||Some 800 lots of antiques and household furnishings owned by Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the 101-year-old widow of the Chinese Nationalist leader, were auctioned off last week in Norwalk, Conn. Her belongings brought approximately $508,000, well over the presale estimate, said Cathy Braswell, principal in the Braswell Galleries auction house there. Madame Chiang, who is revered by many Chinese Americans, moved to the United States from Taiwan after her husband's death in 1975. The items in the sale are from Hillcrest, Chiang's Long Island mansion. She now lives in New York City.
Top lots included an automated cathedral clock that sold for $64,000 and a pair of Regency-style chandeliers that went for $62,500. Among the more personal items: Madame Chiang's bed sold for $8,000 and three pen-and-ink drawings by the dowager herself went for $11,500. The auction of personal effects would seem to counter the rumors that Madame Chiang had hidden millions of dollars worth of gold after Mao drove the nationalists to Taiwan.
As it happens, Madame Chiang's grandson is Steve Chao, the Exeter and Harvard grad who is one of the developers of "shock tv," the smash hit concept that began with "Cops" on the Fox network. Chao was unexpectedly dismissed three years ago by Fox head Rupert Murdoch after Chao had brought in a stripper to entertain a conference. Unfortunately for Chao, Murdoch's embarassed wife witnessed the act.
Barbie turns 40 this year, and the art world is celebrating! Photographer David Levinthal has taken a series of 75 glamour Polaroids of classic Barbie dressed in fashions by Chanel, Givenchy, Dior and Balenciaga for Barbie Millicent Roberts: An Original (Pantheon). Levinthal's photographs go on view at the San Jose Museum of Art, July 25-Oct. 10, 1999, and then tour nationally.
Marina Picasso has lashed out at her uncle Claude Picasso for allowing the French car company Citroén to name its new minivan after the artist. Marina is the granddaughter of Picasso's widow Olga, while Claude is son of Picasso's mistress Françoise Gilot, and heads the foundation that controls the rights to the Picasso name. "We have paid heavily for rights,'' a spokeswoman for Citroén said. Marina promises a lawsuit. The Citroén Xsara Picasso is due to go on sale shortly.
Artist Jeff Koons plans to work on a new computer-animated movie, Curious George, a film version of the children's book, according to industry reports. The movie is being produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment and is slated for release next Christmas by Universal. The film will be live action though the mischievous monkey will be animated.
Janis Joplin would have been 56 this year. According to Wireless News, her younger sister Laura Joplin says Janis really wanted to be a painter. Before she became a star, Janis was a "budding bohemian" who read philosophy and dreamed of living as an artist.
The Boston Phoenix reports that Dennis Hopper plays an abstract painter in the new movie Michelangel, a film directed by William Gove. Shot in Puerto Rico, the film also stars Richard Grieco. No release date has been set for the U.S.
The New York Times Sunday Magazine may think that Norman Rockwell is a prime example of "Bad Art" -- see Deborah Solomon's Jan. 24 article -- but that doesn't faze Linda Merrill, curator of American art at Atlanta's High Museum of Art. The High, you see, is organizing a blockbuster Rockwell show, slated to go on view next November.
"The High is part of a larger trend in reassessing formerly disparaged artists and in broadening the definition of art," said Merrill to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "[Solomon] called it a welcome release from the snobbery of the past, the elitist image of museums. I think it's good publicity. Besides, who gets to pick who is good and who is bad?"
Chelsea Clinton and some friends from Stanford recently visited the Alexander Calder show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "She couldn't have been nicer. Stood in line with everyone, and when we wanted to give her a ticket, she insisted on paying,'' said an SFMOMA worker.
Hollywood superstar Jack Nicholson thinks it's vulgar to talk about films in terms of how much they cost and how much the directors, producers and actors make. He told the Telegraph, "I would never tell anybody what anything costs. It's the wrong approach. You wouldn't say, 'Look, Rembrandt paid $20,000 for his paints and Picasso only used $3,000'."
Al Hendrix, the 73-year-old father of psychedelic guitar pioneer Jimi Hendrix, recently won a legal battle for the rights to the music of his late son. Al had argued that producers had mishandled Jimi's music by allowing new parts to be dubbed over old performances. Jimi's sister, Janie Hendrix Wright, told Vibe magazine that it was like "taking a Picasso that didn't get quite finished, and having it completed by Norman Rockwell.''
Sylvester Stallone is selling his Miami waterfront estate, which includes two guest houses and a boat house, for $28 million. According to Rick Moeser, who is handling the sale for Sotheby's International, the entrance hall to "Casa Rocko" features a painting by Leroy Neiman of Stallone in his famous role as underdog boxer Rocky Balboa. Stallone plans to take the work to the new home he's buying for his wife, Jennifer Flavin, and daughter, Sophia Rose.
The Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., is assembling a collection that can be called "eclectic." Under the former president's guidance, according to U.S. News and World Report, his museum is collecting such items as James Dean's motorcycle, Charles Lindbergh's flight suit, Bonnie and Clyde's bullet-riddled hats, FDR's wheelchair and the U.S. Embassy rooftop staircase from which the last Americans in Saigon leaped to rescue helicopters.
As for the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Tx., former President Bush is giving it his cigarette speedboat (named Fidelity) complete with fishing poles. The craft is so big that it won't fit through the door -- a hole will be knocked in the museum wall to get the boat inside.
Q: What is the difference between the esthetics of France and the United States?
A: When I was a little girl growing up in France, my mother worked sewing tapestries. Some of the tapestries were exported to America. The only problem was that many of the images on the tapestries were of naked people. My mother's job was to cut out the genitals of the men and women, and replace these parts with pictures of flowers so they could be sold to Americans. My mother saved all the pictures of the genitals over the years, and one day she sewed them together as a quilt, and then she gave the quilt to me. That's the difference between French and American esthetics.'' -- Louise Bourgeois in Harper's.
BAIRD JONES is a New York curator and writer.
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