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Japanese anime maestro Takashi Murakami has unveiled his long-awaited and highly publicized art installation at Rockefeller Center, Sept. 9-Oct. 12, 2003. The ca. $2-million project consists of a 23-foot-tall polychromed plastic statue of a 20-armed Buddha-like creature, dubbed Mr. Pointy, who resembles (depending on your point of view) a toadstool, frog or onion. He is surrounded by his four staff-wielding guards, flanked by a pair of diminutive mushroom-bench installations, and faces two huge (30 feet in diameter) helium-filled "eyeball" balloons tethered above the Rock Center skating rink. "They were fabricated in Nebraska, by the same firm that does the balloons for Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade," said Tom Eccles, director of the Public Art Fund, which oversaw the installation (which was sponsored by Target Stores).

At the morning press conference, Murakami posed with four fuzzy costumed characters that looked like his very own versions of the Teletubbies -- eminently charming and commercial. The handsome mushroom-maniac's golden touch is unparalleled, apparently. According to his New York dealer, Marianne Boesky, in a single season Louis Vuitton has sold $350-million worth of the celebrated handbags that the artist designed last year (for a flat fee). As for Mr. Pointy, which is priced at $950,000 and comes in an edition of three, it has been sold to an anonymous French collector -- François Pinault, perhaps?

The Metropolitan Museum has a great fall planned for New York museum visitors, including the biggest-ever survey of the early days of photography and a retrospective of works by El Greco. But first up is a presentation of approximately 200 American Indian objects assembled over 50 years by Ralph T. Coe (b. 1929), the collector and former director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum who now lives in Santa Fe. Dubbed "The Responsive Eye: Ralph T. Coe and the Collecting of American Indian Art," Sept. 9-Dec. 14, 2003, the wide-ranging selection includes a model of a Plains Indian ritual peyote tipi and a beaded coat, ca. 1900, worn by an initiate in the Faw-Faw religious cult. In addition to their unparalleled craftsmanship, the works on view make poignantly clear the transition from objects created for ritual tribal use to those made for a European market. The artifacts in the show, chronicled in a Yale University Press book with essays by Cole, Eugene V. Thaw and several other scholars, are all promised gifts to the museum.

Madison Avenue and 57th Street, otherwise known as the crossroads of chic New York, has a new keystone tenant -- the Dahesh Museum of Art. The eight-year-old museum, which bears the name of the Lebanese author Dr. Dahesh (Salim Moussa Achi) and specializes in 19th century academic art, debuted its new three-story space at 580 Madison Avenue (former home of the IBM Gallery of Science and Art) with two exhibitions, "French Artists in Rome: Ingres to Degas, 1803-1873," Sept. 3-Nov. 2, 2003, and "Reframing Academic Art: Masterworks of the Dahesh Museum of Art," Sept. 3, 2003-Feb. 8, 2004. The new museum's $4-million renovation, overseen by architect Hugh Hardy, includes a high-profile 3,000-square-foot shop on Mad Ave and an as-yet-unfinished mezzanine restaurant, which is to be called Opaline, as well as lushly appointed parquet-floored exhibition galleries.

New Dahesh director Peter Trippi, 38, says "academic art is an ideal lens through which to reconsider the 19th and early 20th centuries," and promises an intriguing array of possible future exhibitions, including "the bestselling 19th-century drawing curriculum of Charles Bargue, the influence of La Scala's operatic productions upon Westerners' understanding of the East, the Orientalist masterworks of Jean Lecomte du Nou, and ethnographic sculptures by Charles Cordier," among others. What's more, Trippi expects the museum to expand its scope beyond Europe and the Near East to include Russia, Asia, the Americas and Australia, because "the 19th century was the first age in which middle-class artists traveled widely, and in which world's fairs and photographs introduced Europeans to distant cultures and places."

The latest art-world benefit for the pioneering AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA) is an unusual auction of photographs taken not by artists but by celebrities. Among the high-profile shutterbugs enlisted in the fundraising effort are Anne Archer, Drew Barrymore, Carson Daly, Brett Easton Ellis, Eve, Dakota Fanning, Diane von Furstenberg (with husband Barry Diller), Wyclef Jean, Jamaica Kincaid, Rem Koolhaas, Aston Kutcher, Lisa Marie, Ricky Martin, Ismail Merchant, Moby, Demi Moore, Todd Oldham, Winona Ryder and Russell Simmons. Dubbed "Positive Negatives," the benefit auction takes place on Sept. 10 at the Hugo Boss flagship store at 717 Fifth Avenue. Vanity Fair is cosponsoring the affair, which also kicks off the magazine's 20th anniversary celebration in New York and Los Angeles. Admission is $75; for more info, call Company Agenda at (212) 479-7802.

Museum of Modern Art chief curator John Elderfield, a longtime MoMA hand who took over the top job six months ago from the late Kirk Varnedoe, has named two new senior curators in the department painting and sculpture, making three in all. Joining Anne Umland is Ann Temkin, who has served since 1990 as curator of modern and contemporary art at the Philadelphia Museum, and Joachim Pissarro, a great-grandson of the artist Camille Pissarro who has most recently served as curator of European and contemporary art at Yale University Art Gallery. The museum is slated to move back into its new $850-million midtown Manhattan facility in late 2004.

James N. Wood, the 62-year-old director of the Art Institute of Chicago, has announced that he will retire next year after 25 years in the job. He is leaving his post midway through a $198-million, Renzo Piano-designed expansion, which is due to open in 2007.