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The tally of guilty pleas in Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau's ongoing investigation of sales-tax avoidance in New York's high-end art business is now up to four. It seems that the guilty art dealers, rather than charging New York sales tax -- a national high of more than eight percent, due on sales to New York residents -- have been shipping empty containers to New Jersey, Connecticut and points elsewhere, thus purporting to avoid the levy. One enterprising dealer even sent boxes of chocolate out of state, while the art items stayed in town. The inquiry focuses on sales made between Mar. 1, 1998 and Nov. 30, 2002. The guilty customers, who are not named, are also said to be settling up. The four galleries, who admitted to two felony counts and paid fines, are:
  • Macklowe Gallery Ltd., a specialist in 20th-century decorative arts located at 667 Madison Avenue, pleaded guilty on July 21, 2003, to failing to collect approximately $42,500 in sales taxes on ten items totaling over $510,000, including Tiffany lamps, South Sea pearls, furniture, vases, ceramics and other items ranging in price from over $2,000 to $200,000. The company has paid $95,000 in fines.
  • S.J. Shrubsole Corp., the antique silver dealer whose New York shop is located at 104 E. 47th Street, pleaded guilty on July 7 to failing to collect approximately $75,000 in taxes on sales of over $900,000. The items include antique English silver candelabras, soup tureens, bowls, mugs, tankards and Art Deco jewelry, ranging in price from $2,000 to over $100,000. Shrubsole has paid $150,000 in fines.
  • Bob P. Haboldt and Company, Inc., the specialist in Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings and drawings located at 22 E. 80th Street, pleaded guilty on July 2 to evading more than $200,000 in sales taxes on sales of 11 artworks for a total of over $2.4 million. The company paid $400,000 in fines.
  • Otto Naumann Ltd., an Old Master dealer also located in the gallery building at 22 E. 80th Street in Manhattan, pleaded guilty in late June to failing to collect $240,000 in sales tax on 11 transactions totaling $3 million. The gallery has paid a fine of $500,000.
According to the D.A., the series of prosecutions has so far yielded almost $13 million in unpaid taxes and fines to the city and state. In all, as many as 20 art dealers have had their records subpoenaed in the probe.

The National Endowment for the Arts is in line for a $10-million budget increase for fiscal 2004, which would bring the arts agency budget to $127.48 million. The additional money -- earmarked for a program called "Challenge America," designed to promote the arts in "underserved communities" -- was added to George W. Bush's budget request through a bipartisan amendment in the house cosponsored by Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Chris Shays (R-CT), co-chairs of the Congressional Arts Caucus.

Post-Impressionist Pierre Bonnard is the star of a traveling retrospective in Australia this summer. "Pierre Bonnard: Observing Nature," an international loan show including more than 110 works by the artist, has recently opened at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, July 4-Sept. 28, 2003, following a premiere at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, Mar. 7-June 9, 2003. The exhibition, which is organized by NGA assistant direct Jrg Zutter, is the first major survey of Bonnard's work to appear in Australia since 1971. The show is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated 184-page catalogue with essays by Gloria Groom, Belinda Thomson and Ursula Perucchi-Petri.

Also new from the National Gallery of Australia exhibition and publishing program is The Art of Collaboration: The Big Americans. This oversized, 154-page book accompanied the NGA's show from last winter, "The Big Americans: Albers, Frankenthaler, Hockney, Johns, Lichtenstein, Motherwell, Rauschenberg and Stella at Tylers Studios." Organized by curator Jane Kinsman, the catalogue is an indispensable record of the top-of-the-line production of the U.S. printer Ken Tyler, first at Gemini in Los Angeles, and later at a succession of namesake workshops in New York. As it happens, the Australian National Gallery has over the years, through gift and purchase, assembled an impressive holding of Tyler's prints.

About the time "Manet and the Sea" opens at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Feb. 8-May 9, 2004, the French harbor town of Cherbourg will be designated as an official Civil War site. The French government is currently processing the papers to formalize the appellation. Manet's The Battle of the 'Kearsarge' and the 'Alabama' (1864), a painting that commemorates the famous battle that took place off the coast of France in June 1864, is the centerpiece of a traveling exhibition that opened at the Art Institute of Chicago (Oct. 20, 2003-Jan. 19, 2004) and is currently on view (through Aug. 17) as "Manet and the American Civil War" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The new Anna Helwing Gallery opened at 2766 S. La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles on July 12 with a group show of nine young artists, including a performance piece by Dawn Kasper, in which the artist posed for hours "Chris Burden-like" in a tableaux inspired by the notorious 1967 Duane Hanson sculpture Motorcycle Crash. Before opening her own gallery, Helwing worked with Hauser & Wirth & Presenhuber, Scalo in Zurich and was an affiliated partner with Lemon Sky Projects in L.A. Next up at the gallery is a show of work by the Swiss team of Andres Lutz and Anders Guggisberg, opening Sept. 4. Helwing's 2,050-square-foot space is next door to the forthcoming new home of Blum & Poe.

Among the summer-long celebrations of the 150th birthday of New York's Central Park is a spectacular fireworks display by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang slated for Sept. 15, 2003. Dubbed Light Cycle, the three-act show climaxes with a 300-meter vertical ring of fire that hovers for 15 seconds above the park's central reservoir. The ring's assembly of 11,000 white rockets are controlled by electronic chips implanted in each firework, allowing the artist to "paint in the sky," according to a report on The three-act show, designed in collaboration with the famous Grucci fireworks team, also features five 180-meter-tall pillars of light. The show is scheduled to begin at 7:45 pm.

The California Arts Council (CAC) recently awarded 26 fellowships in the visual arts for 2002-03. Each artist receives $4,567 (down from $5,000, presumably due to budget constraints). Grantees are Michael Bishop, Matthew Black, Hilary Brace, Brigette Burns, Brian Calvin, Lia Cook, Caryl Davis, Christel Dillbohner, Pete Eckert, Reanne Estrada, William Feeney, John Yoyogi Fortes, Jeanne Friscia, Lorraine Garcia-Nakata, Mildred Howard, Karen Kersten, Sant Khalsa, Daniel Martinez, J. John Priola, Steve Roden, Ben Sakoguchi, Nancy Selvin, Sheri Simons, Sharon Siskin, Dean Smith and Oriane Stender.

Meanwhile, the CAC struggles for its life as the budget crisis in California proceeds apace. Insiders say that the council's funding, which reached a high of $30.7 million in 2000-01, is certain to drop precipitously -- if not be abolished altogether. Stay tuned.

The Isamu Noguchi Foundation in New York has announced that a site-specific work made in 1952 by Isamu Noguchi in collaboration with architect Yoshiro Taniguchi has been destroyed. Known as Shin Banraisha, the work consisted of a room and garden on the ground floor of a building at Keio University in Tokyo; it had been designed in honor of Noguchi's father, a Japanese poet and instructor at the school, and was the first Noguchi interior to be constructed The university dismantled the work in order to expand its law school -- and insists that the work will be reinstalled in a new building.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art has received a pair of $1 million gifts in its new fundraising effort, which is dubbed the Innovation Fund. The gifts come from the Good Works Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation. The Annenberg Foundation donation goes to the museum over four years; of the Good Works Foundation grant, $250,000 is an outright gift, with the remaining $750,000 made available when matching funds are raised by the museum. The goal of the Innovation Fund is $5 million over four years.

The Helen and George Segal Foundation has donated the late sculptor's "Pregnancy Series: Seven Stages" to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers in Newark. The work, made in the late 1970s, depicts a pregnant woman month-by-month as her belly grows larger. The museum mounted a major Segal retrospective at the beginning of 2003.

Check out a pair of new art websites that have recently gone online. The Archipenko Foundation website, at, features news on current exhibitions by the Cubist sculptor Alexander Archipenko (a show focusing on some recently rediscovered sketchbooks is forthcoming this fall at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds) as well as info on the artist's auction record ($1,016,000, at Sotheby's, May 6, 2003) and an invitation to apply for internships.

Meanwhile, fans of architect Rafael Violy can keep up with the Uruguayan architect (whose office is in New York) at The extensively illustrated site has plenty of info on his many projects around the globe, which include museums in Buenos Aires, Cleveland and Tampa.

In recognition of the anniversary of the death of Vincent van Gogh on July 27, 1890, the artist Osvaldo Romberg, currently based in New York and Philadelphia, has put together a tribute collection of what he calls "recycled self-portraits" -- his versions of works by the notoriously tormented Post-Impressionist. Dubbed "Dear Theo, . . . - The Night When Van Gogh Cried, the collection is on view online at the website of Art011 in Pettenasco, Italy, till the end of the Van Gogh Year 2003, which celebrates the 150th anniversary of van Goghs birth in 1853. New images are being added from time to time to this online exhibition, the first by Romberg.