MANHATTAN'S Museum of Modern Art is also a museum of esoteric art, both sophisticated and primitive. Among its most elaborate shows in the past were a survey of North American Indian artifacts, which visitors found hardly more savage than Picasso, and arts of the South Seas, which were no more baffling to the general public than Bali's dreams or Henry Moore's hole-in-the-head idols. Yet "Ancient Arts of the Andes," currently on view at the museum, is perhaps the weirdest show in its 25-year history.

Museum Director Rene d'Harnoncourt had been planning the exhibition for...

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