Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

"I think this art fair can stand with the best in the world," said a Viennese dealer. "Besides, it's a good chance for me to come each year to America - I have a girl friend here."

Whatever their reasons, 135 dealers from 13 countries had their booths shipshape at 7 Tuesday night in time for the jammed opening of "Art 78," the third International Meeting of Fine Art Dealers, at the D.C. Armory through Monday.

"And besides, we all dig Elias," the Austrian added. Elias Felluss, who started "Wash Art" three years ago, while everybody said it couldn't be done, was overseeing the huge space on his bicycle just before opening, talking over his son's walkie-talkie.

"The fair gets better every year," said Diane Brown, one of 14 Washington dealers who took booths this year. The first year only one, Harry Lunn, signed on. Lunn was still there, sharing space with two other Washington photography dealers, Gerd Sander and Kathleen Ewing. Max Protetch was down the way, as were Jane Haslem, Chris Middendorf, Touchstone, John Sirica and others.

"This is a great improvement over last year," said artist Jacob Kainen. "I think it's very exciting," said Washington artist Rebecca Davenport, who had never been to a fair before. Outside the entrance, where visitors picked up a free glass of red wine called "Noblesse Oblige," several art magazines were touting their wares, including Art in America, which will devote its entire summer issue to the Washington art scene.

A special loan exhibition, "Photo-Realism 1973," includes several paintings commissioned by attorney Stuart M. Speiser, all featuring real or toy airplanes. The paintings will be given to the Air & Space Museum after showing at the fair.

Art '78 will be open through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the fair. A six-day pass costs $6, one-day pass $3, evening-only pass (6-9 p.m.) $2.