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In the latest development of an ongoing public controversy, Austria's Green Party has claimed that 241 works of art in Austrian state museums may have been looted by the Nazis during World War II. A series of articles in the Vienna newspaper Die Presse has revealed that many art objects appropriated by the Nazis were seamlessly incorporated into national collections after the war. Austrian Ministry of Education chief Elizabeth Gehrer, who oversees state museums, says that once provenance is certified, stolen works will be returned to their rightful owners.

Democracy must have arrived in Russia - art has become a political issue. The Russian Constitutional Court has ordered president Boris Yeltsin to sign laws passed by the Russian Duma blocking the return of artworks seized by the Red Army during World War Two. Yeltsin called the ruling "a slap in the face" that would damage relations with Russia's trading partners, including Germany, France and the Netherlands. Germany said the decision was a violation of international law. The art loot in Russian hands includes a rare Gutenberg Bible, gold artifacts from Troy, drawings by Rembrandt and paintings by Monet and Matisse.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council plans to hold a conference in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9-12, 1998, to focus on issues surrounding assets looted by the Nazis from Holocaust victims. The conference was announced by Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat and Miles Lerman, chairman of the memorial council.

The sale of Art & Auction magazine to publishing consultant James Regier by shopping-center magnate Marshall Cogan and his wife Maureen was announced in the Wall Street Journal's new art section last Friday. Rumor has it that the new owner, who has limited art-world experience, will reposition the monthly as a "trade journal" for the serious art community, possibly by converting it to a biweekly published in tabloid format (like the Art Newspaper on glossy stock). Sale price was not disclosed but inside sources put it at around $400,000. The position of editor Bruce Wolmer is thought to be secure.

Artist Rirkrit Tiravanija is making an art work by traveling across the country from Los Angeles to Philadelphia in a motor home with five students from Thailand. The six-week trip, Apr. 1-May 31, includes stops in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Graceland, and will be followed by a two-week residency at the Philadelphia Museum (which is sponsoring the project). View it on the Web at

The Whitney Museum has inaugurated a new series of small-scale contemporary shows in its lobby gallery. First up, May 1-July 19, 1998, are two interactive installations by the Taiwan-born, New York artist Lee Mingwei, including The Dining Project, in which selected museum visitors will dine with the artist each evening. Subsequent shows will be "Swoon" by Janine Antoni, July 24-Oct. 11, and a show by Paris-based American photographer Seton Smith, Oct. 16, 1998-Jan. 10, 1999.

Sotheby's "Nothing to Wear" fashion sale in New York on Apr. 8 -- its second devoted to fashion -- totaled $515,372, over $100,000 above the high estimate. Top lot was a red wool "day ensemble" by Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior from 1959, purchased for $43,125 by a representative of Yves Saint Laurent himself, bidding on behalf of the designer's soon-to-open museum outside Paris. The Saint Laurent museum also bought three 1978 fashion sketches from 1978 (titled Opium Sketches and Assorted Materials in the catalogue) for $24,150, 12 times their estimate, and other items, including a gelatin silver print of Saint Laurent by Horst for $2,300.

Other top lots included a Schiaparelli tartan bustle skirt made for Nancy Lancaster for $25,300 (est. $7,000-$10,000) and an embroidered evening gown by Pierre Balmain for $11,500 (est $3,000-$5,000). Among the accessories sold were a Hermes Kelly Bag, circa 1950, for $6,900 and a pair of Courreges white pantent-leather go-go boots from the 1960s for $805. An Andy Warhol-inspired 1960s paper dress imprinted with Campbell's Soup Cans went for $6,900 (est. $600-$800) and a paper suit by James Rosenquist for $1,725 (est. $1,500-$2,000).

The Fine Arts Museum of Lyon, France's second largest museum after the Louvre in Paris, has reopened to the public with an exhibition of 100 works by Henri Matisse and an installation of 35 Impressionist and modern works willed to the museum by the late actress Jacqueline Delubac. The $66-million renovation of the 17th-century Palais Saint-Pierre, a former Benedictine abbey, took eight years.

The opening reception for California light and space artist Robert Irwin's new installation at the Dia Center for the Arts in New York is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m., Apr. 12 - Easter Sunday. It's the only time the artist could make it, said a Dia insider.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, has launched its new Web site - in both English and Spanish, making it one of the only bilingual art sites on the Web. In addition to viewing works from exhibitions and the permanent collection, Web cruisers can order books from the museum shop and peruse the menu from the Museum Café.

Anthony-Noel Kelly, the 42-year-old British artist who cast gold and silver sculptures from human body parts stolen from the Royal College of Surgeons in London, has been sentenced to jail for nine months. Judge Geoffrey Rivlin said the punishment was for theft, not art. "In this country we pride ourselves on free expression." Kelley denied he was morbid and claimed he needed the remains for "the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of life."

Thieves have stolen the oldest stone Buddha in Beijing, according to a report by the BBC. The five-foot-tall statue, which dates to the year 499 AD, had been housed in a stone hut for 15 centuries.

New York serial sex killer Joel Rifkin is selling his prison artwork in the lobby of the state legislative office building in Albany, according to the New York Post. Rifkin, who has confessed to killing 17 women, mostly prostitutes, is participating in a show sponsored by the state Department of Correctional Services. His paintings depict animals, birds and, ominously, the foot of a corpse with a toe-tag. They're priced between $27 and $81, the Post says.

The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts in New York has announced over $40,000 in awards to artists in its 173rd Annual, Mar. 21-Apr. 26, 1998. The $400 Julius Hallgarten Prize for painting by an American artist under the age of 35 goes to Eric Aho. The $850 S.J. Wallace Truman Prize for landscape painting by an artist under the age of 35 goes to Jonathan Redmond. And the $3,000 John Koch Award for a figurative painter under the age of 35 goes to Michael Ananian. The $15,000 Alex Ettl Award for Sculpture is divided among three sculptors: Charles Wells, Michel Langlais and Philip Grausman.

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe will open a new show to the public on Apr. 14, including four works bought at Sotheby's American art sale last December on behalf of the museum by Santa Fe dealer Gerald Peters. The works include the record-breaking From the Plains, which sold for $3.6 million, as well as Black Lines (1916), Black Diagonal (1919) and Winter Trees III (1953). The show also features Abstraction White (1927), an oil last shown by Alfred Stieglitz at his New York gallery 70 years ago.

Brooklyn Museum of Art curator of European painting and sculpture Sarah Faunce retires this month after nearly 30 years at the museum. She plans to write a new catalogue raisonné of the works of Gustave Courbet.

The Metropolitan Museum has appointed Deborah M. Winshel as chief financial officer of the museum. Winshel was formerly managing director of investment banking at JP Morgan & Co. In her new job she will oversee an operating budget of more than $110 million and a staff of more than 50.

FRANK LLOYD, 1911-1998
Frank Lloyd, 86, Vienna-born Jewish art dealer who during the 1960s and '70s built the Marlborough Gallery into an international art-world force with branches in New York, London, Rome, Zurich and other cities, died on Apr. 7 at his home in Nassau, the Bahamas. His career ended in disgrace after the Rothko art scandal broke in 1971, in which he was accused of wasting the assets of the estate of Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko.