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Art-world observers are wondering about the fate of the PaineWebber contemporary art collection as well as the PaineWebber Gallery at Sixth Avenue and 51st Street, now that CEO Donald Marron, vice chairman of the Museum of Modern Art, has engineered a $10.25 billion acquisition of the brokerage house by Swiss banking giant UBS, whose CEO Marcel Ospel sits on the board of the Guggenheim Museum. The bosses' shared interest in art reportedly played a big part in the merger's success, but the fate of the top-notch PaineWebber art holdings, hand-picked by Marron and including such heavy-hitters as Georg Baselitz, Lucian Freud, Jasper Johns and Frank Stella, has not yet been disclosed. Will the collection stay at PaineWebber or become UBS booty? What's more, will Marron, who takes home $60 million over three years for supervising the merger, cherry-pick some of the prime art pieces? Despite all the speculation, a PaineWebber spokesperson said that nothing would change with the company's art.

The U.S. Senate has evaded an attempted filibuster by two Republican senators and passed a bill that includes a $7.3-million increase for the National Endowment for the Arts, raising its funding level to $105 million, reports ArtsWire. The Senate passed the FY01 NEA appropriation by a resounding 97-2, after voting down an amendment proposed by Oklahoma senators James Inhofe and Don Nickles that would have shifted the NEA increase to the Indian Health Service, a ploy that worked last month in the House. The bill also includes a $5-million increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities and an increase of $600,000 for the museum services portion of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Artists in Kansas City are refusing to follow the herd -- they're fighting plans for a cow parade like the one currently plaguing New York City, reports the Kansas City Star. The Kansas City Municipal Art Commission voted 4-2 last week to kill the proposed exhibition, slated for May-Aug, 2001, but city hall has said it is not bound by the decision and may proceed with the display of the tourist-pleasing artifacts. A number of local artists, led by Richard Nadeau, have taken the bull by the horns and are holding talks with parade proponents to improve the project. Among the artists' suggestions is changing the labeling from "art event" to "community festival," the inclusion of more diverse participants, including children and minority groups, and a more varied array of beneficiaries. Presently, the cows fetch $5,000 in sponsorships from corporations, with $1,000 going to the artist who works on the cow and the rest being divided among the American Royal Livestock, Horse Show & Rodeo, the Kansas City Zoo and the Kemper Museum of Art.

Milwaukee art dealer Marilyn Karos and Chicago gallerist Richard O'Hara were taken into custody last week charged with the beating of an art broker, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The FBI and a federal grand jury are also investigating the case for links to an international art theft ring, though neither dealer has been charged in the thefts. The assault in question occurred in 1997, when three men attacked a man who was selling works on commission for Karos when he went to her house, allegedly because he had not returned four valuable objects she had given him to sell. The FBI believes the pieces in question are a globe-like armillary sphere and three astrolabes stolen in 1984 from the Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma e Museo Copernicano in Italy, worth at least $1 million each (an armillary sphere is an astronomical instrument composed of rings showing the positions of important circles of the celestial sphere and astrolabes were instruments used to observe and calculate the position of celestial bodies). Both dealers face charges of battery and false imprisonment.

U.S. government prosecutors investigating allegations of collusion and price-fixing against Christie's and Sotheby's are trying to stop lawyers heading the class-action suit against the auctioneers from interviewing anyone connected to their investigation until a criminal Grand Jury finishes its work, reports Carol Vogel in the New York Times. If U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan approves the prosecutors' request, any chances of a quick settlement for the many plaintiffs involved would very likely evaporate. Stay tuned.

Britain's culture secretary Chris Smith has devised plans for a virtual gallery to display artifacts from every publicly funded arts body in Britain, reports the London Telegraph. The proposal calls for £5 million to develop the network, Culture Online, which would eventually branch out to air live theater performances, concerts and operas. The culture department reportedly hopes as much as £150 million could be devoted to the project.

Scotland has not sat idly waiting for such an enterprise, however. Since 1996, the Scottish Cultural Resource Access Network has been collating information about sites of historical interest, as well as much of the country's museum collections, reports the BBC. The database is already accessible online and last week saw the first trials of an ambitious plan to make the information available via mobile phones. The £15 million, five-year plan calls for image, video or sound clips to be available via third-generation mobile phones.

Move over Artforum, Art in America, Artnews and Flash Art. Here comes Smock, a new glossy covering the popular intersection of art and fashion. The premiere issue features an interview with Miami Beach collector Don Rubell, glamour portraits of artists by Michael Lavine and features on or by artists Afrika, Vanessa Beecroft, Steve Mumford, Takashi Murakami, Shirin Neshat, Outtara, Peter Schuyff, Robert Wilson and more. Unusual art-mag fare includes departments covering food, travel and bars, not to mention a fashion story that matches ladies' footwear with different gallery floors. "We're covering the convergence between art and fashion, art and design," said Smock founder and publisher Scott Bennett. Executive editor is peripatetic curator Mike Weiss; creative director is Kristin Johnson, formerly of Interview and Artforum. The initial print run is 40,000, to be distributed nationally through Barnes & Noble, Walden Books and other stores. Bennett says he has $1 million in the kitty for the mag, which starts publishing every other month in October. The first issue has 25 pages of ads (out of 144 total), including spreads for Versace, Evian and Absolut. Ad pages are $4,500; for more info contact 212 226-4442 or visit, due up in one week.

Cheers to the Jewish Museum for proving that an institution doesn't have to be lowbrow to relate to the public. The museum presents "Drink and Be Merry: Wine and Beer in Ancient Times," July 30-Nov. 5, an exhibition of over 180 objects representing 5,000 years of drinking culture in the eastern Mediterranean and Near East. Ritual objects and statuary from many cultures are included, including a portion of a Dead Sea Scroll referring to the ancient Festival of Tirosh (new wine) and jars inscribed to King Herod that demonstrate his exotic taste for imported Italian vintage.

Good news for car-centric Los Angelinos -- the glamorous $1-billion-dollar Getty Center is relaxing its notorious requirements for reservations in its parking garage, at least on Thursday and Friday nights after 4 p.m. Earlier this year, college students with school I.D. were allowed to park without prior parking arrangements, and now alumni and the unschooled alike can also, on the aforementioned evenings, when the museum remains open until 9 p.m. Parking is $5.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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