An exhibit of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings from the Soviet Union will also travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, billionaire industrialist Armand Hammer announced yesterday.
Last week, Hammer announced from Moscow that the Soviet-owned art would appear first at the National Gallery of Art here next spring and then at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as part of the first major art exchange following the new U.S.-Soviet cultural agreement.
Yesterday, Metropolitan Director Guy-Philippe de Montebello said he had had no part in arranging the exhibit's New York stop. "We'll try to work it into our schedule," he said.
The museum director said he had no idea how the Metropolitan's involvement was arranged. "I'd love to know," he said. "As far as I can gather, the good offices of Dr. Hammer arranged it. We're grateful for his initiation."
De Montebello said that Hammer called him on Sunday to discuss having the show come to the Metropolitan. Yesterday, Hammer confirmed from Los Angeles that the Soviets agreed to send it to New York.
De Montebello said it would be difficult to squeeze the exhibit into the museum's exhibition schedule. "Right now, it's coming to us in early fall and to Los Angeles in the summer," he said. "We'd rather have it the other way around."
Nonetheless, he added, "We're happy to show marvelous French pictures."
Both J. Carter Brown, the director of the National Gallery of Art, and Hammer, who brokered numerous U.S.-Soviet cultural and business agreements, said last week they had worked -- separately -- for two years to bring the exhibit to this country. Both saw the show when it was displayed at a private museum in Lugano, Switzerland.
But de Montebello said he had done no work to acquire the show for the Metropolitan. "Not even for a split second," he said. "It's a bolt out of the blue. I'm working on other exhibitions with the Soviet Union for two years from now . . . "
He said these future shows would be "serious exhibitions which require time and planning in advance. I can understand the pressure on Washington, when Gorbachev is going there, to put the accord into effect."
He pointed out that the Soviet show coming to the National Gallery, and now to the New York museum, is essentially the already packaged Lugano show. "If you're going to do something quickly," he said, "that's the logical thing to do."
"I agree completely," said National Gallery Deputy Director John Wilmerding. "That's precisely why we didn't just ask [the Soviets] for a potpourri. This show supplemented our own collection. It was already rational -- an orderly, coherent exhibition of supreme beauty . . . it had a full scholarly catalogue. It's not just pictures thrown up on a wall."
The show consists of 40 works from Leningrad's Hermitage museum and Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, which are considered to have some of the finest examples of French painting outside of France. The works to go on tour, little seen outside of the Soviet Union, will include paintings by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Paul Ce'zanne and Pierre Auguste Renoir.
Traditionally, the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are considered to be in direct competition for the best of the world's art and exhibitions. "They have as many requests as we do into the Soviet Union, I would only assume," said one National Gallery official.
But in this case, de Montebello said he didn't participate in any maneuvering for the show that the National Gallery will get first. "I don't feel maneuvered or out-maneuvered in any way," de Montebello said. "I wasn't maneuvering at all. It didn't enter my mind to do a [Soviet] show in 1986."