As the Guggenheim Museum prepares to open “China: 5,000 Years” on February 6, some experts in the field are questioning the show’s integrity. “A museum like the Guggenheim has been fooled and manipulated,” charges Ni Jun, who heads the Organization for the International Promotion of Chinese Artists. Why? Two of the artists in the show have ties to the show’s consulting curator, Howard Rogers, who owns Kaikodo, a gallery on East 64th Street: Li Huayi, who has shown at that space, and Arnold Chang, an American-born artist who works there. Several well-known contemporary Chinese works, meanwhile, like Yu Hong’s Young Pioneers (which was shown in Berlin’s Avant-Garde show in 1993) and Xu Bing’s A Book From the Sky (an installation that will be at P.S. 1 in September), were pulled from the show because of space constraints. “Can Rogers provide an unbiased view, given his business interest?” asked a group of six Chinese artists, including Liu Xiaodong and Yu Hong, who wrote Guggenheim director Thomas Krens a letter last month. “We are utterly perplexed by the recent and sudden decision to withdraw our works from the exhibition.” But the show’s director, Jane DeBevoise, insists that the museum has maintained the traditional wall between art and commerce. She says that Rogers not only runs a business but also is an academic who has taught in Tokyo and curated other shows; furthermore, she adds, he worked only on the classics catalogue and did not select any art. DeBevoise says there were “major reductions” of about 25 to 30 percent in the show’s modern section because the third floor of the SoHo museum wasn’t ready. Krens did not return calls.

The Asian stock-market crisis really is affecting everyone – even Christie Brinkley. The cover girl’s bank balance rebounded nicely at the end of 1996, when she signed on as Nu Skin’s spokeswoman. (She’d lost about $2 million in her failed third marriage, to businessman Rick Taubman.) Brinkley became an enthusiastic Nu Skin supporter, dutifully touring the world to hawk its products and exercising as many stock options as she could under her multimillion-dollar contract. But the stock price of Nu Skin, which is an Asian company, has dropped 42 percent in the past thirteen months. Nu Skin spokesman Joseph Ogden insists Brinkley has nothing to fear, explaining that the company is doing better than many of its Asian competitors and is even growing in Japan. In any event, Brinkley’s deal pays her in American dollars – surely welcome news now that she’s announced she’s expecting baby No. 3 with husband No. 4, architect Peter Cook.

At least one supermodel makes it to her appointments on time. Kate Moss had promised record mogul and friend Chris Blackwell that she would attend the opening of the Aveda spa at his Strawberry Hill resort in Jamaica. What the prototypical waif didn’t bargain for was how long her 24th-birthday celebration with ex-beau Johnny Depp would last. The pair began the evening at the Madison Square Garden Rolling Stones show and then headed back to guitarist Ron Wood’s Palace Hotel suite for an all-night bender with Helena Christensen and Keith Richards’s son Marlon. The crew was spotted roaming the halls till sunrise. But that morning, like a trouper, Moss raced to the airport, hopped a commercial jet to Kingston, and helicoptered into Strawberry Hill. She spent just four hours there before heading back to New York. Blackwell said affectionately, “She looked like she had been through hell, but I was impressed that she kept her word and decided to show.”

MONICA’S WEIGHTY HISTORY: Turns out that Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton have something in common that even Linda Tripp doesn’t know about: bulge battling. Lewinsky attended weight-loss camp in California for two summers. “That’s her? She looks so good now,” said a former camp buddy as Lewinsky’s picture aired on CNN. Evidently, Lewinsky was on the large side as an eighth-grader, but she was an enthusiastic camper who wanted to be a group leader and paid particular attention to the guys, reports the source.
WENNER TAKES ALL: Setting new standards for the friendly divorce are Jann and Jane Wenner. The exes – along with Jann’s current boyfriend, Matt Nye – were demonstrating true family values at three very public outings recently. They were at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame party on Monday night, followed by Rolling Stone’s Covers event the next night. Wednesday night, they all went to see the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden, where Jane sat on Jann’s lap for half an hour.
NELLO AGAIN: If he ever decides to give up his day job, Nello, owner of the eponymous trattoria on Madison Avenue, now has a second career to fall back on. The restaurateur will be in England this March filming a role in David Mamet’s new period drama The Winslow Boy, playing a “Sherlock Holmes type” who investigates the movie’s central mystery. Not that Nello has abandoned his devoted gourmands: He plans to open a new restaurant on Greenwich Street, across from the Tribeca Grill, this spring.

Is Elizabeth Taylor ready to go back to work? Hollywood’s biggest star, who has been more active as an AIDS fund-raiser than as an actress lately, is now talking about getting back in front of a camera with producer Robert Halmi Sr. The idea is to update The Visit, Friedrich Duerrenmatt’s 1958 play about an older woman who seeks revenge on the man who seduced her as a teen. It’s a role that’s attracted Lynn Fontanne (who toured with it in the fifties), Lauren Bacall (who did it in London), and Ingrid Bergman (who starred in the movie). Halmi says the talks are going well, although he cautions that there’s no deal yet. “Liz is considering getting out of retirement to do this with me,” says Halmi, who adds sincerely that his Visit “will be the most exciting thing the American public would ever see.”

Finding a girlfriend for David Schwimmer has turned out to be harder than expected. The Friends hunk was slated to have a new on-air love interest, a British beauty who would tie the knot with Ross, Schwimmer’s character, at the end of the season. In a highly publicized casting coup, Lethal Weapon 2 vixen and Liam Gallagher spouse Patsy Kensit was widely reported to have landed the role. But after just one day of rehearsal with the blonde bombshell, the show’s execs have let Kensit go. Kensit maintains she passed on the part so as not to be separated from her 5-year-old son, James. But one industry insider says that when Kensit made it clear she wanted out, producers didn’t exactly shed tears over the temperamental actress’s departure. After Kensit left, they brought in Masterpiece Theater actress Sarah Wynter, who shot one scene but was then released, too. The role has now been filled – for good, producers hope – by British soap star Helen Baxendale, whose scenes will begin airing February 5. A spokeswoman for Kensit says, “Patsy signed on for what she thought was only a few episodes. When it became bigger, she felt the need to pull away because of her commitment as a mum.” Responds a spokesman for the show: “Patsy’s departure was a mutual decision, and there are no hard feelings.”

Just as things seemed to be calming down in the salon world, Sharon Dorram, one of the city’s highest-profile colorists, has been summarily dismissed from the Peter Coppola Salon. Dorram, who lightens the tresses of Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, and the Miller sisters, was quoted in a profile in the new Allure as saying she doesn’t like clients from Boca Raton, because they are “pushy” and “not respectful.” Unfortunately, Coppola not only lives with his wife and daughter in Boca Raton but has a second salon there. Says Dorram, “I never thought it would wind up in print. Now they won’t even tell clients where I’ve gone. It’s a tragedy for him – my clientele would follow me to a grass hut.” They won’t have to – Durram was quickly snapped up by competitor John Frieda. Says Coppola, “If it were about money, she’d still be here. It’s about principle and character. I think she is very talented and I feel badly, but I don’t think she gave any thought to the ramifications of what she was saying about her boss.”

Is Giselle Fernandez doing some fancy footwork to broaden her access in Hollywood to include television’s top executives? The Access Hollywood co-anchor, who also hosted the Rose Bowl parade for NBC last month, recently sent CBS Television president Les Moonves a cloth-bound copy of Don Quixote with a note that read something to the effect of “Here’s to having your dreams come true.” But she says she’s not trying to charm her way into a new job. “I sent my co-host Pat O’Brien a bottle of champagne, and I don’t want anything from him, either,” insists Fernandez, who adds that she’d recently met Moonves “and we discussed Don Quixote,” so she sent it to him “as a kind gesture.” Three years ago, when Fernandez was hired at NBC, she sent news chief Andy Lack a bottle of champagne with a note that read, “Here’s to fulfilling one’s passion” (answering his note to her: “I love your passion”). The ambitious newswoman, who also hosts Cafe Olé for the Latin market, insists that her career depends on hard work, not successful schmoozing. So why all the thoughtful presents? “The business is very small,” she says, “and I don’t play golf.”

Additional reporting by Kate Coyne.