The single picture exhibition

September 15 2011

Image of The single picture exhibition

Picture: The Art Newspaper

In these straitened times, museums are increasingly mounting single picture exhibitions. And why not? If you're a charging museum, borrowing one blockbuster masterpiece is a good way of drawing in the crowds - and extra revenue. Judith H. Dobrzynski examines the phenomenon in The Art Newspaper:

Creative use of smaller budgets for exhibitions is one driving force behind this trend. The directors we spoke to said that loan fees, design, insurance and transport costs for a single work are minuscule compared to a big thematic or an in-depth show for a single artist. Marketing tends to be the main expense, leaving museums in control of spending as much or as little as their budget allows.

Directors cite other virtues of single-work shows: they encourage people to really look, rather than move on after a few seconds to the next thing on the gallery walls. “We use them to teach how to experience a great work of art and see why it is a masterpiece,” said Brian Ferriso, the director of the Portland Art Museum. In 2009, when Ferriso arranged to bring Raphael’s La Velata, 1514-15, to Oregon from the Palatine Gallery, “people sat for ten to 20 minutes looking, and often they’d come back after going through our Renaissance galleries,” he said. Last year Portland borrowed Thomas Moran’s vast canvas Shoshone Falls on the Snake River, 1990, from the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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