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Monet goes to Vegas; Kerry goes out on the town

MFA GOES VEGAS STYLE The Museum of Fine Arts has been tapped by the Bellagio Las Vegas Hotel and Casino to provide paintings for an exhibition, "Claude Monet: Masterworks From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston." Officials at the museum would not disclose the financial details of the deal to loan the casino the works of French Impressionism. The MFA has 36 paintings, two pastels, and one drawing by Monet in its permanent collection. There are currently 12 Monet paintings on view at the MFA. Of the 21 paintings that will be displayed at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, five will be taken out of the MFA galleries to be part of the Bellagio display. Curator George Shackelford will take five other Monet paintings from the collection and put them on display so that MFA visitors will be able to see the same number of Monets on display. This is not the first time the Bellagio casino complex has come to a nonprofit organization to borrow artwork, but it will be the largest deal for the complex with its adjoining gallery since the Bellagio opened in 1998. Previous shows included "Faberge: Treasures From the Kremlin" and "Andy Warhol: The Celebrity Portraits." Should the MFA want to have an extended cultural exchange with Sin City, we know where we can get our hands on some nice velvet Elvises.

BURYING THE HATCHET The Rev. Eugene Rivers and former ambassador Charles Stith have had their differences over the years, but all was peace and love when Rivers spoke at a WorldBoston award fete for Stith on Tuesday night at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. Rivers said that while he and his radical friends lambasted Stith long ago, Stith was getting things done, lining up private support for millions of dollars in affordable housing in Boston and pointing out the limitations of identity politics. Stith, the former ambassador to Tanzania who runs Boston University's African Presidential Archives and Research Center, was also lauded by Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and BU's provost, Dennis Berkey. Berkey got a chuckle when he alluded to the firestorm over BU's decision to fire its incoming president, Dan Goldin, saying that the university wanted a high-profile person such as Stith to garner more attention from the media.

ARTFUL CODGER It's been a disastrous few years for the world's most famous art critic, Robert Hughes; he was nearly killed in a car accident in the Australian outback, and his only son committed suicide. But yesterday, in an uncomfortable chair at the Museum of Fine Arts, the celebrated author of "The Shock of the New" was remarkably at ease. (Hughes delivered a sold-out lecture at the MFA last night.) The curmudgeon's contentment has everything to do with "Goya," a fat book he's finally finished after years of research and writing. "It'll hit the street with a great muddy splash," Hughes said. "But look, mate, being a famous art critic is a little like being a famous beekeeper." That's not entirely true, at least in his native Australia, where Hughes is an icon, as well known as his countryman Russell Crowe. "I have vast admiration for him," Hughes said, adding that the Gladiator would make a good Goya. He doesn't feel the same about that other Aussie, Mel Gibson, whose new movie, "The Passion," is said by some to be anti-Semitic. "As an ex-Catholic, I don't like him because I don't like Catholic fundamentalists," Hughes said, "but, sure, I want to see the movie."

PARTY ON Following Tuesday's debate at Faneuil Hall, Senator John Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, made their way to Hennessy's of Boston to greet supporters. (Kerry introduced his better half as "the next First Lady.") The couple then left, telling the crowd to "party on," and went downstairs to Club Q, where there were no babies to kiss but plenty of eager hands to shake. . . . CNN's Judy Woodruff stopped by Boston Rocks at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, impressing fashionistas with her red leather jacket and gray pinstripe pants. . . . Meanwhile, at Joe Lieberman's camp, to help in the preparations for the debate, his people borrowed a bar stool from the Black Rose.

CELEBRATING STEVIE The wondrous Stevie Wonder will be in town next week as the Massachusetts Assocation for the Blind celebrates its 100th anniversary. Wonder will receive the group's lifetime achievement award during a party Thursday at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. Other notables on the guest list include senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.

OLD SCHOOL He's having a pretty good year. Funnyman Conan O'Brien celebrated 10 years on TV, welcomed his first child, a daughter, and will be honored by his alma mater, Brookline High School, Nov. 15 as part of the school's 21st Century Fund Gala. The 1981 alum will be on hand for the festivities, as will the honorary event chairman, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein (a '91 grad), and the MC, Lew Schneider ('79), who is executive producer of "Everybody Loves Raymond." The fund, which has raised $2 million and is aiming for $10 million, supports innovative programs at the high school. A highlight of the gala will be a silent auction that includes a set of boxing gloves autographed by Muhammad Ali, a round of golf for two with Sox pitching ace Derek Lowe, a special access package to a Boston Red Sox game, and VIP tickets to the filming of "Everybody Loves Raymond." Tickets to the gala are available at 617-713-5201.

David Beard of the Globe staff contributed to this column. Names can be reached at or at 617-929-8253.

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