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A controversial exhibition of sculpture by Auguste Rodin that was supposed to begin a world tour next year is instead staying put in Toronto for the time being.

The Royal Ontario Museum is quietly extending its run of the exhibition of 40 plasters and 28 bronzes attributed to Rodin into the spring, with a likely closing date of mid-April.

The exhibition was to have ended on Sunday, after running for slightly more than three months. Notice of the extension was discreetly posted on the ROM's Web site on Wednesday afternoon before being released to the media yesterday.

Francisco Alvarez, the museum's media relations manager, said the 68 works, lent to the ROM by Barrie's MacLaren Art Centre, are staying because "it's been doing pretty good business," the MacLaren hasn't been able to find another venue to exhibit them, and "it helps the MacLaren raise more money as well as ourselves."

An estimated 85,000 people have paid to see From Plaster to Bronze: the Sculpture of Auguste Rodin since it opened on Sept. 20. Admission for adults was $18 during the week and $20 on the weekend. For the extension, only a $3 surcharge will be added to the main ROM admission price.

The MacLaren is hoping to tour From Plaster to Bronze in other cities in North America, Europe and Asia for two to three years while it builds a permanent home for the sculptures. However, questions about the authenticity of the Rodins have so far thwarted its plans. Until the ROM's extension, it looked as though the works would have to go into storage.

Mr. Alvarez said the extension is not bumping or rerouting any other shows planned for the ROM in the first four months of 2002. However, the Rodins will have to be gone by April to make way for the installation of 150 artifacts in Images of Salvation: Masterpieces from the Vatican and Other Italian Collections, scheduled to open June 8.

In a statement, William Moore, the MacLaren's director, acknowledged that keeping the Rodins in Toronto for another three or four months gives his institution some room to "work to confirm arrangements with other interested venues on the exhibition's world tour."

The sculptures, including editions of some of Rodin's most iconic work such as The Kiss and The Thinker, have been a source of controversy for months, even before the MacLaren announced last spring that it would be getting them from a group of about 12 Canadian donors. Mr. Moore says the appraised value of the works is between $12-million and $18-million.

The plasters have been the focus of most of the debate.

The MacLaren insists that they were made during Rodin's lifetime (1840-1917) and were used by his "preferred foundry," the now-defunct Rudier in Paris, to make bronzes. While critics -- including the Musée Rodin in Paris, the executors of the Rodin estate -- have not denied that the pieces are foundry plasters, they have argued that they were made 40 or 50 years after Rodin's death and should be regarded as, variously, counterfeit, "too far removed from Rodin's hand," or unauthorized reproductions.

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