Byzantine art never had it so good. Baltimore's Walters Art Gallery is putting together an exhibit -- "Silver Treasure From Early Byzantium" -- that reunites for the first time four well-known groups of 6th-century Byzantine church silver. The Antioch chalice, once thought to be the Holy Grail and the target of a forgery charge that was later disproved, also will be on display.

"In Byzantine times, the churches were literally treasure houses," says Gary Vikan, the Walters' curator of medieval art, formerly a senior associate for art history at Dumbarton Oaks.

As if the exhibit alone could not attract attention, the silver will be installed in a re-created 6th-century Byzantine chapel.

"We wanted to give this treasure a reality, a living context," says Vikan, who hired French archeologists to research Byzantine church architecture in Turkey. "The ruins of the church are still there . . . We know what the floor plan looks like, but we didn't know what kind of cloth they would have had, what kind of marble inlay, what the spacings for the columns would be."

The reunification of the treasures concludes research by the exhibition's guest curator Marlia Mango, who found evidence suggesting that the treasures were originally buried together. The treasures were later dug up, divided into four groups, and given false names and histories to increase their value.

Naturally, the re-created chapel has attracted the clergy's attention. "A Greek Orthodox priest has already expressed interest in celebrating the liturgy inside our 'church,' " says Vikan.

The exhibit, which opens April 18, has been timed to coincide with a meeting of the International Byzantine Congress, coming to the United States for the first time.

Friends of the Corcoran Exhibit

As the Friends of the Corcoran celebrated its 25th anniversary Friday night, an exhibition went on view there that will give Washingtonians a chance to see some contemporary works that haven't been displayed in a few years.

Twelve of 25 works donated by the Friends are exhibited. Louise Nevelson's "Ancient Secrets," a 1964 wood and paint work, hasn't seen the light in four years. Philip Pearstein's 1971 oil, "Reclining Nude on Green Couch," and Joseph Cornell's 1950 construction and collage, "Caravaggio Prince, Medici Slot Machine Variant," are also being taken out of storage for the exhibit. With display space at premium, only about 7 to 8 percent of the Corcoran's 10,000 works are on view at the same time.

The Roots of Dance

Film and lecture series routinely pepper the city's screening halls, but occasionally one stands out. One of them is "Footroots: How Dances of the People Influence the Dances of the Stage," a Sunday night series that began yesterday at the American Film Institute.

Colette Yglesias, artistic director of series cosponsor Dance Arts Moving Arts, "had a desire to pursue issues in dance scholarship outside the university setting," explains Nancy Galeota-Wozny, series project director. Each of the evenings explores the changing relationship "between traditional forms of dance and theatrical dance," says Galeota-Wozny.

Sunday, Deborah Jowitt, dance critic for The Village Voice, will screen the 1958 film "Appalachian Spring," Martha Graham's classical dance set to Aaron Copland's famous composition. The series is free; call 785-4601 for reservations.

Arts, Etc.

Washington Independent Writers honored Paul Dickson of Garrett Park, Md., Thursday night at its first Philip M. Stern award dinner. Dickson is the author of several hundred magazine articles and 16 books, most recently "On Our Own: A Declaration of Independence for the Self-Employed." The award, for contribution to the welfare of fellow writers, is named for the writer and philanthropist who was WIW's chief benefactor when the organization was founded in 1975 . . .

A few writers may now be able to afford their chosen profession after all: The National Endowment for the Arts last week announced its 93 creative writing fellowships for 1986; the grants are worth $20,000. Area grantees are: Essex Hemphill, Washington; Barbara J. Goldberg, Bethesda; Paul Estaver, Gainesville, Va.; Henry S. Taylor, Lincoln, Va.; and Edward P. Jones, Arlington . . .

Following the National Gallery of Art's lead, the American Institute of Architects' Octagon Museum is extending "The Architect and the British Country House, 1620-1920" through April 11. The NGA's "Treasure Houses of Britain" was extended to April 13 . . .

What we've been waiting for: Art Aid, an auction to benefit the Live Aid famine relief fund, is scheduled for March 26 at New York City's Hard Rock Cafe. Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan and Ron Wood are among those contributing art.