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Former Louvre Director Finds Something Good to Say About U.S. Museums

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Here’s an interesting turnabout: Pierre Rosenberg, the former director of the Louvre, who was known as much for thwarting the acquisition ambitions of American museums (through export restrictions) as he was for facilitating important loan exhibitions, has now atoned for his adversarial posture with a new book: Only in America: One Hundred Paintings in American Museums Unmatched in European Collections. From the publicity, it is clearly aimed at a more general audience than his usual scholarly monographs:
Calling upon recollection of his travels, books, and museum and exhibition catalogs and after lengthy discussion with many museum curators and art historians, American and European, Pierre Rosenberg chose only one work per artist, not necessarily his or her “absolute masterpiece,” but a work that is unique and enriches the idea we have of that artist. Over and above a selection that can be challenged, this book would like to be a source of reflection for all those whom the air of museums intoxicates.
Already, European commentators are sniffing that some of his selections do not lack close correspondences in European collections: In the French-language art history site, La Tribune de l’Art, Didier Rykner argues, for example, that the Louvre and the National Gallery of London own Poussins that are the equal of the Metropolitan Museum’s Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun.
Since Rosenberg anoints only one work per artist, his book (which I’ve yet to obtain) must omit the Cleveland Museum’s celebrated Poussin, “The Holy Family on the Steps,” over which Rosenberg and another formidable former museum director, Sherman Lee, famously locked horns in 1981. Rosenberg claimed its export from France violated French law; Lee insisted it didn’t.
I guess we know who won.

an ArtsJournal blog