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CultureGrrl on Corcoran is “Notable & Quotable” in Wall Street Journal; More on National Gallery’s Role

Carving up the Corcoran, Steven Knapp, Peggy Loar, Earl (Rusty) Powell

Carving up the Corcoran, left to right: Steven Knapp, George Washington University; Peggy Loar, Corcoran Gallery; Earl (Rusty) Powell, National Gallery

You read it here first, art-lings.

The Wall Street Journal has just chosen to anoint as Notable and Quotable (in tomorrow’s paper, but online now) an excerpt from yesterday’s CultureGrrl post in which I was critical of the role that the National Gallery will play if the Corcoran Gallery gets court permission to disperse its collection.

Here’s an excerpt from the WSJ’s excerpt:

Two weeks ago, when I attended the Corcoran court hearings, I wandered through the National Gallery (a stone’s throw from DC Superior Court) and checked out how widely visited its American art galleries actually were. On that Monday morning, I was alone in most of the rooms, with a few exceptions such as this gallery, where an artist was painting a copy of Sargent’s “Miss Beatrice Townsend,” 1882. . .

The Sargent is one of a multitude of works that have come to the National Gallery from the Paul Mellon Collection. One cannot for a moment imagine that museum’s dispersing the works it was fortunate enough to receive from that munificent patron. Yet it is poised to become the opportunistic (and unintended) beneficiary of collector William Corcoran’s legacy for the eponymous Washington institution that he founded.

I sometimes wonder if the involvement in the Corcoran deal of the National Gallery’s director, Earl (Rusty) Powell—a distinguished long-time member of the Association of Art Museum Directors—was a significant factor in AAMD’s giving a pass to this dubious plan. AAMD noted approvingly that the proposed arrangement “preserves the Corcoran’s collections” (i.e., no works would be sold). In truth (as lamented by the notable-and-quotable Chris Crosman in yesterday’s CultureGrrl post), the plan would likely widely disperse the Corcoran’s 17,000-object collection, not just to the National Gallery but also to other institutions chosen by the National Gallery to receive whatever its own curators had no use for.

In a note to me today, a long-time CultureGrrl reader (responding to my comments about sparse visitation in the National Gallery’s American rooms) reported that visitation was also sparse during his two recent visits to the American art galleries at the Metropolitan Museum (not my experience, but every day is different). He raised the question of whether American art is “just not as popular as Impressionist or modern, etc….Is the real unsung part of the Corcoran problem the fact that it is mainly a collection of stuff folks don’t want to take the effort to go see?”

Actually, it’s contemporary art that visitors often “want to take the effort to go see.” That field is well within the Corcoran’s purview.

2012 installation of Corcoran's contemporary art collection Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

2012 installation of Corcoran’s contemporary art collection
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

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