Happy returns for Cone exhibit Art: BMA is giddy as it unpacks the numbers from collection's journey to Japan, where it was a big draw.

March 12, 1997|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,SUN STAFF

In the 5 1/2 months that it was in Tokyo and then Osaka, the Baltimore Museum of Art's Cone Collection attracted 330,000 Japanese viewers -- only 20,000 fewer people than the entire Baltimore institution draws in a year, museum administrators announced yesterday.

While the two Japanese venues that displayed the Cone Collection had forecast that as many as 500,000 visitors would attend the shows, these numbers nonetheless represent larger audiences than typically are drawn by exhibitions at American cultural institutions.

"We are thrilled," says Arnold Lehman, BMA director. "Three hundred thirty thousand people saw the Cone Collection! And God knows how many millions more saw it on TV and in the press so I'm not going to quibble about numbers: It's fabulous. It's a whole year of people coming here to see everything we've got."

The renowned collection of modern European art, amassed by Baltimore sisters Dr. Claribel and Etta Cone, returns today to public view at the BMA.

As a "welcome back," the museum is offering free admission Sunday and plans special gallery tours, a children's workshop, jazz concerts and poetry readings.

This was the first time the bulk of the collection, which forms the cornerstone of the BMA's holdings, has traveled abroad. The touring exhibition offered the Japanese a chance to view the best of the Cone Collection. It included 65 paintings, sculptures and drawings by Matisse and eight works by Bonnard, Cezanne, Gauguin, van Gogh and Picasso.

Lehman says he hopes the exhibition will not only enhance the BMA's reputation but will draw more Japanese visitors to Baltimore.

In addition to newspaper and magazine coverage, the Cone Collection, the BMA and the city of Baltimore were featured in two TV programs produced by Japan's public television network, NHK. "There are many Japanese visitors who go to Washington and New York who don't seem to come to Baltimore, and I see this as coupled, in a way, with the Baltimore Symphony's tours to Japan as a way of putting Baltimore on their radar screen," Lehman says.

The Cone exhibition was shown at Tokyo's Isetan Museum of Art for 12 weeks, drawing 250,000 people. Another 80,000 people visited the artworks while they were on display at the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art.

By contrast, the BMA's "Andrew Wyeth: America's Painter" show, which was on display in lieu of the Cone Collection, attracted 170,000 people during its 20-week run, ending Feb. 16.

The BMA's largest crowds ever came to view "Claude Monet: Impressionist Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston," which drew 215,000 people during its 14-week show from October 1991 to January 1992.

Pub Date: 3/12/97

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