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National Endowment for the Arts chair Jane Alexander is planning to resign her post and return to acting once NEA's budget is passed, according to published reports. Congress is expected to approve $98 million for the arts agency for 1998, down $1.5 million from last year. During Alexander's four-year tenure, right-wing legislators Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and Jesse Helms have succeeded in cutting NEA's budget from a high of $176 million in 1992.

The 27-year-old Cuban sculptor Kcho, otherwise known as Alexis Leyva Machado, was denied a visa to attend the opening of his exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (Oct. 5, 1997-Jan. 4, 1998). Museum officials say that right-wing Cuban Americans pressured the State Department to bar the sculptor, according to Reuters. The official reason is that Kcho "worked" -- made some art works -- while here last year on a tourist visa.

Afghanistan's Taliban has issued a decree banning the display of depictions of people or animals, saying that such images are contrary to Islam. According to the Associated Press, the new ban covers everything from journalists photographing news stories to pictures of bodybuilders displayed in fitness centers and photographs of ancestors in shops.

Taking a cue from their colleagues down in SoHo, art galleries in New York's Fuller Building (41 East 57th Street) and elsewhere along the street are staying open late on Friday, Oct. 17, from 6-9 p.m., promising cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. The galleries will also be collecting voluntary donations to benefit Studio in a School, the organization founded in the '70s by Museum of Modern Art president Agnes Gund to bring visual art to NYC schools.

Move over Picasso. Hello Sue. A 65-million-year-old skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, dubbed "Sue" after its discoverer Susan Hendrickson, sold at Sotheby's New York on Oct. 4 to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Price was $8,362,000. Most of the dough goes to Maurice Williams, a native American of the Sioux nation who lives in Faith, S.D., where the fossil was found. The purchase was backed in part by McDonald's -- the skeleton will be studied in public at the new McDonald's Fossil Preparatory Lab at the museum (are they selling burgers, too?) -- and Walt Disney, which will eventually display a replica of Sue at Walt Disney World in Florida.

The first CD-ROM dedicated to African art has been produced in conjunction with "African Faces, African Figures: The Arman Collection," an exhibition of more than 180 objects at the Museum for African Art in New York, Oct. 9, 1997-Apr. 19, 1998. The CD-ROM features all 300 works from the collection of the famed Nouveaux Realiste sculptor, which is especially strong in art from West and Central Africa. It's available at the museum for $49.95.

Architect Frank Gehry has been hired to design a new facility for the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia in Elizabethtown, Ky. $10-million collection of more than 100,000 items is presently housed in the local bottling plant. Tourism experts believe the new museum will bring in $32 million over three years.

New York Times art critic Roberta Smith will deliver the fifth annual Mordes Lecture in Contemporary Art at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 2, 1997. Her subject: "On Becoming and Remaining a Critic." Admission is free.

Frank Stella, who among his many accomplishments holds Cooper Union's newly endowed Robert Gwathmey Chair in Drawing, will present the lecture "Broadside: Art and Architecture" at 7 pm on Oct. 21. Admission is free.

Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes, recent author of the American Visions series on PBS, is presenting a six-lecture series at the Metropolitan Museum on the same theme. The lectures take place Tuesday evenings at 8 pm and begin Oct. 14. Tickets for the series are $150; single tickets are $30. To order call (212) 570-3949.

The Art Dealers Association of America holds its two fall panels at the Metropolitan Museum on Oct. 15 and 22 at 6:30 pm. On Oct. 15, artist and Newsweek art critic Peter Plagens moderates "The de Kooning Legacy," with panelists James Rosenquist, Allan Stone, Robert Storr and Wayne Thiebaud. On Oct. 22, Michael Brenson moderates "The Nazi Conspiracy and the Market for Stolen Art" with art-plunder experts Hector Feliciano and Jonathan Petropoulos.

The New York Tribal Antiques Show rolls into the Armory at Gramercy Park (68 Lexington Avenue at 26th St.), Oct. 17-19, 1997. More than 85 dealers are participating; the $75 gala preview, 6 pm-9 pm on Oct. 16, benefits the Museum for African Art (call 310-455-2886). Show admission is $12.

The biannual Sculpture, Objects & Function Art exposition, otherwise known as SOFA Chicago 1997, sets up in the Windy City on Navy Pier Oct. 17-19. Over 85 galleries are participating from 39 U.S. cities and nine foreign countries. Among the special exhibitions is a survey of contemporary Australian ceramic art and "Absolut Au Kurant," an Absolut Vodka-sponsored exhibition of 3-D objects by contemporary artists. General admission is $10.

The first annual Chicago Design Show launches Oct. 17-19 at the Merchandise Mart with more than 150 exhibitors of classic and contemporary furnishings. Among the special exhibitions are "100 Giants of Chair Design," a selection of miniatures from the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. Admission at the door is $15. For more information call 1-800-677-6278.

Collectors and Palm Springs art gallery owners Bernard and Edith Lewin have donated a $25-million collection of some 1,800 paintings and works on paper by 20th-century Mexican artists to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Under the terms of the gift agreement, the Lewins will receive an annuity from the museum that represents a small percentage of the total market value of the collection. "Mexican Masterpieces from the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection" goes on view at the museum Nov. 23, 1997.

The British brewer Beck's, which sponsored the 1997 Whitney Biennial, has more art stuff in the works. First is a Public Art Fund project: a New York City bus covered with graphics by Barbara Kruger, which addresses the influence of celebrity on popular culture via quotes from Malcolm X, Mark Twain and H.G. Wells. The bus sails on its maiden voyage on Nov. 1, and for a month will ferry riders from Queens into mid-town and down Fifth Ave. Forthcoming Beck's art sponsorships include the Steve McQueen Projects show at the Museum of Modern Art in November and a cast of a water tower by Rachel Whiteread on a SoHo rooftop next May.