Murmurs


Animation cell sales take a hit. Because of lagging business at Warner Brothers Studio Stores, new parent company AOL Time Warner has decided to jettison the chain, including its flagship Fifth Avenue store on the corner of art row on 57th Street.

Borrowing the concept from reality TV, the Cynthia Broan Gallery on West 14th Street in Manhattan's meatpacking district has been putting on a competition for a one-person show called "The Viewers' Choice: 11 Artists, 30 Days, One Survivor."

In London, the venerable Agnew's Gallery, long the home of Old Masters, is opening a new minimalist-type front gallery for contemporary art at its 43 Old Bond Street address.

At the same time, Londoners are planning to erect a statue in honor of the seven million women who contributed to Britain's defense effort during World War II. The statue, expected to cost around $350,000, is slated for completion by the middle of next year.

Meanwhile, in New York City, plans to erect a statue in honor of Catherine of Braganza, after whom Queens County was named, are giving way to a proposal for building a Museum of Tolerance across the East River from the United Nations. Opponents to the statue idea say Catherine, the wife of Charles II, benefited from the slave trade. Artist Audrey Flack was originally commissioned to produce the work.

Because of presidential election delays, the statue of George W. Bush was a bit tardy for its installation in Madame Tussaud's Times Square wax museum. The work was prepared in London by sculptor Stephen Mansfield, who also did the figures of Regis Philbin and Ginger Rogers for the famous showplace.

Before leaving office, President Clinton awarded National Arts Metals to Lewis Manilow, the Chicago arts patron, and Claes Oldenburg, sculptor.

A two-inch portrait of George Washington encased in a gold locket with a strand of hair from the founding father was put up for auction with a $1 million estimate by Christie's. Washington posed for more than 50 portraits between 1755 and 1799 when he died, but fewer than a dozen were miniatures.

According to Portraits Inc. in Manhattan, the average cost of a portrait by one of its stable of artists is between $10,000 and $25,000. The studio has about 180 artists on its roster, who work in oil, watercolor, pastel, ink, pencil, woodblock, marble, bronze, plaster and photography.

Longtime gallery owner Holly Solomon, the subject of a huge Warhol portrait that went on display at the International Center of Photography, revealed that the artist did not work from a live pose but relied on $60 worth of images taken in a coin-operated photo booth just off Times Square.

The Royal Academy of Art in London has bought the former home of the Museum of Mankind directly behind it as part of a $58 million expansion to double its space and greatly increase its educational facilities. The academy was founded in 1768 by George III, who was the subject of the film biography The Madness of King George.

The Musee Guimet, France's national museum for the arts of Asia, closed in 1996 for restoration. It reopened early this year after spending $47.8 million on a facelift. …

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