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Elemants for success

What sizzled and what fizzled in the local art scene this year had a lot to do with planning and execution.

Art shows with unusual concepts earned high marks in the year 2000. The most rewarding shows were not surveys or overviews, but those that presented art with an underlying purpose.

The shows that made the Top 10 were selected with consideration to these questions:

Was the show a worthwhile viewing experience in terms of quality of both individual art and significance overall?

Did the show further viewers' understanding of art?

Was exceptional local curatorial effort involved?

Did the show enable local artists to achieve deserved recognition or bring artists earning renown elsewhere to our attention?

The year brought many solo exhibits. Especially noteworthy were James Rosenquist, the bay area's most prominent artist, Hoang Van Bui, arguably the most promising, and Theo Wujcik, who falls somewhere in between.

We shouldn't let the year pass without mentioning two colorful fizzles. Paco Simon's three floating sculptures, in the bay by the Dali Museum through Dec. 31, are illuminated only at dark when the museum (except for Thursday nights) is closed. And Yaacov Agam's kinetic water sculpture, Shamayim, installed at the Tampa Convention Center in 1992, was disassembled and shipped to the owner after it proved too expensive to maintain.

The 10 are:

1 Masterpieces of Surrealism at the Salvador Dali Museum, January-April. In its most ambitious show yet, the Dali Museum presented the artist in the context of his peers, showing the vast diversity of expression within the movement, and it gave us the chance to probe works by artists who had a profound effect on art in the first half of the 20th century (and ever since). Kudos to the curator, William Jeffett of the Dali Museum.

2 The People's Choice at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, April-June. Artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid showed what art looks like when it responds to popular opinion. It was the most dreadful, the funniest and the most audacious show of 2000. But it taught a lot about art.

3 The Fantastical World of Croatian Naive Art, at the Museum of Fine Arts, February-May. In bringing art from his homeland, museum director Michael Milkovich achieved a curatorial tour de force. Though Croatian naive art is not a significant movement, the exhibit provided a rich viewing experience. Many works, painted on glass, were mesmerizingly beautiful.

4 The Gilded Age, at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, December 2000-February 2001. The Smithsonian American Art Museum's "Treasures to Go" program has lent important works of wonder and enchantment from the Age of Innocence.

5 Art at the End of the Century: Contemporary Art from the Milwaukee Art Museum at the Tampa Museum of Art, April-June. A compact show of late 20th century works by artists gaining international stature, it was the best survey of the diversity in mainstream visual art right now.

6 Transatlantic Dialogue: Contemporary Art In and Out of Africa, at the Tampa Museum of Art, December 2000-January 2001. Not just another show to increase white people's understanding and awareness of African and African-American art, the exhibit explores the dialogue between contemporary black artists on both continents and how it is expressed in their work.

7 Florida Visual Art Fellowships, 1998-1999, at Gulf Coast Museum of Art, February-April. Personal visions of Miami artists dominated a show that introduced several artists new to area viewers and reinforced why others merited Florida's most prestigious visual arts grant.

8 James Rosenquist: Paintings at the Salvador Dali Museum, April-September. Through 19 huge paintings, the show was a splendid opportunity to understand the bay area's celebrity artist through his best medium.

9 Being Human Being at Scarfone/Hartley Galleries, University of Tampa, October-December. The recent work of Vietnamese-American mixed media artist Hoang Van Bui transcended mundane material with multiple meaning, giving him claim as the bay area's most promising talent.

10 Artlink, Florida Craftsmen and the Museum of Fine Arts, May-June. A commendable project conceived by Grace-Ann Alfiero, co-founder of Creative Clay, it paired working artists with developmentally challenged individuals to create art. Artists' testimonies proved it an invigorating experience for everyone involved: students, mentors and viewers.