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When the North Carolina Museum of Art found out that a canvas in its collection, Lucas Cranach the Elder's Madonna and Child in a Landscape (ca. 1518), had been identified as Nazi loot, the museum took the unusual step of returning it to the heirs of its original owners without litigation. The museum's forthrightness is paying off. The heirs, Marianne and Cornelia Hainisch, have sold the work back to the museum for $600,000, well below its appraised value of $800,000-$1.2 million.

The Old Master had been on display in the museum since its receipt in 1984 as part of the bequest of Marianne Khuner. In March of last year, the museum was alerted that the painting had been identified by researchers as having been confiscated in 1940 by the Gestapo from Dr. Philipp Gomperz and illegally sold to the Nazi governor of Vienna. After researching the issue, the museum concluded that the claim was valid and that the work was stolen property. On Feb. 3 of this year, the museum formally acknowledged the claim of the Hainisch sisters as the painting's legal owners. Museum officials immediately initiated discussions with the family in the hope of finding a way to restore the work to the museum's collection.

During the ensuing negotiations, the Hainisch sisters expressed their "deep satisfaction about the [Museum's] cooperative spirit," resulting in the agreement announced on June 2. The museum now plans to develop a special section on its website as well as a small documentary exhibition focusing both on the esthetic importance of the painting and on its unsettling history.

The art world's most celebrated promoter of momentary nudism on city streets, New York photographer Spencer Tunick, has triumphed over the bluenoses in the administration of New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani. With an okay from the U.S. Supreme Court, Tunick held his most recent shoot of approximately 150 naked volunteers in East River Park, under the Williamsburg Bridge on June 4 early in the morning. "It was great," Tunick said. "All nine judges on the Supreme Court spent Saturday morning looking at nude photographs!" Tunick's next project, tentatively scheduled for November, is a photograph of at least 400 nudes in Grand Central Terminal. The city is expected to seek a court order to block that plan.

The first result of the $6.4 billion purchase of Steve Wynn's Mirage Resorts by the MGM Grand is the sale of 11 paintings from the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art collection for a total of approximately $124 million. Three of the paintings were sold to Wynn himself; the company would not reveal the works sold or the names of the other buyers. "Sale proceeds go to reduce debt," said an MGM spokesman. The casino says it hopes to create partnerships with museums and art institutions to present rotating art exhibitions at the Bellagio Gallery, which temporarily closed May 28.

A visitor to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts sat down on a rare, late 16th-century hardwood folding chair from the museum's celebrated Asian Art collection and broke it in three places, reports the Pioneer Press in St. Paul. The patron, who was questioned but not charged, had disregarded a do-not-touch sign and climbed on a display platform to sit on the chair. Museum officials have declined to name a price for the piece, but acknowledged it was worth at least six figures. The chair will likely be restored in London by an expert who has previously worked on it.

Printed Matter, Inc. presents "Sonic Matters, Sonic Kollaborations," an exhibition of printed matter and ephemera produced by or in collaboration with New York avant-garde musicians Sonic Youth, June 6-Sept. 9. Presented and arranged by members of the legendary experimental band, the show is accompanied by a selected anthology with contributions by artists such as Mike Kelley and Raymond Pettibone. Printed Matter is located at 77 Wooster Street in SoHo; call (212) 925-0325 for more details.

Laugh riot or horror show? The University Galleries of Illinois State University present "2000 Clowns," an exhibition of work featuring clowns by 16 contemporary artists, June 10-Sept. 10. Curated by Bill Conger and Timothy Porges, the show features art by Donald Baechler, Mike Cockrill, Michael Ray Charles, Elizabeth Ernst, Jonathan Hammer, George Horner, Catherine Howe, Michael Lindell, David McGee, Mark Newgarden, Bruce Nauman, Martina Shenal, John Spear, Linda Boychehovski, Ken Weaver and Thomas Woodruff. And if that weren't enough, the Carson & Barnes Circus will appear at the Interstate Center Sept. 7 and the Circus Historians' Association will hold its annual convention Sept. 6-8 at the ISU Bone Student Center.

The Goethe Institut in New York presents "Taiga," photos depicting the traditional nomadic life in Northern Mongolia by Ulrike Ottinger, June 12-July 21. The works in this exhibition, featuring the Darchad nomads and the Shaman and Tuvan peoples, were originally presented in a book that led to the making of the 1992 epic documentary film of the same name. The show is part of the ongoing Festival of Mongolia, a celebration of Mongolian culture in New York City sponsored by the Permanent Mission Of Mongolia to the United Nations, May 19-June 19. For more information about "Taiga," call (212) 439-8700; for more information about the festival, call (212) 861-9460.

Peripatetic art dealer Barry Neuman is moving his operation from his Brooklyn Brownstone to the arty Gershwin Hotel on East 27th Street. Debut exhibition is "Start!," site-specific wall paintings by Art Club 2000, Anna Sew Hoy and Oliver Vernon, June 15-July 26. Neuman reps Roberta Bayley, Jaime Levy, Jessica Voorsanger and Lyndal Walker, among other artists. Call (718) 852-0962 for more details.

Heads up Manhattanites, the secrets to the Williamsburg and Greenpoint gallery scene are revealed in "Open Williamsburg," a walking tour of 20 cutting-edge Brooklyn galleries on June 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The participating galleries are 31 Grand, Arena@Feed, Bellwether, Cave, Eyewash, Flipside, Front Room, im n iL, Magnifik, Momenta Art, Parker's Box, Pierogi 2000, Roebling Hall, State of Art, the Lazy J, Holland Tunnel, Farell/Pollack Fine Art, Parlour Projects, Soapbox and Star 67. You can pick up the Williamsburg Art Guide at Momenta, located at 72 Berry Street between North 9th and North 10th, three blocks away from the Bedford stop on the L Train; call the gallery at (718) 218- 8058 for more info.

The Friends of African and African-American Art of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is hosting "Navigating the Mainstream Part II: Continuing the Dialogue," the organization's second annual national conference of African and African-American art support groups, July 20-23 in Richmond. 25 institutions are expected to participate in the conference to share information and strategies for educating audiences about their collections. Among the scheduled events are tours of the the Virginia Museum's galleries and of the Hampton University Museum, the oldest African-American art museum in the U.S. Call (804) 340-1430 for details.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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