There is a sense in which the contemporary retrospective exhibition—especially a retrospective devoted to the work of a living artist or of an artist only recently deceased—is almost as much of a “creation” as any of the objects it is designed to display. There is usually no question of such an exhibition being complete. Our artists tend to be too copious in production, too uneven in quality, and too repetitious in their ideas for completeness in these exhibitions to be either desirable or endurable. What is aimed for instead is a kind of saturation which can be counted on to overwhelm the spectator with an impression of energy, audacity, individuality, and—never mind the apparent contradiction—conformity to current expectations. Somehow the question of the quality of individual works seems not to enter into the equation as a paramount consideration. Beyond the inclusion of certain key...


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