The High Museum has quietly added its two most important Monet paintings to “Water Lilies,” the loan show from the Museum of Modern Art. I did make that very proposal in my review, but who could take credit for the change when it’s such a no-brainer?
The proportion of four artworks to the mount of wall texts and reproductions (including one of the three galleries holding no art at all) was out of whack, I commented. “Something’s amiss when wall texts take up more space than actual objects,” and I suggested taking advantage of its own paintings, “Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil (1873)” and “Houses of Parliament (1903)” to show Monet’s evolution.
“They show the progression of his mark-making, the dissolution of the object and the expanded scale,” I wrote. “They document his ongoing fascination with water, reflections and atmosphere. They would have brought home dramatically the magnitude of conceptual and visual leap the water lily paintings represent.”
A reader tipped me off to the change, and yesterday I went to see for myself. The two High paintings hang in the last gallery, where a wall text with their reproductions had been hung. It’s not the optimum spot: Docents have to traipse to the end to reach the logical starting point of a tour and presumably double back — but it probably would have taken too much effort to rejigger the whole thing.
Mine was not the only complaint. A docent told me that a number of colleagues found the exhibition “thin.”
One incensed friend called the installation an abdication of its responsibility to art and audience. The High, too, is a victim — of its own hype. Perhaps to justify those big Monet banners outside, it tried to turn what would have been a good small-focus show into a major to-do. Ironically, it only succeeded in diminishing the art.