Michael Botwinick, director of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, is a leading candidate for the post of director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, soon to be vacated by Peter Marzio, according to Corcoran officials.

David Lloyd Kreeger, president of the Corcoran board, said the board is considering and interviewing "at least two other candidates ," neither of whom he would name. Asked about Botwinick, Kreeger said, "He certainly is a candidate. The leading candidate? I suppose that's not far off. He's certainly a very attractive candidate."

If chosen, Botwinick would replace Marzio, who leaves at the end of this month after four years at the Corcoran. Marzio will become director of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts on Oct. 1.

Botwinick comes highly recommended to the Corcoran search committee. "He's a much better director than I was," said Marzio, reached yesterday in Houston. "He's one of the best directors in the country. When the search committee asked me who I thought would be the best person for the Corcoran, I said him."

Botwinick declined to discuss details of his candidacy for the Corcoran post. "We certainly have talked," he said. "I think I've met with them twice." He will meet with two Corcoran trustees today in New York and will talk again with the search committee before the board votes on a new director Sept. 24. "Just a few trustees at the Brooklyn Museum have been informed that I've been approached," Botwinick said.

Asked why he would leave the Brooklyn Museum, one of the 10 largest in the country, for the Corcoran, he replied, "I don't feel comfortable answering that." The Brooklyn Museum has an annual operating budget of $6 million, with 450,000 square feet; the Corcoran's budget is less than $4 million a year, with 160,000 square feet.

Botwinick, 38, has been director of the Brooklyn Museum for eight years. He holds a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University and a master's degree in art history from Columbia University, where he did his thesis on 13th-century French manuscripts. He spent three years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, rising from assistant curator of medieval art in the Cloisters to assistant curator-in-chief of the museum. He then went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he was assistant director.

"He's a real pro," said Marzio of his possible successor. "He doesn't go for superficial, flashy stuff. He's basically really smart." Marzio also called Botwinick "a first-rate fund-raiser. He's had a ton of experience."

The Brooklyn Museum, said Marzio, "is a really tough museum that doesn't get the kind of funding and publicity that the Manhattan museums do. But he's made it look easy. He's maintained good catalogues and first-rate shows. He's toughed it out. It's really incredible."

The highly acclaimed "Northern Light" exhibit of work by Scandinavian artists, which opened last week at the Corcoran, is a touring show organized by the Brooklyn Museum. Although the museum's permanent collection goes from ancient to modern, American art is one of its strong suits. Similarly, the Corcoran is devoted mainly to American art. "It doesn't hurt to get someone from that background," said Marzio.