THE most adventurous big-money backer modern art has ever known was the late Solomon R. Guggenheim, multi millionaire mining magnate (Alaskan copper, Chilean nitrate, Bolivian tin) who late in life switched from collecting traditional Dutch masters to avant-garde art under the tutelage of his good friend and mentor, Baroness Hilla Rebay von Ehrenwiesen, set up Manhattan's Museum of Non-Objective Painting. Two years ago his nephew, Harry F. Guggenheim, announced a biennial, round-the-world search for new paintings, established a purse of $10,000 for first prize.

For the second running of the sweepstakes this year, separate three-man juries in 22 countries (each with its...

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