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If traveling to Rome to gaze at Vatican art masterpieces is out of the question, why not travel to Denver? There you will find a magnificent exhibition, "Vatican Treasures, 2,000 Years of Art and Culture in the Vatican and Italy."

The world premiere of the exhibit - and the only North American venue - opened July 3 at the Colorado History Museum in Denver and continues through August.Viewers will come face to face with 250 great works of art by some of the world's most renowned artists - Michelangelo, Rubens, Bernini, Reni and others. The collection includes tapestries, paintings and sculpture from the Vatican and 40 cities representing the regions of Italy.

Included will be the only Vatican-authorized copy of Michelangelo's celebrated sculpture, the Pieta. This reproduction was cast 20 years before a man burst into St. Peter's Basilica in Rome in 1972 and attacked the original sculpture. In piecing it back together, restorers relied heavily on the reproduction because it was so precise in detail.

Some of the other more significant art objects are: Bernini's "Project with Campaniles"; Peter Paul Rubens' "The Last Supper"; the reliquary of the Holy Face or the "Mandylion of Edessa"; Durer's engraving "Veronica with Peter and Paul"; the tiara of Pope Pius IX (1846-1878); and a mosaic of Peter the Apostle dating back to the 12th century.

The exhibit coincides with the World Youth Day celebration and the visit of Pope John Paul II to Denver. The Colorado History Museum is located at the Civic Center, 13th Avenue and Broadway.

Ticket prices are $8.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors and $4.40 for children (6-12). Tickets may be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets of charged by phone by calling (303) 290-0101 or (719) 520-9090.

- While in Denver, don't miss another exhibition, "Into the Forefront: American Indian Art in the 20th Century," through Nov. 7 at the Denver Art Museum.

Curator Richard Conn has organized a probing look at the role of American Indian art to non-Indian collectors; the emergence of American Indian artists into the mainstream of art in the United States and Canada; and the museum's leadership in championing American Indian art.

The exhibit features approximately 60 works from the museum's internationally known col-lection as well as several important objects on loan.

The museum's address is 100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, Denver, CO 80204. For more information about the exhibit, call 303-640-5928.