Museum masterworks

How does one critique a museum exhibition with “Masterworks” in the title? What am I supposed to say about some of the most recognizable images in the history of art? Or how about the names like Degas, van Gogh, Monet and Picasso? Not much. Fortunately, they speak for themselves.

The Phillips Collection has finally brought back its “Masterworks” show from four years of traveling around the world, while the museum had a facelift and added a new wing or two. Starting with an elegant Ingres and moving on to the bold Matisse and innovative Kandinsky, the show runs the gamut of heavy hitters in art. Cubist works from Braque, Romantic portraits by Delacroix and of course, the pi?ce de r?sistance, the Impressionist works and the ever-popular showstopper: Renior’s “The Luncheon of the Boating Party.”

Not being a huge Impressionist-lover myself, I would even say that this work did live up to the hype. You have to stand in front of the work to notice the piercing black, beady eyes of the figures that contrast with all the heavy strokes of color swirling around them.

While my expectations for the art of the show were completely fulfilled, the renovation of the building left much to be desired. In the museum’s attempt to preserve the unique, homey atmosphere of The Phillips Collection, they have seriously overlooked some expectations about what it should be like to walk through a museum.

For example, when you are walking through the “Masterworks” galleries, be aware that the line in the hallway is not to view the Renoir, but for the bathrooms. Is it really OK to stand in front of a priceless work of art and have to, intermittently, hear the disturbing sound of a toilet flushing in the background?

This is to say nothing of the most confusing floor plan that has ever existed in a museum. It took two college students 15 minutes and two wrong turns to figure out where the exhibition even began. And from the “Masterworks” galleries, you need to cross through the permanent collection and another entirely different exhibition to get to the Rothko Room and the rest of the show. These works are worth a look – but only with map in hand.

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