WHAT: "Dialogues: Duchamp, Cornell, Johns, Rauschenberg," at the Dallas Museum of Art.

WHEN: Sept. 4-Jan. 8

HOW MUCH: $10. Free Thursdays 5-9 p.m. and the first Tuesday of every month.

WHY GO: Twentieth-century artists Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Cornell, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg carried on an intense collaboration in their work, directly and indirectly, with Duchamp leading the way in challenging traditional boundaries. He "sort of changed the course of all the art we look at now," says senior curator Dorothy Kosinski. Through forms as apparently simple as a sealed box or as intricate as a three-dimensional assemblage, the artists influenced the dada, neo-dada, surrealist, abstract expressionist and pop art movements. The museum's exhibit features more than 40 works (mostly from its permanent holdings) and is designed to invite visitors into the artists' "overt and covert dialogues" in both sweeping and subtle ways.

DON'T MISS . . . Duchamp's "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors Even [The Green Box]" (1934), a compilation of papers, sketches, images and handwritten notes on his enigmatic "Large Glass." Duchamp (1887-1968), who was born in France but lived in the United States from 1942 on, is the most widely represented of the four artists, and his work inspired many of the ideas that the three younger artists explored. "Skyway" (1964) is an encyclopedia of themes Rauschenberg created for the World's Fair. Rauschenberg, born in 1925, juxtaposes images of John F. Kennedy, downtown construction, Rubens's "Venus With a Mirror" and a hovering astronaut in various shapes and tints to suggest multiple meanings, as the quartet loved to do.

EXTRAS: "Dialogues" promises to draw people into, behind and beyond the artists' work in a variety of ways: music, dance, film, poetry recitations and even an ongoing chess match -- a nod to Duchamp's admiration of the game.

The museum is the cornerstone of the 60-acre Arts District, on the northeastern edge of downtown. Across Harwood Street is the Nasher Sculpture Center (2001 Flora St., 214-242-5100, www.nashersculpturecenter.org), a museum and open-air garden at the base of the city's skyline. The Crow Collection of Asian Art (2010 Flora St., 214-979-6430, www.crowcollection.org), on the same block, spans China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia with more than 600 paintings, metal and stone objects, and large architectural pieces.

GETTING AROUND: The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light-rail system (www.dart.org) has two stops in the Arts District, St. Paul and Pearl. DART connects the district to downtown and the trendy Uptown areas, or travel by bus or cab -- $8 to $10 will get you to the renovated warehouse district of Deep Ellum.

EATS: The museum's Atrium Cafe goes well beyond standard lunch fare with such offerings as sun-dried-cherry chicken salad on fresh greens ($6) and sandwiches in the $7 to $8 range. A tonier choice is the museum's Seventeen Seventeen Restaurant (214-880-9018), with artistically presented, even sculpted, food. A full meal runs $30 to $40.

Downtown, Jeroboam (Main and Akard streets, 214-748-7226) is a brasserie serving lunch, midafternoon supper and dinner in the New American style: Sonoma chicken breast and spider crab relleno ($25), for instance, as well as a variety of grilled meats and seafood. Lunch entrees run $16 to $35; dinner, $25 to $40.

In Deep Ellum, you can eat well and feel at home for less than $10 a person at the AllGood Cafe (2934 Main St., 214-742-5362), which offers three meals a day and breakfast anytime.

SLEEPS: The elegant Fairmont Dallas (1717 N. Akard St., 800-114-1414, www.fairmont.com) is around the corner from the Museum of Art; its "Experience the Arts" package includes a double room for $219 a night, welcome champagne, a $25 credit for its Pyramid Grill, buffet breakfast and two tickets to two museums. More budget-minded comfort can be found at Bradford Homesuites (2914 Harry Hines Blvd., 888-486-7829, www.bradfordsuites.com) downtown near DART's West End station; a studio suite starts at $79 a night on weekends.

INFO: Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood St., 214-922-1200, www.dallasmuseumofart.org.

-- Margaret Roth

At the Dallas Museum of Art, viewers can see how elements of Jasper Johns's "Target" (c. 1955-1975) repeat themes in works by Marcel Duchamp.Leonardo da Vinci's portrait gets a makeover in Joseph Cornell's "Untitled (Mona Lisa)" (c. 1940-1942).