SOTHEBY'S BUYS SAITO IMPRESSIONISTS
The Times of London reports that Sotheby's has bought from creditor banks the two record-setting Impressionist paintings purchased at auction in 1990 by the late Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito. Vincent van Gogh's Portrait of Dr Gachet, bought by Saito for $75 million at Christie's New York, went for about $10.3 million. Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Au Moulin de la Galette, bought by Saito for $71 million at Sotheby's New York, went for about $45.6 million. Japanese banks hold an estimated $14 billion worth of western art.
GUATEMALA THREATENS BOSTON MFA
The government of Guatemala has formally demanded the return of 32 pre-Columbian artifacts on exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and has threatened to sue if the museum does not comply, according to the Boston Globe. Guatemala claims that the collection of Mayan ceremonial drinking vessels and figurines, donated to the museum more than a decade ago by MFA trustee Landon T. Clay, was looted from tombs in the country's Peten district and illegally exported.
NAZIS SENT ART TO SWISS
The Nazis sent hundreds of "degenerate" art works to Swiss galleries and individuals in return for German and Dutch works, according to World War II documents recently discovered in the National Archives by World Jewish Congress researchers. "Switzerland was a principal destination and laundering clearinghouse for the Nazi plunder of Jewish-owned art works," the WJC said. The records reported that 200 cases of looted art were shipped to Switzerland from Paris in 1944. The WJC commission on art recovery, headed by Museum of Modern Art head Ronald Lauder, said that during the war the Nazis stole about 100,000 art works from France alone. More than 55,000 of those have never been returned.
CORBIS LAUNCHES ONLINE ART SHOP
Microsoft chief Bill Gates' other company, Corbis Corp. in Bellevue, Wash., has launched a new online store selling prints of images from its huge fine art and photography database. The Corbis Print & Poster Shop offers more than 500 images, ranging from Degas to Dorothea Lange. New images will be added to the site monthly. Customers can select one of five print sizes: 5 x 7 ($5.95), 8 x 10 ($9.95), 11 x 14 ($15.95), 16 x 20 ($19.95), and 24 x 36 ($29.95). Prices do not include framing, shipping or handling. Corbis also announced the acquisition of Digital Stock, which provides royalty-free digital images.
RICHARDSON OUT AT BMA
Baltimore Museum of Art deputy director and curator of modern painting and sculpture Brenda Richardson has resigned after 13 years at the museum. Her departure is part of the administrative restructuring of new director Doreen Bolger.
The five artist's fellowships awarded from the J. Paul Getty Trust Fund for the Visual Arts have been announced. Winners of the $15,000 grants are Laura Aguilar, Barbara Carrasco, Juan Garza, Robert Gil Del Montes and Patssi Valdez. The $5-million fund is administered by the California Community Foundation.
BULGARIAN PREZ VISITS MUSEUM
The 45-year-old president of Bulgaria, Petar Soyanov, kicks off his U.S. visit at the exhibition "Ancient Gold: The Wealth of the Thracians" that opens at the St. Louis Art Museum on Feb. 5. Stoyanov, a former divorce lawyer, is scheduled to meet Bill Clinton at the White House on Feb. 10.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis museum has cancelled a planned sale of ancient jewelry from its collection after protests from the Archaeological Institute of America. The archeological group argued that the collecting of undocumented antiquities and the commodification of archaeological artifacts has a direct link to rampant site looting and the illicit trade, and must not be promoted.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF MUSEUM HANGING
Toshihide Sasaki, a branch president of Japan's scandal-plagued Japan Highway Public Corp., commited suicide by hanging himself from a branch of a tree in front of the Hiroshima Art Museum on Feb. 2. Sasaki was scheduled to be interrogated by prosecutors investigating bribe-taking in the highway authority.
FINCH ON VIEW
Friends and enemies (could he have any?) of ArtNet's Royal Flush columnist Charlie Finch are flocking to the Feb. 12 opening of "Pirate Cindy," an installation by artist (and Finch love-interest) Cindy Tower at Trans Hudson Gallery (416 West 13th Street) in New York. Why? Because the show features dozens of paintings of Charlie -- in the buff! The show includes a sculpture of a pirate ship made out of the artist's chopped-up pickup truck! Come dressed as a pirate, the invite sez.