The New Orleans Museum of Art has decided to postpone an exhibition of 74 controversial bronze sculptures cast from “recently discovered” plasters said to have been made by Edgar Degas. The show was scheduled to open at the museum in November 2011.
Susan M. Taylor, who became director of the museum in September, said, “We’re not doing the show for our centennial year, which begins at the end of this year and continues through 2011.” The show was originally scheduled by former director John Bullard, who retired in August.
Asked the reason for the postponement, Taylor said, “The controversy has influenced my decision. I would like to review it more carefully.”
The controversy erupted last year when a set of bronzes made from the plasters appeared in an Athens museum in an exhibition curated by Walter Maibaum, a New York art dealer, and his wife, Carol Conn. Maibaum said that the plasters had been discovered in a Paris foundry. He has been selling bronzes cast from the plasters but declined to disclose the price. In the past, however, he has said that the appraised value of a newly cast set of 74 bronzes is in the vicinity of $20 million.
A group of distinguished Degas experts disagree about the origin of the plasters and their connection to Degas. The group met in New York in January to discuss the objects. One of them afterward told ARTnews that at the meeting “there was absolutely universal agreement that these things are not what they are advertised as” (“A Controversy over Degas,” April 2010)
A full set of the bronzes has already been exhibited at the Herakleidon Museum in Athens, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and the National Art Gallery in Sofia, Bulgaria. The next exhibition is scheduled to open December 9 at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, according to Maibaum.