Art on the move

Museums: Scythian gold visits while French paintings gather to show off Baltimore's stuff.

March 11, 2000

ANYONE missing the exhibition of recently dug-up Scythian objects at the Walters Art Gallery can catch it at the end of next year at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Anyone missing the show of 19th and 20th century French painting at the Baltimore Museum of Art can see it during the summer tourist season next year at the Royal Academy of Art in London.

Those with limited money, time or patience might rather seize the moment.

The Scythians plundered through ancient Mesopotamia and settled north of the Black Sea, where they traded with Greeks reaching the heights of artistic powers. They built no temples but thousands of funeral mounds filled with their most precious possessions, many of gold and still being excavated.

These objects from Ukrainian institutions gleam as bright, 2,500 years after. The workmanship, Scythian and Greek, is still as fine.

The Walters Art Gallery and San Antonio Museum of Art organized this exihibition, which will travel to other North American museums before going to Paris. Ellen Reeder, the Walters curator involved, has since become deputy director of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, one of the venues.

The bad news of museum cooperation in Baltimore is that the Walters Art Gallery and Baltimore Museum of Art closed many galleries for major renovation, depriving visitors, simultaneously.

The good news is that the shuttered galleries allowed them to join in showing the development of French art better than either collection could do alone. For many viewers, these will be familiar canvases seen anew -- such as the Corots of the BMA with those of the Walters.

The curators of the exhibition and authors of its catalogue are Sona K. Johnston of the Baltimore Museum of Art and William R. Johnston of the Walters Art Gallery. The married pair presumably could have put together an impressive joint show long before, had their institutions wished.

This exhibition of Baltimore's collections, mounted by both museums, is on view at the BMA before touring to museums elsewhere. It is an example of what institutional collaboration can achieve. The sum equals more than the parts.

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