Piet Mondrian. The show is currently on view at the Royal Academy in London, its co-organizing institution.

Can art compete with luxury cars? Manhattan art lovers have a chance to find out at the Mercedes Benz Manhattan Artspace, an art gallery at the Mercedes showroom at 536 W. 41st Street and 10th Ave. On view right now are selections from Leah Poller's series "101 Beds," limited edition polychrome bronze sculptures exploring the manifold aspects of, um, beds, Mar. 23-May 12, 2000.

The search for young art doesn't show any signs of flagging, particularly not in Houston, Tex., where the Contemporary Arts Museum presents "Lather, Rinse, Repeat: Work from Houston High Schools," Apr. 7-May 21, 2000. The exhibition has been organized by the CAM's Teen Council, and the future art stars are Nicole Allen, Michael Bernell, Beau Boles, Shannon Raven Clark, Allison Crider, Jennifer Cummins, Meredith Cunningham, Christina Diliberto, Erin Doyle, Jonathan Eastman, Andrew Francis, Michael Furst, Andrea Glasser, Amy Greene, Julie Hill, Sarah Hirsch, Jeannine Kocian, Anya Lloyd, Marisa Miller, Jessica Pollock, Megan Ray, Patrick Renner, Salomon Requeña, Christine Ross, Tim Silverman, Corey Towers, Bao Vo, Katie Weymouth and William Winkler.

Cooper Union presents writer/photographer Edward Rubin's lecture "La Vida Loca: the Life of the Artist in Cuba," an intimate look at the lives of major artists currently living and working in Havana, Apr. 10 at 7 p.m. The talk is being held at the Wollman auditorium, 51 Astor Place between Third and Fourth Avenues; admission is free.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech