IN 1926 THE first American exhibition by the avant-garde Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi was very nearly scuppered by a customs officer who, Rachel Cohen relates. ‘opened the crates, looked in disbelief at the sculptures, and classified Brancusi’s Bird in Space as a “kitchen utensil”‘. ‘You can’t tell me that’s a bird,’ he said, slapping on a huge import tax. Brancusi sued the US Government and won. Modern art took another leap forward.