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Flush with a $2 billion budget surplus, New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani is spreading some in the direction of the Museum of Modern Art. At a press conference today, Giuliani pledged $65 million from the city's capital budget towards MoMA's $680 million expansion. "It's a great deal," Giuliani said. "With direct and indirect tax revenues, the city makes the money back in about two years." Museum president David Rockefeller said MoMA has about $200 million raised towards the project, which will almost double the size of the museum, to 680,00 square feet, and add new centers for education and film and video.

The Metropolitan Museum says it doesn't know anything about charges that its 15-piece collection of ancient silver, bought for about $2.75 million in 1981 and '82 from unidentified dealers, was actually looted from an illegal dig in central Sicily. Gen. Roberto Conforti, commander of the Italian national art theft squad, told the Boston Globe that Italy would sue for return of the objects. Met director Philippe de Montebello said the Italians have so far made only vague inquires about the silver.

Las Vegas casino impresario Steve Wynn is turning his new casino, the Bellagio, into "the Louvre of Las Vegas," according to a report in the New York Post. "Wynn is the single person who has been driving up the art market for the past year," says Charlie Finch, author of ArtNet's own Royal Flush news column. In the last few months Wynn has bought van Gogh's Woman in a Blue Dress for $47.5 million and works by Johns, Rauschenberg, Kline, de Kooning, Lichtenstein, Pollock and Twombly from New York dealer William Acquavella for $50 million. The $1.6-billion Bellagio resort, spread over 120 acres and featuring top restaurants and stores, opens in October.

Italian architect Renzo Piano has won the Pritzker Architecture Prize for 1998, a $100,000 award from the Hyatt Foundation. Among Piano's designs are the Beaubourg in Paris (with Richard Rogers), the new Fondation Beyeler near Basel and the Menil Collection in Houston. Piano is presently in Berlin overseeing the design of eight new structures on the Potsdamer Platz, former site of the Berlin Wall.

The illustrious family of art dealers headed by 80-year-old Guy Wildenstein in Paris has hired the high-powered New York PR firm of Rubenstein Associates, according to a report in the New York Times, to help rebut charges that after World War II the family misappropriated eight medieval manuscripts belonging to another Jewish collector. The manuscripts, which were returned to the Wildensteins after the war, are also claimed by heirs of Alphonse Kann. Wildenstein says that the Nazi inventory markings on the manuscripts -- including the letters Ka, for "Kann, Alphonse" -- are actually a mistake by Nazi art historians.

While the Whitney Museum conducts its search for a successor to departing director David Ross, the trustees have named museum operations chief Willard Holmes as acting director of the museum. "I'm changing the name to the Whitney Museum of Canadian Art," said Holmes, who hails from the Great White North.

May is the month for Ellsworth Kelly in New York. He exhibits five sculptures (three new) at the Metropolitan Museum roof garden (opening May 1) as well as seven new paintings at Matthew Marks Gallery on 24th Street and Sculpture for a Large Wall, his 1957 commission for the Philadelphia Transportation Building (closed a few years ago) at Marks on 22nd Street (both running May 1-June 20).

The Detroit Institute of Arts has appointed David W. Penney as chief curator. He joined the museum in 1980 as assistant curator of African, Oceanic and New World cultures.

Celebrated New York City graffiti artist Andre Charles, whose many spray-can murals in Gotham include memorials to Tupac Shakur, Princess Diana and Mother Theresa, was assaulted by plainclothes New York City detectives in the Bronx on Apr. 18. Charles' girlfriend, Nadia Valdez, was given a black eye in the attack, according to a report in the New York Post. The kids weren't working but rather were hanging out in an apartment building hall way when they were caught up in an "anti-crime sweep." The couple, who plan to file a civil suit against the department, were charged with assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

The Andrea Frank Foundation, founded in 1995 by New York photographer Robert Frank in memory of his daughter Andrea, has announced its 1998 grant awards. Winners are photographer Judith Joy Ross, artist Carolee Schneeman, photographer and musician Mark Steenerson, photographer Steve Hart, video-maker Irene Sosa, movie-maker Miranda July, photographer Shahidul Alam, photographer J.H. Engstrom and video-maker Sokly Ny. A total of $120,000 was awarded in varying amounts. The foundation's board of directors includes artist June Leaf, attorney Paul Gulielmetti, banker Clark B. Winter, Jr., and Yale Art Gallery director Jock Reynolds.

Exit Art, the New York alternative space, has launched a new sales gallery called The Warehouse. It features a large selection of art for sale, unusual for most nonprofits, by artists ranging from Chuck Agro and Ida Applebroog to Angela Wyman and Daniel Zeller. (It's said to be coming soon to the Web, at The new project replaces the Exit Art store, which carried a range of low-priced items by artists inspired by household products. "It was a pain to cajole the poor artists to make the stuff," explained Exit Art director Jeanette Ingberman.

The projects by artists on the Dia Center for the Arts Website have won the third annual Global Information Infrastructure Award for Arts and Entertainment. Among the artists are Claude Closky, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Molissa Fenley, Cheryl Donegan, Susan Hiller, Komar & Melamid and the collaborative team of Tony Oursler, Constance De Jong and Stephen Vitiello.

A proposed National Photography Museum is part of a scheme to revitalize the District of Columbia's seedy downtown neighborhood. Under the plan, a new nonprofit corporation -- called the Washington Center Alliance -- would build a new baseball stadium and national museums for photography and music. Heading the group is Thomas Downs, a former D.C. public works director who recently resigned as Amtrak chief due to poor relations with workers, according to Reuters.

The Brooklyn Museum of Art has some fun features accompanying its new "Jewels of the Romanovs: Treasures of the Russian Imperial Court" exhibition (to July 5). Actress Isabella Rossellini has narrated the English version of the audio tour. The fifth-floor museum shop has a special selection of whimsical Russian arts and crafts, Russian amber, Russian wooden and tin toys, nesting dolls and icons. And the "Prospekt Cafe," overlooking the museum sculpture garden, serves Russian teas, vodkas and "light fare with a Russian flavor."

The Queens Museum of Art has launched its website with online exhibitions, a gift shop, membership forms, job listings and more. On view now: "Out of India: Contemporary Art of the South Asian Diaspora" and "Tiffany in Queens."

Kudos to Wall Street Journal arts editor Alexandra Peers, who penned a long how-to article on art collecting in last Friday's "Weekend Journal" section of the paper. Titled "Art, Without Intimidation," the piece advised beginning art buyers not to be "fazed by attitude" and "don't pay retail," among other things. It's not exactly what we would tell them -- GET ON ARTNET, for one thing, or HAVE MONEY TO BURN, for another -- but if nothing else, the reappearance of art collecting as a topic for money-mad WSJ readers signals a potential broadening of the pathetically small market for real art.