New spaces as well as new faces will be in the limelight today as 17 Dupont Circle galleries simultaneously celebrate the opening of "New Talent" shows with a joint open house.

It is the second year that the art dealers clustered around the Phillips Collection have banded together -- and expanded together -- all in the name of good new contemporary art. By doing so, they also hope, says dealer Kathleen Ewing, "to create excitement and stimulate interest" -- not to mention trade.

Several shows weren't available for viewing before today, so any final conclusions about the state of the new talent pool will have to wait. But what could be seen is something to celebrate: Increasingly varied and professional, the overall quality of new work appears to be high.

As important, so far as artists are concerned, is the fact that optimism among dealers is also running high, and with good reason. Today this neighborly group celebrates the arrival of three more well-established Washington galleries, all relocating in what has now become the largest concentration of commercial galleries in Washington history.

Anton Gallery, formerly Capitol Hill's finest, already has popped a cork or two in anticipation of its reopening today on the first two floors of a handsomely renovated building at 2108 R St. Anton's presence should add a fresh and independent flavor to the R Street strip, and it can be sampled in the opener, a group show of what the gallery is calling "really" new talent from the Washington and Richmond areas. Anton's tenant, Studio Gallery, a refugee from the Lansburgh Building on Seventh Street, is also scheduled to open today in the street-level space, though probably without a show on the walls.

And Foundry Gallery reopens, in space newly carved from the second floor of Addison/Ripley, 9 Hillyer Ct. Paintings and music by William Roberts and an installation by David Ingalls (apparently inspired by the gallery's skylight) will be featured in a reception and performance that will take place between 6 and 9 this evening.

*Actually, both Studio and Foundry are returning to the Dupont Circle gallery area from whence they came, though now two blocks north of the P Street strip where both were located when it was the center of Washington's gallery scene in the late '60s and early '70s.

With the arrival in October of two more establishments now under renovation at 2010 R St. -- Gallery K and its tenant, Volta Place Gallery (now in Georgetown) -- the new R Street strip and close environs will have added seven galleries this year, including Tartt Gallery and Paul Rosen Graphics, formerly of Georgetown, who has merged with Venable Neslage, now Venable Neslage Rosen.

All this moving around seems a fitting tribute to the staying power of Veerhoff, Washington's oldest gallery, which has remained in the same location on Dupont Circle (1512 Connecticut Ave. NW) since it opened in 1927.

"New Talent" is a rather vague term that implies relative youth and lack of wide exposure on the part of the artist, and, for the collector, the possibility of discovery and bargain prices.

"Everybody's a new talent for five minutes," says dealer Henri. Those five minutes are surely over for the dated, Rauschenberg-style combines from the '60s by well-known New York performance artist Carolee Schneemann that are now on view at Henri. But Henri is also showing, as usual, worthy newcomers such as Douglas Hoagg, a wood sculptor from Baltimore, and, on the third floor, Dave Moreland, whose funny and funky shadowbox-like constructions play on famous works of art.

Tom Brody of Brody's Gallery is more specific in his definition of new talent: "Three to six years after an MFA, I begin to see something in a good artist's work that I haven't seen before -- some spark." That's what he sees in photographer Jacqueline Hayden, painter Chuck Johnson and sculptor Rebecca Kamen, the latter a well-established area sculptor (with good reason), even though she is new to Brody's.

The "new talent" in this open house includes everything from the raw, prematurely exposed work of high school students nominated to be Presidential Scholars in the Visual Arts (at Wallace Wentworth) to the meticulous, highly accomplished black-and-white etchings and engravings of three Japanese printmakers in their thirties (at Hom Gallery), all shown abroad, though not previously in the United States.

Hom, Brody's, Gallery 10 (featuring a group) and Marsha Mateyka (introducing "constructed paintings" by Richard Carboni) have filled their galleries with the work of newcomers, while others have given over only part of their space while continuing current shows as well -- some more, some less interesting than the newcomers.

Among the highlights:

Kathleen Ewing's four photographers, two of them newcomers: Fred McGann, who draws and paints on color transparencies and then prints the results; and David Morowitz, who is a "color" photographer in every sense of the word -- an object's color itself being a main concern.

The old talents, now pushing their way through their thirties, are gallery regulars David R. Allison and Frank Lavelle. Allison, in his first large prints, has focused his view camera on offbeat glimpses of Washington's "Monuments and Other Public Places." The interest in thesedeadpan images comes chiefly from the slow unfolding and recognition of the sites under scrutiny.

But Lavelle is the headliner here with his hilarious series titled "Animal Magnetism" -- mostly pets and their owners observed at pet shows, county fairs and other places where humans play straight men to their pets. A woman in rhinestone glasses, for instance, smiles benignly as she cuddles her outrageously imperious cat, leaving little question as to who's in charge. Elsewhere a man, with the help of blurred image, is made to look ridiculous in a patterned shirt that he appears to have worn to match the spots on the cow he is milking.

Baumgartner's show of Steven Bickley's sprightly, brightly painted abstract metal sculptures -- some free-standing, some hung on the wall and all named after cigars. They are as playful and jubilant as the sculpture of featured granite-cutter Jesus Bautista Moroles is formal and lifeless.

Though no one could question Moroles' amazing craftsmanship -- his ability to cut stone in the form of huge fine-tooth combs without breaking it -- one must wonder whether any idea beyond pure decoration and diddling with positive/negative space has ever crossed his mind.

Bickley isn't very profound either, but at least there is life in his suggestion of smoke and sparks and smoldering cigar butts. This is one case where being "new" and promising beats being settled and boring.

Jones Troyer's selection of C. Michelle Van Parys' landscape photographs. Van Parys, one of the truly unknown and truly talented artists to turn up, is featured with newcomer Goodwin Harding from Seattle. Harding does classical, 19th-century-looking platinum prints of western landscapes, notably "Ocean Monolith," a strange and magical rock formation set in a tranquil Northwest inlet.

Van Parys gives a very special flavor to her Widelux camera views of coastal Britain and more ordinary landscapes. The specific place is not important; it is the unexpected visual event that matters, such as the dinosaur-like skeleton of a boat set in a pretty garden, or a wonderful image in which a dog walks on a sea wall painted with boats and water.

And to these events, Van Parys adds something else: Taking advantage of the fact that her Widelux lens bows the space in the middle, popping it forward, she achieves heightened or sometimes funny and strange results, such as the sense that the dog is walking on water.

Other curiosities worth noting along the way:

Though it has more to do with technology than talent, a curious little gallery with a curiously long name -- the International Institute of Art, Science and Technology -- is worth looking into at 2018 R St. if you're interested in holography. A tax-exempt educational entity devoted to "the promotion of holography and laser, as a new technological tool and form of artistic expression," the IIOAST has an exhibition of holograms and offers weekly seminars (at $20 each), according to gallery officials. Subjects include "uses of laser and holography in art, decoration, architecture, medicine, industry, publication, education and entertainment." What next?

Art Caprice Inc. at 1727 21st St. NW is a terrific new gallery space with loft-like dimensions, a rare commodity in an area where domestic scale predominates. Now hosting one segment of Fonda del Sol's three-part exhibition "Other Gods: Containers of Belief" (well worth seeing while you're in the neighborhood), the gallery is owned by Swiss painter/hairdresser Werner Jampen, who could not be reached regarding plans for its future.

Wherever you start your tour (the Dupont Circle Metro stop -- Q Street exit -- is a good place), this open house makes a nice, easy walk that is bound to turn up something worth looking at. Open House hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, but most of the exhibitions will continue for the next few weeks.