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Non-impressionist draws a crowd!

Wedging into an art exhibition on its opening weekend is never my first choice. But I was in New York last Saturday and the chance to see "Vermeer and the Delft School" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

Only 34 uncontested works by the 17th-century Dutch master exist worldwide, and the Met managed to gather an impressive 15 of them under its roof until May 27.

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The exhibition puts Vermeer, of which surprisingly little is known, in the context of his times by showing contemporary artists who also worked in the Dutch city. These works had an additional value: They gave breathing spaces between the Vermeers, which were quickly identified by the huge knots of people surrounding them, most lost in the commentary playing on their headsets.

Based on the opening weekend, the show appears to be a hit. If so, it will continue a trend that The Art Newspaper noted earlier this year in its list of the top art exhibitions worldwide in 2000: There were no impressionists among the Top 20 exhibitions.

Apparently, museumgoers (or museums? or both?) have finally tired just a bit of the gaudy light-dabbing of Monet, Manet, Renoir, and friends and are ready for a something, well, darker.

The No. 1 exhibition last year, based on daily attendance, was "El Greco: Identity and Transformation," which lured nearly 7,000 visitors a day to the National Gallery in Athens to view work of the mystical Renaissance painter.

The top American exhibition examined a one-of-a-kind post-Impressionist: "Van Gogh: Face to Face" drew nearly 4,000 people per day to its stops at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor