In 1989 John Pope-Hennessy wrote an article for these pages entitled “The Fall of a Great Museum,” in which, as a former director, he deplored recent developments at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.1 It was a memorable attack, full of anger and contempt—an attack which still rankles in certain quarters. It was part of a general outcry which brought about the quiet reversal of some proposed policies, but which failed to secure its chief object, the ousting of the then-director, Elizabeth Esteve-Coll. Rereading Pope-Hennessy’s article recently, I was struck less by the broad thrust of the argument than by several assumptions on which it rested, all of which seem to indicate a shift of taste and intellectual approach since the days of his directorship.

Pope-Hennessy was dismissive of a master plan which had been drawn up, under which the museum would gradually be returned to its original look—doorways or views which had been blocked off would be opened up again, modernist cladding and false ceilings removed, the circulation of the visitors around the sequences of rooms would be made more logical, and so forth. “This was foolish,” Pope-Hennessy wrote, “because visitors come to a museum to look at works of art, not at the buildings in which they are housed.” And again: “No museum can allow itself the luxury of an archaeological approach towards its own galleries….” And finally: “The function of museums is to educate, and at the Victoria and Albert this is achieved through its collections, not through its architecture.”

One might ask why, if the architecture of the V&A was a matter of indifference to the visitor, it had been found necessary over the years to cover so much of it up. Why should it have been thought necessary to chisel the Minton tiles off the walls and prise them off the floor of the ceramics gallery if they were doing no harm? The answer is that they were indeed thought to be doing harm. People looked at them and shuddered. They were oppressive, institutional, “like a public lavatory.” The architecture was the enemy of the art it housed.

Why (to take a parallel example) should Thomas Hoving have wanted, during his tenure at the Metropolitan Museum, to tear out the grand staircase? Not, I suppose, because he was indifferent to it, but because he hated it—thought it put people off, gave “the wrong signals.” It was explained to me recently that there was a phase, throughout the museum world, in which all the old main entrances were thought to look wrong and off-putting, and so new extensions were built (“usually by I.M. Pei”) to provide, among other benefits, a supposedly friendlier and less awesome approach. But the signs are that we may have weathered this trend.

When Malcolm Rogers took over the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (one of several American clones of the V&A), he reopened the old main entrance on Huntington Avenue, making the act symbolic of the museum’s ceasing to turn its back on the city, and inviting local politicians to assist at the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon. Main entrances, he demonstrated (neatly turning the symbolism on its head), are “about access.” Grand architecture is allowed once again to be grand. Enthusiastic staff members in Boston point you in the direction of the Koch Gallery, which is now conceived as a princely collection in the seventeenth-century style, with oil paintings hung in three tiers, and the different European schools harmoniously mixed.

A similar swaggering look, and a double or triple hang, has been returned to the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille. Here the architects, Jean-Marc Ibos and Myrto Vitart, were able, in one operation (it took six years of closure), to strip the whole of the old building of its false ceilings and other accretions, remove the administration offices to a new block, extend the basement, almost double the exhibition space, and reassert all the values of the old building in a modern context. Or, to be truthful, with a touch of irony here and there—arches picked out with fairy lights, a couple of large, assertive, multicolored chandeliers. One may argue with some of the details of the design. But the principle of the approach, that of playing to the strengths of the original building, is wonderfully vindicated.

It is in the context of such restorations that one turns to the new silver gallery at the V&A, which occupies the premises of the original ceramics gallery. Here the tiled pillars have been where possible restored, the decorated ceiling uncovered, and there are photographs to show what the space looked like at previous stages of its history—precisely what Pope-Hennessy meant by an “archaeological approach” to the gallery, but one which is bound to delight the taste of a public which, for the last couple of decades, has been carrying out precisely this sort of renovation in Victorian and Edwardian houses—uncovering and restoring what the real estate agents approvingly call “original features.”


Tastes change. The American museums which copied the example of the South Kensington (as the V&A was originally known) all kicked off with large collections of plaster casts, partly because these were a conventional educational resource of the time and partly because there was some pessimism about the extent to which it would be possible to obtain original works of art from Europe. Here is an extract from the proposal by Charles Callahan Perkins, in 1869, for the establishment in Boston of “a Museum of Art of the character of that at South Kensington”:

Original works of art being out of our reach on account of their rarity and excessive costliness, and satisfactory copies of paintings being nearly as rare and costly as originals, we are limited to the acquisition of reproductions in plaster and other analogous materials of architectural fragments, statues, coins, gems, medals, and inscriptions, and of photographs of drawings by the old masters, which are nearly as perfect as the originals from which they are taken, and quite as useful for our purposes.2

Nor did this pessimism fade over the next decade. In 1880 we find Martin Brimmer, president of the Boston Museum’s board of trustees, arguing that at the rate that works of art by the “older painters and sculptors” were being gathered into the public collections of Europe, they would, in another generation, be almost unobtainable.

One could imagine that, as the pessimism subsided and the museums did indeed fill up with original works of art, those plaster casts became associated with leaner times. They would become an embarrassment (“This is what we thought of as sophistication in those days”) or an unwelcome reminder (“This was all we could afford when we were starting out”). And just as in England, after the Second World War, nobody wanted to eat another rabbit stew, or a fish called snoek, so the last thing you would want in an American museum would be a vista of plaster casts of the Winged Victory, the Venus de Milo, or the Dancing Faun—replicas which look so splendid in the early photographs of the Art Palace in Cincinnati.3

But there must have been more to it than that. For while all but one of the cast collections in the States were dismantled during this century (the exception being Pittsburgh), the same animus against casts grew up in Europe. Casts were deceptive, inauthentic, had no “truth to the material” (although nothing, of course, displays the virtues of plaster as a material so much as the plaster cast), were worse than photographs. Perhaps it was their role in education that came to be detested. In the first part of this century, one spent the first year at the Slade School at Oxford drawing nothing but plaster casts in the Antique Room. By the Fifties, this rule had been relaxed, and the new student could work both from the casts and from live models. Within a few years, however, the Antique Room had been dismantled and its casts dispersed or destroyed.

At the V&A, where the casts are numerous and occupy two large courts, covetous eyes were often turned in their direction, the last time around 1976 when Roy Strong wanted to convert the space they were occupying. The casts survived only by the skin of their teeth, partly because it could now be argued that they recorded monuments that had been destroyed by war, and also that a cast such as that of Trajan’s Column was a record of the column as it was in the 1870s (before Roman pollution had taken its toll).

For a while, the cast courts remained closed for restoration. When they reopened in the early Eighties, they proved popular at once, for their grandeur and comprehensiveness. But over the last decade staff at the museum have noticed more and more students coming to draw from the casts. And the educational literature put out by the museum encourages both drawing and writing about the plaster casts, proposing storylines for schoolchildren to develop such as: “You have never seen an emperor so your mother has taken you to see the procession of Trajan and his army. Describe your day out.” Or, taking the point of view of the underdog: “You are a Dacian child. Describe your feelings as the man who conquered your people makes a visit.” Or:

…Show pupils the engraving of the original Trajan’s column in Rome and tell them that they have been sent by the Museum to make a plaster copy for the collection. How will they do it? They will have to work out exactly how to cast it and how to display it in the Museum.4

A somewhat unrealistic assignment, the reader may feel, but evidence of the return to favor of the plaster cast.



Of course one goes to a museum “to look at the building”—how could it be otherwise? The first time I saw the interior of the Gare d’Orsay, it was home to the theater company of Jean-Louis Barrault and Madeleine Renaud. An ingenious wooden capsule auditorium skulked in the gloom of the old railway station, which seemed just a ghost of a building. The second time, the building itself was the hero of the day. Every level had a use, and could be explored. That simultaneous experience of art and engineering seemed entirely appropriate to the collections the Musée d’Orsay had brought together. Later, with the renovation of the Louvre, the Cour Marly and the Cour Puget (previously unremarked ministerial courtyards) became home to an outstanding collection of French open-air sculpture. Going to see the building was a great part of the thrill.

To take another familiar example, if in New York you go up that grand main staircase at the Met, and turn left along the corridor in which they display drawings and photographs, you come to a window on your right, from which you can look down into the Petrie Court, where European sculpture is displayed. People often pause at this window, I have noticed, to take in the elegant coolness of the view. It is a garden, a winter garden, created by the glazing in of a space between two imposing exterior walls. At the far end, behind a wall of glass, is a view of Central Park. Carpeaux’s Count Ugolino starves to death beside the refreshment stand. Bourdelle’s Herakles the Archer (a fluke success by an unbearable sculptor) takes aim in his improbable way, with his right knee on the ground and his left foot pushing against a rocky outcrop. Most of the sculptures are on this monumental scale, such as would fit in a garden or park. Some are remarkable, some distinctly less so, but they all help each other out. There is greenery and there are park benches, places to sit away from the movement of the crowds. And all this is an architectural achievement, appropriate for the interpretation and enjoyment of the art.

Not every museum is as rich in monumental sculpture, but the V&A, which houses Britain’s national sculpture collection, has plenty. Bernini’s Neptune and Triton (a famous landmark from the garden of the Villa Montalto in Rome, on the site of today’s Termini station), Giambologna’s Samson Slaying a Philistine (part of a fountain in Florence, later in the Royal Gardens at Valladolid), Roubiliac’s Handel (a London landmark, from the Vauxhall Gardens)—all of them famous pieces of garden sculpture. But the V&A has no space comparable to the Met’s in which to show them. They have a courtyard, which was paved and prepared by Roy Strong during his directorship, the paving being made strong enough to take the weight of sculpture. Strong asked his curator for some sculptures to display in his new garden, and was turned down, rightly, on conservation grounds. He had omitted to glaze his courtyard in.

Not only has the (often canvassed) possibility of creating a winter garden for the V&A’s sculpture not been taken up. It was very nearly rendered impossible in the original version of Daniel Libeskind’s current project for the development of the museum. But it is not simply a matter of saying, “Wouldn’t it be fun to glaze the courtyard over? To make a palm court, like the one at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen?” Although it would be fun, palms or no palms. Rather it is a question of the clarity and logic of the collection. How do I proceed from Donatello to Giambologna, from Giambologna to Bernini, from Bernini to Canova, from Canova to the last period covered by the collection—Rodin? The answer is: by luck or ingenuity. You will find the Rodins way up in the obscure Henry Cole wing, with the Constables. But these (Rodin’s own gift to the museum) are among the most asked-after pieces in the collection.

If you feel confused at the V&A, you are not alone. Great minds have been utterly baffled. Here is Jacob Burkhardt in 1879:

After having a meal in one of the oldest pubs in the city…I took the Underground train to the South Kensington Museum. There my amazement grew immensely! Where shall our art history lead when a collection is assembled in this manner and nobody provides a general view…? What confuses me terribly is that, apart from the decorative and applied arts, this collection includes so incredibly many important original artistic objects of the…highest rank.5

Burkhardt would have been even more confused had he seen the museum in its first quarters, at Marlborough House, where the principle of display appears to have been “the juxtaposition of dissimilar objects for aesthetic effect.” The Museum of Ornamental Art, as it was then called, had few predecessors, and there was as yet no set of doctrines about museum display.

The history of such museums is often said to begin with Alexandre du Sommerard, who rented the Hôtel de Cluny in Paris in 1832 and furnished its rooms with a miscellaneous collection of antiques, creating an overall gothic-romantic effect not unlike William Beckford’s Fonthill. Suits of armor stood beside a four-poster bed on which helmets had been casually laid, as if the first thing one did in the morning was get up and put on one’s armor. Or as if one changed before dinner into a helmet. Plausible pieces of furniture were dotted around the chapel, to which a mannequin of a monk imparted atmosphere. The whole eclectic effect belongs to a tradition stretching from Beckford to William Randolph Hearst.6

The Hôtel de Cluny became a museum in 1842. Two years later a very different museum was opened in a private house in Liegnitz (the modern Legnica) by a Prussian nobleman, Alexander von Minutoli. Here the collections were organized in a way which South Kensington would copy—they were set out according to material. The subject of the collection was the industrial production of the past: glass, pewter, iron, linen, and wool were the regional industries represented, and there were displays of model machines and tools illustrating each process from raw material to finished product, with painted landscape backdrops and architectural and other decorative elements to the display.7 Prince Albert bought a set of 150 photographs of these collections, beautiful slated paper prints which he presented to South Kensington in 1855. They are the work of the German photographer Ludwig Belitski, and their purpose was “to provide craftsmen with clear illustrations of the best technical models.”

If Minutoli’s museum (which was eventually dispersed at auction) provides the only closely comparable forbear of South Kensington, as a museum, there remains another fruitful source of parallels which the excellent catalog of the V&A’s Baltimore show, A Grand Design, can do no more than touch on. This is the world of those centers of vocational training which were developed in France in the early nineteenth century, the art schools for industry of which the most famous is known as the Petite Ecole (the Ecole Gratuite de Dessin). There is an admirable account of these in Anne Middleton Wagner’s Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux: Sculptor of the Second Empire.8

They grew up in answer to a need for workers with such skills as tracing patterns in a textile factory, or working on buildings which involved elaborate ornamental detail. Their teaching methods relied on the copying of engravings, lithographs, models, and casts. They promised the worker that by learning geometry and drawing

…you will find the means simultaneously to become more skillful and better able to command your salary. Until now, since your instruction has been left entirely in your own hands, you have not been able to recognize this truth. It’s a great misfortune for you, because your future always stays null, you must stay ordinary workers all your lives, no matter what talents nature has blessed you with.9

The education these art schools provided had always this promise of betterment for the worker, coupled with an ambiguous allure: Who knows if one might not pass from being an artisan, by stages, to full status as an artist? What is more, who could tell at what stage one had passed from one category into the next? Both Carpeaux and Rodin made this journey, working on the border between the decorative and the fine arts—Carpeaux devising his elaborate doorway in Valenciennes, Rodin decorating buildings in Brussels. Both were the product of the Petite Ecole.

If, throughout the history of the South Kensington Museum, a battle has been fought between the fine and the applied arts and their demands upon the institution, it is the same battle that took place within the lives of the artists of the nineteenth century, and within their art. To cite one example from Anne Wagner: when Charles Garnier employed sculptors to provide reliefs for the Paris Opéra, he was quite clear in his mind that the job of the sculptor as such was finished when his full-scale model was produced. The job of executing the model in stone might go to the lowest bidder. Here is Garnier explaining himself to two sculptors who objected:

Your pride should be in no way wounded by my manner of proceeding, and I believe that in the relations I have had with sculptors I have always treated them as artists. But the role of the artist ceases when the model is finished, and in the matter of execution they become, quite simply, contractors. They ought not, therefore, to take offense in any way. If I make use of competition, it is not only my legal right but my duty as an employer, and your pride ought to suffer not at all.10

If Carpeaux had wanted to make exorbitant demands for the carving of his masterpiece, La Danse, Garnier would not have allowed him to carve it. And that was that.

In 1858 the Mechanics Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio, wrote to the Petite Ecole asking for full details of the materials the students were given to study. They wanted to know everything, down to the shape of the benches the students sat on. And it is surely just another part of the same historical process when the members of the Women’s Art Museum Association in Cincinnati began their campaign, in the mid-1870s, to found a museum on the same lines as the one in South Kensington. They wanted to promote industry. They wanted to make Cincinnati a center for pottery, to rival Staffordshire or Limoges.

They began by painting blank porcelain teacups, and holding a Martha Washington party, where guests were served tea in commemorative cups, which were for sale. They went on to develop their woodcarving school, their local art museum, and their own pottery. Within a decade they were in a position to send “a small but representative collection of Rookwood,” their pottery, to the forerunner of the Smithsonian, in return for which they received thirty-one pieces of American Indian pottery, mostly from New Mexico.11 Acting on the advice of South Kensington, they bought a collection of European arms and armor, “Elkington wares” (electroplated copies of metalwork), and a large collection of European laces. The sense, from the very start, that any kind of art might be relevant to their practical purposes, meant that they spread their net widely—exchanging pottery with Berlin and, at the same time, buying 1000 pieces of African art within four years of their opening in 1886.

The pattern of collection in Boston was similar. The curators of the Museum of Fine Arts began with a collection of arms and armor. Unfortunately the great fire of 1872 destroyed the warehouse where this collection was stored. With the insurance money from the armor collection, they bought a collection of Italian textiles, embroideries, carved wood, and metalwork, and we learn that “among the objects, which were thought to be of considerable potential usefulness to designers, were various altar cloths and vestments, including a superb red and gold sixteenth-century Italian chasuble, ornamented with the golden bees of the Barberini family.”12

Many museums were founded in imitation of the V&A. The most surprising is the Bargello in Florence, which was inspired by both South Kensington and the Cluny museum. The building, essentially the old police station, had been cunningly restored in the 1850s, but it was not until 1865, when Florence was the capital of Italy, that it became the national museum of sculpture and related arts and crafts. Some of the South Kensington clones still resemble their original: the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has happily preserved, both on its exterior and in its grand entrance, in its stained glass and decorations, the look of a museum which proclaims its own history and purposes. It rather resembles the original building of the Boston museum in Copley Square.

But generally speaking the copies began to diverge from the model in two ways. The first was that, as they grew, and grew large, the method of organizing one’s material either in the Cluny style, for vague atmosphere, or in the Minutoli style, by material, became less and less satisfactory. South Kensington stuck with the latter, but the approach pioneered in Berlin by Wilhelm von Bode proved more inspiring in America. Bode’s approach was to group objects in different mediums from the same period:

The chief aim should be the greatest possible isolation of each work and its exhibition in a room which, in all material aspects, such as lighting and architecture, should resemble, as near as may be, the apartment for which it was originally intended.13

These galleries were not literally recreations of specific period rooms. Rather they assembled paintings, sculpture, and furniture from roughly the same period, and presented them in plausible and sympathetic juxtapositions. The end result, it has been noted, resembled very much the interiors of collectors’ houses of the day.

The V&A was very late in copying any such arrangement. It went for the rows and rows of objects in glass cases which Bode particularly disliked. It was a sort of reference library, where one could look up, say, a type of candlestick, and find it displayed with all its variations. It was interested in the process of manufacture. That is why, for instance, its collections include sculptor’s wax and terra cotta models. It wanted to show the way things were done, but it was only in this century that the perception grew that there might be a conflict between “the interests of the craftsman, the collector, the specialist, the amateur and the general public.”14 Still, in 1959, the encyclopedic purpose of the collections was reasserted by the keeper of ceramics, Arthur Lane, when he wrote that “there is much to be said for treating all members of the public as if they were potentially serious. Anyone who owns a piece of china should be able to walk along the galleries, and by comparing it with the labeled pieces exhibited in the cases, form some idea of what it is likely to be.”15

The second way the copies diverged from the original South Kensington ideal, at least in cities which did not have another main art museum, was that the fine arts took pride of place in the collections, and within the fine arts it was painting which always asserted its predominance. The V&A does have a large collection of paintings (twice as many as the National Gallery, they say) but it never built up its galleries in the way that Boston or the Met did. Eyebrows would be raised if the V&A suddenly decided to buy, say, a Poussin. Indeed, it has often been argued that the paintings (or at least the oil paintings) at the V&A should go somewhere more appropriate. That the museum is home to the Raphael cartoons is explained by the fact that they are cartoons for tapestries.

To Pope-Hennessy, the past of the V&A was quaint and receding. “It is hard to imagine,” he wrote, “what manufacturers and artisans can conceivably have made of the Renaissance metalwork and Hispano-Moresque dishes shown at Marlborough House.” The purpose now was to show art: “The reason people visit museums is to look at works of art…. Great works of art are immutable, and so is the wish of vast numbers of people to look at them.” But great works of art are not immutable, and no one would have been better equipped than Pope-Hennessy to debate the opposite case from the one he put.

Take Michelangelo. It was Pope-Hennessy who established that the V&A’s Narcissus was “an ancient copy of a Hellenistic model of a warrior” probably reworked and restored by Valerio Cioli. Up till then it had been one of the most celebrated objects in the museum. It is now in Baltimore, in the traveling show, one of many objects which have changed their significance over the years. Pope-Hennessy in his catalog reassigned no fewer than eighteen other Michelangelos from the museum’s collection alone.

One does not have to be extreme, and say that Michelangelo is a fictional character about whom each generation tells a different story, to recognize that the Michelangelo Bode knew is rather different from the one we know today. And it would be odd to suppose that our understanding of his work will stand still. The Narcissus was believed, when found, to be the Cupid (or Cupid-Apollo) recently located in Manhattan. If the Manhattan marble becomes accepted (and the recent documentation for it has already made the proposal considerably more likely than when the identification was first announced16 ), it will shift our perspective on the artist, just as the discovery of the wooden crucifix in Santo Spirito did. Meanwhile, even since the Manhattan marble, another interesting attribution to Michelangelo has been made—a Hercules Pomarius in the V&A.17 Michelangelo is on the move again.

If you are interested in the history of taste, and of the great shifts in perception that have occurred over the last century and a half, then the Baltimore show will not disappoint. It is perhaps the first time that a major museum has presented its own history in this way. It is not a “Treasures of the V&A” show in a straight, populist sense. The woman ahead of me in the line at Baltimore had it right when she remarked to her companion, as they put on their headsets: “Oh, by the way—it’s intellectual.” The catalog is particularly good, both in its essays and particularly in the entries for individual objects, each of which is made to illustrate a point about the way the collection grew over the years.

Mark Haworth-Booth’s Photography: An Independent Art is designed to accompany a show of the V&A’s photography collection opening in the spring at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.18 It is also, in itself, a concise history of photography, and another example of the mutability of art. The V&A began by recognizing photography as a new art, and by holding exhibitions of the Photographic Society on its premises. It also used photographs to record exhibitions, and it began an archive of photographs of art. This was the natural accompaniment to the plaster casts and electrotypes. It is amazing to see the thoroughness with which they recorded, say, the church at Santiago de Compostela. They had a cast made of the huge Porticó de la Gloria. They then, in 1866, briefed a photographer on recording the church, telling him to photograph “from betwixt the 9th and 10th tree at the roadside,” “from betwixt two of the old oak trees higher up the road—there is an opening in the screen of trees where the right point of view will be easily found”—and so on for fifty paragraphs.

As time went on, the notion of photography as an art completely faded. The museum acquired 572 photographs by Atget, not as being beautiful photographs, but because the museum was building up an archive of decorative ironwork and architectural details of Paris houses. You could say that they bought them for the same reason that Atget made them, but they didn’t record them as being by him. When Atget died in 1927, Julien Levy and Berenice Abbott saved the contents of his studio from the garbage, by paying $1,000 to the concierge. Forty years later, they sold the collection to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was only around that time that the V&A became aware of what it possessed.

A similar story is told about the exhibition of African Negro sculpture which MOMA put on in 1935. They commissioned Walker Evans to photograph the whole thing. Sets of these photographs were distributed free to several American institutions. The V&A reserved a set, and received the 477 unmounted photographs at a cost of $50. It hardly seems fair that one of the greatest collections of photography in the world should have been built up in such an inadvertent manner. The museum does not even yet have its own photography gallery, although one is on its way.

The new director, Alan Borg, began his regime in 1995 by announcing museum charges. This was a blow, and it caused museum visits to fall by nearly a sixth. The introduction of charges does not mean that a museum such as the V&A becomes independent of subsidy. It simply means that it is both subsidized and no longer free. The government subsidy per visit to the major museums that charge admissions is much higher than that for the free museums. Subsidy per visit to the V&A in 1996-1997 was £18. Subsidy per visit to the National Gallery, which is free, was £3.75.

The second major announcement Borg had to make was that the National Art Library, which has been in the V&A since its foundation, will have to move. Borg says that everyone at the museum regrets this, but the growth of the library makes it inevitable. He is hoping to buy the former Public Record Office, in Chancery Lane, several miles away, and is seeking support for this maneuver. This would be like moving the library of the Met to Greenwich Village, and it would have devastating consequences for scholarship at the museum. And since, as we have seen, the museum itself is supposed to be a vast work of reference, an encyclopedia, it seems particularly damaging to its character to remove its library.

Borg’s third project is our old friend, the new wing with its user-friendly entrance, designed to bring in a new generation, to be evidence of the museum’s commitment to the architecture of the future, to the commissioning of design, to the twenty-first century, to a great number of other broad principles which roll well off the tongue. I went to Rotterdam to look at the exhibition devoted to the work of Daniel Libeskind, the architect of the new wing, which is indeed a very striking design. Very little was said about its practical function, beyond, obviously, that it would house a restaurant, a cafe, a bookshop, and lecture rooms, in addition to its new galleries.

From what Borg and Libeskind told us later at a sort of campaign breakfast, back at the museum, it is clear that the new space will be for new purposes: special exhibitions, modern design, interactive displays, “orientation” of the visitor, and so forth. What it will not do is solve any of the current, pressing problems outlined above. And it appears not to favor the fine arts (except for the fine art of architecture itself).

One may respect Borg. One may admire Libeskind. One would respect them both more if they were, for instance, building a new library. Or providing the national sculpture collection with the new gallery it so obviously needs.

This Issue

January 15, 1998