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An artistic controversy has hit the usually staid National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution. The museum had scheduled a show of photographs by Subhankar Banerjee that show the lively flora and fauna in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area that proponents of the controversial oil drilling there had called a frozen wasteland. Now, after Sen. Barbara Boxer urged her colleagues to look at Banerjee's book, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land (Mountaineers Books, $35), the museum has moved the exhibition to a less prominent space and truncated the captions to the photos. Though President George W. Bush and Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska are anxious to open the refuge's pristine coast to oil exploration, the Smithsonian denies any political pressure, but says that Banerjee's work "borders on advocacy" -- and the museum wants to remain nonpartisan. Another Democrat, Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin, plans to question Smithsonian officials at a hearing next week. The show is on view May 2-Sept. 2, 2003.

Chalk up another triumph for Guggenheim Museum director Thomas Krens, who is about to add another global museum (his sixth) to his Guggenheim empire. The Guggenheim Museum Rio de Janeiro, an awesome architectural folly designed by French architect Jean Nouvel on a 400-meter-long pier in Rio's Guanabara Bay, got the official go-ahead from Rio mayor Cesar Maia at an official ceremony at the Gugg in New York on Apr. 30. Construction begins on the new museum soon, with completion projected in 2007.

Nouvel's design features a huge (270 feet long x 125 feet tall) white extruded aluminum "gate" at the beginning of the pier, a vast entry hall with a 7,000 square foot glass pool of water as a ceiling, a series of exhibition pavilions set in a tropical garden that includes a 50-foot wide, 115-foot-tall waterfall, and a large, cylindrical concrete exhibition hall topped with a restaurant with views of the bay and the city. The entire compound is set below sea level, and surrounded by perimeter walkways at 10 feet above the bay. Overall, the facility incorporates 240,000 square feet, with -- in separate pavilions -- 21,500 square feet for Brazilian and Latin American galleries, 13,000 square feet for modern art galleries, 30,000 square feet for multimedia production facilities, and 35,000 square feet for temporary exhibitions.

The city of Rio owns and operates the museum; the Guggenheim, along with its partners, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersberg and the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museums, are providing exhibition and educational programming. The project is being sold as a motor for economic development; Maia "conservatively" estimated that the project would draw $100 million a year in tourist revenues to the city, and promote 1.4 million meters in new or renovated construction over 10 years. The museum carries a price tag of $130 million, according to Maia, including $12 million for the architect and $29 million for the three museums.

Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg inaugurated its new, scaled-down art-auction operation last week with three days of photograph sales. High point for the mixed-owner sale on Apr. 24, at least for followers of contemporary art, was the sale of Gregory Crewdson's Untitled -- Awake (from "Twilight") (2001) for $33,450, well over the presale high estimate of $20,000. The picture, which shows a woman sitting up in bed while her husband sleeps, is from an edition of ten; the artist's auction record, set last year at Christie's, is $41,825 for a work in an edition of six.

But the real fireworks at Phillips were reserved for the Seagram Collection of 350 photographs, which sold for a total of $2,879,687 (with premium). The collection was sold without reserves, and every lot found a buyer -- even the 1974 photo of a flag painted on a tree by the little-known photographer Roger Merton, which forced auctioneer Simon de Pury to conduct a "reverse auction" all the way down to a $1 opening bid before the photo was bid up to a $550 hammer price. De Pury was his usual amiable self on the podium, declaring at various times that "Mastercard, Visa is accepted," and soliciting bids from "the person next to the carwash," a reference to Phillips' neighbor on 15th Street, visible out the window.

In light of the results, however, presale estimates seemed to be all over the place, leading one observer to call them "unpredictable, even random." But the Seagrams provenance obviously carried a lot of weight. The top lot was a portfolio of 14 dye transfer prints by William Eggleston, privately published in 1974 in an edition of 15, which went for $185,500 over a high estimate of $150,000.

Several classic black-and-white photos went for high prices early in the sale: the very first lot, Karl Struss' moody 1926 gelatin silver print of a man on the deck of a ship approaching New York, The City of Dreams, sold for $62,140, well above the presale high estimate of $8,000; Paul Outerbridge's cubistic picture of New York billboards from 1923, 42nd Street Elevated, sold for $74,090, above the high estimate of $40,000; and Walker Evans' exquisite picture from 1933 of a diagonal row of black cars parked in the rain, Main Street, Saratoga Springs, New York, sold for $101,575, above a high estimate of $60,000.

Sotheby's New York sale of 19th century European art on Apr. 24, 2003, totaled $7,685,520, with 122 of 179 lots selling, or more than 68 percent. The top two lots were by William Bouguereau: La reverence, an 1898 scene of a barefoot young girl in a glade, sold for $590,400, at the low end of its presale estimate of $550,000-$750,000; and Tête de fillette, an 1890 portrait of a winsome child in a white shift, went for $366,500, above its high presale estimate of $300,000. Other top lots included the Mill at Longeville (1868) by Gustav Courbet, which sold for $366,400 (est. $400,000-$600,000), and a serene riverside scene by Jean-Baptiste Corot, Un bord de rivière aux arbres coupés, which also sold for $366,400 (est. $120,000-$180,000).

Christie's New York sale on Apr. 24 of a collection of 160 bronzes by the 19th-century animal sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye (the undocumented collection had been assembled in the early part of the 20th century by a Brazilian industrialist and passed down to his heirs) was a success, with 157 of the lots finding buyers, for a total of $2,725,458. Sixteen of the works are "museum quality master bronzes," and the top two lots both passed the former Barye auction record. Roger carrying off Angelica on the hippogriff, second version, sold for $354,700 (est. $60,000-$80,000) and Theseus slaying the Minotaur, second version, sold for $276,300 (est. $40,000-$60,000).

Christie's New York sale of 19th- and 20th-century prints on Apr. 29, 2003, was 89 percent sold by lot, with 332 of 372 lots offered finding buyers, for a total of $4,060,004. An etching by Lucian Freud, Ill in Paris (1948), sold for $89,625 (est. $35,000-$45,000), a record for the artist. The top lot in the sale was a 1982 Savarin monotype by Jasper Johns, which sold for $365,900 (est. $300,000-$500,000). A complete set of 10 screenprints of Mao by Andy Warhol from 1972 sold for $59,750, just below its presale low estimate of $60,000.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters announced seven award winners for 2003. The five $7,500 awards in art go to R. Crumb, Robert Lazzarini, Nancy Rubins, Gary Stephan and Richard Tuttle. The $5,000 Jimmy Ernst Award in Art, honoring a consistent and dedicated lifetime contribution, goes to Lester Johnson. And Steve DiBenedetto won the $5,000 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award for a younger American painter of distinction. Works by the artists go on view May 22-June 15, 2003, at the Academy galleries at Audubon Terrace on Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets in Manhattan.

The Morgan Library closes on May 5 to undergo its renovation and expansion designed by Renzo Piano. In the meantime, the museum is open through May 4, 2003, with a pay-as-you-wish admission policy, a great chance to catch the estimable "Picturing Natural History: Flora and Fauna in Drawings, manuscripts and Printed Books."

Socrates Sculpture Park, the outdoor museum established in 1986 on neglected landfill in Long Island City on the East River across from Midtown Manhattan, opens with on May 11 with "Yard," an exhibition about "the private landscape that surrounds suburban domestic architecture" curated by Robyn Donohue and Alyson Baker. Participating artists are Andrea Bowers, Gregory Crewdson, Adam Cvijanovic, Elise Ferguson, Rosemarie Fiore, Maximilian Goldfarb, Lisa Hein & Bob Seng, Martine Kaczynski, Pia Lindman, Jason Middlebrook, Erin Shirreff, Alyson Shotz, Venske & Spnle, and Weinthaler. The show is on view till Aug. 3, 2003.

Lower East Side elf-eared art celebrity and Troll Museum founder Saint Reverend Jen launches a new magazine, called All Star Scene Magazine (otherwise known as A.S.S. Magazine), with a benefit extravaganza at the Bowery Poetry Club at 308 Bowery on Mar. 12, 2003. The new zine promises to "celebrate the uncool, the marginalized, the dimple-butted, the sloppy, the eccentric, the washed-up" and more. For more info, email

At the same time, the biannual Honest Magazine has made its debut at Printed Matter bookstore in Manhattan's West Chelsea art district. The oversized glossy, put out by Stella Bugbee, Jon Milott and Cary Murnion of the Stay Honest design studio, features art by Doug Henders, Gemma Corsano, Daniel Heimbinder, Craig Metzger, Patrick Rocha, Phil Toledano and Jennifer Ray, and an interview with Gregory Crewdson.

The first five recipients of the $20,000 Artadia grants in the foundation's biannual Houston program are Santiago Cucullu, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Robyn O'Neil, Sigrid Sandstrom and Brent Steen. The winners were chosen by a jury of curators, including Rice University Art Gallery director Kimberly Davenport, Whitney Museum curator Shamim Momin and Houston CAM curator Paola Morsiani. For more info, see

Glasgow-based film artist Rosalind Nashashibi, who represents Scotland at the forthcoming Venice Biennale, has won the 24,000 Beck's Futures prize for 2003. Works by Nashashibi and other finalists for the prize are on view at the London ICA, Apr. 5-May 18, 2003; the show subsequently travels to the CCA in Glasgow, June 2-July 27, and the Southampton City Art Gallery, Sept. 25-Nov. 30, 2003.

Douglas R. Nickel, curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, has been appointed director of the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson. . . . Susan Ehrlich, a professor at Loyola Marymount University and California State University, Northridge, has been named as West Coast Regional Collector for the Archives of American Art.

The inaugural exhibition at the new Photo-Graphic Gallery at 477 Broadway in New York's SoHo district features "Spirit of the Gija," photos of Australian indigenous people by Australian artist Roger Foley, and a show of ceramic sculpture by New York artist Helena Starcevic, May 10-June 8, 2003. Gallery directors are former Sydney dealer and curator Alison Holland and James Wintner, publisher of JHW Editions and founder of and For more info see