The end of the Corcoran Gallery of Art

February 19, 2014 10:28 PM

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The vast majority of people who visit Washington will never know the difference, and arguably will be better served by the new post-Corcoran arrangement. The National Gallery will use the second-floor space at the old Corcoran to mount exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, greatly expanding its gallery space, and, one hopes, its dedication to contemporary art. The liquidation of the Corcoran’s collection may bring individual works of art more exposure, both at the National Gallery and at whatever museums or institutions take in what the NGA doesn’t want. The current plan is to place as many works as possible in Washington museums, but much of the collection could end up in Tennessee or Alaska.

The collection as a living entity is gone, and so, too, the Corcoran as an independent presence in Washington cultural life. The quirks of the old gallery, founded in 1869 as Washington’s first art museum, will disappear. Any lingering sense of the Corcoran’s collection as the expression of William ...

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