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Marlborough has lost its four-year legal battle to retain control of the multimillion-dollar estate of famed Dada sculptor and poet Kurt Schwitters, and has been given two weeks to pay over $200,000 in court costs to the Schwitters heirs. The artist's grandson Bengt, 50, a former physics lecturer at Oslo University, welcomed the ruling and said that the family hoped to set up a foundation to centralize and promote the artist's work. The three-week civil case was heard by Judge Jarle Amundsen in Sandvika, near Oslo. Witnesses included Gilbert Lloyd, a former Marlborough director and son of Frank Lloyd, the company's founder,; and John Drax, a director of Marlborough's London branch. Marlborough gained control of the estate in 1963 and sued for breach of contract in 1994 after the family sought to terminate the arrangement.

Auction sales at Sotheby's and Christie's combined totaled $3.86 billion for 1997, an increase of $654 million, or 20.4 percent, over 1996. Christie's edged out Sotheby's in the race for dominance, $2.016 billion to $1.84 billion. (The record year was 1989, with $5.09 billion total.) Is the boom market back? "There is very little evidence of speculation," Sotheby's c.e.o. Kevin Bousquette told the Artnewsletter's Andrew Decker. What about auction-house profits? Decker calculates that Sotheby's led Christie's, $64.5 million to $58.23 million.

Three street artists were arrested in front of the Metropolitan Museum on Monday, Mar. 9, during a demonstration by A.R.T.I.S.T., the Artists' Response To Illegal State Tactics. Parks police Chief Brash personally supervised the confiscation of art (which could be destroyed), according to street-artist advocate Robert Lederman. Arrested were Neil Balmuth, Peggy Hung and Lederman himself, who was seized while quietly eating a candy bar and charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration. This is Lederman's 26th arrest for speech related activites since Mayor Giuliani took office.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is holding an on-line colloquy on the questions, "Have the culture wars ended? If so, who won?" So far there's commentary by Todd Gitlin, Gertrude Himmelfarb and others. Post away, if you dare. The site also has eight years of stories providing extensive background on the Culture Wars.

Deconstructivist architect Zia Hadid will design the 60,000-square-foot, $25-million new facility for the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. The Iraqi-born London architect is the first woman to do a U.S. museum. Museum chief Charles Desmarais said the new building would be completed by late 2001 or early 2002.

Painting is definitely out, at least according to the Guggenheim Museum's second biannual installment of the $50,000 Hugo Boss Prize. On the short list this year are U.S. photographer Lorna Simpson, South American filmmaker William Kentridge, South Korean installation artist Bul Lee, Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist and Huang Yong Ping, a Chinese installation artist.

The New York Post reports that avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson's starkly Minimalist stage design for the Metropolitan Opera's new production of the Richard Wagner opera Lohengrin was roundly booed by the effete opera-loving windbags in attendance. Wagner granddaughter Eva Wagner is said to dig the show, which has seven performances in all.

The frescoes by Cimabue and Giotto in the Church of St. Francis in Assisi, reduced to rubble last September by an earthquake, are beyond repair, according to Italian art expert Federeco Zeri. "Most of the frescoes are not just in fragments, they have crumbled completely," Zeri said. "If you look inside the boxes, you just see dust. You cannot reconstitute a painting from dust." Perhaps the greatest loss is Cimabue's St. Matthew, the pulverized pieces of which are now stored in orange crates.

ArtNet contributor (and newly appointed Flash Art U.S. editor) Franklin Sirmans talks on Mar. 14, 12 noon, at Silverstein Gallery (476 Broome Street) in SoHo. The topic: Current trends in contemporary European photography. On view at the gallery: "Acting Out," photos by Roberto Marossi, Sarah Dobai and Christina Dimitriadis.

The Museum of Modern Art has announced the first major U.S. retrospective of Constructivist avatar Aleksandr Rodchenko, June 25-Oct. 26, 1998. The show, organized by MoMA curators Magdalena Dabrowski and Peter Gallasi with Stanford prof. Leah Dickerman, features 300 works made between 1915 and 1939, with an extensive concentration of his photographs.

The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts presents the second annual Iris Foundation Awards to Metropolitan Museum patron Jayne Wrightsman, Colonial Williamsburg curator emeritus Graham Hood and Pamela Robertson, curator of the Hunterian Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow. The luncheon is Apr. 15 at the Carlyle Hotel, New York.