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With a little luck this week, "Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo in Detroit" could become the most popular special exhibition the Detroit Institute of Arts has mounted in 15 years.

The show closes Sunday. Tickets are still available.

As of Thursday, 146,000 people had filed through the four galleries that comprise the exhibition. A surge over the next six days could conceivably push that past the 171,000 visitors who attended "Degas & the Dance" in 2002.

"Our goal for 'Diego & Frida' was 200,000 visitors," said DIA spokeswoman Pam Marcil. "So there'd have to be hefty attendance in the next week to hit that."

But Marcil added, "We're really happy with the response, and as interested in the quality of the visitor experience as the quantity. The feedback on that we're getting exceeds our expectations."

Visitors emerging from the exhibition Wednesday, which was mobbed in the late morning, appeared to underline Marcil's point.

"It's a great show," said retired New York City schoolteacher Daniel Neudell, who came to Detroit specifically to see it.

"It's full of variety," he said, "with some super-famous things I'd seen in New York and Mexico, as well as others that were new to me. It's an outstanding complement to the 'Detroit Industry' murals."

Dana Kronberg of Detroit said she'd heard mixed things about the exhibit from friends, but after walking through couldn't see what they were talking about.

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"The show exceeded my expectations," she said. "I'd heard that Frida's art was 'sparse' compared to Diego's, but I didn't find that at all. I liked the short videos, and thought the whole thing was very nicely done."

Her friend Amy Krings, also of Detroit, said she's visited the key Rivera-Kahlo sites in Mexico City, and initially worried the exhibition would be dumbed-down for people, as she put it, "who only know that Frida had a unibrow."

That's not what she found.

"Ultimately I thought it was very successful, both for people who know the artists' work," Krings said, "and those who don't."

At least 37 news outlets here and abroad covered the exhibition; including admiring stories in the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Review of Books and The Economist.

Kristin Horne and Pete Benson, of Chicago, said frequent references to the quality of the museum's collection during Detroit's bankruptcy piqued their interest.

"We were going to come anyhow just to see the museum," Horne said, "but when we heard this was opening, it was a done deal."

They apparently weren't the only ones. "A couple friends in Chicago over the past few months have said, 'Hey — anyone interested in a road trip to Detroit?' " said Benson.

While "Diego & Frida" might end up doing better than any show since 2000, it's unlikely to top the 350,000 who attended the 1999 exhibition about one of the most famous artists in history, "Van Gogh: Face to Face."

Nor is it likely to beat "Diego Rivera: A Retrospective," which the museum organized in 1986 and drew 228,000 visitors.

Why would a solo Rivera show do better than the combined forces of Kahlo and Rivera? There may be a simple answer.

"The 1986 Rivera show was free," said Marcil.

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'Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo in Detroit'

Through Sunday, Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward, Detroit

■Today only: 9 a.m.-6 p.m., exhibition tickets $6

■9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-midnight Sunday

Tickets: Adults, $14 Tuesday-Friday, $19 Saturday and Sunday; kids, 6-17, $9 Tuesday-Sunday

Information: (313) 833-4005, dia.org

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