New Yorkers have become complacent in the knowledge that their city is the capital of the art world. Manhattan is the center of the business of art, and there are, lest we forget, a daunting number of artists who work there. Nonetheless, there is a nagging sense that this may not always be the case. Recently, there has been a spate of important, and probably definitive, museum exhibitions in the United States that did not travel to the Big Apple. Monet and Degas in Chicago, Brancusi and Cézanne in Philadelphia, and Vermeer in Washington have, to a degree, undermined New York’s standing. Not a few New Yorkers have wondered why these shows didn’t make it to a more appropriate (and convenient) location—say, the upper East Side. The Vermeer exhibition, in particular, has caused many an acquaintance who couldn’t make the trek to rue having missed it.

The painter Richard Lindner (1901–1978)...

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