January 25, 2017; Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art was happy to receive 29 paintings original paintings by Édouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri Matisse from Henry Bloch, an H&R Block co-founder, but they returned them—albeit in digital form—keeping the originals for their galleries.
The copies, says the 94-year-old Bloch, are so believable that he hung them where the originals were. “Every museum should be offering this service,” he said.
The copies keep his walls from “getting lonely,” he said, and he’s not embarrassed to live with fakes because it gives him a chance to tell visitors about his new Bloch Galleries at the museum. He is also sleeping more soundly because he doesn’t fear burglars or a house fire as much as he did earlier, and he’s no longer paying as much in corresponding insurance, he said.
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Catherine Futter, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs, said she understands how Mr. Bloch could make the easy leap from authentic to imitation art. “When he walks in and sees that Cézanne, he’s remembering the original,” she said. “We want to see brush strokes and the impasto, but he doesn’t need that now. He still sees it.”
Many museums and auction houses, it turns out, are doing the same as thank-you gifts to major donors, though it’s rarely talked about. Julian Zugazagoitia, CEO and director of the Nelson-Atkins, says that now that the word is out, his own trustees have started asking for similar prints for their own collections.
“The offer is becoming part of my tool kit now,” Mr. Zugazagoitia said. The museum, however, will continue only to show original work. “People who come here need to see the originals.”
That’s good, because apparently the copies only look all that special from the front.—Ruth McCambridge