H. de Roos - The critique of the toronto exhibition

6. The absence of a catalog would impair an evaluation of the plasters (4)

The Hermeneutic Principle At Work

Evidently, the sheer decision to participate - or not - would be interpreted as a political act in "Rodin circles":

Aussi, je tiens à vous indiquer que le musée Rodin ne cautionnera pas, par la présence de ses représentants, une opération parfaitement douteuse, au regard de la Morale et de l'oeuvre de l'artiste.

[From: Letter from Jacques Vilain to the MacLaren Art Centre, 8 Oct. 2001, copy sent to the author by Jacques Vilain]

In my reply to William Moore, I massively insisted the authenticity and quality of the plasters could not be handled by Dr David Schaff exclusively and be set in parentheses for the rest of the Symposium speakers:

Originally, it never was my intention to say a single word on the authenticity of the plasters in my speech (....)

(But) ... when we we are expressly asked to discuss the legitimacy of posthumous casting "in conjunction with the exhibition 'From Plaster to Bronze: The Sculpture of August Rodin' " [your Symposium title], we all must take a position - even if we do not want to lecture on it with so much words - to the artistic and technical integrity of the plasters and the posthumous casts derived from them (...)

And in order to deliver a diligent statement and not to avoid the hot issue, still not to damage ourselves by this controversy, the invited speakers must know if these plasters really are as undetailed, abrased, discolored, softened, damaged, ruined, spoiled, worn off, used, lacquered, dirty, monstruous, swollen, disfigured etc. etc. as suggested by Ms Sarah Milroy and the Musée Rodin, before we attach our names to this event and blate out our statement to the audience.

And for this reason, the invited speakers should have received reasonably detailed background information on the works before making a committment and Mr Jacques Vilain is right when he criticizes the very poor content of the documentation you sent out September 27, 2001 - no matter if the Musée Rodin already received extensive dossiers on this a year before.

(...)Maybe your exhibition should have been postponed until all legal matters are settled and you can disclose all relevant academic information (...). Till that moment, the debate on the ethical and artistic legitimacy of posthumous casting, "in conjunction with [your] exhibition", can gain no substance and relevance whatsoever (...).

[From: Letter to William Moore, 27 Oct. 2001]

In defense of the MacLaren staff, it must be said that even after this highly critical letter, communication with William Moore, Mary Reid and Dr David Schaff did not tear off.

On the contrary, with this message, it only really started. Meeting the staff in Toronto and Barrie and setting forth our correspondence after the Symposium has proved to be highly productive in clearing the complex issues that could not be settled at the Symposium itself. 

Would the MacLaren and the Musée Rodin have been able to establish this kind of rapport before the donation was made, the scandal would never have occurred at all.  As we will see in Part III, this precious chance was spoiled. Although the information provided by the Canadians to the invited speakers was shockingly thin, the Musée Rodin has proved to be even more tight-lipped in the decisive phase of the donation. Far more than the spoiled plasters, this seems to be the real scandal: if the French had reacted with an unambiguous negative advice, the Museum in Barrie might have rejected the donation completely and there never would have been any scandal at all.

Already Socrates claimed that truth can be established in dialogue only. The following pages will show this hermeneutic principle at work.  Since the plasters themselves refuse to talk and the MacLaren Museum is responsible for them now, a scientific evaluation of this collection can only take place through sensible communication with the staff in Barrie
- if the Musée Rodin likes this or not.

The corresponce exchanged after the Toronto Symposium provides the ground work for the much-needed catalog. The crucial question, if these plasters - in their majority - actually were produced during Rodin´s lifetime, at last receives due attention. Before a provisory conclusion could be reached, though, some answers had to be critically examined.




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