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No News May Not Be Good News

Apart from some fine museum shows coming this season, the art world seems stalled. ART: OUTLOOK

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NORMALLY by mid-August any art critic worth his salt has a fair notion of what to expect in the upcoming season - and a pretty good idea of anything spectacular, shocking, or dramatically new that might take the art world by storm. Press releases, telephone calls to and from artists and dealers, rumors, and gossip see to that. This year, however, by early September only two things are certain: The 1989-90 art season will include a few excellent shows and at least one great museum exhibition; and a handful of talented newcomers will get their first real taste of success.

What appears to be the show of the coming year is the Metropolitan Museum's exhibition of more than 35 masterworks by Diego Vel'azquez. It will include 17 major paintings from Madrid's Prado Museum, and will run from Oct. 3 through Jan. 7, 1990. In addition, the Metropolitan is mounting a first-ever American show of the art of Canaletto (Nov. 2-Jan. 21, 1990).

The Guggenheim is presenting a major retrospective of the work of Mario Merz, one of Italy's best-known contemporary artists (Sept. 29-Nov. 26). The Whitney is presenting two important shows: ``Thomas Hart Benton'' (Nov. 17-Feb. 11, 1990) and ``Post-Minimalism'' (March 2-May 20, 1990). And the Museum of Modern Art will feature ``Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism'' (Sept. 24-Jan. 16, 1990).

Beyond that, everything's unclear. For the first time in at least two decades, New York's art world is becalmed. Nothing significant or outrageous seems about to happen. No artist or group appears ready to push art in a different direction. And no vital new idea or theory is on the verge of surfacing.

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