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CRITICAL REFLECTIONS

NOT LONG AGO, WHEN I was visiting the Hermitage in Leningrad, I came upon something that astonished me: a medium-large painting by Claude Monet was framed in a cheap, nonreflecting glass that, with a sort of milky effect, filtered away almost half of the image. On my trip to the Pushkin Museum in Moscow I again found these panes—this time over portraits by Dutch masters—which transformed these masterworks into what resembled poorly reproduced plates from a calendar.

Of course, behind this act of passive massacre there stands the honorable intention of protecting the work of art. But in the presence of these silent, blind works there seemed to me—the astonished visitor from the West—to be a symbol, as evocative as any others I had observed, of the impediments to free communication and cultural access in the Soviet Union. How else to explain that an institution with an average of ten thousand

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