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New Realist painter Damian Loeb is being sued by photographer Lauren Greenfield for copying one of her photographs in a painting, reports the Wall Street Journal. His dealer Mary Boone is also named in the lawsuit. The photograph was appropriated by Loeb for Summer Mildness (1998), and shows a group of kids in a convertible. Greenfield demanded that the painting's image be removed from his website and barred from public display -- and Loeb has complied by posting a "censored" version of his work. Artists such as Jeff Koons and David Salle have faced similar copyright lawsuits and either lost or settled out of court.

A high-ranking Vatican monsignor is at the center of an investigation into an elaborate money laundering operation involving the authentication of fake artworks, according to published reports. Monsignor Michele Basso, former head of the Vatican's archives, is suspected of being involved in the scheme, which may have netted millions of dollars. Police seized several suspected fakes, including paintings said to be by Michelangelo and Guercino, from Basso's apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square, as well as blank Vatican certificates of authenticity with seals of the Holy See that were to be used in the works' sale. Basso denies wrongdoing and says he was selling his personal collection to raise money for a hospital in Albania in accordance with the wishes of Mother Teresa.

Britain has two months to increase to 17.5 percent the Value Added Tax levied on auctions of imported art, reports the London Telegraph. British auctioneers currently charge the reduced rate of 5 percent VAT, and the British government fears that the higher rates might kill London's art market, estimating that last July's increase from 2.5 percent has already cost £68 million in lost revenues. Britain has until October to comply with EU directives or face proceedings by the commission in the European Court of Justice.

The convicted auto thief and alleged habitual offender who tried to bargain his way out of jail by claiming to know the location of artwork stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 is back in the news. Former antiques dealer William Youngworth, currently serving a three-year sentence, has been denied parole specifically because of the Gardner connection, reports Boston's WCVB-TV. Prosecutor Brian Wilson says that Youngworth is an extraordinary flight risk because he could use his knowledge of the missing artwork to flee. In the Gardner theft, which occurred on Mar. 18, 1990, two men posing as Boston police officers conned their way into the museum, subdued two watchmen and stole 13 works of art, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet and Degas estimated to be worth over $200 million. It is believed to be the largest art theft in modern history.

The film of the passionate relationship between painter Georgia O'Keeffe and photographer Alfred Stieglitz has been shut down, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Production on Till the End of Time, which was set to star Linda Fiorentino as O'Keeffe and Ben Kingsley as Stieglitz, was stopped due to unspecified problems with the leading actress, according to the movie's production company. The production is expected to restart later this year or early next year with the same crew and the same director, Marek Kanievska, but possibly with different actors.

The Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, Wash., presents "Frank O. Gehry: The Architect's Studio," an installation designed to simulate a walk through the creative clutter of Gehry's studio via sketches, finished drawings, video and slide presentations of completed buildings, Aug. 18-Nov. 12, 2000. The exhibition, curated by Kirsten Kiser in conjunction with Gehry, features hundreds of preparatory and working models for Gehry's most important international commissions, including the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum in Spain and Seattle's Experience Music Project.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has been awarded $5.2 million in government funds for a 50,000-square-foot commercial development at the sprawling former mill site in North Adams, Mass. A $2-million grant comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the rest of the money is a low-interest loan from federal community block grant funds allocated to the state and distributed to communities. MASS MoCA also plans a 100,000-sq.-foot expansion of its art galleries, to be funded in part by the remaining $9.6 million of the original $35 million grant awarded to the project in 1988.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum (as the National Museum of American Art seems to call itself these days) has awarded the 2000 Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarhip in American Art to Wanda M. Corn, professor in art history at Stanford University. Corn was chosen for the $2,000 prize for The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935 (Ahmanson Murphy, 2000), which takes a larger view of American modernism and finds its roots in New York City during World War I, a full generation earlier than commonly thought.

Art & Auction magazine has been bought by French luxury-goods mogul Bernard Arnault's LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Arnault also owns the auction house Phillips, the French magazine Connaissance des Arts and a piece of the website iCollector. It remains to be seen whether the deal threatens the lively little mag's ad sales to Phillips rivals Sotheby's and Christie's, or whether Art & Auction content will turn up on the web. No word on price paid, though the operation sold a few years back to an investor group (including a retired Brazilian generalissimo) for a rumored $250,000. The publication costs about $60,000 a month to run, guessed one mag veteran. It's unclear whether that sum includes the overhead of actually paying the writers.

Collectors of fine art books should take notice of Weidle Verlag's new website. Publishers Barbara and Stephan Weidle's recent publications include Venice by abstract painter Martin Noel and Eric Schaal, Photographer, published in conjunction with the exhibition at the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen, Germany, on view July 6-Sept. 10, 2000.

We mistakenly reported on Friday that veteran dealer John Weber is closing his gallery in Chelsea. In fact, the gallery plans to reopen in September with a group exhibition of gallery artists.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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