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Artnet News
August 2, 2005 

Could 9/11 conspirator Mohammed Atta have had links to the international trade in art and antiquities? The answer would be yes, according to a report in the German magazine Der Spiegel. Titled "Art As Financing for Terrorists?", the report states that Atta contacted a German art expert at Goettingen University during his time living in Hamburg in 2000 or early 2001, claiming that he had access to "ancient artifacts of considerable value" which he wanted to sell to raise funds for the purchase of an aircraft. The exact nature of the art objects is not known, but they are thought to have been cultural relics smuggled out of Afghanistan. The professor apparently recommended that Atta contact Sotheby's.

Commenting on the story, Art Newspaper senior U.S. correspondent Jason Kaufman, who has reported extensively on the antiquities trade, stated, "Politicians have turned a deaf ear to archaeologists and scholars who complain that the illegal trade goes unchecked, but the revelation of the Al Queda link should give their cause greater traction with legislators." More on the story as it develops.

The California attorney general's office has opened an inquiry into the financial practices at the J. Paul Getty Trust, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The AG has requested records regarding Getty Trust CEO Barry Munitz's compensations and expenses from the last eight years, and has also asked for documents relating to charges made in Italy against Getty Villa director Marion True accusing her of receiving stolen artifacts [see Artnet News, June 15, 2005]. Peter Erichsen, the Getty's top lawyer, has cautioned 17 senior Getty officials to preserve relevant documents. The museum says that it will "fully cooperate" with the investigation.

The Islamic art market took a major hit back in April, following the arrest in March of Sheik Saud al-Thani, 38, a member of the royal family of Qatar and one of the big buyers in the field. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, sales at the April Islamic art auctions at Christie's and Sotheby's in London plunged 70 percent from the year before. At Sotheby's, only a little more than one-third of the lots found buyers, a dramatically low rate of sell-through.

According to the report, al-Thani spent an estimated $26.4 million at the 2004 Islamic art sales, and is widely credited with helping triple the prices in the sector from 2001 to 2004. Al-Thani was in charge of buying art for five Islamic art museums being built in Qatar, the first of which opens in 2006. He is being investigated for misappropriating state funds.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art reports that its "Salvador Dalí" retrospective, on view at the museum Feb. 16-May 30, 2005, generated $55 million in economic activity in the city and state, producing the equivalent of 830 full-time jobs and generating $4.46 million in tax revenues. The show attracted 370,000 visitors from all 50 states and 33 countries; approximately 15 percent of the admissions were Philadelphia residents. During the final 10 days of the exhibition, the museum stayed open from 8 pm to midnight -- and every available ticket was sold. The economic survey was based on on-site responses of more than 1,000 visitors to the show, plus additional data.

The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University in Malibu has opened a show of works from the collection of its legendary namesake, the contemporary art collector Frederick R. Weisman, who died in 1994. "The Eclectic Eye: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation," July 30-Oct. 2, 2005, features over 40 works, including an entire set of Andy Warhol's 10 Marilyn Monroe silk-screens and a gallery devoted to panoramic landscapes by Edward Ruscha (in the mid-1980s, Ruscha painted the outside of Weisman's corporate jet, while Joe Goode painted the interior). The show also marks the publication of a catalogue of the collection. Coming up at the museum in the fall, by the way, is "Zelda by Herself: The Art of Zelda Fitzgerald," Oct. 15-Dec. 18, 2005.

A new player on the international art scene is Proje4L, the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in Istanbul, founded by Turkish collectors Sevda & Can Elgiz and now amping up its activities in anticipation of the forthcoming Istanbul International Biennial. Founded in 2001 as the Instanbul Museum of Contemporary Art, the museum was rechristened on Christmas 2005 with the addition of the Elgiz Family Collection. The museum bills itself as "the finest private collection of international contemporary art in Turkey" with a reputation for championing Turkish art.

Turkish artist Tulu Bayar's instillation piece Page is currently on view in the museum's project room, and recent acquisitions include Gilbert & George's Twenty-Three Haunts (2003) from the British artists' "Twenty London East One" series and Jan Fabre's Mur de la Montê des Anges, a sculpture of a woman's dress made entirely of beetles. The works go on view in the fall exhibition, "A View from 1988 Up to Now," which opens Sept. 12, 2005. For more info see

Clothing designer Issey Miyake plans to build a new design museum in the Roppongi mega-development in Tokyo. Dubbed 21/21 Design Sight, the facility is architected by Tadao Ando and Nikken Sekkei, and operated by the Miyake Isssey Foundation (established in 2004). "21/21 Design Sight will not be a showcase for pre-established examples of design," the announcement says, "but rather will be a venue from which to show items in our world, edited and recaptured from a point of view of design." The project is slated to open in spring 2007.

Artemis SA, the holding company of French billionaire art collector François Pinault, has been told to pay the state of California $700 million in punitive damages in the long-running lawsuit over the sale of Executive Life Insurance Company in the 1990s. But the battle goes on -- the verdict included only punitive damages, no compensatory damages, and according to state and federal law, you can't have one without the other. Pinault, the owner of Christie's auction house, was cleared of personal wrongdoing in the case. Forbes magazine put his personal fortune at more than $5 billion. Artemis has already paid a $185 million fine to settle criminal charges in the case.

Staffers at Christie's auction house get to handle some of the hottest items on the art market. Now, they're putting their own artworks on view in the firm's summer 2005 staff exhibition. The show, the fifth in an annual series, features works by Christie's employees Kimberly Asbury, Ludwig Baumgartner, Jason Bender, Liz Buemmer, Jacqueline Cahill, Stephanie Chambers, Stella Chang, Allison Chipak Hortencia Cisneros, d Cooper, Jason Cuvelier, Andre Davis, Lisa Evancavich, Samantha Friedman, Jason Fox, Josh Gleason, Douglas Goldberg, Ryan Goolsby, Heather Job, Michael Kastendieck, Sumako Kawai, Kerry Keane, Jimmy Krzyzanowski, Jonathan Laib, Cary Leibowitz, Mary Libby, Chris Linder, Vredy Lytsman, Penelope Malakates, Lauren Mang, Tony Marrero, Rene Martinez, Andrew Massad, Anthony Mercado, Giselle Minoli, Gen Ogo, John Parnell, Claire Peltier, Tina-Marie Poulin, Peter Raho, Anthony Randell, Jeff Rausch, Daniel Rios, Bendetta Roux, Larry Salomon, Gretchen Schmidt, Lee Ann Scotto, Sarah Shepard, Christine Skarulis, Kate Swan, Kristina van Prooyen, Sara Vanderbeek, Karen Tang, Emily Templeton, David Wainwright, Hartley Waltman, Marlo Wamsganz, Aileen Ward, Avery Wham and Danielle Zambito. It goes on view Aug. 4-25, 2005 (with a reception on Aug. 4 at 5:30 pm).

Los Angeles art dealer (and art blogger, on Caryn Coleman and partner Sean Bonner are relocating the Sixspace art gallery from downtown Los Angeles (where it moved from Chicago in 2002) to the new Los Angeles art district, Culver City. The new space is a ca. 1,800-squre-foot former warehouse at 5803 West Washington Boulevard, down the block from Susanne Vielmetter and across the street from Billy Shire Fine Arts. The gallery opens with Rachell Sumpter's "Seahorses Unite" on Sept. 10, 2005; coming up are shows of Seonna Hong and Donovan Crosby.

The UC Berkeley Art Museum has appointed Chris Gilbert as curator of its Matrix program of contemporary art exhibitions. Gilbert, 38, had been curator of contemporary art at the Baltimore Art Museum. At Berkeley he succeeds Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, who was recently appointed director of the Aspen Art Museum.

There's nothing like some tabloid headlines to up your Q rating. Sienna Miller, the 21-year-old beauty who was two-timed by fiancé Jude Law, is now slated to star in Factory Girl, director George Hickenlooper's biopic of Andy Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick, currently, in pre-production. According to press reports, the role had previously belonged to recent Scientology convert Katie Holmes, who dropped out (it's against Scientology rules to dye your hair). Memento star Guy Pearce is slated to play Warhol, while other cast members include Meredith Ostrom (Nico), Gavin Rossdale (Gerard Malanga) and Gwen Stefani (Richie Berlin).

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