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Artnet News
June 8, 2006 

Sotheby's auction house has purchased the Maastricht-based Noortman Master Paintings business from leading Old Master dealer Robert Noortman in a transaction that gives Noortman $56.5 million in Sotheby's stock, making him a "significant shareholder" in the house, holding about 3.2 percent of the total shares in the company. Sotheby's also assumes responsibility for $26 million in Noortman debt. The auction house takes control of Noortman's famous inventory and gallery premises in the deal, though Noortman stays on and is expected to continue to operate the business. He also joins Sotheby's International Advisory Board, and receives another 500,000 shares of stock if he meets certain undisclosed "performance criteria."

The move certainly gives Sotheby's new strength in the Old Masters market, where Christie's has recently seen some gains, notably selling a J.M.W. Turner painting for $35.8 million in April 2006 and helping to engineer the Metropolitan Museum's acquisition of Duccio's Stoclet Madonna for ca. $45 million. But one dealer discounted the value of Noortman's older inventory, which in the Old Master business is not necessarily an asset. "I would sell my old inventory for 50 percent of what I paid for it, since if it's old, it means that nobody wants to buy it!"  

Sotheby's has been down this road before. Back in the 1990s, it bought Emmerich Gallery, giving retiring art dealer Andre Emmerich stock in the company, insiders say. The transaction made a lot of dealers nervous, since Sotheby's was seen to be moving onto their turf. In the end, the combo must have lacked "synergy," and the satellite gallery space was gradually phased out.

Those interested in seeing some of Noortman's inventory for themselves need only head down to Altlanta, where Frances Aronson Fine Art is showing "The Maastricht Connection," through June 30, 2006. The exhibition consists completely of fine paintings from Noortman's gallery, including a broad sweep of high-end work by Monticelli, H.C. Delpy, Diaz de la Pena, Cauchois, Veyrassat, Luce, Gilsoul, Richet, Moret, K. Daubigny and Ribot.

The Paris-based skateboard brand Mekanism has teamed up with German abstract painter Katharina Grosse to create a series of art skateboards decorated in Grosse's signature style. The company provided the artist with 100 blank skateboard decks, as the wooden forms are called, and she customized them with her spray gun. This is not the first time that the brand has collaborated with an artist: Skateboards have been styled by British designers Warren Du Preez and Nick Thorton Jones, French graffiti maestro Zevs and MIT professor and digital art pioneer John Madea. The finished Grosse pieces, which will set you back about €300 each, can be purchased at

Iraqi artists are getting in the news for their antiwar art. According to a story in the Associated Press, Iraqi painter Muayad Muhsin -- who was covered in artist Steve Mumford's Baghdad Journal in 2003 -- is displaying a new portrait of U.S. secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. Titled Picnic, the 5 x 3 ft. picture shows Rumsfeld reclining on an airplane seat with his military combat boots resting on an ancient stone, against a backdrop that includes wrecked monuments of Babylonian culture. Clearly a protest against U.S. arrogance, the painting pointedly features Muhsin's signature in the middle of the canvas, rather than in the traditional space at the bottom, which would be "beneath Rumsfeld's boots".

"Luxury Goods," a new group show organized by art collector Beth Rudin DeWoody for Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts in Chelsea, seems to have drawn a special kind of viewer -- the shoplifting kind. A few days after the opening, someone surreptitiously snatched a work by John Findysz titled Tom on Tom (ca. 1998), a pair of vintage Gucci loafers covered with a collage of images from a Tom of Finland book. The work is worth $3,000, and the gallery is offering a reward for its return. The show is designed to "interrogate the obsessive visuality of high-end commodities," and features works by more than a dozen artists, including Gucci gold clubs by Libby Black, Tiffany bags by Jonathan Seliger and a gold-plated garbage can by Sylvie Fleury. It remains on view May 30-June 24, 2006.

The 12 winners of the 2006 Pew Fellowships in the Arts -- available to Philadelphia-area artists, and worth $50,000 each -- have been announced: Nadia Hironaka, Pepon Osorio and Scott Rigby for sculpture and installation; Tobin Rothlein, Robert Smythe, Geoffrey Sobelle and the team of David Brick, Andrew Simonet and Amy Smith for performance art; and Nava EtShalom, Jena Osman, Bob Perelman, Lamont Steptoe and Elaine Terranova for poetry.

The Miami Art Museum is making a splash with "Big Juicy Paintings (and more)," June 16-Sept. 17, 2006. Put together by MAM senior curator Peter Boswell, the exhibition is drawn largely from the institution's permanent collection, with an eye for the big and the bold. Highlights include Arturo Herrera's 40-foot-long When Alone Again III and a 14-foot-tall portrait of Leon Golub by Enrique Martinez Celaya.

Tickets are still available for the Nurtureart annual spring gala benefit art exhibition and sale -- featuring small works priced at $150 each -- at the Cue Art Foundation at 511 West 25th Street on June 12, 2006. Tickets begin at $75. The nine-year-old Williamsburg-based nonprofit specializes in assistance for emerging artists and curators. For more details, see

The International Sculpture Center is holding its annual conference at Xavier University in Cincinnati, June 21-24, 2006, and 45 student scholarships covering admission and housing for students are still available. The conference features keynote addresses by blue-chip sculptors Jackie Winsor and Chakaia Booker; the "ARTSlam" forum for artists to present their work to curators; and associated events at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Contemporary Arts Center, Carl Solway Gallery, Dayton Art Institute and the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum. For details, visit

Samuel Keller, the director of Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach, is taking a new job in spring 2008. He becomes director of the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, succeeding Christoph Vitali.

Linda Downs takes charge as the new executive director of the 15,500-member College Art Association. Downs is currently the director of the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa. She succeeds Susan Ball, who has helmed the CAA for 20 years.

The Maryland Institute College of Art has named Timothy Druckrey as new director of the graduate photography and digital imaging program at the school, succeeding William Larson. Druckrey, who is widely published on the topic of technology and art, has been critic-in-residence at MICA since 1997.

Elisabeth R. Agro is set to fill the newly created position of "Nancy M. McNeil Associate Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, starting Oct. 1, 2006. Agro currently serves as associate curator of decorative arts at the Carnegie Museum of Art, where she has been on staff since 1996.

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