The big news in the art world is what happened to the romance between Kenneth Noland, the famous painter, and Paige Rense, the editor of Architectural Digest. They will marry in April, probably at Noland’s New England farm, is what happened. A radiant Paige is wearing an engagement ring like no other — a big heavy gold pre-Columbian circlet that runs around her finger a couple of times. Any old body can flash a solitaire.

Paige is giving an Academy Awards dinner Monday night at Mortimer’s and guess who will be there — Ken Noland!!! Along with Mary and Mike Wallace, Victor Skrebneski, Brendan Gill, Michael Graves with Kim Armour, Marilyn and Don Hewitt, Anne Cox Chambers, Linda and Arthur Carter, Betsy and Walter Cronkite, Buffy and Bill Cafritz, who are taking the train from Washington, and a restaurantful of others.

Nicollette Sheridan, the love-them-and-leave-them siren who bolted from Harry Hamlin, leaving him with a broken heart, for the charms and arms of Michael Bolton, may be more than just good friends with Jon Peters, the producer Barbra Streisand started on his way from hairdresser to Hollywood big shot years ago. Jon and Nicollette were in Honolulu together on a recent holiday, and no one thinks they went there to surfboard. Others contend that Jon, not averse to multiple choice, is still with the beautiful blonde model Vendela. Still others insist Nicollette left Michael B. because he has more hair than she does. They can be so hateful in Hollywood.

On the other hand, Virginia Madsen and Antonio Sabato have no plans to marry, even though Virg is pregnant. By Antonio, of course. Of course they could change their minds any minute, but just now they’re saying NO wedding.

Alec Baldwin is set for “Heaven’s Prisoners,” which begins shooting in Louisiana in May. Phil Joanou of the “State of Grace” Joanous will direct. Alec and Kim Basinger, who have not had a holiday in years, had to cancel their planned vacation to Japan and the Caribbean because Kim will be filming that “Ready-to-Wear” movie for the next three months. Maybe Alec decided that with so much time on his hands without the pleasure of Kim’s company, it might be better to keep busy. What is it they say about idle hands?

These are those who really don’t give a fig for the Academy Awards, and these are the very ones who will be at the Metropolitan Opera House on March 21 for the grand premiere of the new production of Verdi’s “Otello,” starring Carol Vaness as Desdemona, Placido Domingo as Otello and Sergei Leiferkus as Iago. The Texas philanthropist and music lover Sybil Harrington has underwritten the production, and Cecile Zilkha is the evening’s chairman. Valery Gergiev, the artistic director of the Kirov Opera, making his debut, will conduct the cast. And the evening will benefit the Metropolitan Opera Guild.

At the black tie supper for 525 after the performance, eating antipasto, pasta with mushrooms, and a trifle named after Otello, at tables decorated with crystal candelabra wound with ivy and centered with peach, white and coral flowers on coral damask tablecloths, will be such as Mercedes and Sid Bass, Nancy and Henry Kissinger, Bootsie and Evan Galbraith, the Italian Ambassador in Washington and Mrs. Boris Biancheri, Deeda and Bill Blair, Annette and Oscar de la Renta, Lady (Grace) Dudley (who could sing along with the cast if she wanted to), Elizabeth and Alton Peters, Carroll Petrie, Ezra Zilkha, Lucky Roosevelt, Charles Ryskamp, Lauren and John Veronis, Doda Voridis, Jerry Zipkin, Anna Moffo, Rise Stevens and all the Met’s bigwigs, too numerous to mention.

Brooke Astor likes Mayor Giuliani and Mayor Giuliani likes Brooke Astor right back. He called Brooke the first citizen of New York at the dinner Brooke gave for him and Donna Hanover Giuliani at the Knickerbocker Club the other night. And that’s only one of the many laudatory things he said about the city’s illustrious philanthropist, who met the mayor and his wife when her friend, the writer Lally Weymouth, took Brooke to Gracie Mansion to meet the Giulianis, who are also her friends.

So that’s how it was that Mayor Giuliani, who didn’t arrive until after dessert because he was meeting with a man named Clinton, was seated between Brooke and Lally when he finally did arrive. Donna, however, was there on time, looking just as fresh and full of life as she is.

The idea of the gathering was to introduce the Giulianis to some of Brooke’s friends, primarily a cross section of people who get things done in New York — just what the mayor wants to do. Laurance and Mary Rockefeller were there and so was Nancy Kissinger, Linda and Archibald Gillies, investment banker Alan Greenberg and his wife Kathy, Veronica and Randolph Hearst, Amanda Burden with Charlie Rose, Annette and Oscar de la Renta, Eric Breindel, Adele Chatfield-Taylor and John Guare, Betsy and Victor Gotbaum, Glenn Bernbaum, Barry Diller, Nancy and John Whitehead, Elizabeth and Alton Peters, George Trescher, John Sargent, Jill and Marshall Rose, Nancy and John Pierrepont, Freddie Melhado, Brooke’s son Anthony Marshall and his wife Charlene, Wendy and Bill Luers, Lee and Jay Iselin, Louise and Henry Grunwald, Barbara Goldsmith, Bill Blass, Connie and Henry Christensen, Anthony Kiser, Emily Rafferty, Patricia Sullivan, etc. And if that isn’t a cross section of the local movers and shakers, it will have to do until Brooke gives her next party.

Prince Philip, a.k.a. The Duke of Edinburgh, who will be remembered as the Queen of England’s husband, came to New York to receive the Variety Children’s Lifetime Award at the Waldorf last night. Today he’s scheduled, pronounced shed-deweled, to attend an intimate lunch for 40 at the Benihana Restaurant celebrating that chain’s 30th anniversary. Benihana founder Rocky Aoki will introduce the Prince to collectors of the Japanese artist, Ogen Hamanaka, whose works Philip admired at the Royal Academy of Art in London. The carrot? Proceeds from the sale of Hamanakamania will benefit The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Foundation. Hail Britannia? Those entrusted with guarding the gates at Benihana have been instructed to keep out one Kitty Kelley, who is writing that very unauthorized and very unwelcome biography of His Royal Highness.

Incidentally, a tidbit has popped up in the British papers concerning a meeting between Philip and his son, Prince Charles. Reportedly, they have been discussing the futures of Prince William and Prince Harry and have decided both should have a career in the Royal Navy. Princess Diana is said to be furious — something goes on every day to invoke her wrath — because she thinks her two sons should decide that sort of thing themselves. Hail Britannia?

The director Alan Pakula and his pretty wife Hannah, in Paris for the opening of his hit movie, “The Pelican Brief,” went to the famed fish restaurant Le Duc for a bit of something fishy when who should they see sitting nearby but the President of France, Francois Mitterrand, and a lovely young thing. The LYT was leaning across Mitterrand and speaking closely to him, which led the other diners to reflect — and comment — on how very intimate and romantic the whole thing looked. That’s when the Pakulas and the rest learned that Mitterand is hard of hearing and that one has to cozy right up and talk in his ear. Pouf! So much for romance.

So — the next night, the Pakulas went back to Le Duc with Lauren Bacall, who is on a strict diet and wanted something piscatorial with pas de beurre. And who was sitting there, lo and behold, when they walked in, but Princess Diana and the young princelings — who have not yet joined the navy.

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