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FIRST OFF . . .

<i> Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press</i>

An art exhibit featuring a nude baseball player has touched off another controversy in Chicago, the third time in three years that the nation’s third-largest city has been the scene of an art display some find objectionable. Protesters have been out in force at the Chicago Public Library Cultural Center since the exhibition, “Diamonds Are Forever: Artists and Writers on Baseball,” went on view. The painting, “Boys at Bat” by American artist Eric Fischl, depicts a boy in a baseball uniform, a picnic table and a frontal nude of a man swinging a baseball bat. Chicago Cultural Affairs Commissioner Joan Harris described the show as a traveling exhibition of 100 artworks and literary passages organized by the New York State Museum and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services. It is scheduled to be on display through Sept. 9 at the Cultural Center. Two previous displays at the Art Institute of Chicago also were controversial. Earlier this year, an exhibit by an art student invited people to step on an American flag placed on the floor. The display brought daily demonstrations from several veterans’ groups and some state lawmakers. Last year, a painting of the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington in women’s lingerie touched off another flap. Several members of the City Council stormed the Art Institute and removed the painting.


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