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Sniping at "China: 5,000 Years," the Guggenheim Museum's epic exhibition of some 500 objects dating from the Neolithic to the contemporary, has begun even before its Feb. 6 opening. The cooperation of mainland China is said to be inspired by the successful loan show from arch-enemy Taiwan, "Splendors of Imperial China," that appeared at the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery in 1996-97. Another complaint focuses on the role taken in organizing the show by a dealer, Howard Rogers, whose Kaikodo gallery in New York specializes in traditional Chinese art. More importantly, contemporary artists are grumbling that the show was vetted for political content under pressure from Chinese authorities. New York-based installation artist Xu Bing, for one, was disinvited from the show last November. Guggenheim director Thomas Krens denies any censorship, attributed the change to delays in completing the SoHo Guggenheim's third-floor galleries.

The two Egon Schiele paintings at the Museum of Modern Art ordered held by New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau as part of his investigation into whether they were criminally stolen Nazi plunder from World War II are to stay in New York at least until Mar. 5, when a decision in the case is expected from judge Laura E. Drager. The two paintings, Portrait of Wally and Lost City III were acquired after the war by Rudolf Leopold and recently sold to the Austrian government along with a collection of some 5,400 other works for $175 million. MoMA filed a brief objecting to the seizure under New York law, which ordinarily exempts art works on loan from judicial confiscation.

But the matter will most likely drag on; Morgenthau is expected to appeal if the court decision goes against him; and the U.S. Customs Service has launched its own investigation. Plus the Leopold Museum may cancel the appearance of the Schiele retro at the Miro Foundation in Barcelona, where it was originally scheduled to open Feb. 17 -- so far, no immunity from seizure has been granted by Spanish authorities. Footnote: the New York Times reported on Jan. 29 that New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato had written a letter to the Customs Service urging it to seize the entire Leopold show.

It might be anemic and clumsy, but it's still a Michelangelo! The black-chalk sketch of two figures pictured on the catalogue cover of Sotheby's Jan. 28 sale of Old Master drawings, Michelangelo's Christ and the Woman of Samaria (ca. 1550s), sold in New York for $7.4 million, an auction record for a drawing by the artist. The drawing was sold by the Martin Bodmer Foundation in Geneva to establish an acquisitions fund; the buyer's identity was not announced.

New York Gov. George E. Pataki has requested a $5.1-million budget increase for the New York State Council on the Arts for 1998-99, an increase from $40.8 million to $45.9 million.

In anticipation of its June contemporary art sale, Christie's is circulating an exhibition of works from the '60s and '70s from collection of Cologne scientist Dr. Jost Herbig and his wife Barbara. The show is curated by Richard Francis, Christie's senior 20th-century specialist, and includes works by Baselitz, Immendorff, Richter, Polke and Dieter Rot, as well as Andre, de Maria, Flavin, Nauman, Oldenburg, Ryman and Tuttle. It goes on view at Christie's New York Feb. 17-Mar. 1 before traveling to Los Angeles, Mar. 14-18, Chicago, Mar 27-28, and London, Apr. 14-21. The works will then be sold. Is it another exhibit in the case that the auction houses are taking over the art trade?

William Rand, a patron of the Jewish Museum in New York and founder of the costume-jewelry enterprise the William Rand Corporation, has given a collection art to be sold at Christie's New York on Feb. 19 to create an education endowment for the museum. Among the works are a Picasso portrait of Dora Maar, Jasper Johns' White Flag (1960) lithograph, and works by Degas, Sisley, Bonnard, Vuillard, Klee, Rauschenberg and Motherwell. Total presale estimate for the 61 lots is $4,230,800-$5,436,500.

About 30 members of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association set up their easels for a paint-in at Back Bay in Newport Beach, Cal., on Jan. 24, to help raise funds for a $5.4-million dredging project in the ecologically endangered bay. A three-hour show of the works was held at the Orange County Museum of Art that evening.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art unveils its $6.7-million expansion and renovation of Feb. 1, 1998. The new three-story wing, designed by Santa Barbara architect John Pitman, provides 3,600-square-feet of galleries for 19th- and 20th-century art, a cafe and an expanded shop.

The New York Times reports that the new American Ambassador to France, financier Felix Rohatyn, and his wife, Elizabeth, have filled the ambassador's Paris residence with contemporary art by U.S. artists like Lichtenstein, Johns, Kelly and Marden. Banished were the French modernists favored by the former ambassador, the late Pamela Harriman. Art advisor for the new installation was Rohatyn's new daughter-in-law, Jeanne Greenberg.

Vandals poked holes through two paintings by Henri Matisse on view at the Capitoline Museum in Rome in "Matisse: Revelation from the Orient." Museum director Anna Sommella said the works were probably damaged on Jan. 22 when school groups were touring the show, reports Reuters. One hole was poked through Pianist with Checker Players (1924) from the National Gallery of Art in Washington and three smaller holes were found in The Japanese Woman (1901) from a private collection. The works can be easily restored, officials say.

The National Conference on Cultural Property Protection, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, is scheduled for Feb. 9-12, 1998, in Washington DC. Registration is $425.00 before Feb. 1 and $500 thereafter. For more info call (202) 633-9446 or email

Mario Schifano, 63, Italian Pop artist, died in Rome of a heart attack on Jan. 24. Schifano began his career helping his archaeologist father and, according to the art critic Maurizio Calvesi quoted by Reuters, "threw away his talent with a wayward life and drug use."

MARYA LILIEN, 1900-1998
Marya Lilien, 97, Chicago artist and architect who headed the department of interior architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for 25 years, died in Zakopane, Poland, on Jan. 12, 1998. In the 1930s she became the first female fellow at Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's enclave in Wisconsin.