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A coalition of 19 New York City Council members has introduced legislation to abolish the city's Art Commission after a dispute between the commission and NYC parks commissioner Henry Stern, the New York Times reports. The 11-member body oversees artwork and architecture on city-owned property, and has a say in the approval of designs for major public buildings and projects. The row ensued after the Art Commission, led by former director Reba White Williams, objected to Stern's unauthorized installation of 100 flagpoles with military yardarms (the crossbars on top of the poles) in parks and at war memorials. Under the proposed bill, the commission's authority would be split up among the city Planning Commission, the Parks Commission and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Current members of the Art Commission include Metropolitan Museum trustee Joyce Frank Menschel, Brooklyn Museum president Robert S. Rubin, painter Jean Rather and sculptor John W. Rhoden.

The Fund for U.S. Artists has selected Robert Gober to represent the United States at next year's Venice Biennale. Art Institute of Chicago contemporary art curator James Rondeau and Hirshhorn Museum associate curator Olga Viso are organizing the New York sculptor's installation, which consists of eight works, seven of them designed specifically for the four galleries of the U.S. pavilion. Previous U.S. representatives in Venice include Ann Hamilton (1999), Bill Viola (1995) and Robert Colescott (1993).

Condé Nast chief S.I. Newhouse, Jr., has resigned from the Museum of Modern Art's board because of conflict-of-interest concerns raised by his purchase of a 1913 Pablo Picasso painting the museum had deaccessioned, the Wall Street Journal reports. The approximately $10 million buy, executed through a dealer, goes against strict MoMA rules prohibiting its officers, staff and board members from buying deaccessioned works. Newhouse, who had been a board member since 1973, will remain active with the museum in an undetermined role.

New Studio Museum in Harlem director Lowery Stokes Sims and her deputy director of exhibitions and programs, Thelma Golden, recently held an informal press luncheon to present an update on the museum's renovation by Rogers Marvel Architects. Completion of the project, which includes a new glass façade and entry court, a 100-seat auditorium, a café and new 2,500-square-foot permanent collection galleries, is slated for the summer of 2001. Sims and Golden also promised a new acquisitions campaign. The museum's upcoming exhibitions are "Beads, Body and Soul: Art and Light in the Yorùbá Universe," a collaboration with the Museum for African Art in SoHo, and "From the Studio: Artists-in-Residence 1999-2000," featuring the works of Nicole Awai, Sanford L. Biggers and Terry Boddie; both shows run June 21-Sep. 17.

Christie's International director of fine arts Michael Findlay is leaving the beleaguered auction house for New York's Acquavella Gallery, reports the Wall Street Journal. Findlay worked at the auctioneer's for 16 years and helped handle the 1990 auction of Van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1890) for $82.5 million, the highest price paid for a painting.

The Monterrey Museum in Mexico is shutting its doors after 22 years. Its main sponsor, FEMSA, Mexico's largest brewer, is shifting its philanthropic efforts towards other targets, including education, environmental protection and aiding the poor. Representatives for the museum tell Artnet News that its collection of some 1,500 works by Latin American masters, including pieces by Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, will be donated to other cultural institutions across the country, but no decision has been made yet as to the recipients. The museum closes May 28.

The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn., presents Patrick Killoran's "Autobody," May 13-Aug. 20. Using technology usually applied for wrap-around advertising on buses, Killoran encases Yellow Cab Co. taxis with photographs of their drivers' bare torsos. Visitors to P.S. 1 in Long Island City might be familiar with Killoran's Observation Deck (1997), a platform on which participants lay face up and slide out a window to gaze up at the sky.

The Dan Flavin Art Institute opens today, May 25, for its 16th summer season in Bridgehampton, N.Y. The gallery, maintained by the Dia Foundation, presents "Icons, 1961-1963," featuring early painted boxes with fluorescent and incandescent lights, along with the permanent installation "Dan Flavin: Nine Works," consisting of works dating from 1971 to 1981. Both shows are on view through Sep. 10; call (516) 537-1476 for more information.

The Swiss Institute presents "Rudy Burckhardt's Books and Diaries," an exhibition of rare works from the photographer's estate, May 23-June 17. The show includes Burckhardt's first publication, Mediterranean Cities (1956), his travel diary Trip to Morocco (1955) and the Adventures of Private Dibble In World War Number Two, a comic book drawn from his experiences in the U.S. Army from 1941-1944 and written during that period. The exhibition is being held in conjunction with the Grey Art Gallery's "Rudy Burckhardt and Friends: New York Artists of the 1950's and 1960's," on view May 9-July 15.

The UCLA Hammer Museum's has announced the third round of its "Hammer Projects" program, featuring mixed media collage portraits by James Gobel, a new installation by Siobhan Lidell and a wall painting for the lobby's staircase by Cheonae Kim, on view June 25-Sep. 17. The series was introduced by former Drawing Center director Ann Philbin to create and expand exhibition opportunities for emerging and under-recognized artists and to present the work of international artists who have had little exposure in Los Angeles.

The Islip Art Museum is holding an open call for "Eden Revisited: Considering the Garden," an exhibition organized by SUNY at Stony Brook art gallery director Rhonda Cooper. Artists are invited to submit for consideration one work in any media on the subject of the garden. Deadline is June 1-3, and there is a limit of one work per artist. Call (631) 224-5402 for more info.

An Artnet News report on the fiscal crunch at the 21-year-old, Ohio-based arts tabloid Dialogue has prompted Chicago dealer Paul Klein to make a $10,000 challenge grant to the magazine. Klein's pledge must be matched 1-to-1 by donations from other galleries, museums and individuals by July 4. The fundraising campaign is well underway, according to Dialogue publisher Meg Galipault. Meanwhile, the Midwest art mag, now in a new sportier format (that's cheaper to produce) is arriving in mailboxes all over town. Features include a special focus on Chicago art and a profile of Ohio-born, Dresden-based conceptual artist Janet Grau. Check out its website for subscription info.

On the heels of the eBay maybe-Diebenkorn debacle [see Artnet News 5/11/00], auctions sold the California master's Touched Red (1991) for $34,100, the highest price in auction history. Previously, editions of the print had sold for $27,600 at Christie's and $31,050 at Sotheby's, both in May 1999. The buyer lives in Hong Kong, and although she had not seen the piece in person, the work's authenticity was never in question, as it was examined and authenticated by an expert.'s online auction, "Classics for New Collectors," which ran May 1-23, sold 61 lots in all for an average price of $2,350. Top lot was Balloons and Keyhole (1971) a gouache by Alexander Calder that sold for $17,600 (est. $9,000-$11,000). Other top lots included two etchings by Joan Miró; Partie de Campagne V (1967) sold for $8,500 and Partie de Campagne II (1967) sold for $9,000. Roberto Matta's Paris (1965) fetched $8,500.
-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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