WILLIAMSTOWN -- Now that the two exhibitions in Spain from the Clark Art Institute have closed, other parts of Europe are about to discover some of the Clark's charms.
A new Clark roadshow opened last week in Milan, Italy -- to giant crowds and plenty of media hype, indicating that it could turn out to be as popular as the two shows in Spain that recently ended.
Last Tuesday, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute launched the first international tour of masterpieces from its collection of 19th-century European paintings with the exhibition "Impressionisti: Capolavori della collezione Clark" at the Palazzo Reale in Milan.
Open through June 19, the exhibition includes 73 of the Clark's French Impressionist and European paintings from 26 artists, including works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Berthe Morisot and Camille Pissarro.
A press conference marked the show's opening, and three times more media outlets showed up than officials had expected.
"We thought we'd have maybe 50 journalists, but we had more than 150 show up," said Michael Conforti, director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.
"It is a tremendously exciting moment for the Clark to be able to present our French paintings in a city with as rich a cultural heritage as Milan," said Richard Rand, the Robert and Martha Berman Lipp senior curator at the Clark. "It is amazing to see
"The opening night preview party drew an astounding 2,000 guests," said Victoria T. Saltzman, director of communications at the Clark. "It was really incredible to see the enormous interest in the Clark collection, the history of Mr. and Mrs. Clark as collectors, and the incredible interest the Italians had for life in the Berkshires."
Opening day drew another 2,000 visitors, she added.
In addition to the paintings from the Clark's collection of French paintings, the exhibition features a major installation on the Clark and its Williamstown roots, Saltzman said.
"The exhibition is really doing double-duty to share our story with a whole new audience," she said. "The media reception for the show was really remarkable, with major features in the key dailies and multiple television and radio reports. It was pretty incredible to see it all unfold."
One of the goals of such shows is to raise the Clark's international profile, and draw more overseas guests into the Berkshires, Conforti noted.
"It's nice to take some of our collection out of Williamstown in the winter to places that wouldn't otherwise see them," Conforti said. "The hope is that the more people who see them in Europe, then more people will want include us in their travel plans when they come to North America to see more at our home site. It will hopefully result in enhancing the local tourist industry in Berkshire County."
All indications are that the show will be another hit for the Clark in Europe.
"The Palazzo Reale has already booked 600 group tours that are planning to come and see the show," Saltzman said. "They are expecting very significant attendance now through its mid-June closing."
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Clark's international tour at a glance
n Artists feature include Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Bonnard, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Paul Gauguin, Jean-François Millet, Alfred Sisley, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, William
Adolphe Bouguereau and Jean-Léon Gérôme.
n In Madrid, the Museo Nacional del Prado extended the run of the exhibition "Pasión por Renoir" through Feb. 13. It opened Oct. 19, 2010. The museum reported final attendance of 370,000 people, with an average daily attendance of about 4,000 people. It turned out to be one of the top 5 special exhibitions ever shown at the Prado.
n In Barcelona, the exhibition "Picasso davant Degas" ran from Oct. 15, 2010, to Jan. 16 and drew 142,000 guests -- in the first week alone, 20,000 people visited the show. That same show drew about 120,000 visitors to the Clark last summer.
n Following the Milan exhibition at the Palazzo Reale, the collection will travel to the Musée des impressionnismes in Giverny, France, where they will be on view from July 13 through Oct. 31; followed by an exhibition at CaixaForum in Barcelona, Spain, from Nov. 18 through Feb. 12, 2012. Venues in 2012 will include the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas from March 4 to June 17, 2012; the Royal Academy of Arts in London from July 7 to Sept. 23, 2012; and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada from Oct. 8, 2012, to Jan. 20, 2013. In 2013, the exhibition will move on to venues in Japan and China.