Art galleries are ruled by the clock: rush, rush; the shows go up and down; “Will there be a review in the Times on Friday?”; then the summer hiatus; and the wondering over what to show this time next year. No doubt it is the fast-forward movement (a frenzy disrupted only by the dullness of the days when nobody comes in) that provokes certain dealers, even if their primary interest is the art of the present, to turn back the clock by showing classic or at least pre-contemporary work. Such shows have a serious point: they suggest that the road into the future can also be a road back into the past. If museums present the case that the past is ever-present, classic shows in contemporary galleries present the case that the future might just catch the tail of the past. The year is 1937 and the Galerie Pierre (2, rue des Beaux-Arts, Paris), a hotbed of surrealist activity, mounts a show of the work of Odilon...


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