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The Metropolitan Museum of Art has called off its planned retrospective devoted the French fashionista Coco Chanel, originally scheduled for next December as the backdrop for the museum's annual winter gala. The official word about the change cites the recent death of chief Costume Institute curator Richard Martin, but insiders say the move has more to do with the controversy surrounding Chanel's estimated $1.5 million sponsorship of the show. Museum staffers also objected to what the New York Times called attempts by Chanel chief designer Karl Lagerfeld to dictate the exhibition's contents. The show was slated for the Met galleries upstairs rather than the Costume Institute's basement quarters, and Lagerfeld reportedly pushed for the inclusion of works by contemporary artists like Jenny Holzer and Claes Oldenburg, a plan opposed by Met director Philippe de Montebello. There's been no announcement of a replacement exhibition.

The New York State Court of Appeals has ruled that Spencer Tunick has a First Amendment right to assemble a large group of nude people for one of his signature photographs. The photographer had successfully sued in Federal District Court for an order preventing the city from interfering with a planned photo shoot in lower Manhattan last year, but the city appealed, arguing that state law prohibited public nudity. The federal appeals court ruled on May 19 that Tunick's event should be allowed under the law's artistic exemption. The photographer has changed the location of the shoot, which is now being held on June 4 in East River Park, under the Williamsburg Bridge.

Performance artists Yuan Cai and JJ Xi claim to have urinated on Marcel Duchamp's Fountain at the recently opened Tate Modern, reports the London Guardian. A spokesperson for the artists says she has photographs and a video documenting the event in which the pranksters drop their pants and relieve themselves into Duchamp's 1964 replica of his iconic 1917 work, accompanied by applause from assembled museum visitors. Tate officials reportedly shut down the exhibit after being alerted to the incident, but no action was taken against the performers. The same two artists were arrested last year after frolicking on Tracy Emin's My Bed (1998) at the Tate Gallery, but were released without being charged.

Damien Hirst has agreed to donate an undisclosed amount to two children's charities to settle a copyright lawsuit from toy maker Humbrol, according to the London Guardian. The artist was sued after copying a £14.99 children's science model for Hymn, a 20-foot-tall painted bronze sculpture that sold for a reported £1 million to power-collector Charles Saatchi. The artist and the managing director of the toy company expressed satisfaction with the settlement, but Norman Emms, the designer of the anatomical model, said the amount was less than he had hoped for, adding that he was paid less than £2,000 for creating the original.

The blockbuster exhibition, "Art Nouveau, 1890-1914," currently drawing record crowds at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (to July 30, 2000), comes to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Oct. 8, 2000-Jan. 28, 2001. Over 350 works by more than 150 artists and designers are featured in the show, which subsequently travels to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Apr. 21-June 8, 2001. In connection with the exhibition, the NGA has acquired a Métro entrance by Hector Guimard that will be installed in the museum's sculpture garden at the end of the tour.

Britain's Department for Culture, Media and Sport has ordered the country's leading museums and art galleries to meet strict quotas of ethnic visitors or lose their funding, the London Telegraph reports. The requirements vary according to the racial composition of the local population and the number of tourists who visit the area, with some London galleries being told they must prove that at least 12 percent of their visitors are made up of minorities. The Tate has employed a market research firm to ask visitors their ethnicity after being informed that its £25-million annual grant is dependent on proving that minorities make up five percent of this year's and six percent of next year's visitors. Other galleries are not being as cooperative, and have balked at having to ask visitors their race, saying it's almost impossible to gather accurate statistics.

For the fifth consecutive summer, five Smithsonian Institution museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. are to feature extended hours during "Art Night on the Mall," every Thursday until 8 p.m., from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Freer Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Museum of African Art and the Smithsonian International Gallery will provide free activities, including films, dance performances and music. Call (202) 357-2700 for more information.

And speaking of the Smithsonian, the Renwick Gallery's Grand Salon reopens to the public on June 3 after a six-month overhaul. The premiere installation features a suite of three views of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon by Thomas Moran, hung salon style among 170 paintings and sculpture in a setting re-creating a 19th-century collector's picture gallery. The refurbished components include new hand-dyed, silk-loomed draperies, a lighting system re-creating natural light, a return to the original period color scheme of deep rose, a gilding of decorative moldings and a restoration of the Grand Staircase crystal chandelier.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has appointed Michael Brand as its new director. Brand comes from the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia, where he was assistant director. He replaces Katharine C. Lee, who is now director of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

White Columns presents "Women of the World," 180 artworks by women from as many countries representing their notion of the female gender, June 9-July 15. Curated by artist Claudia DeMonte, the exhibition has taken more than two years to mount and will travel to several museums across the United States, including the Mobile Museum in Alabama, the Alexandria Museum in Louisiana, The Flint Institute of Art in Michigan and the University of Maryland Gallery. After touring, the works will be auctioned and the proceeds will benefit the New York Women's Foundation.

The figures are in for Art Chicago 2000, the largest art fair in the U.S. According to fair organizers Thomas Blackman Associates, Inc., the four-day run racked up total sales of $65 million, $5 million more than last year. Approximately 37,000 visitors attended the fair, the same number as last year, despite its being a day shorter this time around. The opening night benefit raised $400,000 for Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, up about $50,000 from last year. Art Chicago featured 221 galleries from 23 countries and ran May 12-15.

Time is running out to see Michal Rovner's Overhang, a video projection on 17 windows of the Chase Manhattan bank at 410 Park Ave. at 55th Street. The installation, which opened on Mar. 23, features projections filmed in the harsh winter of New York and the intense heat of the Middle Eastern desert, and is visible every evening from sunset until 2:00 a.m. through May 29.
-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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