Thursday, May 18, 2006


The Clark Does It Right

Every once in a while, I do take the "Grrrr" out of CultureGrrl and try to say something nice.

Kudos, then, to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., for touring 12 of its most important Impressionist masterpieces to small regional museums around the country---not as a money-maker but simply as a collegial collection-sharing initiative. Having just come back from the first leg of their tour, the Renoir, Monet, Degas, Manet, etc., will summer at home during the hot Berkshires tourist season. Then off they go to the San Antonio Museum of Art, Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, and Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha.

At a time when so many museums are trying to raise big bucks off the backs of their sister institutions by renting out their treasures, it's refreshing to encounter a museum director, Michael Conforti, who disinterestedly wants to share the public's patrimony with a wider audience. (Don't get me started about the Louvre in Atlanta; that's for a future post!)

The last time I can remember a museum's mounting a comparable intiative was the Whitney Museum's program under its now deposed director, Max Anderson (who ran into conflicts with his board and will soon take over the Indianapolis Museum of Art). That ambitious collection-sharing program was funded by Tyco International under its subsequently imprisoned CEO, L. Dennis Kozlowski. Talk about ill-fated!

(Speaking of the umbrella-stand connoisseur, the NY Times reported on Sunday that Kozlowski just agreed "to pay $21.2 million to settle charges of avoiding New York sales tax on 12 paintings, including a Monet, a Renoir and a Bouguereau." That's what first got him into trouble. The rest is history.)

But the Clark doesn't do everything right: Putting an artificial ice skating/hockey rink out back, as part of its planned Tadeo Ando expansion, seems destined to disrupt the ambiance of peaceful contemplation that makes the Clark such a welcome rural retreat. Does every Ando museum need to have a "water feature"? Please rethink this!

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