Speaking of the East, your correspondent is there even now splicing aesthetic vibrations to printing presses in hope of painting word pictures of the summer's highlights. It is not a season with such obvious landmarks as, say, the Rousseau and Caravaggio exhibitions of the winter, but there are events that may strike with equal force by stealth.
The poetic German Dadaist Kurt Schwitters could transform a house into an enchanted labyrinth or a bus ticket into a love lyric with equal ease. He is seen in rare retrospective at the Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art until Nov. 1.
The exhibition could prove more absorbing than the sadly timely memorial retrospective devoted to Mark Chagall at the Philadelphia Museum to July 7. But for all we know the first survey of the manic Red Grooms at the Philadelphia Academy (June 21-Sept. 29) could be more bracing than either of them. That's the great thing about reputations that are not quite tacked down.
Classic art is not neglected in any of its varied permutations. Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum hosts "Pre-Columbian Gold" (to Aug. 11) among shows in its capacious galleries while Washington's National Gallery presents 110 examples of "The Sculpture of India 3000 B.C.-1300 A.D." It is billed as the most ambitious survey of Indian art ever seen here and kicks off a yearlong celebration called the Festival of India, one of those sprawling cultural manifestations. (Evidently the next big eruption of its art aspect will be the Met's "India!" in September.)
The National Gallery also presents the intriguing "Ancient Art of the American Woodlands Indians" to Aug. 4 and "Collection for a King; Old Master Paintings From the Dulwich Picture Gallery" through Sept. 2. The next stop for this selection from the connoisseurs' haven outside London is the County Museum of Art, where it arrives Oct. 3.
However, for art mavens accustomed to traveling East Coast and California aesthetic corridors, the most enticing geographical possibility is the unusual appearance of major shows in Montreal. Summer travelers there will find a world-class doubleheader. The "Picasso: Meeting in Montreal" show at the Museum of Fine Arts (June 21-Nov. 10) consists of 80 virtually unseen Picassos owned by his widow, Jacqueline. It promises the artist's seemingly inexhaustible capacity to surprise us, dead or alive.
Also on view to Sept. 29 is a show evidently attempting to equal the popular fascination exercised by the wildly successful "Treasures of Tutankhamun" exhibition of yore. It is "Ramses II and His Time" including 80 objects from the legacy of one of ancient Egypt's most self-glorifying Pharaohs at the Palais de la Civilisation, Ile de Notre Dame.