In Brief

Met Envy Apparently Fueled National Gallery of Art’s Interest in Corcoran

Albert Bierstadt, “The Last of the Buffalo” (c. 1888), from the collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (image via Wikipedia)

Buried in a Washington Post story about the court appearance of philanthropist Wayne Reynolds, a benefactor to the Corcoran Gallery opposed to its planned integration with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University, is this gem (emphasis added):

Reynolds cheerfully told many tales out of school, including how Dodge Thompson, chief of exhibitions at the NGA [National Gallery of Art], helped introduce Reynolds to Corcoran leaders at the elegant Italian restaurant Fiola in late 2012. According to Reynolds, Thompson was already angling for the Corcoran’s distinguished collection of 19th-century American art so that “his collection at the National Gallery would be greater than the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

“That’s laudable for a curator,” Reynolds­ said. But “doing the right things for the right reasons is good, too.”

Thompson, who was in the courtroom, said afterward that he had no comment.

The Corcoran’s collection of 19th-century American art does indeed encompass iconic works by John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Gilbert Stuart, Albert Bierstadt, and Frederic Edwin Church, among others. Whether or not that makes it the equal of the Met’s, or if the National Gallery will succeed in assimilating it into their collection, remains to be seen.

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