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"Even wife is surprised," headlined the San Francisco Chronicle in its Aug. 17 report that San Francisco Museum of Modern Art director David Ross had abruptly resigned. As per usual with such moves, the art world awaits the inside story -- did he jump or was he pushed? -- but no one is talking. SFMOMA board chair Elaine McKeon called the parting "extremely friendly" and said the "resignation was his idea," while in a statement, the museum said his ''priorities diverged'' from the institution's. Ross was described by his wife, in a story jointly reported by San Francisco Chronicle critics Kenneth Baker and David Bonetti, as being in "a conference call concerning future job prospects." In his three years at the museum, the 51-year-old Ross, whose 2000 salary is listed at $393,000 on the charity-records site, had claimed to have overseen $140 million in acquisitions.

Photo collectors are taking a second look at their Lewis Hine prints, after a report last week by Ralph Blumenthal in the New York Times. The long and carefully worded story suggests that Walter Rosenblum, 82, the photographer who was president of the Photo League cooperative where Hine left his archive after he died in 1940, may have been responsible for passing off new Hine prints as vintage, complete with forged signatures. It seems that the prints were too good to be true -- and printed on paper that was manufactured after Hine's death.

The photos first came under suspicion in 1999, and were subjected to testing by Michael Mattis, a collector and physicist. Subsequently, Blumenthal reports, Rosenthal reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with six art dealers to establish a $1 million escrow fund to reimburse buyers taken in by the phonies. The six dealers are Robert Mann, Howard Greenberg and Edwynn Houk in New York, Tom Halsted in Birmingham, Mich., and Steve Cohen and Peter Fetterman in Los Angeles. In addition, Rosenthal may have back-dated some of his own photographs, and may have made new prints from old negatives for a Hine show at the Brooklyn Museum in 1977. The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into the scam.

FOUNTAINS ARE GOING NOWHERE: MET Contrary to a recent report in the New York Observer, the beloved twin fountains on the plaza of the Metropolitan Museum are going nowhere, according to Met communications chief Harold Holzer. Though it stands to reason that the fountains must be removed while excavations go on for new underground exhibition space, Holzer says, they "will most certainly return, either in their present or an improved form."

The Walker Art Center was evacuated last week after a fire broke out on its rooftop patio, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The fire was apparently caused by a lighted cigarette, and was quickly extinguished with no damage to the center's art collection.

Sotheby's will end its auctions in Chicago by Nov. 1 as part of a company-wide cost-cutting effort. Larry Sirolli, managing director of the company's Chicago office, told the Chicago Tribune that profits there were "not a significant number in our company's worldwide figures." Sotheby's only began holding auctions in the Windy City in 1997, when it acquired Leslie Hindman Auctioneers there. Sotheby's plans to retain an office in the city for appraisals and other business.

In the first break in the long-running controversy over the Elgin Marbles -- now widely called the Parthenon Marbles -- the British Museum said it was talking to Greek authorities about the possibility of lending the 2,300-year-old carvings to their country of origin for a brief period during the 2004 Olympic Games, slated to be held in Athens. In return, Greece has offered the loan of hundreds of new archeological findings, says Greek culture minister Evangelos Venizelos. Greece has constructed a $60-million museum in Athens that will display the marbles against a view of the Acropolis. If the potential loan falls through, the empty gallery will be left as a reproach to Britain.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has named Anthony G. Hirschel as its new director, succeeding Bret Waller, who is retiring after 11 years. Hirschel, 43, is currently director of the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta.

SIDNEY TILLIM, 1925-2001
Sidney Tillim, 76, painter and critic who taught at Bennington College for 38 years, died in New York on Aug. 16, 2001. One of the great New York talkers in the Partisan Review tradition, Tillim wrote reviews for Art Digest in 1953, before moving on to Arts Magazine (1959-65) and Artforum (1965-69). As a painter, he was known for contemporary-dress history paintings, which were included in "22 Realists" at the Whitney Museum in 1970 and "Contemporary American Realism since 1960" at the Pennsylvania Academy 1981); he also showed in New York at Richard Bellamy (1974) and Tibor de Nagy (1977) and in Chicago at Perimeter (1990). More recently he exhibited his paintings at Trans-Hudson Gallery in Chelsea.