German art certainly makes New York museums do odd things. The Museum of Modern Art made special efforts for the recent Anselm Kiefer retrospective, allowing it to overflow the lower level temporary exhibition galleries into prime space upstairs. For the one hundred seventy or so exhibits of “Refigured Fainting: The German Image 1960-1988,”[1] the Guggenheim jammed almost every inch of the museum and added some remarkably unfortunate partitions, most notably a monstrous tower that completely altered Frank Lloyd Wright’s celebrated central space. Installing “Refigured Painting” required that a sizable chunk of the previous exhibition, a selection of postwar art from the Guggenheim’s own collection, be removed a week before the announced closing date, to the bewilderment and rage of late visitors.

The Modern’s decision to...


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