MAGIC OF THE MUNDANE
by Paul Jeromack
"Memling’s Portraits," Oct. 12-Dec. 31, 2005, at the Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021
If there was ever a museum that doesn’t need to hold loan exhibitions, it’s the Frick Collection. Routinely described as "the most perfect" small museum in America (though personally I’d place the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown right alongside it), the Frick has graciously hosted numerous small shows that might otherwise have bypassed Manhattan. With rare exceptions, like the retrospective of the drawings of Jean-Baptiste Greuze in 2002, most of these special exhibitions have not lingered long in the memory. But the Frick’s current show of portraits of the 15th-century Bruges master Hans Memling (ca. 1435-1494) is its finest yet -- for once the small, 20-odd pictures in the basement are every bit as compelling as the Frick’s own masterworks on the floor above.