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The Metropolitan Museum's new blockbuster, "Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting," Mar. 4-June 8, 2003, marshals nearly 240 paintings and works on paper that chart the emergence of 18th-century French modernism from the gritty realism of 16th-century Spanish art. The huge exhibition, which was organized with the Musée d'Orsay, where it has already appeared, contains several mini-shows within it, including an impressive selection of Manet's Spanish-style paintings of the 1860s, a survey of Manet's prints and a gallery devoted to the influence of Spanish art on Whistler, Eakins, Sargent and Cassatt (a section unique to the U.S. presentation).

What's more, the Met has collaborated with Accenture -- which is underwriting the exhibition as a whole -- to put together its most ambitious website yet, with images of approximately 150 works from the show. Among the special online features are a kind of travelogue devoted to the journeys of five U.S. artists through Spain, deeply annotated with images and texts, and an extensive 200-year timeline that puts art events into wider sociopolitical context (starting with Napoleon's invasion of Spain).

Even more astonishing, the Met invites visitors to do their own versions of a "Matisse Picasso" -- that is, the website includes a special "comparative gallery" that allows side-by-side comparisons of Sargent and Velzquez, Renoir and Velzquez, Manet and Velázquez, Murillo and Delacroix, and more.

Sanford Smith's 15th annual Works on Paper fair opens at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue at 67th Street, Feb. 27-Mar. 2, 2003. The show brings together 88 dealers from seven countries, from Spanierman, Hirschl & Adler and Hill Stone (New York) and Sims Reed (London) to DeBayser and Marion Meyer (Paris) and Galerie Brockstedt (Berlin). New exhibitors include Valerie Carberry and Richard Norton (Chicago), Michael Goedhuis and Zabriskie (New York), Valley House (Dallas) and Douglas Frazer (Bellevue, Wa.). The gala preview on Feb. 26 benefits the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York; for info call (212) 673-1800 x21 or 23.

Pervasive budget shortfalls at the state level are beginning to hit hard at publicly funded museums. The latest to suffer is the Detroit Institute of Arts, which announced plans to lay off 18 full-time and 37 part-time employees from its staff of 416. DIA director Graham Beal sought to be reassuring, telling the Detroit News that "Unless a meteor strikes the earth, the public will not see a different DIA." State funding for the museum has dropped from $8 million in 2000 to $4.4 million this year, and Detroit voters recently rejected a bond issue that would have guaranteed the museum $4 million a year for 10 years.

New Museum curator Dan Cameron, tapped to organize the 8th Istanbul Biennial, Sept. 19-Nov. 16, 2003, has announced the show's theme -- "Poetic Justice." Approximately 80 artists from 40 countries are included in the exhibition, which seems to be designed "to reconcile the truth-values of art and poetry with those of the geopolitical sphere," as Cameron puts it. The names of participating artists are being announced later.

Santa Fe Indian art dealer Joshua Baer has been sentenced to three years of probation by a U.S. district court in Albuquerque. Baer pled guilty in September to six charges of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and three charges of violating the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The respected dealer was caught selling several federally protected Indian artifacts -- ceremonial headdresses, prayer sticks, other items -- during an undercover operation conducted during 1999 and 2000. During the sting, a Norwegian law enforcement officer posed as a European collector and an FBI agent posed as a Philadelphia art broker. According to a report in the Santa Fe New Mexican, local Jemez and Acoma Indians believe that many of the items were stolen from their pueblos many years ago.

Artist Tom of Finland (1920-91), whose meticulous drawings became a homoerotic standard, now has his own action figure. Dubbed 001 Rebel, the 13-inch-tall adult toy has 19 poseable joints, including "interchangeable and flexible penises," and comes on a chrome metallic base with a compartment that contains "his and his" condoms. The new collectible is crafted by sculptor Norman Franklin Lloyd, whose previous work includes figures of Xena, Austin Powers and Janis Joplin, for his new company, Adult Action Figures. Rebel is due out in April, at a price that has yet to be determined; forthcoming designs could depict other Tom characters, including the cowboy, the biker, the punk and the circus clown.

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth launches a new "Philip Guston Retrospective," organized by its chief curator Michael Auping, Mar. 30-June 8, 2003. The show includes 140 paintings and drawings that range from early figurative works of the 1930s to rarely seen paintings from 1979, the year before his death. Following its Texas premiere, the show travels to the San Francisco MOMA (site of the artist's last in-depth retrospective in 1979), the Metropolitan Museum and the Royal Academy, London.

The Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati unveils its five-story Zaha Hadid-designed art center on May 31, 2003, with "Somewhere Better than this Place: Alternative Social Experience in the Spaces of Contemporary Art." The largest show in the center's 64-year-history features works by 67 artists from around the world, including eight new commissions. Organized by CAC curator Thom Collins, the exhibition has four sections: "The Social Construction of Identities" (Gilles Barbier, Robert Beck, Sanford Biggers and Jennifer Zackin, Patty Chang, Groovisions, Byron Kim and Glenn Ligon, Nikki S. Lee, Yinka Shonibare, Lorna Simpson, T.J. Wilcox); "Discourses of Social Order" (Francis Als, Sam Durant, Mark Lombardi, Pepón Osorio, Marjetica Potrc, Zhang Huan); "Changing Patterns of Social Relations" (Vanessa Beecroft, Marie-Ange Guilleminot, Julie Henry, Mats Hjelm, Ann-Sofi Sidén, Lee Mingwei, Santiago Sierra, Rirkrit Tiravanija); "Sublime Social Encounters" (John Armleder, Monica Bonvincini, Janet Cardiff, Cai Guo-Qiang, Komar and Melamid, Tobias Rehberger, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Wolfgang Tillmans). The new 87,000-square-foot deconstructivist center, called the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, features 17,000-square-feet of gallery space and is located in the city's downtown "Backstage District."

The healing powers of contemporary art go on full display next spring at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, with the premiere of "Pulse: Art, Healing and Transformation," May 14-Aug. 31, 2003. Senior figures in the exhibition, which includes 15 artists, are Joseph Beuys and Lygia Clark; others in the show are Gretchen Bender and Bill T. Jones, Tania Bruguera, Cai Guo-Qiang, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Irene and Christien Hohenbüchler, Leonilson, Wolfgang Laib, David Medalla, Ernesto Neto, Hannah Wilke and Richard Yarde. The exhibition is organized by Jessica Morgan, and includes an extensive catalogue from Steidl.

The San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art is originating a new retrospective of celebrated photographer Diane Arbus, Oct. 25, 2003-Feb. 8, 2004. Dubbed "Diane Arbus: Revelations," the show is co-organized by guest curator Elisabeth Sussman and SFMOMA curator Sandra Phillips, and features approximately 200 of the artist's photos, including many that have never been exhibited publicly. The exhibition also features contact sheets, cameras, letters, notebooks and other writings. It subsequently appears at LACMA (Feb. 29-May 30, 2004), the Houston MFA (June 27-Aug. 29, 2004), the Met, the Museum Folkwang, Essen, the V&A, and the Walker Art Center (July 9-Oct. 8, 2006).

Bay Area conceptual artist Mike Osterhout, who became part of the East Village scene in New York after launching his career in San Francisco in the late 1970s, is mounting a retrospective of his work at the Lower East Side bar Max Fish, Mar. 7-31, 2003. The exhibition features photographs, sculptures and archival material tracing more than 20 years of projects, which demonstrate a particularly gritty brand of Fluxus-like "social sculpture." Osterhout's resume begins with a 1978 "missionary" act, when the artist read about a boy living in a city shelter and became a "big brother" to him. In the early 1980s he went to seminary at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, becoming a preacher, and later founded the Church of the Little Green Man in New York. Osterhout's other actions include adopting a child through the mail, buying and branding a cow, designing tattoos and making "blood prints" from them, opening the East Village gallery Mo David in 1984 and exhibiting work by the imaginary painter Cristian Kohl, and establishing the punk band Purple Jeezus. In the 1990s he moved the church to Sullivan County in upstate New York, where he became a hunting guide and made what he calls "animal sculptures." Osterhout also established the School for Social Sculpture in 1999. His latest artwork involves learning to play the guitar.

The Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth has put online images from its extensive collections of work by pioneering nature photographer Eliot Porter (1901-90) and cowboy photographer Erwin Smith (1886-1947). The Porter site features more than 800 digitalized images of his photos, searchable by location and chronology, as well as a study guide for secondary-school students. The Smith site currently features 775 images organized by subject; the museum ultimately plans to offer a database containing more than 2,500 images from its collection and 600 more from the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library in Midland, Tx.

Art dealer Oliver Kamm, who launched the Apartment 5BE gallery in his living room last fall after working for dealers Marianne Boesky and Paul Morris, must be doing something right -- now he's opened at 504 West 22nd Street on the second floor (upstairs from Fredericks Freiser Gallery). First up is pirate illustrator Don Doe, opening on Feb. 28; also on the schedule are new paintings and video by Cheryl Donnegan in May and work by Janine Gordon in September.

Christie's has promoted its tribal art consultant Tim Teuten to head of its tribal art department, in charge of twice-a-year sales in Paris (beginning June 12). . . . The Milwaukee Art Museum promoted its curatorial chief Brian Ferriso to the new post of deputy director, but two weeks later he resigned to become executive director of the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa. Milwaukee is now recruiting both a new chief curator and a deputy director.