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Despite nagging economic problems in Mexico and South America, the auctions of Latin American art in New York this week turned in respectable results. Sotheby's evening and day sales on May 27-28 totaled $7.8 million, with 98 of 141 lots finding buyers, almost 70 percent. "The market is clearly driven by quality, as evidenced by strong prices for all the top lots," said Sotheby's expert Kirsten Hammer in a prepared statement. "The fact that a number of the top lots were purchased by dealers buying for stock is a clear indication of a healthy market."

Top lot was Rufino Tamayo's dignified Sandis (1953), an iconic image of a still life of watermelon slices on a tall table, that sold for $988,000, in the middle of its presale estimate. A comical Fernando Botero painting of a family of matadors, Antes del paseo (1984), sold for $680,000, the low end of its presale estimate, to an anonymous American dealer. The price is the highest for a Botero painting since 1996. Claudio Bravo's small, Christo-like Mystic Package sold for $489,600, well above its presale high estimate of $375,000, and a new auction record for a work on paper by the artist. Finally, the "new discovery" of the sale was the Cuban-born Chilean painter Mario Carreo (1913-99), whose pensive, Sandro Chia-like Mandolin Player (1944) sold for $456,000, almost double the presale high estimate and a record for the artist at auction.

At Christie's on May 28-29, 2003, a rather weaker sale totaled $5.7 million, with 87 of 157 lots finding buyers, or 55 percent. Top lot was Matta's polymorphously eerie Endless Nudes (1941-42), which sold for $1,687,500, at the top end of its presale estimate, the second highest price for the artist at auction. The "inscape" had recently been on view in "Pierre Matisse and His Artists" at the Morgan Library in New York.

The Christie's sale included several lots by contemporary artists, including Francis Alys, Luis Cruz Azaceta, Jose Bedia, Enrique Martinez Celaya, Julio Galan, Kcho and Nadin Ospina. For illustrated results, see the Artnet Fine Arts Auction Report.

The British press is having a good time with the new shortlist for the 2003 Turner Prize. The four finalists for the 20,000 award are Grayson Perry ("a transvestite who depicts himself involved in sex acts on the surface of his "pottery"), Jake and Dinos Chapman ("they doctored a set of original Goya prints, adding cartoon heads to the figures"), Anya Gallaccio ("she chopped down seven ancient oak trees and displayed them in a gallery") and Willie Doherty (a photographer whose minimalist images referring to the Irish conflict spurred little outrage so far). The winner is due to be announced on Dec. 7, 2003.

The 30,000 Jerwood Painting Prize, which celebrates "excellence and imagination in painting in the UK," has gone to Welsh artist Shani Rhys James, who is known for colorful, expressive self-portraits.

William Pope.L, the self-described "friendliest black artist in America," plans an ambitious "outdoor site-specific community performance" to highlight his traveling retrospective at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art in Portland, Ore. Dubbed Candy Mountain, the event is a marathon dance challenge issued by the artist to the citizens of the city. On a large stage painted with the image of the American flag, Pope.L, dressed in a milkman's outfit, plans to dance the foxtrot with all comers to the 1930s hit song Big Rock Candy Mountain, chatting with his dance partners about "homelessness, love of country and the future of democracy."

But that's not all. Every hour Pope.L will be doused with a pail of chocolate syrup, to "lubricate the relationship between citizens who fight for liberty but live in a country with a long history of racism." And for each dance partner, Pope.L is donating $10 to a Portland-based housing program for the homeless. Candy Mountain is about "dancing for a new democracy," says Pope.L. The event is slated to run from 6 pm to 2 am on the evenings of June 6 and 7, 2003, at the corner of SW Third and Taylor Streets in Portland. Pope.L's exhibition, "eRacism," is on view at PICA through July 26.

To raise funds, Harlem's Triple Candie art space is launching "The Rally for Triple Candie: A Benefit Exhibition Celebrating Freedom of Expression," May 30-June 6, 2003. More than 100 artists have crafted custom-made protest signs for the show, including Kathe Burkhart, Emily Cheng, Joanne Greenbaum, David Humphrey, James Hyde, Suzanne McClelland, Carrie Moyer and Dread Scott. Some signs are being sold through a silent auction, while others are available for $100 each at the June 7 benefit. Tickets to the event, which starts at 6 p.m., are $85; for more info, email

Iconoclastic Norwegian realist painter Odd Nerdrum is joining Gian Carlo Menotti and the rest of the gang at the forthcoming Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, at the end of June. Nerdrum's apocalyptic paintings have provided inspiration for the set and costume design for the festival's production of Richard Wagner's Lohengrin, which is being performed on June 28 and July 2, 5, 9 and 12. In addition, a comprehensive survey of 25 works by the artist, "Odd Nerdrum: Paintings," goes on view at the Palazzo Arroni, June 28-July 13. And finally, a painting by Nerdrum, The Ultimate Sight (1985), is providing the image for the festival poster.

The art-loving Altoids mint company is sponsoring a pair of graffiti "Walls of Fame," public collaborative murals that showcase young graffiti writers. The New York mural goes up on June 3 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at Bedford and North 4th Street, and involves 15 artists: Dalek, Dona, Doze, Erni, West, Muck, Yes, Ces, Rebel, Daze, Ezo, Skwerm, Kenji, Leia and Bisc. The second wall -- over 500 feet long -- is located in Miami's Wynwood district, at NW 24th Street and NW 6th Avenue, and goes up on June 19. The Miami graffiti roster is Edec, Sar, Kvee, Mek, Freek, Elex, Shie, Sae, Rage, Dash, Solo, View2, Jes, Gwiz and Smash. What's more, according to Altoids, the walls carry no corporate branding.

This year's $50,000 Pew Fellowships in the Arts, a program funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, are earmarked for Philadelphia-area artists working in choreography, crafts and music composition. Six of the 12 winners are visual artists: Andrea Cooper, Linda Cordell, Jim Hinz, Michael Olszewski, Kukuli Velarde and Jan Yager. Panelists for crafts were Bowdoin College Museum curator Alison Ferris, ceramist Andrea Gill and Museum of Arts and Design chief curator David McFadden.

Pierre Restany, 73, celebrated French art critic who championed "Nouveau Realisme" -- Arman, Csar, Christo, Yves Klein, Niki de Saint-Phalle, others -- died at his home in Paris on May 29. One of the first global art critics, Restany worked on the Sao Paulo Bienal in 1961 (resigning in protest against the Brazilian military), lectured at the 1962 Tokyo Biennial, worked with Czech magazines during the Prague Spring in the 1960s, sailed up the Amazon in 1978 (writing The Manifesto of Rio Negro in the jungle), and lectured in Moscow in the late '80s during Perestroika. In addition to innumerable monographs on the New Realists, Restany's books include Lyrisme et Abstraction, Livre Blanc de l'Art Total and L'autre Face de l'Art; he was editor of the quarterly magazine Ars since 1986.