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THE EXHIBITION IN THE AGE OF MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION

AN EXHIBITION AS IMPORTANT and beautiful as “Henri Matisse: The Early Years in Nice, 1916–1930” is the occasion for many thoughts—not only about the supposedly diminished energies of the ’20s paintings, for example, but also about the phenomenon of the exhibition itself, about the official catalogue, and—given the fact that such an assemblage of works from this period is unlikely to be gathered together again in our lifetime—about the underlying assumptions that help to determine a show’s final form. Though occasioned by this particular exhibition, my remarks here are really on special loan exhibitions generally, and on some of the factors that seem to prevent them from making the most of the privilege of gathering under one roof selected works of art from collections around the world. It is a contention of this brief essay, for example, that the traditional relationship between the museum

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