It was 18 years ago that industrialist Armand Hammer and National Gallery of Art Director J. Carter Brown first approached the Soviet Union about arranging an exhibition of the work of Russian suprematist Kazimir Malevich. Yesterday, to honor his work in securing the exhibition at the National Gallery, Carter hosted a small luncheon for Hammer. The Malevich show, which opened yesterday, closes here Nov. 4 and will move on to Los Angeles, where it will officially open the Armand Hammer Cultural Center Nov. 25.

Among the guests at the luncheon in Brown's office, with its panoramic view of the Capitol: Sen. Howard Metzenbaum and his wife, Shirley; National Endowment for the Arts Chairman John Frohnmayer and his wife, Leah; Riggs National Bank Chairman Joe Allbritton and his wife, Barbara; Susan Eisenhower and her husband, Soviet scientist Roald Sagdeyev; Occidental International President William McSweeny and his wife, Dorothy; Marla Prather, National Gallery assistant curator of 20th-century art, who worked on the Malevich exhibition; and Phillip Morris Cos. executive Stephanie French. Out and About

Hot young movie star River Phoenix, in town over the weekend to receive a humanitarian award from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was at the Bayou in Georgetown last night with his band, Aleka's Attic, to perform for the Save America's Forests fund-raiser. Also at the club were young actress Martha Plimpton and the lead guitarist for the rock group Boston, Tom Scholz Phoenix, who is best known for his roles in "Stand by Me" and the current "Flatliners," performs in the band with his brother, Rain ...

Mystery writer and former steeplechase jockey Dick Francis, whose numerous one-word-title novels seem to easily make the bestsellers list, will be in town next month. He will be honorary chairman of the International Gold Cup Steeplechase Oct. 20 at the Great Meadows Course in The Plains, Va. While here, Francis, who rode in 2,305 races with more than 350 winners, will be promoting his newest book, "Longshot," his 29th mystery ...

It's been seven years since Washington filmmakers Hal and Marilyn Weiner set out to make a movie of the Arena Stage hit "K2." At one point, they said Al Pacino might star in their film, but with Pacino's career on a decided upswing, the Weiners have instead signed Michael Biehn ("Navy SEALs," "The Terminator" and "The Abyss") for the film adaptation of the Patrick Meyers Tony-winning play. It will be directed by Franc Roddam ("The Lords of Discipline" and "Quadrophenia") ...

Look out, Washington! Former pop star Sonny Bono has liked being mayor of Palm Springs so much that he is seriously considering running for the Senate from California. He said he asked Sen. Pete Wilson for advice "about going beyond this point in politics." If Wilson succeeds in his current bid for governor, he could have a hand in selecting his replacement. There is no indication that Wilson promised Bono anything ...

It's refreshing to see that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia can joke about the law business. Speaking at the 92nd annual convention of the Colorado Bar Association over the weekend, he discussed the art of writing legal briefs. They are, he said, "a subject full of paradoxes, not the least of which is the name 'brief.' ... These things are 50 pages long." He explained that the word has its origin in the "ancient Saxon word braf" and another word -- made with the same letters arranged slightly differently -- "that means, roughly translated, to go on and on at great length until it makes you sick" ...