CONTROVERSY FROM NEW VENICE CURATOR
Is the intractable Middle East conflict coming to the 2003 Venice Biennale? Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art curator Francesco Bonami, who was named general curator of the biennale two months ago, has roiled the waters by suggesting the exposition include a Palestinian pavilion. As yet there's no official word on the proposal. Israel has had its own exhibition space at Venice for some time (at the 49th Biennale, it held an installation by Uri Katzenstein); no Arab country -- save Egypt -- has its own pavilion. Visitors to the 48th Biennale three years ago may remember artist Rirkrit Tiravanija planting a sapling to dedicate a new Thai pavilion, but the site was covered over by an outdoor restaurant at the following show two years later.
IS THIS THE END OF EYESTORM? Eyestorm, one of the longer-lasting dot-com vendors of online art, has closed both its New York and London offices and is facing liquidation, according to unconfirmed reports. Founded in late 1999 as a mass-marketer of inexpensive photo-based prints by top contemporary artists, Eyestorm soon was offering works by some 120 artists at prices ranging from $200 to $7,000. Eyestorm CEO Don Smith raised untold millions from private investors like C. Richard Kramlich and Charles R. Schwab, but apparently revenues -- which Smith would never publicly reveal -- couldn't keep up with costs. One whack to the bottom line was delivered by Eyestorm's store at 60 Mercer Street in SoHo, opened last year at a monthly rent of $25,000.
ART INSTITUTE SOAKS PATRONS
Is the Art Institute of Chicago trying to turn art lovers into museum haters? Visitors to the museum on a recent rainy Saturday were greeted by a long line of people snaking down the steps past the celebrated recumbent lions and extending onto the sidewalk, where many were forced to wait for 15 minutes or longer in the downpour. The delay was all the more curious since no blockbusters were on view (top draws were "Ansel Adams at 100" and a show of photos from the Institute of Design, 1937-71). Poor management seems to be increasing at the Art Institute, which was reported in early 2002 to have lost millions of dollars of its endowment in hedge fund investments. Or it could be the stick rather than the carrot: museum members could stroll right in without waiting out in the rain.
FORBES LISTS ZILLIONAIRE COLLECTORS Forbes.com has compiled a list of to billionaire art collectors, along with their presumed assets and collecting trophies. Top of the list is Bill Gates, natch, whose net worth is estimated at $52.8 billion and who favors 19th-century art, like Winslow Homer's Lost in the Grand Banks (1898), for which he reportedly paid $36 million in 1998. Other super-rich collectors (and their collecting specialties) are Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen (Impressionism, Post-Impressionism), Mexican telephone magnate Carlos Slim Helu (Rodin sculpture), French luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault (modern and contemporary), L.A. businessman Eli Broad (contemporary art), Latin American television entrepreneur Gustavos Cisneros and Family (Latin American art), French retailing giant François Pinault (Picasso to Koons), makeup king Leonard A. Lauder (Cubism), David Rockefeller (Impressionism, 20th century), MaxMara founder Achille Maramotti (Renaissance and modern art), makeup king Ronald S. Lauder (German and Austrian Expressionism), and 18-year-old German prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis (porcelain).
TAYLOR HEADS BRITISH CRAFTS COUNCIL Louise Taylor has been appointed director of the Crafts Council in London, succeeding Janet Barnes, who has been named chief executive of the York Museums and Gallery Trust.