ART Hotline

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* Clint and Donald Olson of this Wisconsin city spent many hours creating their anatomically correct sculpture of a snow man, but after getting complaints from other residents, police ordered the brothers to alter the figure's anatomy. The Olsons reluctantly complied. If they hadn't, they could have been fined $90.50 for disorderly conduct. Nonetheless, the brothers named their snowman Monty, after the chap in "The Full Monty," the movie about male strippers.


* Despite Wall Street's ups and downs, private collectors and dealers continue to be steadfastly bullish. At the autumn sales of American Art at Sotheby's, the auction house racked up its fifth largest total ever in this field, $41,162,250, against a pre-sale estimated of $36,915,000. More than half a dozen records, including sales of work by Andrew Wyeth, Thomas Moran and John Marin, were set.

* Meanwhile, a federal judge accepted a guilty plea by Sotheby's to price fixing and collusion with its competitor Christie's and approved a $45 million fine that the auction house had agreed to pay in a plea agreement with prosecutors. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said during a three-and-a-half-hour hearing that while the fine was $8.6 million below the minimum established by sentencing guidelines, he would approve it because Sotheby's had been "asked to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden."

* Judge Kaplan also listened to final arguments concerning the $512-million settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by 130,000 customers represented by the law film of Boies, Schiller and Flexner.

* At the same time, Diana D. Brooks, the former president and chief executive of Sotheby's, forfeited options to buy about two million shares of stock in the auction house. The market value of the options is about $11 million.


* Masked thieves who stole $30 million in artwork from Sweden's National Museum are demanding a huge ransom, police here announced. The three robbers surprised guards last December when they burst into the museum five minutes before closing time, one wielding a machine gun. They quickly snatched a Rembrandt and two Renoirs and then escaped from the city by motorboat. Police said the thieves are now demanding "several million krona," but did not give a specific figure. A million Swedish Krona equals $100,000.


* Almost 10 years after the largest museum rip off in the history of Greece, U.S. officials of the FBI returned nearly 300 ancient artifacts dating back to the time of Julius Caesar and the Hellenistic period that a Miami woman tried to sell through a New York auction house. In April 1990, 284 artifacts valued at about $2 million were taken from the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth by burglars who broke in through a window. The works were traced in 1999 to the home of Wilma Sabala in Miami after she offered some of them to Christie's for auction. An FBI spokesman said the serial numbers the museum had put on the items had been erased.


* As Japan continues in its art and financial muddle, public funds have been used here to secure art from the collection of a bankrupt financial institution. A dozen pieces have been bought from the failed Osake-based Kofuku Bank at a cost of about $4.34 million by the Tokyo and Kyoto National Museum. The Tokyo museum spent nearly its entire annual purchase grant to buy the ceramics and paintings from the bank, whose president, Tokusuke Egawa, 73, is currently under indictment on charges relating to the bank's collapse.


* The Colombian artist Fernando Botero, famous for his rotundly oversized figures, has donated a collection of works of art worth an estimated $250 million to two museums in his native country. One is in the capital Bogota, the other is in Medellin, the center of the drug trade and where the artist was born. The collection includes more than 200 paintings, drawings and sculptures by Botero, as well as 100 works by Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Chagall, Miro, Klimt, Dali and Henry Moore. …