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Uptown New York dealer Mary Boone is suing 1980s superstar artist David Salle for $1 million, according to court papers cited by the New York Daily News. Salle is accused of reneging on a contract requiring him to consign work worth at least $850,000 to the gallery. The lawsuit says that the painter received a $500,000 advance but has failed to keep up his end of the agreement. Curiously, Boone denied being involved in a suit to Daily News reporter Deborah Mitchell. The gallerist previously sued Salle in 1997 after designer Gianni Versace backed out of a deal to buy a work by the artist from her and bought another one directly from Salle's studio instead; that suit was settled out of court. Boone did not return several phone calls requesting comment for Artnet News.

The New York Times continues its pro-management coverage of the strike at the Museum of Modern Art, which is now in its third week. In a May 16 story, the "paper of record" said the strike was "losing steam" because as many as 100 museum staffers had crossed the picket line. The Times goes on to quote shadowy "museum officials" saying that the strike has not affected museum attendance. The museum's professional and clerical staff -- some 250 workers, most of them women -- are represented by Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers.

Local 2110 member Harris Dew told Artnet News that the museum hadn't budged on its negotiating position, but said that only "a handful" of union members have crossed the picket line. Dew noted that the strike has led to the postponement of this month's "Video Rewind" Monday symposia, as well as the cancellation of a number of talks by artists, including Joan Braderman and Julia Jacquette.

Local 2110 has scheduled a "group roar" demonstration at MoMA for May 19 at 5:30 p.m. About 100 people showed up for the first such event last Friday (which the Times characterized as a demonstration in which "union members screamed at museumgoers"). This time around, the action features artists from "Greater New York," the survey of new art at the MoMA affiliate in Queens, P.S. 1.

With its Impressionist and Modern Art sale on May 11, Phillips Auctioneers made its first attempt under the new ownership of Bernard Arnault and LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton to swim with the big fish -- but made only a small splash, selling just 61 percent, or 19 of 31 works offered. The sale totaled $43.9 million, falling short of the $100 million or so Phillips is thought to have spent guaranteeing works (presumably, Phillips now begins its run as a big-time auction house with a considerable inventory of modern works) and fitting out the American Craft Museum, where the sale was held. Phillips is donating three percent of the auction proceeds, or around $1.2 million, to the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

Only four works sold within or above their estimates, including the most expensive lot, Kasimir Malevich's Suprematist Composition (ca. 1919-20), which went for $17.8 million, including the buyer's premium. Art world insiders reported that Phillips had bought the work for $15 million from Malevich's heirs, who received the painting from MoMA just last year. Hoping for a dramatic sale finale, Phillips placed the picture under a velvet wrap and perched it on an easel next to the auctioneer, Phillips international executive director Dan Klein. Superstar Sharon Stone, in the saleroom to drum up business as chairperson of auction beneficiary amFAR, disrobed the picture and then encouraged the audience to bid. In the end it was an anonymous telephone bidder who got the work.

In spite of the modest results, both Arnault and Phillips CEO Christopher Thomson struck a positive note after the sale. Phillips has gotten its foot in the door to the global art trade. "It's just the beginning," Thomson said.

A French appeals court has ruled in favor of author Hector Feliciano in an $850,000 libel case brought by the Wildenstein family of art dealers. The New York-based dealers sued the author after he suggested in The Lost Museum, his best-selling study of Nazi art plunder, that the late Georges Wildenstein maintained commercial ties with the Nazis during the French occupation. The book, originally published in French in 1995, has been central to a number of court cases, including one that led to the return of a Cubist landscape by Albert Gleizes from the Pompidou Center to the grandson of French collector Alphonse Kann, from whom the work was stolen in 1942.

British crop circle artist Rod Dickinson is staging the first of two planned reenactments of the 1978 massacre and suicide of 914 members of the People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London on May 26. The first reenactment, The Promised Land, features actor Graeme Edler delivering one of Reverend Jim Jones' political and religious homilies and includes a reconstruction of a miracle healing that was a typical part of the sermons. White Nights, a reenactment of the last few hours of the People's Temple, is slated to be held at a public park at the end of July. Volunteers are still being sought to play Jones' followers in the event; those interested in joining should check out the project's site at

Guernsey's auction house is holding the first major sale focusing exclusively on the history of graffiti and related urban arts, June 14-15, at the Puck Building in SoHo. The auction features hundreds of paintings, drawings, sculptures and constructions as well as documentation and ephemera, including works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Case 2, CoCo 144, Crash, Dondi, Flint 707, Keith Haring, Lady Pink, Phase 2, Kenny Scharf, Tracy 168 and Zephyr. A gala preview benefiting the Bronx Museum of the Arts is being held June 13; tickets are $50. Call (212) 794-2280 for more information.

The International Tribal Antique Show returns to the Seventh Regiment Armory in Manhattan, May 21-24. The fair, featuring 53 international dealers, is the East Coast's largest display of art and artifacts by indigenous peoples and it caps off the week during which Sotheby's holds Pre-Columbian and African and Oceanic art auctions and both Sotheby's and Christie's conduct American Indian art auctions. A preview party benefiting the Gay Men's Health Crisis inaugurates the fair on May 20; tickets are $75. Daily show admission, including a catalogue, is $15. Call (310) 455-2886 for info, or check out the show's site at

The American Academy of Arts and Letters is holding its annual award and induction ceremony on May 17. New members are Pop artist Red Grooms, architect Steven Holl and writer James Salter. New honorary members include theater director Robert Wilson and architects Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas. Among this year's 45 award-winners, all non-members, are Pat Passlof, recipient to the award of merit for painting; Ellen Gallagher, James Siena, Honoré Sharrer, Trevor Winkfield and Steve Wolfe, winners of the academy awards in art; and Charles Garabedian, winner of the Jimmy Ernst award in art. New York City Department of Cultural Affairs commissioner Schuyler G. Chapin gets the award for distinguished service to the arts.

The J. Paul Getty Museum has appointed Thomas Rhoads manager of administration. Rhoads was founding director of the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and supervised the museum's move from the Edgemar complex to Bergamot Station. The Getty also named Susan DeLand head of retail merchandising.

Jeff Koons' giant Puppy flower sculpture is coming to New York. Art patron and real estate magnate Jerry Speyer and the Public Art Fund are bringing the crowd-pleasing work to the front of the Rockefeller Center, siting it in the same spot where the giant Christmas tree stands during the winter holidays. Work has begun on the 43-foot piece, which will be on view through Labor Day. Originally installed near Kassel in 1992 in response to Documenta IX's snub of Koons, a version of the sculpture has found a permanent home in front of the Guggenheim Bilbao.

Annalee Newman, 91, widow of Abstract Expressionist painter Barnett Newman who established the Barnett Newman Foundation after his death, died at home in New York on May 10.
-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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