The Art World's Top 200

Who says nobody cares about art anymore? British newspaper The Times asked readers for their picks for the most important artists since 1900 and got 1.4 million votes. Its publication earlier this week of the top 200 has generated a lot of controversy and confusion. (One reader wrote, of no. 20, "What's a Martin Kippenberger?")  For the record, their top five are: Picasso, Cezanne, Klimt, Monet and Duchamp. But fifty people posted complaints and quibbles about the rankings in just the first few hours after the newspaper posted the list. (In a victory for fine art, that rate outpaced the outrage shown at the passing-over of "Britain Got Talent" singer Susan Boyle.)

Quibbles included: Tracey Emin at no. 52, over such stars as Beuys, Miro and Modigliani and fussy Klimt at an unbelievable no. 3 (was Ron Lauder power-texting?). Diane Arbus also made it in above Man Ray. Obscure Scandinavian COBRA-movement artist Jorg Immendorf trumped Robert Gober. Left out completely were Edgar Degas, Robert Mapplethorpe, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Norman Rockwell. But the greatest outrage was reserved for one reader who felt Marvel Comics legend Jack Kirby, co-inventor of The Fantastic Four, deserved to be on the list, if only for productivity alone.

Whitney Watchers

The Whitney's Annual art party, taking place June 17, generally draws some deep-pocketed collectors, so the artists whose work is for sale at the event get a nifty showcase. This year, more than 70 works are in the event's bigger-than-usual silent auction. So who decided who gets in? The artists or their galleries donated the artworks, after being "invited" by a selection committee that included Whitney curators, art collector and trustee Beth Rudin DeWoody, trustee Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo and Orchard Street art dealer Lisa Cooley. Los Angeles dealer Susanne Vielmetter, who had a record five of her artists in the last Whitney Biennial, thoughtfully donated two pieces.

Some of the works are already sold.  In an E-bay-style move, the Whitney put the works for sale online last month with a  "buy it now" option and e-mail bidding alerts to warn potential buyers of competition. It's paid off with the purchase of a Chris Wylie and a Mark Fox days before the event. What about the works still without a home? This year, Whitney employees will be stationed by the bidding tables to give potential buyers information about the works. An added inducement: They'll also introduce potential bidders to the artists, many of whom, the Whitney says, will be there.  

"Hidden" Treasure

What if you loaned a masterpiece, but almost nobody noticed? When Wal-mart heiress Alice Walton raided the New York Public Library for one of its treasures, the media squawked that the city was losing a cultural treasure.  Back in 2005, amidst controversy, she paid $35 million for Asher B. Durand's view of the Catskill Mountains, "Kindred Spirits" and moved it out of New York. ("Spirited Away," decried the New York Times, May 8, 2005.) The plan was to display it at Crystal Springs, her personal museum of American art being built in Bentonville, Ark., home of Wal-mart headquarters. But with construction delays pushing the museum's schedule opening into next year, Walton earlier this year loaned the painting back to New York, where it was on display -- but little noticed -- at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's opening of its newly redesigned American Wing.

Sculpture Rescued

In the weeks following 9/11, a sculpture by Eric Fischl on view at Rockefeller Center was abruptly covered and then taken off public view fallowing complaints that it was graphic and disturbring. "Tumbling Woman" is a bronze of a naked body perched sideways, falling headfirst, "The sculpture was not meant to hurt anybody," Fischl said in a statement at the time. "It was a sincere expression of deepest sympathy for the vulnerability of the human condition." Now, the famous work get a more bucolic and even restful home; This summer, on loan from the artist, it will be displayed in the gardens of the LongHouse Reserve in the Hamptons.