Saturday, February 21, 2015

Looking at the Loot from the Corcoran

Where: National Gallery of Art

When: through May 3, 2015

Art lovers in the Washington DC area are well aware of the events surrounding the closure of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the acquisition by the National Gallery of their collection.  For those of you not familiar with this saga, I would direct you to the Washington Post's coverage of the decision to close, the litigation surrounding this decision and the final disposal of the building, the art school and the works of art.  All you need to know for the purposes of this blog post is that there used to be an art museum in DC called the Corcoran; it has closed due to financial difficulties, and the National Gallery of Art has obtained the collection.

The Gallery has spent an enormous amount of time and energy in evaluating the works, and has added some items to its collection already.  When the full evaluation process is complete, more items will come to the Gallery and others will be given to other institutions in the local area.

Visitors currently have an opportunity to see some of the lovely items obtained from the Corcoran in two small shows currently up at the National Gallery.  One, on the ground floor, highlights works on paper created between 1860 and 1990; the other, on the main floor, features American masterworks from 1815 - 1940.

There are works I liked very much in both shows, which are easily managed in one lunch hour.  The works on paper includes the wonderful Homer piece pictured here - he's not all depressing seascapes and dead fish.  Here you feel you're out on a lake enjoying a summer day, a welcome thought as DC's temperatures plunge into the single digits.  There's also a Calder, which looks mobile-esque, even though it's a drawing.  I was also drawn (no pun intended) to Sol Lewitt's "Bands of Lines in Four Directions."  Good color in that, I thought.

Where the works on paper feature small pieces, the masterworks show has some quite large items.  Not just the Niagara painting pictured above (note: a reproduction really doesn't do it justice), but a Samuel Morse painting of the House of Representatives and Hiram Powers' Greek Slave sculpture.  She's placed in the middle of the first room, but I must say, I prefer her position by the staircase in the Corcoran.

It was fun for me to see things I'd first glimpsed on my tour of the Corcoran last fall, but it made me realize how melancholy those who loved that museum must be to see these items go elsewhere.  I suppose they can take solace in knowing that the works are staying in DC, and will be well cared for and (I'm assuming) on display.  As for myself, I'm quite eager to know what will happen to the Yinka Shonibare piece I saw there on my visit.  The National Gallery has decided to take it, but I don't know where exactly it will go.  Perhaps to the newly renovated East Building?

Verdict: The Corcoran's loss is the National Gallery's gain - come see some of what they've carted off.

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