MINNEAPOLIS -- Art historian and critic Robert Hughes predicted that the 1988 retrospective of Edgar Degas' works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York would be the last of its kind.
Security concerns, costs, selfishness and other factors were conspiring to bring to an end the "golden age of the retrospective exhibition," Hughes wrote in a Time magazine review of the Degas show.
Acclaimed for his erudition, Hughes for once was wrong, as indicated by the 75-piece Degas retrospective that opened recently at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
A collaboration between the institute and the High Museum of Art of Atlanta, the exhibit will run through Sept. 9.
Drawn from several American-only collections, the unifying theme of the exhibit "tells the fascinating story of how Degas' works were first acquired in this country," proclaims the show's promotional materials.
"The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue show how pioneering American collectors, art dealers, critics and teachers fostered passion for Degas' work," the materials say.
Born in 1834 to a rich Franco-Italian banking family, Degas flourished in the last three decades of the 19th century, as one of the pillars of Impressionism and precursors of modern art.
Hughes, for example, has credited Degas, along with Edouard Manet, as the chief proponent, in painting, of the "heroism of modern life."
Degas, as painter and sculptor, turned his critical eye on common people engaged in everyday life, a radical departure at the time from art's long-standing classical traditions.
In the early 1870s, Degas visited relatives in New Orleans, leaving behind the seeds of demand for his work that blossomed in 1878 into his first American exhibition, said Ann Dumas, co-curator of the institute's retrospective and Degas expert.
Most of the pieces -- oils, sketches, pastels, sculpture -- come from the private collections amassed by Americans in the ensuing years.
Museums in New York, Denver, Boston, Chicago and other cities, as well as a few private collectors, have loaned pieces for the show, "Degas & America: The Early Collectors."
"This is a way of accomplishing something together that would be out of the question to do alone," Muriel Morrisette, the institute's public relations coordinator, said in an interview this week. "Whenever you can put this many Degas together, it is a very special thing."
The collection was on display for several weeks in Atlanta before moving late last month to the south Minneapolis museum, which contributed five of its own Degas pieces for the show.
The pieces will be returned to contributors when the Minneapolis exhibit concludes in September, Morrisette said.
"One reason for not touring is that lenders don't want to let them go (from their own collections) for that long," she said, echoing Hughes' pessimistic prediction more than a decade ago.
The exhibit includes several pieces that demonstrate Degas' interest in everyday scenes, such as ballerinas in repose, horses in motion and portraits of the people he knew best.
David Brenneman of the High Museum of Art and Dumas, an independent curator, created the show.
"One of the best things about Degas is that his works appeal to people," Morrisette said. "He was interested in the day-to-day things that people do, so we can relate to his works."
Morrisette said the exhibit has attracted the public's attention, with pre-event ticket sales exceeding the institute's popular "Star Wars" exhibit that set attendance records last year.
But viewers should be warned that all tickets designate a time for admission and can be purchased in advance by calling Ticketmaster only. No advance tickets are available by calling the museum. Call (612) 673-0404. Cost is $10 for adults, slightly less for children and seniors.
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