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Museum of Modern Art curator Robert Storr has a point to prove with his new show, "Gerhard Richter: 40 Years of Painting," Feb. 14-May 21, 2002. In a press briefing at the museum's comfortably air-conditioned Sette MoMA restaurant yesterday, Storr said the show of 180 paintings had a "polemical intent," and was designed to rescue the German Pop artist from critics who characterize him as a "Duchampian destroyer" of art and instead recuperate him as a champion of painting as "a vital mode of expression."

The show surveys Richter's multiple styles, from his Photorealist paintings of the early 1960s (which predate the Americans) through his gray monochromes of the early '70s and the colorful abstractions of the '80s, as well as the Old Masterish paintings he made throughout. Born in 1932 in Dresden, Richter grew up under Nazism, and then spent 16 years under East German Stalinism before immigrating to West Germany in 1961, where the new phase of his career was sparked by the discovery of an early Roy Lichtenstein work in the back room of Ileana Sonnabend's Paris gallery.

After its appearance at MoMA, the Richter show travels to the Art Institute of Chicago (June 15-Sept. 15, 202), the San Francisco MOMA (Oct. 11, 2002-Jan. 14, 2003) and the Hirshhorn Museum (Feb. 19-May 11, 2003).

In passing, MoMA director Glenn Lowry gave a quick run-down of the museum's timetable for building its new 230,000-square-foot expansion by Yoshio Taniguchi. After a show of works by Alberto Giacometti in the fall of 2001, the Richter show and an exhibition of a recent gift of Russian illustrated books from 1915-30, the museum's 53rd Street facility closes in May 2002. Six weeks later, the temporary MoMA Queens opens in the 165,000-square-foot former Swingline staple factory at 45-20 33rd Street in Long Island City. There, the museum's collection of contemporary and modern masters goes on view until the end of 2004, when the new building is scheduled to open. "The exhibition program continues uninterrupted," said Lowry.

At the Metropolitan Museum, where visitors to "Jackie Kennedy: The White House Years" can face waits as long as 90 minutes to get in (the show is up till July 29), the newest entry for those art-loving crowds of museum tourists is "Beyond the Easel: Decorative Painting by Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis and Roussel, 1890-1920," June 26-Sept. 9, 2001. The collection of almost 100 large-scale paintings and painted screens, which made its debut earlier this year at the Art Institute of Chicago, is not to be missed for its impressive suites of paintings by the four Nabis -- especially the final gallery of six paintings by Bonnard.

Only mixed esthetic success greeted the four artists' efforts to combine the painterly experiments of Post Impressionist easel painting with the demands of producing for-hire murals for the dining and drawing rooms of wealthy patrons. The Nabis color scheme is a difficult one, as evidenced by the Met's painting its gallery walls in gloomy shades of mud brown and burnt green in a valiant effort to present the paintings at their best. Still, the effect of such patronage on the artistic process is a study in itself -- all those bacchanals and cavorting nudes, and at such a scale! -- and who wouldn't want to check out the border of pearls, magpies and chimpanzees in one set of Bonnard's murals, which the wall label suggests are symbols of wealth, gossip and lust, and as such relate to the tumultuous personal life of the artist's patron.

It's auction week in London, with both Sotheby's and Christie's mounting a series of sales of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art (£1 = $1.41).

First up was Christie's two-part evening sale on June 25 of Impressionist and modern art, totaling £33,708,750 for 35 of 47 lots sold, and post-war art, which sold 19 of 28 lots for a total of £3,985,500. Among the top lots were Claude Monet's Matinée sur la Seine, près de Giverny (1896), which sold near its low estimate for £3,523,750; Maurice de Vlaminck's Fauve Péniche sur la Seine (1905), which went for £4,733,750 (est. £1.2 million-£1.6 million); and Juan Gris' Cubist still-life Le guéridon (1914), which sold for £4,403,750 (est. £1.5 million-£2 million), an auction record for a work by the artist. The sale also set records for Lyonel Feininger, when his Die Grüne Brücke (1909) sold for £2,423,750 (est. £800,000-£1,200,000), and for Alexej von Jawlensky, whose Gesenkter Kopf (1909) sold for £1,433,750 (est. £600,000-£800,000).

At Christie's post-war sale, results were more uneven, with top prices coming for a sculpture by Eduardo Chillida (£509,750) and a modestly sized (ca. 39 x 26 in.) 1968 Mark Rothko painting on paper (£718,750). Marcel Broodthaers' Circle of Mussels (1966) failed to sell at its £300,000-£400,000 estimate, though Sigmar Polke's Seestück (1982) went for £91,750 (est. £60,000-£80,000).

At Sotheby's sale of Impressionist and modern art on June 26, 28 of the 37 lots sold (75 percent by lot) for a total of £33,444,500. Top lot was Claude Monet's Meules derniers rayjons de soleil, which sold for £10,123,500, an auction record for one of the artist's iconic haystack paintings. Other top prices came for a painting of two lovers on a riverbank by Vincent van Gogh (£2,863,500) a Fauve landscape by Vlaminck (£2,093,500), a Fauve landscape by Henri Matisse (£2,203,500) and a portrait of Dora Maar by Pablo Picasso (£2,863,500).

Other auction highlights in London this month have included the record-setting sale of a Victorian painting for £6 million to Cats supercollector Andrew Lloyd-Webber. The painting, a portrait of a sleeping St. Cecilia by Pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse, was sold at Christie's London on June 14, 2001.

Sotheby's sold J. M. W. Turner's watercolor, Heidelberg with a Rainbow (ca. 1840s), for £2,038,500 on June 14, an auction record for a British watercolor.

The London auction action continues today and tomorrow, with sales of contemporary art. For more details (with illustrations), visit's unique Fine Art Auctions Report.

Celebrated British painter Gary Hume has been elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The 80-member academy includes many avant-gardists, from Peter Blake and Tony Cragg to David Hockney and Alison Wilding, though Hume seems to be the first of his "Sensation" generation to be so anointed.

Jeffrey D. Grove has been named associate curator of contemporary art at the Cleveland Museum; he has been curator of the Malrite Company and curator of exhibitions at the Akron Art Museum. Constantine Petridis, who is currently working on an exhibition at the Antwerp Ethnographic Museum, has been named as Cleveland's assistant curator of African art.

Tribeca alternative space Apex Art is hosting a conference in Rio de Janeiro this summer, titled "Cultural Hegemony and the Reinvestigation of Indigenous Culture," July 2-8, 2001. Several papers are presented in the South-of-the-Border think tank, with discussions to follows. Among the participants are Chiara Bertola (Italy), Melissa Chiu (Australia), Ana Devic (Croatia), Gridthiya Gaweewong (Thailand), Frederickke Hanson (Switzerland), Pablo Helguera (U.S./Mexico), Pitika Ntuli (Republic of South Africa), Sania Papa (Greece), John Roberts (England), Jose Roca (Columbia), Wojciech Stefanik (Poland), and Olesya Turkina (Russia). The discussions will be moderated by Steven Rand, Warren Niesluchowski, Gregory Williams and Christopher Ho. For further info, visit the Apex Art website.

You thought summer was just beginning? Well, mark your schedule for fall with the 7th International Istanbul Biennial, Sept. 21-Nov. 17, 2001, to take place at three historical sites -- the Imperial Mint, the Hagia Eirene Museum and the Yerebatan Cistern, all located in the heart of the old city of Istanbul -- as well as at satellite venues in the different districts throughout the city. Organized by Yuko Hasegawa under the title "Egofugal: Fugue from Ego for the Next Emergence," the biennial will feature works by 60 artists. For further information, visit the web-site at

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