Museum swap-shop

September 20 2011

Image of Museum swap-shop

Picture: MFA Boston

Would you swap Monet's The Fort of Antibes (above), plus seven other works, for Gustave Caillebotte's Man at His Bath (below)? The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston plans to sell eight pictures worth up to $24 million to fund their new naked acquisition. 

Alan Wirzbicki in the Boston Globe disagrees with the scheme:

Call me a philistine, but somehow this just doesn’t strike me as an astute trade. Why not? Well, let me count the ways.

This painting, “Man at His Bath,” is not an eye-catching celebration of the human form, a la Michelangelo’s "David." Rather, it’s an everyday view of… well, mostly of an everyday butt. Which is basically what George Shackelford, chairman of the museum’s Art of Europe Department, said in Monday’s Globe.

“This guy is no Arcadian bather,” he noted. “It’s perfectly mundane — and expressly so.” One would think that self-evidently accurate appraisal would lead to this equally obvious notion: It’s probably not worth selling scenes by Monet, Gauguin, Sisley, Pissarro, and Renoir to acquire that perfectly mundane scene. Look, I’m not saying I wouldn’t trade one of those Jean Baptiste Camille Corot’s more-milky-March-sky-over-the-river scenes, but that’s about as far this guy would go. And I expect most museum-goers would agree with me.

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