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Always nice to see our art museums helping out the U.S. State Department (as opposed to the art market, say). The U.S. visit by new South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung included dinner at the Metropolitan Museum to inaugurate its new Arts of Korea Gallery, which features a survey of Korean painting, sculpture, ceramics, metalwork and lacquerware, June 9, 1998-Jan. 24, 1999. It was its culture, Kim said, that helped the Korean peninsula assimilation by China.

Further along Kim's U.S. itinerary was a state dinner at the White House with Bill Clinton and assorted Korean-American notables, including video pioneer Nam June Paik. Paik recently suffered a stroke and uses a wheelchair, but his general state of dishevelment often seems more wino than wired. While shaking hands with Clinton, the 65-year-old artist's tuxedo pants accidentally dropped to the floor, revealing that he wasn't wearing any underwear. In the broadcast on Fox News, the offending part was mosaiced out.

Robert Fitzpatrick has been named director and ceo of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Fitzpatrick is presently dean of the school of the arts at Columbia University; formerly he was president of EuroDisney in Paris (1987-93) and president of the California Institute of Arts (1975-87). "My first priority," he said, "is to begin the search for several brilliant curators." Recent staff resignations include chief curator Richard Francis, who now at Christie's in New York; curator of collections Lucinda Barnes, who is director of the Boise Museum; and curator of exhibitions Amada Cruz, who is off to Bard College. Fitzpatrick succeeds Kevin Consey, who resigned in November.

At its meeting in early June at the Worcester (Mass.) Art Museum, the American Association of Art Museum Directors thrashed out a series of new guidelines to deal with the Nazi war loot that has inexplicably found its way into their collections. Not surprisingly, the rules encourage close scrutiny of the provenance of World War II-era acquisitions, and prompt response to any Holocaust-related claims. A number of U.S. museums, including the Seattle Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum, have been hit by such claims since the exhibition of the Leopold Collection at the Museum of Modern Art set the entire calamity into motion.

The British Museum admits that it permanently damaged the famous Elgin Marbles in the 1930s when overzealous conservators scoured and scraped the 160-yard-long frieze in an effort to whiten its ancient patina. The blunder was uncovered by a new book, Lord Elgin and the Marbles by William St. Clair. The Greek government says that the incident proves that the classic Parthenon plunder is unsafe in Britain and should be returned to a special museum in Athens.

The $65 million promised last month by New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani to the Museum of Modern Art for its planned $680-million expansion has been caught in the power struggle between the obstreperous Republican mayor and the overwhelmingly Democratic city council, headed by Peter Vallone, said to be a New York State gubernatorial candidate. The city council budget, issued in early June, pointedly omits the funds for the "elite" museum, instead restoring $20 million to the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs for various community museums and art programs. MoMA says it is "dismayed."

The art auction business is booming worldwide -- or at least in Poland, according to a Reuters report by Piotr Bazylko. Two new auction houses have opened (Ostoya in Warsaw and Sztuka in Krakow), bringing the national total to seven. And auctions of fine and decorative arts totaled more than 25 million zlotys, or $7.2 million, in 1997. The local auction record was set this spring when Leon Wyczolkowski's Self-portrait on a Horse went for 430,000 zlotys. Most buyers are wealthy businessmen or dealers, said one auction-house specialist, while cash-strapped public museums can only watch helplessly.

Over 200 works from the Tom Patchett collection goes on view at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art facility in La Jolla, June 28-Sept. 6. As might be expected from the collector who created Alf and is publishing the Coagula compilation Most Art Sucks, "Double Trouble: The Patchett Collection" features iconoclastic works by everyone from Marcel Duchamp (L.H.O.O.Q.) to Janine Antoni, Chris Burden, Mike Kelley, Charles Ray and Cindy Sherman. Also on view: Patchett's vintage America collection of neon signs and industrial artifacts.

Marisol has won the 1997 "Gabriela Mistral" Inter-American Prize for Culture, which comes with a $30,000 award, from the Organization of American States. The annual prize, named after Nobel-winning Chilean poet Cher Gabriela Mistral, honors artists whose works enrich or universalize the culture of the Americas and its subregions.

New York artist Krzysztof Wodiczko has won the Hiroshima Art Prize, given every three years since 1989 and including a 5 million yen cash prize (about $36,000). An exhibition of Wodiczko's work goes on view at the Hiroshima City Museum in 1999.

Contribute your heavy rummage -- furniture, doors, lumber, refrigerators -- for an installation at P.S.1 by the Vienna-based art collective Gelatin. They pick up from anywhere in the metropolitan area during June. For more info call (212) 334-3370 or by email at

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles opens the new Marcia Simon Weisman Study Center for Works on Paper to the public on June 23-28 (and by appointment only after that). Dedicated to the longtime trustee and art collector (who died in 1991), the center holds her bequest of 83 drawings and 51 prints by mostly male artists; more recent acquisitions have included works by Nancy Rubins and Ellen Gallagher. Designed by MOCA architect Arata Isozaki, the facility features a flat file, a study counter and a viewing area, and is located on the south side the MOCA sculpture plaza in a space formerly used as an orientation room.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo closes June 29 to install a new climate control system. Reopening is scheduled for late September 1998. Museum director Douglas G. Schultz apologized for not being able to keep the museum open all summer as hoped. "Keep in mind that the gallery will be much improved," he said.

Eight bronzes by French sculptor Auguste Rodin go on outdoor view at Rockefeller Center in New York, June 17-Aug. 31, courtesy the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and the Public Art Fund. The Three Shades is on Fifth Avenue; the Burghers of Calais and The Thinker, among others, are on exhibition in the center's landscaped Channel Gardens.

Two high-powered computer-geek-bikers are riding from Brooklyn to the 1998 Siggraph Conference in Orlando, Fla., July 11-19, in a project called "The Binary Biker" with travelogue available on the internet. School of Visual Arts computer art chair Bruce Wands and Pratt computer graphics chair Rick Barry are using cellular phones with cellular modems, an Apple 3400 Powerbook and Sony Mavica and Sony PC 10 DV digital cameras. They are dedicating the project to the late Dan Peda, who died in a motorcycle accident on his way to the 1994 Siggraph Conference.

After a recent appearance at the U.S. Supreme Court, trouble-making performance artist Karen Finley is back with "The Return of the Chocolate Smeared Woman" at the new Flea Theater at 41 White Street in New York, June 17-July 4. The production is directed by Jim Simpson and the Bat Theatre Company. For info and reservations call (212) 226-0051.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has announced $40 million in new art gifts from its trustees. Among the 23 works are 14 bought from Robert Rauschenberg, including the notorious Erased de Kooning drawing made in 1953, as well as works by Mondrian, Giacometti, Motherwell, Thiebaud and Bourgeois. New SF MOMA director David Ross told New York Times reporter Carol Vogel, "I've had a reasonable amount to do with this gift. Ever since I signed on here, I started working. I disassociated myself from the Whitney in March."