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Its official -- "Matisse Picasso" is a hit. Modern art's own "Battle of the Titans," which opens in New York at MoMA QNS, Feb. 13-May 19, 2003, features 132 works by the two artists, most displayed in pairs or small groupings in the manner of the art historian's classic "contrast and compare slide lecture "Very incisive pairings," said Guggenheim curator Robert Rosenblum, who noted that the show is the brainchild of the illustrious British art historian and painter John Golding. "Much clearer than London -- it really clicks." Did the two artists literally respond to each other to such an extent? "Hard to tell," said Rosenblum. "It's either a ping-pong game or our common culture."

The big surprise is how much alike the two artists are. "It's the most didactic show ever, very obsessive about subject matter" said Norman Rockwell biographer Deborah Solomon. "But I think there's some good pictures here." Artist and writer Alain Kirili favored the final gallery, which features Picasso's painted sheet metal sculptures paired with Matisse's simple cutout collages. "So beautiful together!" he said. And get the Acoustiguide, which features a narration by curator Kirk Varnedoe. "The passion Kirk has for looking at the pictures is clear," said dealer Thea Westreich, rubbing elbows with the press, for once. "If we had more like him, we'd have more believers."

MoMA has two publications accompanying the show -- the 368-page Matisse Picasso exhibition catalogue ($60 hardcover, $35 paperback -- available exclusively at MoMA) and a 72-page book from MoMA's education department called Looking at Matisse and Picasso ($15.95 paper). Among the flood of other books timed to the New York exhibition is the 704-page Picasso Style and Meaning by Elizabeth Cowling (Phaidon, $125), who collaborated with Golding on the MoMA exhibition, and Matisse and Picasso: The Story of their Rivalry and Friendship by Jack Flam (Westview Press, $27.50).

Admission to the show is by timed ticket only ($20, $15.50 to students and seniors) -- call Ticketmaster or MoMA toll free at 1 (866) 879-MOMA to make your reservation.

Superdealer Heiner Friedrich likes to say that Leonardo's Last Supper laid dormant for 500 years before Andy Warhol brought it back to life in a series of camouflage paintings of his own. Now, dozens of artists are laboring under the "Matisse Picasso" effect in hopes of concocting the same magic.

First up is Sophie Matisse at Francis Naumann Fine Art on East 80th Street in Manhattan, Feb. 13-Mar. 31, 2003, with Sophie's Guernica, an 8 x 19 ft. version of Picasso's great antiwar masterpiece -- done in glorious Matissean color. The great-granddaughter of Henri Matisse, Sophie and her painting were the subject of a lengthy article by Alec Wilkinson in the New Yorker, which proved so influential that Naumann is fielding requests for coverage by Russian television, the London Daily Telegraph and Die Welt, among others. Guernica is readymade for a Matissean transformation, Naumann points out -- with the exception of one other major painting (The Charnel House), it's the only Picasso that was done in black and white.

Opening on Sunday Feb. 16 at P.S. 1 in Long Island City is "After Matisse Picasso," an informal invitational exhibition of small works by about 85 contemporary artists, hung salon-style in the hip art center's ground-floor caf. Participants, who include Rita Ackermann, Rochelle Feinstein, David Humphrey, Pat Steir and Ena Swansea, all received 16 x 20 inch canvases -- and an invitation to a special viewing of "Matisse Picasso" at MoMA QNS. The show is a group effort of P.S. 1's energetic young curators, including Antoine Guerrero, Daniel Marzona, Amy Smith Stewart, Cornelia Tischmacher and Jeffrey Uslip. P.S. 1 is also exhibiting replicas of Matisse and Picasso self-portraits by the grand-daddy of contemporary appropriation art, East Village artist Mike Bidlo, in a third-floor gallery.

A major work by Victorian painter John William Waterhouse, Gather ye Rosebuds while ye may (1909), is on view at the venerable Odon Wagner Gallery in Toronto. A central work in the artist's "Persephone" series, the ca. 39 x 33 in. painting depicts two nymphs picking flowers in a meadow at the edge of a forest. The painting is all the more interesting because it was never exhibited during the artist's lifetime. Originally bought by a private collector in 1909, the work arrived in Canada at some undetermined time in the 20th century and only recently came to light. Brooklyn Museum of Art curator Peter Trippi has written a monograph on Waterhouse, which discusses the work in depth.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has unveiled architect Rafael Viñoly's master plan for a $225-million, 600,000-square-foot renovation and expansion of its museum facility. The scheme calls for the demolition of two additions to the museum built in 1958 and '83 -- almost half of the existing structure -- and their replacement by two new flanking wings that link the museum's original 1916 Beaux Arts building and the 1971 educational wing by Marcel Breuer, a Brutalist structure inspired by the Orvieto Cathedral. The new design provides a clear, symmetrical floorplan and a 38,000-square-foot skylighted great court at its center. The plan has almost 40,000 square feet of additional gallery space, as well as an underground parking garage with 800 spaces on a museum campus that is now, as Vinoly put it, "colonized by parking." Fundraising is underway, construction is slated to begin in 2004 and be completed in 2008.

The gradual rapprochement between Japan and South Korea has its first art-world manifestation in "Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan" at Japan Society Gallery, Apr. 9-June 22, 2003. The exhibition, which is the first to explore the growth of Buddhist culture in the two countries during the 6th through 9th centuries, is also the first in a U.S. museum to receive official cooperation from both the Japanese and Korean governments. The dtente is perhaps inevitable, considering the leadership of the two U.S. institutions that are organizing the show -- Japan Society's president is Ambassador William Clark, Jr., a career diplomat with postings in India, Korea, Sierra Leone and Egypt, while the Korea Society's chairman and president is Donald Phinney Gregg, a career CIA officer who was national security advisor to vice president George Bush.

Over 90 works are presented in the show, including Buddhist sculptures in gilt bronze, wood, stone and iron, architectural relics, ceramic tiles, reliquaries, and ritual implements and scrolls. The $2 million exhibition is accompanied by a 384-page catalogue with essays by the show's three curators -- Washizuka Hiromitsu, director of the Nara National Museum in Japan, Park Youngbok, director of the Gyeongju National Museum in Korea, and Kang Woo-bang, art history professor at Ewha Woman's University in Seoul -- and 11 additional scholars.

Photographer Jill Krementz, widely known for her photo essays on A Very Young Dancer (1976) and The Writer's Desk (1996), has taken on a new profession -- art gallerist. Photographer Melissa Ciano recently exhibited her suite of photographs taken in the Mississippi Delta, "Dear as Salt," at the Jill Krementz Gallery at 249 East 48th Street, suite 11B, Jan. 31-Feb. 12, 2003. Visitors to the festive opening included Gordon Parks, Morley Safer, Whitney Museum curator Larry Rinder, New York Daily News arts reporter Celia McGee and Krementz' husband, Kurt Vonnegut. The gallery -- in actuality a temporary affair in an apartment across the street from Krementz's townhouse -- is open from 2pm to 6 pm, Wednesday to Saturday.

"I'm not really an art dealer," said Krementz. "I just wanted to help out a talented young photographer." Made last year during a two-month solo drive across the South, Ciano's photographs celebrate "stillness," the artist says, "everything that is essential but unnoticed, necessary but uncelebrated." The series title, "Dear as Salt," is taken from the well-known folk tale. Ciano met Krementz while freelancing as a photo editor for Show People quarterly, for which Krementz was photographing Edward Albee. Photos are a reasonable $800 each; about 14 have sold so far. For info call (917) 686-7462.