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Christie's and Sotheby's have tentatively agreed to pay $512 million to settle price-fixing claims, one of the largest settlements in antitrust history, according to Carol Vogel and Ralph Blumenthal in the New York Times. The proposal calls for disbursement of half the settlement within 30 days and the remainder after final court approval, and both auction houses have reserved the right to substitute up to $50 million of their payment in certificates transferable to future consignments. There is no word yet on how the money will be divided among plaintiffs and how much of the settlement would go towards legal fees, but administrative expenses for processing and distributing claims from 120,000 clients are expected to reach approximately $1 million. The official announcement is still pending on the decision of Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who is expected to reach a resolution shortly. Meanwhile, the federal criminal antitrust investigation continues, as do inquiries from the Australian Competition Commisssion, the European Commission and Britain's Office of Fair Trading.

Sotheby's majority shareholder and former chairman A. Alfred Taubman has agreed to pay $156 million of the company's $256 million settlement portion, plus $30 million to resolve a shareholders' lawsuit contending that the scandal has depressed the house's stock. Taubman is considering selling his 13.2 million shares, valued at $309 million, to cover the cost, according to reports in today's Wall Street Journal. Mutual-fund mogul Ronald Baron, the auction house's biggest outside shareholder and long-time Taubman foe, has expressed interest in buying the ex-chairman's stock, which represents 22.5 percent of the company's total equity. Sotheby's has also agreed to issue $40 million in class A stock to plaintiffs in the shareholders' suit. Sotheby's former chief executive, Diana D. Brooks has not agreed to contribute to the settlement, but the auction house has not ruled out financial action against her. Resolution news has buoyed Sotheby's share prices more than 15 percent to $23.87 as of today, up $3.56 from Friday's close and speculation is rife that the company is suitable for a takeover.

Cook County Judge Dorothy Kirie Kinnaird has issued a temporary emergency order barring the board of Chicago's Terra Museum of American Art from closing the building, removing most of its artworks out of the state or ousting any members until Oct. 12, reports the Chicago Tribune. The decision comes after board members Dean Buntrock and Ron Gidwitz filed a lawsuit alleging that Judith Terra, the widow of museum founder Dan Terra, is plotting with museum director Paul Hayes Tucker to move the foundation to Washington D.C. The suit claims mismanagement of the $450 million foundation that operates the museum has led to the loss of almost half the employees and alleges that Judith Terra treated the $100 million collection "as if it were her own personal property." The case has caught the eye of Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan because of the size of the charitable organization and the seriousness of the allegations.

Daniel Terra established the Terra Foundation in 1978, which opened the Chicago museum in 1980 and the Musée Americain in Giverny, France in 1992. The multimillionaire died in 1996, leaving $125 million to the foundation and $7.1 million to his wife, who sued the organization for $43 million but settled for $1 million after a bitter battle.

Developer Bruce Ratner is planning the restoration of an early 1900s structure into a luxury condominium and the development of a neighboring new rental tower in the heart of the Chelsea art district, according to the New York Post. Ratner, known for Metro Tech and outer-borough retail centers, is working to develop properties belonging to Robert and Rick Rathe comprising a 40,000 square foot midblock swath running from the north side of 23rd St. to the south side of 24th St. between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. Architect Peter Claman has been selected for the interior of the condominium while Hugh Hardy is set to oversee the restoration of its façades.

Cantankerous critic Robert Hughes is due in Australian court again after the prosecution appealed to reopen the trial on charges of reckless driving, reports Australia's Herald Sun. Hughes, accused of causing a crash last May by driving onto the path of an oncoming car and injuring three people in the other vehicle, is facing a new trial after a Perth judge ruled that the case's previous magistrate had erred "in fact and in law" when he threw out the case after two plaintiffs were charged with attempting to extort money from the Time magazine critic. Hughes didn't win many friends during the first trial after he accused the firemen who saved his life of stealing a tuna from the trunk of his car, called his court opponents "low-life scum" and referred to the prosecutor as "curry munching" in reference to his Indian background.

The Smithsonian Institution has named Design Museum in London director Paul Warwick Thompson as new director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum beginning early next year. Warwick, the first foreign director of the 33 year-old American museum, is known for having rescued the Design Museum from its £1.5 million deficit in 1992 through a series of trendy exhibitions such as 1997's "The Power of Erotic Design," which turned around the organization's stodgy image. He replaces Dianne H. Pilgrim, who retired in January after holding the position since 1988.

Smog, Tony Smith's largest permanent outdoor sculpture, has been installed at Middlebury College in Vermont. The work, a network of interlocking tetrahedrons made of aluminum painted black, was originally designed and fabricated as a full-scale plywood model in 1969. A formal dedication is scheduled for Oct. 21.

After 17 years of creating and maintaining the largest collection of artists' books published after 1960, the Franklin Furnace is merging its holdings with the Museum of Modern Art Library's collection to create the world's largest repository of its kind. MoMA will continue the downtown nonprofit's open acquisition policy of accepting all submissions of art multiples; visit the Furnace website for more info on contribution requirements.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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