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Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, New York's newest auction house, made an impressive debut last night, May 7, 2001, with a sale of 41 Impressionist and modern art works at its elegant if cramped new quarters at 3 West 57th Street. Although only 26 of the lots sold -- a distinctly modest 63 percent -- the sales total of $124 million is not a bad return for an event that took 75 minutes. Top lot was Paul Cezanne's La Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1888-89), which sold for $38,502,500 (with premium). Pierre Matisse's Nu couche I (Aurore) (1907), one of the first modernist works to respond to African art, went for $10,452,500; it was owned by the Greek shipping magnate George Embiricos. Vincent van Gogh's sepia pen drawing of Arles from 1888 was knocked down for $4,402,500 to the Getty Museum, the only buyer in the top ten that was identified.

As New York Times ace auction reporter Carol Vogel points out in her report, financier Henry Kravis -- a Sotheby's board member -- sold Pierre Auguste Renoir's The Reader (1877) for $13.2 million at the Phillips auction, just above its $12 million low presale estimate. Kravis paid $14.3 million for the painting at Christie's in 1989.

The auction total of $124 million is under the presale total estimate of $170 million-$236 million -- not the best numbers in the world. But Phillips -- and its deep-pocketed parent, Bernard Arnault's LVMH Möet Hennessy Louis Vuitton -- have to be complimented all the same for shaking up the auction duopoly and bringing some new energy (and new money) to the art market. "Simon de Pury speaks with an accent in whatever language he's using!" joked one observer. "He sets the new level of class in the auction business."

For complete illustrated results of last night's sale, go to's unique "hot auctions" page at While you're online, check out Phillips' new gussied-up website, at

The auction action continues tonight, May 8, with the sale of works from the collection of Stanley J. Seeger at Sotheby's.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, now with a new director -- Mark Jones -- at the helm, has announced plans to scale back the ambitious and controversial £80-million spiral tower annex designed by German architect Daniel Libeskind. The architect has agreed to produce a new version that is more "cost-effective." The V&A has decided to give priority to its new £31-million British galleries, slated to open in November, according to a report in the London Times.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has announced the grant recipients in its Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative program for 2001. Winners (and their awards) are the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art ($180,000), the Paley Design Center/Philadelphia University ($172,345), the Philadelphia Museum of Art ($200,000) and the Print Center ($181,516). Among the funded projects is a collaborative installation by Karim and Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture at the ICA and a Barnett Newman retrospective at the PMA. For a complete list of the projects, see the website at

The newest exhibition at the Dia Center for the Arts in West Chelsea is to be devoted to Alfred Jensen, the beloved and eccentric cosmological abstractionist who died in 1981. The exhibition, which opens Sept. 19, 2001, features Jensen's monumental, 12-panel painting Great Pyramid, shown publicly for the first time, along with key works from throughout his career.

Pablo Picasso makes an appearance in Raleigh, N.C., when the North Carolina Museum of Art presents a quintet of Cubist works in "Picasso, Braque, Léger: Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Julian H. Robertson," June 10-Sept. 9, 2001. The show features three works by Picasso depicting three of his mistresses (Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar and Françoise Gilot) -- "his most celebrated muses," according to museum curator John Coffey. "Needless to say, they also speak to Picasso's lifelong obsession with the female figure." Take that, Jesse Helms!

Chicago's best-loved art magazine, the New Art Examiner, is making some changes with an eye to getting back into fiscal good health. Founded in 1973 as an eight-page tabloid, the Examiner's original mandate was to cover an underserved art scene -- the Midwest. But with maturity came expansive designs on New York and Los Angeles, and its big-shouldered hometown got a little lost in the global geography.

Now, with the help of new publisher Caryn Koplik and a hefty donation from Chicago real estate developer and art collector Lewis Manilow, the Examiner has recreated itself as a healthy, milk-fed farm boy, with more color, more ads, more pages, a larger print run, and coverage devoted exclusively to art made and exhibited in the greater Midwest. The new design was unveiled at a benefit art auction on Apr. 28 at Arena Gallery in Chicago, where 40 donated artworks went on the block and raised close to $30,000.

Examiner editors Kathryn Hixson, Jan Estep and Kathryn Rosenfeld are now publishing a bi-monthly with an average print run of 7,000 copies. The current issue features an article by yours truly on Chicago's West Loop Gate arts district, an essay on the cool uncoolness of the Midwest by David Robbins, a short explanation by video artist Jennifer Reeder on why she is staying in Chicago, reviews covering a strictly midwestern zone, and plenty more. Subscriptions are at a new, lower rate -- $31 for six issues. For more info call (312) 649-9900.
-- Lori Waxman