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RSS FeedsWhy the National Gallery needs to sell a Chagall to get a David
(The Star Business)


17 april 2018 04:45:44

Why the National Gallery needs to sell a Chagall to get a David
(The Star Business)

The National Gallery of Canada has lately been in a hurry to scare up $10 million — so much so that it’s putting one of its two paintings by Modern master Marc Chagall up for sale — and on Monday, we all found out exactly why. Some sleuthing by Le Journal de Montreal last week speculated, correctly as it turns out, that the gallery’s mystery acquisition target was Jacques-Louis David’s 1779 painting Saint Jerome Hears the Trumpet of the Last Judgment, owned by the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec in Quebec City. Now, with the facts in place — the gallery revealed the secret on Monday with the cathedral’s blessing — the hand-wringing about the high-priced painting swap can begin in earnest. There will, no doubt, be many who oppose the decision. Chagall’s lofty position in the pantheon of Modern art is equalled by few, and bested by maybe only two: Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.David, a towering figure in French neo-classical painting, is no less important, an art historian would tell you, though in another era and for different reasons.National Gallery director and CEO Marc Mayer makes a strong case for this specific David’s significance to Canada: It arrived in Quebec City with a private owner in 1917, was donated to the parish in 1938, and spent 18 years on the walls of the National Gallery itself, from 1995 to 2013, before being tucked safely into the storage of the Musée de la civilisation in Quebec City for conservation. Adding it to the gallery’s already-deep collection in European art of the period “would cap off nearly two centuries of such examples in Canada’s national collection, increasing its educational value,” Mayer wrote in a statement Monday.More important is the institutional backdrop that makes this little drama possible in the first place. The National Gallery, with its $8 million annual acquisition budget, is a kingpin when it comes to buy ...
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