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The illustrious Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has hired a new director who has only three years experience -- at an Australian museum. Since 1995 Timothy F. Potts, 40, has helmed the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, where he launched an $85-million renovation and expansion plan, including a new Museum of Australian Art scheduled for completion in 2001. An Oxford Ph.D. in Near Eastern and Mediterranean art, Potts was also art critic for the Financial Times, editor of the book series "Cradles of Civilization," archeologist at digs in Jordan, Iraq and Greece, and curator of the first major loan exhibition from the British Museum, "Civilization: Ancient Treasures from the British Museum," which toured Australia and Japan in 1990. What's more, he spent five years in the early '90s in corporate finance at Lehman Brothers in New York and London, specializing in telecommunications, publishing and pay TV. Whew!

Potts is expected to arrive at the Kimbell in October along with his French-Belgian wife, Olivia, a gemologist, and their two kids, Charles, 5, and Isabelle, 2. He succeeds Edmund "Ted" Pillsbury, who resigned in January after 17 years in the post. The new director's salary has not been disclosed, but Pillsbury's had been reported to be over $450,000.

Art dealer Gerald Peters unveils his new, 32,000-square-foot headquarters in the Santa Fe historic district on Aug. 15, 1998, with "Picasso on Paper: Selected Works from the Marina Picasso Collection" as well as shows of wildlife art, Western art and a group of specially commissioned works by contemporary sculptors. Forthcoming exhibitions include "Robert Henri in Santa Fe," Oct. 2-Oct. 24, 1998, and "Mary Neumuth: No One Spoke," Oct. 23-Nov. 16, 1998.
The palatial adobe structure, designed in the Spanish Pueblo style by architect Steven Robinson (who's also consultant to Donald Trump's Riverside South development in New York), is said to be the largest free-standing art gallery in the country. It features 8,500 square feet of exhibition space, rooftop terraces and sculpture gardens, and an expanded research library. Over the past 30 years, the Gerald Peters Gallery has been a major force in Western art (from Georgia O'Keeffe, Albert Bierstadt and Charles Russell to Ernest Blumenschein and Walter Ufer) as well as American Impressionists, early American and European modernists, contemporary realists and vintage and contemporary photographers.

Scandal-plagued art dealer Andrew Crispo is just about out of bankruptcy and back in business with a few million dollars to spend on art, according to a report in the Aug. 11 edition of the New York Times. He's even looking to hire new staff for his gallery, located over in the New York meat-packing district at 416 West 13th Street. Thanks to help from his personal bankruptcy trustee (and art lawyer) Robert A. Weiner, Crispo was able to pay off in full more than $6 million in debts (at least $4 million owed to the IRS) by selling his art collection -- top-quality works by Georgia O'Keeffe, Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove and others -- in last spring's auctions for a total of $14 million.

Lurid details of Crispo's past adventures -- which include a stint in jail for tax evasion, a scandal over involvement in a sadomasochistic ritual murder (he was never charged), a separate lawsuit over sadomasochistic sex at a 1984 drug party at Crispo Gallery (he was acquitted) and the 1989 explosion of his art-filled Long Island house (he received $5 million from the Long Island Lighting Company) -- can be found in Bag of Toys: Sex, Scandal and the Death Mask Murder by David France. A revised version of the book is due out next year.

In a scene ready-made for Hollywood, a man with a sawed-off shotgun burst into the Auckland Art Gallery in New Zealand and stole Still on Top (1874) by James Tissot. Wearing a motorcycle helmet, dark visor and gloves, the 30-year-old Caucasian bandit raced through the gallery waving his gun and shouting "get back" to museum patrons, before going up to the $2 million painting, ripping the canvas from the frame with a crowbar and speeding off on a motorcycle. The painting is one of the more expensive 19th-century works in New Zealand.

The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) reports that state governments (plus the six "special jurisdictions" like Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Northern Marianas) appropriated a total of $305 million for state arts agencies for fiscal 1998, the most ever. "This year's growth in state arts agency appropriations outpaced the overall growth in state government spending," said NASAA executive director Jonathan Katz. Top five arts spenders are New York ($40.8 million), Florida ($24.6 million), Michigan ($21.7 million), Puerto Rico ($17.5 million) and New Jersey ($13.6 million). At the bottom of the list of states are Montana ($182,923), Wyoming ($341,680), North Dakota ($419,614), South Dakota ($467,252) and Vermont ($600,000).

British artist Carl Dreyfus has been charged with extortion by Scotland Yard after he allegedly tried to sell a nude painting of Princess Diana to Mohamed al-Fayed for about $180,000, according to Neal Travis in the New York Post. Dreyfus apparently claimed that Di had commissioned the painting to embarrass her ex-husband, Prince Charles, if he ever married Camilla Parker Bowles.

The Getty Grant Program has announced three new grants, totaling almost $600,000, designed to promote collaboration between scholars at museums and universities. Recipients of the three Getty Senior Research Grants are: the Museum of Modern Art, which will collaborate with Columbia University on "Mies in Berlin," an in-depth look at the early career of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe scheduled to go on view at the museum in the year 2000; the Victoria and Albert Museum, which will do "The Age of Ambition: The Transformation of Medieval England, 1400-1538" with scholars from British universities; and the University of California, which will put together "Microcosm: Objects of Knowledge," due on view in 2001.

In a recent court filing, the Presbyterian Church USA maintains that it has a claim on Georgia O'Keeffe's studio materials and found objects she used in her still lifes, recently donated to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe by long-time O'Keeffe associate and heir Juan Hamilton. The church says the items go with O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch, and that the church has an option to buy the property for $3 million. The church won't say why it wants the house, which according to its deed must be maintained to perpetuate O'Keeffe's artistic legacy. O'Keeffe museum founder Anne Marion, who had offered to donate $250,000 to the church if it would let her buy the ranch, said the church filing was "just a bunch of noise." Stay tuned.

The Museum of African Tribal Art has opened at 122 Spring Street in Portland, Me., with "Spirits of the Igbo Tribe," a collection of tribal masks from Central Africa. Museum founders Oscar Mokeme and Art Aleshire have established the fledgling museum in the middle of Portland's arts district while they search for a larger, permanent home. Admission is free.

Among his dippy musings on Robert Smithson in the summer Artforum, celebrity author Luc Sante repeats the myth of Smithson's birth at the hands of New Jersey poet-pediatrician William Carlos Williams. Actually it was Williams' nonversifying assistant who sprung Smithson on an unsuspecting world, or so says ArtNet's own Smithson expert, Suzaan Boettger. Interested readers are directed to Smithson's original essay on nonsites in Passaic, N.J., published back in Dec. 1967 during the mag's glory days.