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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Masterworks await as an MFA gallery reopens

A North Shore couple will soon give their fabulous collection to one museum, local or national. A quiet joust among cultural giants is underway.

The walls have been covered in silk, the ceiling cove painted albacore, and old skylights replaced with triple-glazed glass. But when the Museum of Fine Arts reopens its large Dutch and Flemish gallery on Wednesday, the buzz won’t just be about the paintings hanging on the walls — alluring as they are — but on a bigger trove of masterworks that could possibly one day join them.

That’s because 17 of the paintings in this and a recently reopened gallery nearby belong to Eijk and Rose-Marie van Otterloo, the longtime Marblehead residents who have amassed arguably the world’s greatest private collection of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art. And the van Otterloos say they are close to deciding which museum will be the permanent home of a collection worth hundreds of millions of dollars, featuring works by Rembrandt and Frans Hals, among others.

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