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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Money Tight, Museums Mine Their Own Collections

More exhibitions display works from permanent collections, like “The Great Upheaval: Modern Art From the Guggenheim Collection, 1910-1918.” More exhibitions display works from permanent collections, like “The Great Upheaval: Modern Art From the Guggenheim Collection, 1910-1918.” Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

When the recession forced museums to cut back on expensive loan shows a few years ago, some worried that it would hurt attendance: With great works from around the world replaced by stuff hauled up from storage rooms, would art lovers’ hearts still flutter?

Now, though, many museum directors are finding virtue in necessity. Shows built largely from in-house collections have drawn well, they say, and curators are introducing the public to unsung treasures.

“If the recession has compelled us as museums in this country to focus even more intensely than we have in the past on our collections, that’s a good thing,” said Glenn D. Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art. “Because they’re our primary responsibility.”

Last year, for example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition on Picasso, stocked completely from the museum’s own holdings, drew 700,000 visitors. And when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened its Resnick Pavilion last fall, it celebrated by showcasing its new collection of early European fashions.

“The public doesn’t care whether you own it or borrow it,” said Michael Govan, the director of that Los Angeles museum. “They’re just interested in the presentation and the content.”

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