"Japanese Ink Painting," an exhibition tracing the history of Sumi-e from the 15th to the early 19th centuries, opens Friday at the County Museum of Art and continues through May 12.

The exhibition, the first comprehensive survey of Japanese monochrome-ink landscape paintings, contains 140 works selected from museums, universities, temples and private collections in Japan. Many of these are designated as "National Treasures" or "Important Cultural Properties" and are rarely exhibited outside Japan. Because of the delicate nature of the works, Los Angeles will be the only venue for this presentation.

The survey, including screens, hanging scrolls, hand scrolls and albums, will be installed in two rotations: earliest works, including examples from the Muromachi, Momoyama and early Edo periods, will be on view in a first installment, March 8 to April 7; the second part, set for April 16 to May 12, will showcase late Edo paintings from Nanga and Maruyama-Shijo school artists, Kyoto eccentrics and others.

"Japanese Ink Painting" was organized by the County Museum of Art in conjunction with the Buka-cho (Agency for Cultural Affairs) of Japan. Akiyoshi Watanabe, Shinichi Miyajima and Yasuhiro Sato of the Fine Arts Division of the Bunka-cho and George Kuwayama, LACMA's senior curator of Far Eastern Art, served as curators.

A fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Kuwayama, Miyajima and Sato accompanies the exhibition.

The Laguna Beach Museum of Art hosts a lecture by noted American realist sculptor Duane Hanson, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, at the museum (307 Cliff Drive in Laguna Beach). Hanson will discuss his life-size, "fool-the-eye" sculptures which portray ordinary people engaged in mundane activities.

Admission to the lecture is $5 for museum members, $6 for non-members, $3.50 for students. Information: (714) 494-6531.

Howard Fox has been named curator of contemporary art at the County Museum of Art. He will be responsible for organizing special exhibitions of recent art and developing the museum's collection.

Fox, whose appointment becomes effective July 1,1985, has served as associate curator of exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington since 1975. He has worked closely with Washington's art community, organizing several exhibitions and writing catalogues on contemporary art.

According to LACMA Director Earl A. Powell, Fox's appointment "is a step in expanding the curatorial staff to address the increased needs of the museum as we move toward adding over 50,000 square feet of exhibition space with the Robert O. Anderson Gallery, scheduled to open in fall 1986."

AUCTIONS: Christie's will sell Andrea Mantegna's "Adoration of the Magi" on April 19, on the instructions of the Marquess of Northampton.

Christie's officials say the famous Renaissance masterpiece is the most important Old Master painting to come on the market since the auction house sold Velasquez' "Portrait of Juan Pareja," in 1970, for $5.5 million to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The picture, which measures 21 by 28 inches, was painted by Mantegna between 1495 and 1505. It depicts the Virgin and Child and Saint Joseph with the Three Wise Men offering gifts. The painting is widely considered to be one of the artist's most influential paintings; at least eight contemporary versions ascribed to other artists are recorded.

The work was probably painted in Mantua, where Mantegna was the court painter of the Gonzagas, the Mantua counterpart of the Medicis in Florence.

Works from the late Florence J. Gould's collection will be offered for sale at Sotheby's New York Galleries April 24-25. The auction will benefit the Florence J. Gould Foundation which focuses on fostering Franco-American amity.

Gould, a noted Franco-American patroness of the arts assembled an extraordinary collection of Old Master, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and drawings. Her home was the center of artistic literary and social life on the French Riviera.

Among works to go on the auction block are Van Gogh's "Landscape With Rising Sun," Toulouse-Lautrec's "La Clownesse a Cha-U-Kao," four paintings by Bonnard, two landscapes by Monet, "Trois Danceuses" (a pastel drawing) by Degas and "Chestnut Trees and Farm of the Jas de Bouffan" by Cezanne.

The Los Angeles Valley College art gallery has initiated a three-year program of exhibitions under the general title of "Art in the Valley."

Five exhibitions will feature work by outstanding artists who live, work or teach in the San Fernando Valley or its adjacent canyons. One show will focus on private collections in the Valley, and the concluding presentation in 1987 will celebrate the Orlando Gallery's 30th anniversary. Orlando, one of the Southland's veteran galleries, has shown contemporary art for the last three decades. It has offered space and support to many young talents who have moved on to attain significant status.

The first exhibition is "Artists/One," featuring the work of photographer Bruce Barnbaum, painter Sue Dirkson, sculptor Gwynn Murrill, Amani Flyers, who combines mixed media with photography, and Donal Lumbert, who paints, draws and uses textural materials on sheets of aluminum to create images of earth surfaces.

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