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A compelling examination of the art museum from a renowned director, this sweeping book explores how architecture, vision, and funding have transformed art museums around the world over the past eighty years.
How have art museums changed in the past century? Where are they headed in the future? Charles Saumarez Smith is uniquely qualified to answer these questions, having been at the helm of three major institutions over the course of his distinguished career. For The Art Museum in Modern Times, Saumarez Smith has undertaken an odyssey, visiting art museums across the globe and examining how the experience of art is shaped by the buildings that house it.
His story starts with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, one of the first museums to focus squarely on the art of the present rather than the past. When it opened in 1939, MoMA’s boldly modernist building represented a stark riposte to the neoclassicism of most earlier art museums. From there, Saumarez Smith investigates dozens of other museums, including the Tate Modern in London, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the West Bund Museum in Shanghai, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He explores our shifting reasons for visiting museums, changes to the way exhibits are organized and displayed, and the spectacular new architectural landmarks that have become destinations in their own right.
Global in scope yet full of personal insight, this fully illustrated celebration of the modern art museum will appeal to art lovers, museum professionals, and museum goers alike.
About the Author
Charles SaumarezSmith has been director of the United Kingdom’s National Portrait Gallery, director of the National Gallery, and secretary and chief executive of the Royal Academy. He is the author of East London, The Company of Artists: The Origins of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and The National Gallery: A Short History, among other titles.
Former National Portrait Gallery director Smith examines how museums’ architecture and design has elevated the experience of art in this perceptive and generously illustrated volume... Insightful and thought provoking, this work is required reading for cultural historians, art connoisseurs, and museumgoers.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Lively, informative... The author has insider knowledge of the needs of present-day institutions dedicated to showing art... A good read. — The New Criterion
Charles Saumarez Smith has written a deeply important and original book, drawing on a lifetime of experience in the worlds of art, museums, and culture. It combines humane and thoughtful generalizations about the place and purpose of galleries today with vivid evocations of particular art museums from around the world. Beautifully written and deftly constructed, it is a landmark work.
— Professor Sir David Cannadine, Dodge Professor of History, Princeton University and President of the British Academy
There are few people as perfectly suited to give an overview of the pre-COVID museum landscape than Charles Saumarez Smith. Respected by the entire museum field, he has directed three major institutions, each with notable success. His last appointment, as CEO of the Royal Academy, saw the Academy flourish, with new capital projects and award-winning exhibitions. Insightful, witty, playful and ironic, who better to guide a reader through the confusing terrain of the past several decades of the ‘museum boom’?
— James Bradburne, Director General of Pinacoteca di Brera and the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, and Editor-in-Chief of Museum Management and Curatorship
I love the style, tone and perspective, the personal experience present along the way, and the
open mode of thinking and reflecting on what is seen. That is rare in museum literature and gives
a special authority and also a thrill to the text. — Professor Mari Lending, Professor of Architectural History and Theory, Oslo School of Architecture and Design
A wise and insightful tour of our most successful art museums. One couldn’t ask for a better informed or more congenial guide. Highly recommended.
— Professor Andrew McClellan, Professor of History of Art and Museum Studies, Tufts University