This fall the Gagosian Gallery on upper Madison Avenue departed from its usual pattern of theme exhibitions by postwar American artists to offer something entirely unexpected, a handful of early sculptures by Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957).

This show was originally planned as a touring exhibition, its second stop to have been the Detroit Institute of Art, but, as The New York Times reported shortly before Christmas, the loan of the sculptures had caused such a political scandal in Brancusi’s native Romania that they had to be returned immediately after the exhibition closed at Gagosian. Given the exceptional nature of the loan, and the ensuing commotion, it is unlikely that they will ever be allowed out of the country again.

That fact alone made “Brancusi: Masterpieces from Romanian Museums” a noteworthy event. Yet it was one of those exhibitions that create very little stir. It may...

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