Until June 12, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is showing the latest in a grand series of exhibitions organized under the aegis of national governments on other continents. “The Vatican Collections: The Papacy and Art”1 follows exhibitions from Nigeria, Korea, Ireland, and other countries. Most of the objects in all of these shows have never moved so far before, and people tend to imagine they have not moved at all for centuries, though in actuality the last move was often when their home museums last had their installations redesigned. Some are objects charged with the strongest local symbolic values. Grand exhibitions of the arts of distant countries are not new, of course—one might cite the exhibition of Italian art mounted in London in 1930 and the one of Persian...


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