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Jacopo Tintoretto, “Paradise” (c. 1563-1583) (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the most buzzed-about art shows of 2019 — an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art of 16th-century Italian master Jacopo Tintoretto — is in jeopardy as the partial federal government shutdown enters its second month.

Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice, the first retrospective of the Venetian artist to be presented in North America, was set to open on March 10, along with two companion exhibitions of Venetian prints and drawings.

But employees of the NGA are among the 800,000 furloughed government workers currently living without pay. The shutdown has prevented them from preparing for the exhibition, which features 46 paintings and more than a dozen works on paper, ranging from regal portraits of Venetian aristocracy to scenes from Greek mythology.

Planned as a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the artist’s birth, the show was on view in Venice at the Palazzo Ducale until January 6th. To prepare for its installation at the National Gallery, employees must paint gallery walls, install display cases and wall texts, and hang the works, including the massive oil painting “Paradise” and “Saint Martial in Glory with Saint Peter and Saint Paul” (1549), which is leaving Italy for the first time. These preparations are weeks behind schedule, and it’s unclear whether the exhibition will open in March as planned.

Tintoretto’s 500th birthday celebration is only the latest major art event to fall victim to the shutdown, which has forced government-sponsored museums and galleries to temporarily close. The offices of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) have also been shuttered, jeopardizing funding for many public arts projects, including an upcoming celebration of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Openings for several upcoming exhibitions — including Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence, at the National Portrait Gallery, and Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths, at the National Museum of African Art — have been indefinitely postponed.

According to the Washington Post, no new opening dates will be announced until the shutdown is over, which will hopefully happen sometime before Tintoretto’s 501st birthday.

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Carey Dunne

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.

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