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The New York art world may shut down for the month of August, but up north Americana collectors and dealers are bracing themselves for the week-long "Manchester Madness" in Manchester, N.H. The "seven days of shopping mayhem," as Wendy Moonan called it in the New York Times, includes a total of six American antiques shows in or near Manchester during the week of Aug. 3-10, 2002, plus two days of Americana sales at Northeast Auctions in Portsmouth, N.H., Aug. 3-4.

Among the fairs is the 45-year-old New Hampshire Antiques Show, put on by the 300-member New Hampshire Antiques Dealers' Association (NHADA). Over 60 dealers are on hand at the show, which goes on view at the Holiday Inn in Manchester, Aug. 8-10. The star event at Northeast Auctions, headed by auctioneer Ronald Bourgeault, is the Aug. 4 sale the collection of Isobel and Harvey Kahn, begun some 50 years ago and subtitled, "Shaping Standards in American Folk Art." The Kahn's collection was exhibited at the U.S. pavilion in the 1970 Osaka Universal Expo and in the Whitney Museum's 1976 exhibition, "The Flowering of American Folk Art."

And as NHADA notes on its website, "in New Hampshire, there is NO sales tax."

Could this be the last auction of the summer? Christie's held a maritime sale at its Rockefeller Center headquarters in New York, featuring photographs, models and instruments as well as several notable paintings. Not everyone was distracted by their summer vacations, as 118 of 186 lots sold, or 63 percent, for a total of $1.1 million. The auction's two showpiece lots found buyers. Montague Dawson's Yachts racing his Majesty King George V's Britannia versus Sir Thomas Sopwith's Endeavour (1935) sold for $163,500 (est. $150,000-$180,000). The same artist's The "Abner J. Benyon in heavy seas, a dramatic scene of a famous shipwreck in a hurricane, sold for $83,650 (est. $60,000-$70,000). Another top price was paid for Edward William Cooke's happier scene, Landing Fish, coast of Holland (1869), which sold for $83,650 (est. $50,000-$70,000).

The Metropolitan Museum has published a 208-page illustrated handbook to its American Wing, the first comprehensive survey of the museum's American collection issued in 22 years. The new paperback book, called A Walk through the American Wing (Yale, $19.95), traces the history of the collection since its beginnings in the early 1920s, when some two dozen rooms from colonial and Federal houses were incorporated into a new three-story building, faced with the façade of the Branch Bank of the United States. From the popular Charles Engelhard Court and the museum holdings of incredible colonial-era furniture to its unparalleled collection of American paintings and sculpture (from Charles Willson Peale's George Washington and Erastus Dow Palmer's The White Captive to Thomas Eakins' The Artist's Wife and his Setter Dog and John Singer Sargent's The Wyndham Sisters), the lavishly illustrated guide (with 160 color pictures) is a museum in print (without the air conditioning).

A. Alfred Taubman, the 78-year-old former chairman of Sotheby's auction house, is slated to begin serving his one-year prison sentence on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2002. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals refused to overturn the auction magnate's conviction for price fixing, ruling that any errors made during the trial were "harmless." One issue involved the federal prosecution's use of a quote from economist Adam Smith in its closing statement, which claims that "People in the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." Taubman's defense team had said the quote could mislead jurors into thinking that business rivals can never confer, and the three-judge panel agreed, cautioning prosecutors that "future uses of a quotation such as this one might well prove fatal" to the government case. Taubman, who is described by his lawyers as frail, is scheduled to surrender to the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn.

The culture war continues in Cincinnati, where frothing local officials have tossed an artist into jail for 30 months for taking black-and-white pictures in a morgue. The incredible-but-true victim of prosecutorial zeal is one Thomas Condon, 30, who got approval from the coroner's office to take photographs in the Hamilton County morgue as part of a project on "the cycle of life" in return for making a "how-to" video for the coroner. Though events curtailed Condon's work, his morgue photographs are soft-focus black-and-white images of body parts, some with props like a sea shell or piece of sheet music that make allusive references (to the "shell" of the body and the rhythms of life, for instance). Condon said that he took pains to conceal the identity of the deceased, as is common with morgue photographs.

Condon's problems began in January 2001, when a local film developer turned over a roll of his negatives to the cops. After raiding his studio, the police made prints from his negatives and allowed the local press to reproduce the sensational images -- and then charged Condon with eight counts of gross abuse of a corpse. The coroner's office also denied giving the photographer permission for his project. Condon's defenders argue that it was the police who produced and disseminated the offending images, a distinction lost on local officials. Hamilton County assistant prosecutor Thomas Longano called Condon's project "bullshit" during the trial, and Common Pleas Judge Norbert Nadel agreed, adding in his remarks before sentencing that Condon's photos are "sick," "disgusting" and "idiotic."

The photographer had an experienced attorney -- H. Louis Sirkin, who successfully defended Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who was charged with obscenity in Cincinnati in 1998, and Dennis Barrie and the Contemporary Arts Center, which were put on trial in 1990 for pandering obscenity. Both the city and Condon now face a civil lawsuit seeking money damages from family members of the deceased.

Documenta 11, on view in Kassel from June 8 to Sept. 15, is now halfway through its run. The fair claims that in its first 50 days, the exhibition has welcomed 302,765 visitors, including 9,500 members of the press (with 75 new press registrations a day). The press has been busy -- more than 500 articles and reports appeared during the June 5-9 opening of the show, and some 5,500 texts have appeared during all of 2002.

Coming up at Documenta is a performance by Joan Jonas with music by D.J. Spooky, based on Hilda Doolittle's poem Helen in Egypt, on Aug. 14, 15 and 16. Also on tap is a performance by the Frankfurt Ensemble Moderne of Hanne Darboven's Sextett für Streicher op. 44 (1998/1999), Aug. 16-18, 2002.

A new art project has invaded the lively "personals" section of Nerve, the highbrow online sex site that posts poetry, prose and photography (by the likes of Janine Godon, Beth B, Nobuyoshi Araki and Richard Kern, to name only a few). Organized by artists Giovanni Garcia-Fenech (former Artnet Magazine art-news correspondent) and Jody Hughes, the project involves more than 40 artists posting their own personals on the online bulletin board at Titled "Are Friends Electric," the scheme has the intent of "confronting the commercialization of personal relationships, exploring the idea of online identities and maybe trying to pick someone up." One participant looks suspiciously like a sock puppet and describes him- or herself as "bigfoot's sex slave"; another answers the survey questions in haiku, as in "A web art project / Using online personals / Making a point? Feh." Participants can be found by searching for "afe_".