Susan Stamberg

In Paris, a really old dress has sold for more than $150,000. Now, if that sounds like an unreasonably high price tag, keep this in mind: The 1730s dress is in mint condition, it might have been worn at Versailles, and it was part of a fashion revolution.

Known as a robe volante — or flying dress — the long, luscious yellow brocade gown is patterned with silver thread. It's loose-cut, with soft pleats in the rear, a deep V in front and graceful flow-y sleeves.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper and George Bellows were very different artists, but they did have at least one thing in common: They all studied with painter William Merritt Chase. Now, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., is marking the centennial of the artist's death with a retrospective.

"You walk around these galleries and the paintings are gutsy and bold and scintillating and brilliant," says Dorothy Kosinski, director of the Phillips.

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How does an artist know when a work is finished? Sometimes it's a deliberate decision. Other times, the decision is made by fate or circumstance. Now, an extensive exhibition at The Met Breuer Museum in Manhattan is exploring great works of unfinished art.

The Unfinished show has an intriguing subtitle: "Thoughts Left Visible." The exhibit showcases works made over some 600 years, which offer glimpses into the creative process and sometimes reveal artists' anger or despair.

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When Louis XV, King of France, first met the woman who would become his chief mistress, she was dressed as a domino, and he was dressed as a plant. It was 1745, and Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, the pretty young woman who would become Marquise de Pompadour, had been invited to a masked ball at Versailles. If this sounds like a chance meeting, it wasn't — her family had been strategizing to orchestrate this very moment for years.

Writer Michael Schulman conducted 80 interviews for Her Again, his new biography of Meryl Streep. He talked with her friends and colleagues, read articles, letters and commencement addresses — but he never actually talked with Streep herself.

Los Angeles is a city of extremes: There are neighborhoods so luxurious only millionaires can afford them and neighborhoods so poor that residents work several jobs to pay the rent. Now, a young LA painter is bringing these neighborhoods together on his canvases.

In the 19th century, French artists started getting creative with black materials— chalk, pastels, crayons and charcoal — some of them newly available. Now, a show called Noir at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles celebrates the dark.

"Black can be intense and dramatic," says Timothy Potts, director of the Getty. "I mean it's dark, it's the color of the night, of the unknown, of the scary."

You don't expect a bunch of 80-pluses to be working up a sweat, but at the Motion Picture and Television Fund gym, they do. An exercise instructor encourages them. "Squeeze your tush. ... Tushies, tushes, tushies. Squeeze your buns," she urges.

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