Two paintings by Egon Schiele from Austria's Leopold Collection have been seized by Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau in an investigation of charges that their ownership is clouded by Nazi plundering. The works, Dead City (1911) and Portrait of Wally (1912), were recently on view in "Egon Schiele: The Leopold Collection" at the Museum of Modern Art. A U.S. State Department spokesman said that the government "strongly supports" the return of Nazi loot to its original owners, and noted that "the Austrians in the foundation have indicated their willingness to work with the claimants to resolve the issue of ownership amicably." Austrian culture minister Elisabeth Gehrer announced, however, "This deals a heavy blow to the international exchange of art." The 72-year-old collector, Rudolf Leopold, who sold his 5,400-piece collection to the Austrian government in 1994 for about $175 million, insists he has clear title to the works. "I have never bought nor exchanged pictures where it could be proved that they were taken from Jewish owners,'' he told a Vienna newspaper.
NEW BOSTON ICA HEAD
After a six-month search, Jill Medvedow has been named the director of the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art. She was deputy director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (1991-97) and recently founded and headed Vita Brevis, an organization that sponsors public art projects.
AUCTION HOUSE ALLIANCE
Two auction houses have forged a transatlantic tie. William Doyle in New York and Bonham's in London have announced plans to conduct joint sales and advertising. "In an increasingly competitive art world, we felt we needed to be able to offer our clients an international reach," Bonham's managing director Christopher Elwes told the New York Times.
CHRISTIE'S IN ARGENTINA
Christie's has bought a minority piece of Argentina's leading auction house for fine and decorative arts, J.C. Naón y Cia in Buenos Aires. "South America is the next logical market to expand," said Christie's c.e.o. Christopher Davidge in a press statement. Christie's president Patricia Hambrecht noted that Argentina has "led the way for expanding the art market in South America by lifting import and export restrictions." Christie's two Latin American sales in New York totaled $28 million in 1994, the peak year, according to Reuters.
GALLERY SUES ARTIST FOR CHANGING STYLE
The Park West Gallery in Detroit has filed suit against Iranian-born artist Ali Golkar for changing his style, calling his new work unsellable, according to a story in the Detroit Free Press. Dealer Albert Scaglione claims he paid "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to Gokar for paintings that "were typically in blues and were lush and rich in color." Instead, he got paintings done "primarily in browns, blacks and grays" -- and now has about 150 on hand that he is unable to sell. He seeks an unspecified amount in damages.
NEW PRESIDENT FOR MENIL
The Menil Foundation in Houston has selected Louisa Stude Sarofim as its new president, following the death of Dominique de Menil on Dec. 31, 1997. Sarofim has been a Menil Foundation board-member since 1990.
KOHN FOR GRAMERCY L.A.?
A bird tells us that following the disappointing showing of December's Gramercy L.A. art fair at the Chateau Marmot, fair organizer Matthew Marks called an emergency meeting with L.A. dealer Michael Kohn of Kohn Turner. Marks gave Kohn carte blanche to run the 1998 LA Gramercy, telling him to "bring in only buyers, no looky-loos." Kohn has an ad budget and will also choose the L.A. participants. Where does this leave Gram glam Tom Delavan?