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“Encounters”

Prediction being a fool’s game, the National Gallery is hardly the only major museum to mark the new millennium by looking to the past. Nor, in a year of seemingly compulsory celebratory blockbusters, is it the only institution to fall back on its own collection. (Imagine the frantic curatorial bargaining that would have preceded the shows of Y2K—the promises made, the favors called in—had everyone been competing to borrow the same landmark works.) The trick is to treat the collection in a way that suggests an opening of possibility rather than a resort to the tried and true. A number of museums have managed this smartly, and the National Gallery looks to be one of them.

For the “Encounters: New Art from Old” exhibition (June 14–Sept. 17), twenty-four artists are producing works inspired by an image of their choice in the museum’s collection. Appropriative and transhistorical, the concept

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