There are several reasons why a work of art owned by a museum is not on display: there is no room for it in already crowded galleries; the work is in some way too fragile to display; the artist or the subject are judged not of appeal in the moment; the work itself requires so much display space that it may be shown only very occasionally.
An example of this last reason is the Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ by James Tissot. The 350 watercolor paintings are somewhere in the bowels of the Brooklyn Museum and, to my knowledge, have rarely been brought together in their entirety. For a couple of months in 2009 and 2010, the museum did put on a show of 124 of the paintings, but now Tissot’s great series is in storage.
I wasn’t aware of this when my younger son and I went to the Museum in 2017, and, as I bought our tickets, I asked the woman at the desk where we could find the Tissot paintings.
“Oh, we don’t have that here,” she said.