Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

A promising trend away from blockbuster rentals

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The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is currently featuring one of those big, glitzy rental shows that make a museum’s own curators wonder, “Why am I here?” You know the type: FAMSF sent France a check and the Musee d’Orsay crated up a bunch of impressionist paintings and shipped ‘em over. It’s an expensive pop: People will come for the show but you’ve done nothing to increase public engagement with the museum’s collection, the institution’s take on art history and so on. FAMSF’s professionals are turned into unpackers. The museum becomes an architectural landmark with turnstiles. It trains its audience to only show up for expensive rental shows. (Also: On the occasion of the show, FAMSF launched a new website. On Tuesday morning, it was down. Perhaps the museum can rent a website from France too?)

Meanwhile, on Friday Carol Vogel published a Meadows Museum press release (with some spicy Rob Storr for good measure) in which the museum announced a new engagement with the Prado: The Prado will loan (not rent) paintings to the Meadows. The two museums will collaborate on research and public programs. [Image: El Greco, Pentecost (c. 1600), debuts at the Meadows on Sept. 12.]

Vogel missed the bigger story: These kinds of arrangements are on the rise, so much so that they’re the emergent trend. The Frick exchanges loans (not rentals) of paintings with the Norton Simon. The Norton Simon exchanges loans with the National Gallery of Art. The Museo Nazionale Romano is loaning the Indianapolis Museum of Art several ancient sculptures.

These little loans give regular museum visitors the opportunity to see something new and fantastic within the context of a collection they already know. They deepen the relationship between audience and museum by presenting the new in the context of the familiar — and vice versa. Here’s hoping we see more of these precious exchanges.

UPDATE: Oops, I missed two.

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  1. Kelly says:

    The Art Institute of Chicago has been doing something similar for the past year when they lend one of their paintings to an exhibition. When they lent their Tintoretto “Rape of Lucretia” to Boston for their Venice show, they got Boston’s El Greco “Fray Hortensio Felix Paravicino”. They didn’t advertise or promote the loan, it was just there in the gallery when the Tintoretto normally would have been.

    They loaned their Francisco de Zurbar├ín, “Christ on the Cross” to the London and Washington DC Sacred Made Real exhibition. From the National Gallery London, the got the Caravaggion “Supper at Emmeaus” and from Washington the Orazion Gentileschi “The Lute Player”. They built non-fee special exhibitions around the two loans in the galleries.

  2. I agree that the “trading loans” concept is a wonderful thing. It was great to see Manet’s superb “Rag Picker” hanging at the NGA next to the “Old Musician.”

  3. Gerald says:

    I went to Norton Simon to see the Vermeer and the Ingres and it was a delight. Instead of having a couple of minutes to look at so many works, you spend many minutes looking at one excellent work. The Getty did something similar with the courtauld, except they paid a $20 million fee in Munitz’s days. For $20 million thy could have bought one of those excellent works… But alas, that’s another story.

  4. The FAMSF has a terrific companion show for the d’Orsay exhibit. It’s called “Impressionist Paris: City of Light.” It’s mostly pulled from the permanent collection and it’s mostly prints, posters, photos and drawings. Some works are directly related to the paintings in the d’Orsay show, others are supportive – they give visual context to the works from the d’Orsay.


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