There’s a constant tension between museums and the market. Only a fool would believe that the market is an efficient or accurate measure of art historical value. And yet, there are times when the market seems to lead the institutional view rather than the other way around. Carol Vogel’s announcement of the National Gallery in the US’s acquisition of a Michelangelo Pistoletto mirror work follows a six month period of Pistoletto-mania on the art market.
It began with Christie’s eye-opening sale of a collection of Arte Povera in February that set a new record for the artist at $3.25m for Lei e Lui. Over the last year and a half, all of Pistoletto’s top five prices have been established, all for mirror works. Art fairs have been full of Pistolettos that were once few and far between. Now London sees several works too:
After a renovation and expansion that has closed the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington for nearly three years, its reopening in the fall of 2016 will reveal not only more improved spaces but also a more comprehensive collection.
Little by little, curators there have been filling gaps. In the latest round of acquisitions, which were approved by the National Gallery’s board several weeks ago, it has added works by living artists in areas including Arte Povera and video.Two of them — Michelangelo Pistoletto’s “Donna che indica Woman Who Points” from 1962/1982 and Barbara Kruger’s “Untitled know nothing, believe anything, forget everything,” conceived in 1987 but made this year — are by artists the museum did not have in its collection until now. Harry Cooper, a curator who is the National Gallery’s head of contemporary art, explained that “when it comes to Arte Povera, we got a piece by Mario Merz last year, and now we have a signature late mirror painting by Pistoletto.” Depicting a woman pointing at a distant object that the viewer cannot see, it “blurs the boundaries between art and the spectator,” he said.
Cy Twombly Works Donated to Tate Modern (NYTimes.com)