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The 31st installment of Art Basel commences today with press previews and special events and opens to the public June 21-26, 2000. This year’s art fair includes 250 of the world's best modern and contemporary galleries in the exposition halls of the Swiss city's Round Court Building. New fair manager Samuel Keller notes that 39 galleries are showing at Art Basel for the first time, including New Yorkers Cheim & Reid, McKee and Barry Friedman, Paris galleries Villepoix, Nelson and Thierry Marlat, London's Michael Hoppen and Eric Franck, and Tokyo's Katsuya Ikeuchi.

The fair offers an unrivaled combination of classic moderns and cutting-edge contemporary, thanks to the introduction of "Art Unlimited," a show of 70 contemporary projects, combined with the museum-quality monographic shows mounted by galleries like Dusseldorf dealer Wolfgang Wittrock (Max Beckmann), Marlborough Zurich (Oscar Kokoschka), Waddington (Ben Nicholson), Hans Mayer (Martin Kippenberger), Gagosian and Mitchell-Innes & Nash (Andy Warhol).

One of the most watched aspects of the fair, the popular "Art Statements" section, makes a comeback with 26 presentations of solo exhibitions by emerging artists. This year's "Statement" artists are Heike Baranowsky, Julie Becker, Jeremy Blake, Francis Cape, Sam Durant, Rachel Feinstein, Maria Friberg, Mathieu Mercier, Claudia + Julia Müller, Ola Pehrson, Simon Periton, Alexandra Ranner, Jeroen de Rijke + Willem de Rooij, Navin Rawanchaikul, Adi Rosenblum + Markus Muntean, Daniel Roth, Constance Ruhm, Borre Saethre, Pietro Sanguinetti, Bob & Roberta Smith, Sean Snyder, Monserrat Soto, Yoshihiro Suda, Vibeke Tandberg, Zhou Thiehai and Gregor Zivic.

An estimated 50,000 visitors and more than 1,000 media representatives are expected at Art Basel 2000; stay tuned for daily coverage in Artnet Magazine.

In a last-minute move, Republicans in Congress blocked a spending bill that would have added $15 million to the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, reports the Washington Post. In a flurry of parliamentary maneuvers, New York Representative Louise Slaughter managed to win approval to divert the funds to the NEA from another portion of the Interior appropriations, only to see the Republicans submit an amendment that gave the same amount to Native American health services. Faced with a choice between supporting the arts or Indian health, Congress went with the latter, leaving no money for the first NEA increase approved by the House since 1992. The agency has been frozen at around $98 million since 1996.

The Guggenheim Foundation and St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum have made a pact to share their collections, organize exhibitions and assist each other in the development of an international network of museums, reports Carol Vogel in today’s New York Times. Though neither institution would disclose what kind of financial commitments were involved in the agreement, they did reveal that the Guggenheim is planning another satellite museum -- this one a $100-million overhaul of a 40,000-square-foot wing of the General Staff Building in St. Petersburg’s Palace Square that the Russian government is transferring to the Hermitage. The Guggenheim is to help in the planning of the building’s gallery spaces, as well as with exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. For its part, the Hermitage is to be included in the plan for the new museum the Guggenheim hopes to build on the East River in Manhattan’s Financial District. The association will also include collaborations on developing and building other institutions around the world, as well as exchanges between the existing museums.

Damien Hirst’s much maligned sculpture of a pickled shark, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), is at the root of new controversy, and this time it’s not because of the content of the piece, reports the London Telegraph. A representative for Absolut Vodka, which is sponsoring a show at the Louvre’s Museum of Decorative Arts, says collector Charles Saatchi refused to loan the work because the shark in a tank of formaldehyde had started decaying. The advertising mogul refutes the allegations, saying that the shark is in "fantastic condition" and adding that he believes the French are upset because he did not think the artwork belonged in the show.

John Walsh is resigning as director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and as vice-president of the $5 billion Getty Trust effective Sep. 30, reports the Los Angeles Times. Walsh has held the director’s position since 1983, and his achievements include the purchase of seven of the world’s most important private collections of photographs and introducing contemporary art to the Getty Center by commissioning works from Robert Irwin, Martin Puryear, Edward Ruscha and Alexis Smith. He is succeeded by chief curator Deborah Gribbon.

Susan Taylor, director of the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College, has been named director of the Art Museum at Princeton University. She succeeds Peter C. Bunnell, who has served as acting director since the retirement of director emeritus Allen Rosenbaum in 1998.

The Pew Fellowships in the Arts has announced this year’s 12 recipients of its $50,000 fellowships to provide support "at moments when a concentration on artistic growth and exploration is most likely to have the greatest impact on an artist’s long-term development." The awards go to artists working in 12 different disciplines, categories that rotate on a four-year cycle. This year’s fellowships are awarded to artists working in the areas of painting, scriptworks and folk and traditional arts. The winners are Frito Bastien, Pablo Batista Jr., Frank Bramblett, Emily Brown, Terrence Cameron, Sheryl Robin David, Peache Jarman, Babette Martino, Mick Moloney, Alice Oh, Elaine Hoffman Watts and Kimmika L.H. Williams. Panelists include painters Kerry James Marshall and David Reed, Menil Collection director Ned Rifkin and folklorist and curator Kay Turner.

Attention artists who specialize in color and makeup, L'Oreal's Art and Science Foundation is holding its annual contest for art that "demonstrates a creative dialogue between art, science and color," with prizes totaling 60,000 euros. Grand prize is 30,000 euros (about $27,000) with two runners-up each getting 15,000 euros ($13,500 each). An international jury of artists and scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, is to select the recipients. Application deadline is Sep. 30, 2000. For more details and an application visit

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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