When Dr Nicholas Penny joined the National Gallery as its director early last year, he was reported to be turning his back on "big-name, big-audience" blockbuster art exhibitions in favour of more erudite, obscure names.
Yesterday, on announcing the gallery's upcoming programme, featuring as its highlight a show based on the work of the ever popular Venetian painter Canaletto, his position on "blockbusters" appeared somewhat revised. He said: "It's very important to have intelligent exhibitions about great artists and popular artists as well as some exhibitions about forgotten artists. Canaletto is a popular artist and we think this is an intelligent way to present his work."
The show, "Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals" opening in October 2010, will present what the gallery claims is the "finest assembly of Venetian views by Canaletto" and his contemporaries since the much celebrated display in Venice in 1967. It will bring together 55 major loans from private and public collections and will showcase some of the best known – and most reproduced "poster" views – of the Italian city.
Last February, Dr Penny was reported as saying that the gallery had a duty to display art with which the public is unfamiliar rather than yet another parade of an artist's greatest hits.