Sunday, July 17, 2011

Collections Frozen in Time: Selections from the National Gallery of Art Library

Where: National Gallery of Art, West Building

When: through July 24, 2011

There's a small room in the National Gallery's West Building, on the ground floor, that houses little exhibitions pulled from the Gallery's library. There's very little fanfare attached to them, and I'm usually the only person in the room, unless some other visitor stumbles on the gallery accidentally. Being a librarian myself, I find these rather interesting, and if I'm alone in my interest, frankly, that's a selling point as well. The National Gallery, although in no way as crowded as the Air and Space Museum, can get pretty full, especially in the summer, and a respite from my many art-loving fellows is not to be sneezed at.

This collection deals with catalogues of private collections. They were a way for people to show off to others what they owned, whether books or art, and have become, in many instances, the only way to know what was owned by whom. One page of a royal catalogue features an entire page of drawings of paintings, not unlike the Morse painting, which I saw on the same trip and have reviewed previously. I was also struck by the Wunderkammer, the Cabinet of Curiosities, which reminded me strongly of the Natural History Museum's storage cabinets.

Verdict: Well worth a look, and it can easily be combined with a trip to another exhibition in one visit.

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