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Former Sotheby's chairman Alfred Taubman has hired banking firm Credit Suisse First Boston to advise him on selling his controlling stake of 13.2 million shares in the auction house, according to New York Post business columnist Paul Tharp. The beleaguered tycoon is said to be considering whether to turn over the entire company or just parts of it, or even to try to take it private again. Meanwhile, the London Telegraph reports that a New York judge has delayed sentencing for the auctioneers' former chief executive Diana Brooks for three months to allow Justice Department prosecutors to question her further in their investigation of her former boss. Taubman strongly denies any involvement in the price-fixing scheme with Christie's.

Today's high temperature in balmy Palm Beach, Fla., is 68 -- not ideal but still the first warm welcome of 2001 for the art lovers flocking to the Art Palm Beach contemporary and modern art fair at the International Pavilion, Jan. 10-15, 2001. Organized by David and Lee Ann Lester (who also do the Palm Beach International Art & Antique Fair, opening Feb. 1, and the new Palm Beach Town & Country, Mar. 8-13), the fourth edition of Art Palm Beach features 67 dealers from around the world -- ranging from Robert Henry Adams (Chicago) and Art Beatus (Vancouver) to Galerie Thomas (Munich) and Waddington Galleries (London).

Special lectures include Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art curator Amy Cappellazzo on "American Painting in the Digital Age" and Tate Modern director Lars Nittve on "A Powerhouse for Art: The First Eight Months of the Tate Modern." Proceeds from the Jan. 10 gala preview go to the Palm Beach Opera educational programs.

Swedish police have arrested eight men so far in connection to the dramatic heist of a Rembrandt and two Renoirs from Stockholm's National Museum on Dec. 22, according to press reports. The suspects include a 42-year-old Russian man alleged to be the brains of the operation and two Swiss lawyers suspected of acting as intermediaries between police and the gang in ransom negotiations. Officials have yet to recover any of the paintings, but downplay fears that they might have already been spirited out of the country.

Adding yet another wrinkle to the Terra Museum of American Art's current management woes, director and curator John Neff is leaving his post at the Chicago museum after three years on the job. Neff isn't commenting officially, but Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan has suggested that Neff got into hot water because he protested possible conflicts of interest on the part of board member Ted Stebbins involving museum acquisitions. A seasoned museum pro, Neff was widely considered the eccentric museum's best hope for respectability. Ryan is calling for an independent probe for the museum.

The first committee dedicated to the authentication of works by Amedeo Modigliani has been formed. The sponsor of the committee is Canale Arte Publishing president Giacomo Canale and its members are Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum curator Masaaki Iseeki, Moise Kisling biographer John Kisling, Louvre Museum senior researcher Marie Claire Mansecal, French Ministry of Education and Culture visual art department director Claude Mollard, Modigliani expert Christian Parisot and Drouot auction house expert André Schoeller.

The Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pa., might be having a difficult time making ends meet -- it has only about $800,000 in unrestricted cash left and an annual $1.5 million deficit -- but that's not stopping new director Kimberly Camp from making grandiose plans for its future, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Among the more expensive proposals: launching a "living history museum" in the 18th-century Ker-Feal estate in Chester county (cost: $1.5 million), and moving administrative offices off-site and converting the Barnes' administrative building into a space for rotating exhibitions (cost: $4.1 million). "I'm concerned that [the plans] are extremely optimistic," said former Philadelphia Museum of Art president Robert Montgomery Scott. Camp also raises the possibility of sending works from the Barnes on another fundraising tour.

Luxury goods firm is buying online art dealer for about $3.6 million in stock, reports the Wall Street Journal. is exchanging about 8.7 million common shares for ownership of the art website in a deal that will add $11.5 million in cash to the buyer and increase's visibility. The arrangement will also result in an undisclosed number of layoffs, according to an spokesman.

London's Institute of Contemporary Art and Beck's Beer have named the ten nominees for the second annual £65,000 Beck's Futures Arts Awards, Britain's largest prize showcasing "promising but unknown" artists. The finalists receive £4,000 and the winner gets an additional £20,000 at a ceremony on April 10. The short-list includes Shahin Afrassiabi, John Russell & Fabienne Audeoud, Simon Bill, David Burrows, Brian Griffiths, Dan Holdsworth, Gemma Iles, DJ Simpson, Tim Stoner and Clare Woods. This year's jury, chaired by Martijn Van Nieuwenhuyzen, includes Anthony Fawcett, Richard Flood, Katerina Gregos, Gary Hume and Zadie Smith. Viewers can see the finalists' work at the ICA, Mar. 30-May 20.

"The Impressionists at Argenteuil" at the Wadsworth Museum in Hartford, Conn., not only set a new attendance record for the museum in its 12-week run, it also generated $14.66 million in economic activity in the city and state. According to a study conducted by Boston-based John Snow Inc., visitors to the show spent $7.3 million on things like dining, lodging, travel and merchandise, with $5.2 million of the spending happening in Hartford. Furthermore, 93 percent of the 94,000 visitors came from out of town, with more than 22 percent traveling from out of state.

The Museum for African Art in SoHo is presenting "African Forms," a major new exhibition of more than 400 hand-crafted objects from the entire African continent, Feb. 1-Aug. 8. The show showcases the artistry of over 156 African ethnic groups from 34 nations and is divided into seven major sections from the practical to the ritual, including such diverse items as collapsible feathered hats, sacred and domestic stools, neck rests and bridal baskets. It is organized by Frank Herreman, director of exhibitions at the museum.

New York's redoubtable Esso Gallery relocates from scenic Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side to new digs at 211 West 28th Street on Jan. 13, 2001, with an impressive new show of multiples, editions and books by the Arte Povera artists, plus drawings by the late Pino Pascali, the Italian artist perhaps best known for the weapons made out of found objects he exhibited in Rome in 1966. Also on view are new works by Enrico Iuliano. For more info, call (212) 714-8192.

The UCLA Hammer Museum has appointed Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles associate curator Russel Ferguson to the new position of deputy director of exhibitions and programs and chief curator, effective March 1.

The Latin American Art Museum has moved to the Miami Art Center at 2206 SW 8th Street after three years at its old location in Coral Gables. The new space opens with "No Tengan Miedo," an exhibition featuring Cuban painter and muralist Xavier Cortada, Jan. 12-Jan. 27.

Florence-born art-historian Marcello Marvelli is inaugurating Chelsea's newest gallery with "Imprint," a new exhibition by photographer and filmmaker Yuichi Hibi, Jan. 12-Feb. 24. Marcello Marvelli Fine Arts is located at 526 West 26 Street, #603; call (212) 627-3363 for more info.

One-time New York gallerist Jeff Gleich has moved to France and is opening G-Module, a new arts space in the heart of the Marais -- one of the oldest and most picturesque parts of Paris -- with "Pop Science," featuring the work of New York painters Andrew Chesler, Jane Fine and Michael Rodriguez, Jan. 24-Feb. 24; call 01 42 71 1475 for more details.

Art journalists returning to their desks after New Year's vacation were greeted by an impressive bit of museum marketing -- a suitcase-sized wooden crate containing an assortment of generic promotional items, including a ceramic coffee cup, a blank CD-ROM, a blank mailing tube containing posters showing blank billboards, and even a plastic replica of a gas pump nozzle. All the items are labeled with a generic, museum-type label; a paper coffee cup, for instance, is titled Brown Rings on Table, 2001, coffee, cup, table, on loan from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

The accompanying press kit (contained in a plain white folder labeled Public Perception (Work in Progress) explains the megillah as a new ad campaign created by TBWA Chiat Day Los Angeles to raise LA MOCA's public profile throughout Los Angeles. A total of 150 different "labels" -- possibly the largest site-specific ad campaign in L.A. history -- are to be presented on some 46 billboards (carrying similar conceptual-artish statements, like "Cars Moving in Unison" and "Three Roads Converging at a Pizza Joint"), bus posters ("People with Exact Change"), newspaper ads ("War, Peace, TV Listings"), dry-cleaning hangars ("Clean Shirt, Clean Conscience") and the like. Is this what art is, some kind of statement of the obvious? Maybe...

On the actually news front, LA MOCA plans to open a 3,000-square-foot gallery at the Pacific Design Center in L.A., and has appointed Harvard U. assistant dean Brooke Hodge as new curator of architecture and design.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech
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