The Fine Arts Pavilion of the World’s Fair has turned out to be THE dominant fact of Seattle’s art life since the Fair opened April 21. Massive attention directed toward it has given the city’s permanent museums and galleries an unexpected lull instead of increased attendance. (This same lull affects restaurants, theaters, movie houses and night clubs not on the Fair grounds. Long faces brighten, however, at the thought that so far, the Fair’s turnstiles have been clicked mostly by local people, and summer visitors may provide more action for the rest of the city than it has seen during the spring. Managers who have extended themselves to make the entire city a complex of diversions devoutly hope so.)

Of the six exhibitions within the Fine Arts Pavilion, four are so sanctified that reaction to them is predictable approval. The two which cause the stir are the American and International shows of painting and sculpture since 1950.

The International section, assembled by Dr. Willem Sandberg of the Stadelijk Museum in Amsterdam, appears to echo “Vitality in Art” which he put together last year. Sam Hunter’s American section recalls the Guggenheim Museum’s “Abstract Expressionists and Imagists” of last fall. Neither show will offer initiates anything but occasional amazement at second rate paintings representing first rate painters. But for Pacific Northwesterners, seeing contemporary art on this enormous, emphatic scale for the first time has been a jolt, stirring up a welter of discussion and none of it casual.

For me, (and for many,) the International section holds interest on repeat visits, but the American section looks more and more like less and less. In all fairness, the International section has been given a third more exhibition space than the American, and the American section must accommodate to an awkwardly overhanging balcony. But in whatever setting it was put, the repetitious preponderance of hard-edge precisionist painting in Hunter’s show would soon wear thin. Defenders of Hunter’s show admire his adroit presentation of the classical and romantic positions in contemporary American painting. Detractors regret seeing the noble traditions dwindled to triviality.

Effects on local artists would be impossible to predict, but the area’s predisposition is toward the romantic to begin with, so the precisionist seeds may blow over, if we’re lucky. Hopefully, Northwest artists will go on being themselves, assimilating only what Lawrence Alloway admires as “the clenched drive” of the strongest contemporary painting.

After Labor Day, Northwest Artists will replace Dr. William Milliken’s “Masterpieces of Art” in the Fine Arts Pavilion, bringing about what the Northwest has long wanted to see: its own painters in fast company. Millard Rogers is responsible for choosing artists for this show.

Until then, selective group shows of Northwest painting are the Woessner Gallery’s Oil Painting Exhibition which will hang through June, the Henry Gallery’s annual summer invitational which will follow the 10th Northwest Craftsmen’s Exhibition when that show closes on June 17, and the Pacific Northwest Arts and Crafts Fair at Bellevue the last weekend in July. Peter Selz of the Museum of Modern Art will be juror for Bellevue’s three day open air show. David Campbell of the Museum of Contemporary Craft will judge craft entries at Bellevue.

A retrospective exhibition of paintings by Mark Tobey, from the collection of the Seattle Art Museum, is one of the six exhibitions in the Fine Arts Pavilion. Tobey’s Seattle dealer, Otto Seligman, has opened a branch gallery especially for showing 45 paintings completed by Tobey within the last five years. They will hang through July.

Not to be missed on the Fairgrounds: James FitzGerald’s fountain in the courtyard of the Playhouse; an exhibition of sculpture in the court of the Seattle First National Bank, by 15 members of the Northwest Institute of Sculpture; a handsome installation by the Northwest Designer Craftsmen, in the Fashion Pavilion, which rescues American crafts from oblivion at the Fair, and does them credit.

Of help to visitors: “Artists of Puget Sound,” an illustrated booklet on a selection of local painters and sculptors, is available in Seattle bookstores. Both daily papers list dealers’ galleries, giving addresses, hours and current attractions.

Anne Todd