Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

I offer a preview that is also a wish list for the season ahead.

For starters I want to see our big museums seriously rethink the blockbuster phenomenon. It started decades ago as a publicity stunt and quickly became an addiction for audiences and museums alike. African art, Armani, motorcycles, Matisse — who cared what as long as there was a lot. But as a default exhibition mode, supersizers can be killers. They divert attention from everything else in the museum and cost a bundle.

These days not even the Metropolitan Museum of Art can afford to be the blockbuster multiplex it was, with two or three monster loan shows running at once. And good riddance to that. Shows like “Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor, 1156-1868,” are worth the expense, being made up of stuff we could never otherwise see. (Most of the objects in “Art of the Samurai” will go right back to the temples they came from.) But I can’t think of any good reason for the museum to be renting acres of Turners or Courbets ever again.

I propose that the Met convert one of its huge special exhibition spaces into permanent collection galleries to display some of the millions of objects it owns but never brings out for lack of room. And I recommend that that material be presented in small, smart, frequently changing shows that feed our hunger for novelty, but also change our habits of looking, our idea of what a great exhibition can be.


Holland Cotter
New York Times