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Julian Schnabel and Sean Penn are both working on surfing movies, and the celebrated art superstar is none too happy about the competition, according to insiders. Schnabel, a big man who physically resembles the legendary Hawaiian surf king Duke Kahanamoku, has a beautiful house in the Ranch neighborhood on Montauk Point. "He has his own 'surf break,'" said one admiring local. "All he has to do is go down the cliff." Schnabel was spotted giving a tour of his spread to superstar surfer Herbie Fletcher, one of the fathers of the American surfing scene (and of two sons, Christian and Nathan, both pro surfers themselves).

Schnabel purportedly hopes to film the story of Fletcher's life, which would be the third biopic on his director's belt, along with movies about graffiti painter Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas. No surprise, then, that Julian is turning the gimlet eye on Sean Penn's surfing project, a film version of In Search of Captain Zero, a surfer memoir penned by Allan Weisbecker. "I read the book," Schnabel said to a friend. "But I didn't think much of it." Penn plans to star and produce the picture. Director is Stacy Peralta, whose skating documentary Dogtown and Z-boys is a cult favorite.

Enron might be the poster child for corporate corruption, but the bankrupt energy trader's top art purchase has been validated by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In a widely overlooked story first reported last month, the Smithsonian museum purchased the showpiece of Enron's short-lived $20-million corporate art collection, Martin Puryear's Bower (1980), a large wooden lattice-work structure. Enron had bought the work at Sotheby's New York contemporary sale on May 15, 2001, for an eye-popping $764,750 (with premium), a record-setting price that was well above the work's presale estimate of $500,000-$600,000, and about 50 percent more than the reclusive artist's previous auction record, set the year before.

Enron's adventures in the art market were overseen by an "art committee" famously headed by Lea Fastow, wife of now-disgraced Enron chief financial officer Andrew Fastow (and still a member of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston modern and contemporary committee), and including two local museum luminaries, MFAH curator Barry Walker and Hirshhorn Museum director Ned Rifkin (then director of the Menil Collection in Houston). No word has surfaced as to the fate of the rest of Enron's art assets -- Claes Oldenburg's Soft Light Switches (bought at auction for $574,500, a near-record for the artist), a Donald Judd "stack" sculpture, Bridget Riley's In Attendance, Nam June Paik's Retrobot, Robert Therrien's sculpture of a double Dutch door, and works by Uta Barth, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Teresita Fernandez, Julie Moos, Jack Pierson, Alma Thomas and John Wesley.

The Puryear sale to the Smithsonian was handled by Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York, according to a report by Bill Murphy in the Houston Chronicle. "The Smithsonian paid $782,000 for the work," Murphy wrote, "about $16,000 more than Enron paid." Presumably the dealer took a commission on the transaction, so Enron probably didn't make a profit on the deal. The museum actually made the acquisition in late 2001 and announced it back in June, though a museum spokesperson said that the museum didn't know where the work came from at first. As for the high price, the museum notes that Puryear sculptures of that period are "hard to find."

The museum has been beefing up its contemporary collection with acquisitions of works by Deborah Butterfield, Alfred Jensen, Ed and Nancy Kienholz, Liz Larner and Nam June Paik. The Smithsonian now expects to open the American Art Museum's renovated facility -- the Patent Office building -- in 2006.

The fall art season has one of its early openings underground, as Roy Lichtenstein's 53-foot-long Times Square Mural is unveiled in the Times Square subway hub on Sept. 5, 2002. A gift to the New York City by the artist, the work -- which takes commuters back to a Buck Rogers era -- was fabricated in porcelain enamel on steel in 1994 and is only now being installed on the subway's mezzanine level. Preparatory works and documentary material on the mural, including a life-size black-and-white maquette, go on view at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Sept. 5-Oct. 19, 2002. Nothing in the exhibition is for sale.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, says that its "Andy Warhol Retrospective" brought $55.8 million in economic activity to the city. The exhibition, which ran May 25-Aug. 18, 2002, boasted ticketed attendance of 180,800 and total attendance of 195,000. According to the onsite survey, the show attracted visitors from 29 states, though two-thirds of attendees reside in Los Angeles County. Visitors to the show used 28,2000 hotel room nights and spent $3.2 million on lodging. Nearly 30 percent of visitors cited the Warhol exhibition as their primary reason for traveling to Los Angeles. "The economic impact study demonstrates the real value of cultural tourism to our community," said MOCA director Jeremy Strick.

Speaking of Warhol, add another title to your Warhol bookshelf. Possession Obsession: Andy Warhol and Collecting (The Andy Warhol Museum, $39.95) isn't just another picture book. The 152-page hardcover, though it boasts 100 color illustrations, also features a collection of 15 essays on the Prince of Pop's notorious collecting mania. "Never, before or since, have I seen anyone buy so much so quickly," writes Allen Kurzweil, remembering helping Andy at designer Suzie Frankfurt's tag sale in 1974. The book includes chapters on kitsch, Art Deco, folk art and Americana, "Warhol's Closet," jewelry and American Indian art, and also includes photos taken by Robert Mapplethorpe of Warhol's East 66th Street townhouse in 1987. The book was published to accompany the exhibition, "Possession Obsession: Objects from Andy Warhol's Personal Collection," which debuted at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Mar. 2-May 19, 20902, and is currently on view at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I., July 19-Oct. 13, 2002.

Veteran East Village and SoHo dealers Ellen Donahue and Ronald Sosinski are reopening their gallery in Chelsea under a new name -- The Proposition. Located at 162 11th Avenue at 22nd Street, the gallery debuts on Sept 28 with a show of large-format photographic self-portraits by the heavily-tattooed British artist Lee Wagstaff. Donahue and Sosinski promise a new international program to include film and new media as well as painting. Artists include Erick Amouyal, Rolf Belgum, M. Henry Jones and Simon Linke along with painters Frances Barth, Peggy Cyphers, Arnold Mesches, Grace Graupe-Pillard and George Schneeman. For more info email

Music critic and NPR broadcaster Ted Libbey has been appointed director of Media Arts Programs at the National Endowment for the Arts. Mark Robbins, director of the design division at NEA since 1999, has resigned.