Let the rest of the world vegetate. The City that Never Sleeps puts on good art shows, even in summer. Choice among the current exhibits are:
The Annenberg Collection (Metropolitan Museum of Art through Oct. 13): At 50 works it's a small show, but former ambassador to Great Britain Walter H. Annenberg and his wife chose wisely. Their Impressionist and post-Impressionist art forms one of the finest privately owned collections in existence. Among the treasures are fine works by Monet, van Gogh, Picasso and others.
In March Annenberg announced that he was bequeathing the collection to the Met, dashing the hopes of several lesser museums that had hoped to obtain it.
Audio cassette players are available, but you don't need them. Each work has an explanatory panel.
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-8:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday. Closed Monday. Admission: $6, suggested).
The 1991 Whitney Biennial (Whitney Museum of American Art, in entirety through June 16, with portions open through June 30): There's no such thing as a definitive or comprehensive show of contemporary American art. And there's no shortage of ideas at the Whitney to make you realize art's current diversity.
This year's show is arranged by "generations." Artists who came into prominence in the 1950s and 1960s are on the second floor; artists who emerged in the 1970s and 1980s are on the third; the newest artists are on the fourth. Film and video artists get ample attention, making up about a third of the show.
Highlights: Chuck Close has moved away from graphic photo-realism to a highly decorative method of defining a portrait, still breathtakingly realistic from a distance. Vito Acconci shows a sculpture of a giant clam that truly invades space. Mark Tansey sparks narrative in his romantic-intellectual paintings.
The 1991 show includes more women and more ethnic diversity than previous biennials, and _ ta-da! _ two Floridians, Carlos Alfonzo and Robert Rauschenberg.
Postscript: I found Alfonzo's work profoundly disturbing. Gone is the swirling movement in his other paintings (an example hangs at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg through June 23). Those are about life with AIDS. These are about death. Alfonzo died of AIDS in February.
(Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Ave. Hours: 1-8 p.m. Tuesday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. Admission: $5.)
Seven Master Printmakers (Museum of Modern Art through Aug. 13): Bust your buttons, Tampa Bay. About a fifth of the 55 prints on display were made at Graphicstudio, the innovative printmaking workshop at the University of South Florida.
The show gives viewers a chance to see the results of technological advances in the age-old field of printmaking. The seven exhibiting artists, Jim Dine, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Frank Stella, are mature artists, well-known for their work in printmaking. Johns, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg and Stella are part of the established 1960s group at the Whitney.
Many of the works combine different printmaking techniques. Lichtenstein incorporates a lithograph, woodcut and screenprint into a single work, for example. Some artists combine other processes as well, such as painting, collage and the use of handmade paper.
(Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd St. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Tuesday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday. Closed Wednesday. Admission: $7.)
Summer art classes
Area art centers will start their summer sessions with a variety of classes for students at all stages. Among the offerings:
Arts Center, 100 Seventh St. S, St. Petersburg; 822-7872 or 821-5623. Session I in progress. Session II: June 10 for six weeks. Painting, drawing, clay, weekend workshops. $35-50 plus materials fee; member discount.
Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, 222 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Belleair; 584-8634. June 17-Sept. 6. Painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry/metals; also, open studios for advanced students. $25-$125; member discount.
Exhibit opportunities for artists:
Avant-Garde; Alive or Dead?, U.S. Garage, Sarasota, throughout June. Mail art show. Mail art is art in which the covering used for mailing _ envelope, post card, box or other material _ is involved in the art form. Mail artists use highly inventive means to create their cover, and then mail it. There are no returns, no limitations and no rejections. All works will be exhibited. Send to "Avant-Garde; Alive or Dead?," 47 Palm Ave., Suite 211, Sarasota 34236; phone Sarasota 364-5825 or 366-3099.
Paperworks '91 Southeast, Quinlan Art Center, Gainesville, Ga., Sept. 8 through October. Indoor competition. All media, but work must be on, of or about paper. Prejudged from 1-4 slides. Deadline: July 22. Entry fee: $10. Cash awards. For prospectus: Quinlan Art Center, 514 Green St. NE, Gainesville, Ga. 30501; phone (404) 536-2575.