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Barnett Newman's towering, 18-by-8-foot Cathedra (1951) at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam was slashed by a 44-year-old man with a carpet knife on Nov. 21. Stedelijk director Rudy Fuchs says the man is the same nut who slashed Newman's 1967 Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III [see "Letter from the Lowlands" 4/17/97] and spent next-to-no time in jail.

Can Congress require the National Endowment for the Arts to consider "general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public" when it makes its grants? The U.S. Supreme Court will have its say on this hoary question, probably by the end of its session next June, via the lawsuit filed over NEA's 1990 "decency clause" by the so-called NEA Four -- Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes and Tim Miller. The rule has been declared unconstitutionally vague by lower courts, but lives on, who knows why, courtesy of an appeal from the supposedly arts-loving Clinton-administration Justice Department.

The Metropolitan Museum has announced the acquisition of 78 photographs from San Francisco collector William Rubel, considerably bolstering the Met's holdings of 19th-century British photography. The selection features an exceptionally early 1835 work by William Henry Fox Talbot, 27 prints by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson originally presented to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1852, four photos by Roger Fenton and six portraits by Julia Margaret Cameron. In another instance of the savvy collector, Rubell, who is also founder and editor of the kid's literary mag, Stone Soup, bought many of the pictures at the birth of the market in the '70s when prices were low, even for the best works. The Met acquisition is part purchase, part gift (and not all the collection was included in the deal), and the actual price is unannounced ($3 million? $5 million?). New York photo dealer Hans Kraus had been offering it for some time. The Rubell Collection goes on view in the summer of 1999 in the museum's new Howard Gilman Gallery.

The Gramercy International Contemporary Art Fair Los Angeles opens at the Chateau Marmont this weekend, Dec. 5-7, 1997. Among the ca. 40 dealers missing from their usual posts will be New Yorkers American Fine Arts, Cristinerose, Pat Hearn, Casey Kaplan, Matthew Marks and Lucas Schoormans; Galerie Arndt and Klosterfelde from Berlin; Galerie Emilio Navarro, Fredric Snitzer and Ambrosino from Miami; and Jay Jopling and Maureen Paley from London. Next month, go to Miami, where the Gramercy sets up at the Raleigh Hotel, Jan. 9-11, 1998.

What's the premier U.S. contemporary art museum acquiring? You can see it all in "Heart, Mind, Body, Soul," Nov. 26, 1997-Jan. 4, 1998, at the Whitney Museum, some 90 works now in the collection. On the new A-list: Merry Alpern, D-L Alvarez, Matthew Barney, Uta Barth, Dawoud Bey, Ashley Bickerton, Rhona Bitner, Peter Cain, James Casebere, Vija Celmins, Gregory Crewdson, John Currin, Jessica Diamond, Nicole Eisenman, Ellen Gallagher, Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Tim Hawkinson, Mary Heilmann, Anthony Hernandez, Oliver Herring, Mike Kelley, Karen Kilimnik, Byron Kim, Sean Landers, Charles LeDray, Annette Lemieux, Leone and McDonald, David Levinthal, Glenn Ligon, Charles Long, Frank Majore, Brice Marden, Kerry James Marshall, Agnes Martin, Suzanne McClelland, Andrea Modica, Bruce Nauman, John Newman, Deborah Oropallo, Gabriel Orozco, Jennifer Pastor, Raymond Pettibon, Ellen Phelan, Richard Phillips, Jack Pierson, Richard Prince, Martin Puryear, Katy Schimert, Beverly Semmes, Gary Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Jessica Stockholder, Philip Taaffe, Fred Tomaselli, Kara Walker, James Welling, Terry Winters and Fred Wilson.

The show-of-the-season so far has been Richard Serra's new Torqued Ellipses at the Dia Center for the Arts, a tour-de-force of curvaceous, massive sheets of steel. Now, Dia has announced the work's acquisition -- though not the terms, of course -- thanks to a gift from Leonard Riggio, CEO of Barnes & Noble. Torqued Ellipses remains on view at Dia till June 14, 1998, and then travels to the Los Angeles MOCA for a survey of Serra's recent large-scale works. Hey everybody, let's tell Leonard that his store is way better than Borders!

Sacred art from the Vatican visits the Cleveland Museum in "Vatican Treasures: Early Christian, Renaissance, and Baroque Art from the Papal Collections," Feb. 8-Apr. 12, 1998. Among the 39 works are Caravaggio's The Entombment of Christ (1602-4) and the 1,400-year-old gem-encrusted Cross of Justin II, commissioned by the Byzantine emperor as a gift to the pope.

The Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., has scheduled a ten-year survey of paintings by Ida Applebroog, Mar. 14-June 1, 1998. The exhibition, organized by Corcoran curator Terrie Sultan, includes 60 works; philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto is writing for the catalogue.