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Andy Warhol
Jimmy Carter
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York

Bertrand Lavier
Harcourt Grvin #5 (Poutine) and Harcourt Grvin #1 (Schwarzenegger)
Yvon Lambert, Paris and New York

Stephan Balkenhol
Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich

Eduardo Sarabia
If This World Were Mine (detail)
I-20, New York

Dirk Braeckman
Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
Hot Toys for the Wealthy, Good Art for the Wise
by Charlie Finch

We remarked to Matthew Marks that the new Armory Show is the best yet for taste and quality.

"So you think the dealers are finally getting their act together?" Matthew riposted.

Yes they are, Mr. Marks. If the art world manufactures toys for the rich, this year's Armory Show (Mar. 12-15, 2004) is Christmas morning populated by Easter Bunnies.

Among the goodies are a pair of majestic (if small) Jimmy Carter paintings by Andy Warhol at the Paul Kasmin booth, which also features a brilliant, colorful giant parrot watercolor by Walton Ford.

The celebrity theme continues at Amsterdam's Torch Gallery, where Pearl Albino informed us that Anton Corbijn's 1994 photograph of Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash had nearly sold out at $3,000. There is one left out of an edition of 20.

More stars shine at Yvon Lambert, which is exhibiting Bertrand Lavier's glitzed-up black-and-white-photo star takes on Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vladimir Putin. Over at Galerie Fortes Vilaa, So Paolo, are Vik Muniz's extraordinary bloodied Jackies.

Really, if you attend the Armory Show this weekend, who needs the Oscars?

Profound, bite-size toys also proliferate, such as Stephen Balkenol's sculpture of a gorgeous Buddhist monk in the color of the season, orange, at Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich. And Katarina Fritsch's pocket-size black Madonna at Matthew Marks' exceptional booth, which also features Nan Goldin's classic, haunting color photograph, Self-Portrait on the Train, Boston-New Haven (1997).

Another exceptional miniature is Ron Mueck's self-portrait Mask at James Cohan Gallery.

Lesser-known art stars-to-be also shine with top quality offerings, such as Eduardo Sarabia's spectacular ceramic sculpture of horses, guns and mermaids rising from the sea, priced at $20,000 (edition of three) at I-20's booth, which also features an exceptional painting by Sherry Wong. It was being admired by one of her collectors, Beth Rudin DeWoody. By the way, Sarabia told us that he's moved next to a ceramics factory in Guadalajara, Mexico, to produce even larger masterpieces.

Other highlights in this art lover's cornucopia include Isaac Julien's Martin Luther King at Victoria Miro, which also shows Doug Aitken's Illuminated, a cityscape in a lightbox of Coca-cola cans, and Alex McQuilkin's gothic, sexy "Sweet Sixteen" series priced at $950-$1,800 at the booth of Barry Neuman's Modern Culture.

Our favorite piece in the Armory, of many, is Dirk Braeckman's sexy black take of a dark-haired girl with prominent pubis at Zeno X from Antwerp.

But this is but a small fraction of the grand spectacle you'll find on the piers.

Go early and often.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).