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Nov. 20, 1962

New York Herald Tribune

Newly Acquired Works on Show

By Emily Genauer
Art Critic

The first thing to be kept in mind by visitors to the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition, opening today, of works it has acquired during the past year, is this statement by Alfred H. Barr jr., director of its collections:

"The Museum is aware it may often guess wrong in its acquisitions. When it acquires a dozen recent paintings it will be lucky if, in 10 years, three will still seem worth looking at: if in 20 years only one should survive."

So modest a definition of the museum's role would have been deeply disturbing a dozen years ago, when one looked to a museum for the establishment and maintenance of certain standards of quality. It no longer is. Many new museums and galleries have opened all over the country, among them New York's Guggenheim. The art-interested public is much larger and far more sophisticated than it used to be. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century modern masters which used to function as a yardstick of quality are not only to be seen everywhere but also are no longer as serviceable, since the public has become more knowledgeable and learned to look at older works. The new isms are all too short-lived to set their own standards.

The result is that these days most art-lovers carry their own rulers for instant do-it-yourself criticism. Judged by Mr. Barr's rule-of-percentages, it's hardly likely they'll do worse than the museum itself.

The newly acquired works include those bought by the museum, and those it accepted as gifts. Among the items it spent is own money on is a painted wood construction by Marisol called "The Family," which is expects will be hugely controversial. I doubt it. The new "pop art" it represents has already been so widely publicized and become so familiar that in comparison with such examples in the present show as Oldernburg's painted plastic "Dual Hamburgers," the Marisol is conventional. Based on a battered and discarded family photograph, it's not only exceptionally  well painted and devised with a sound sense of sculptural shape, but is is also invested with meaning that is readily communicated. As a matter of fact, it is very like a twenty-year-old Ben Shahn gouache called "French Workers" that is also in the show.

The museum, according to its own announcement, also expects Ad Reinhardt's almost entirely black abstraction to arouse comemnt. Actually, at this late date it's oo boring and pretentious to warrant much notice at all. 

The range of the show is exceedingly broad. There superb small Matisse TAOI are great Cezannes ad a superb small Matisse ("Music," it's called). A sensuous abstraction by Afro contracts with an early George Crosz (1928) of great strength. An early (1913) Jacob Epstein bronze suggesting a visored, machine-like robot is a surrise that makes John Chamberlain's recent crushed automobile called "Essex" seem immature and old hat. The real surprise of the show is the fact that the museum should have acquired quite so many items from its recent neo-dada "Assemblage" show. Their number may cause Mr. Barr to revise his rate-of-survival estimate.

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