With just a little more than a month before the show’s opening, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has canceled its presentation of a major survey of Genoese art. The museum said that the lingering pandemic had made it impossible to stage the show as expected this September.
European audiences may still be in luck, however. “A Superb Baroque: Art in Genoa, 1600–1750” is still expected to open in 2022 at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, which co-organized the exhibition. (The institution has not yet confirmed dates for its presentation.)
The National Gallery’s cancelation of the event is a harsh reminder that Covid is still upending the international art world, even as vaccines have become more widely available in many countries.
Already delayed more than a year, “A Superb Baroque” had been one of the most anticipated shows of the fall season, and was to act as a grand survey of Genoa during the 17th and 18th centuries, when artists flourished in the Italian city-state. The exhibition was to include more than 130 objects, many of them from international institutions. Nearly half of the works were to come from Genoese museums and churches, including the Chiesa di San Luca, the Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Spinola, and the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato.
Citing the exhibition’s “complex” nature, Anabeth Guthrie, chief of communications at the National Gallery of Art, said in an email that the decision was made to call off “A Superb Baroque” this week, just as many paintings held by Genoese churches were scheduled to come down for international transport. More than a quarter of the works would be subject to a visa authorization process, Guthrie said. It remained uncertain as recently as Monday whether the works would be able to depart Italy.
“We had concerns that if the pandemic was continuing to escalate globally, international transport restrictions might not allow the objects to be shipped back to Europe, leaving them stranded here in the U.S. with potential impact on the Rome presentation,” Guthrie said. “Last year two exhibitions got stuck here due to issues with transport.”
Additionally, there were questions about the health risks associated with the size of teams needed to install works as grand as those on the checklist of “A Superb Baroque.”
“The pandemic has created a number of complications and a level of uncertainty that would compromise our ability to present this highly anticipated exhibition in a manner that meets the expectations of our audiences and adequately tells the story of this important place and period in history,” a statement posted to the National Gallery of Art’s website reads.
During the pandemic, most major exhibitions—from a Joan Mitchell retrospective set to travel the U.S. to an Artemisia Gentileschi survey at the National Gallery in London—were postponed or altered. The National Gallery of Art’s presentation of “A Superb Baroque” is one of the few to be canceled altogether.