Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

"In my day," observed art connoisseur Joseph Hirshhorn Wednessday night as he stood on the third floor of the building named for him, "in my day, I've bought some 14,000 items, have given 6,525 to this museum and now have around 80 more here tonight."

Those 89 and the artist who created them, Louis M. Eilshemius, were the reason for Wednesday's reception at the Hirshhorn Museum, which starred Hirshhorn and the works of the artist he began collecting before almost anybody else did.

"I met him [the artist] when he was bedridden," reminisced Hirshhorn, who was dapperly attired in gray wool slacks, bow tie and orange velour vest topped off by a gray-and-orange velour topped off by a gray-and-orange-plaid sport coat. "I saw one of his works in a gailery in New York and I got very excited. So I went to see him. He was a very odd man. He never shook hands because he was afraid of dirt. But in his all room he had a couple of thousand paintings of his all covered with dust. At that time I took only four or five things, because I didn't want to get my hands dirty. I hate dirt too."

About 300 guests wandered around three floors of the Hirshhorn nibbling fruit and cookies while they decided whether Eilshemius was worth all the fuss. "People either like him or not," summed up Nina Sundell, head of Independent Curators Inc. And indeed that seemed to be the case Wednessday night. "You don't know anything about art?" asked lawyer Henry Schiffman. "That's okay, neither did Eilshemius. I mean most artists have a style, but tonight's exhibit looks like a group show."

Others, however, including artist Felrath Hines, looked upon Eilshemius more fondly. "If you'd been in New York in the '50s, you'd know Eilshemius," said Hines. "He was very popular in New York then. I like him very much. His work is in a very romantic tradition."