The Art Museum in Modern Times
Charles Saumarez Smith
The National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery and the Royal Academy all saw either radical architectural interventions or rethinks of their mission under Charles Saumarez Smith’s leadership, making him uniquely qualified to explore the ways in which art museums have changed over the past century and examine where they might be headed in the future.
For this book, Saumarez Smith has undertaken an odyssey to art museums across the globe. From Tate Modern in London to the Benesse House Museum on the Japanese island of Naoshima; from the Getty Center in Los Angeles to the Museum of New and Old Art, a ferry-ride from Hobart in Tasmania; from the Pompidou Centre in Paris to the West Bund Museum in Shanghai – he has visited them all, casting an acute eye on the way the experience of art is shaped by the buildings that house it and the organizing principles by which it is displayed.
What has changed over the past century? Where the public once visited museums to be educated in art history, he argues, they are now more likely to be in search of a private, aesthetic experience. Museum displays that were automatically didactic, chronological and either national or Western in viewpoint are now thematic and global. While museums used to be invariably in city centres, they may now be in remote locations, destinations of cultural pilgrimage. And where architects once created neutral spaces in which to display art, they now build spectacular architectural landmarks, stamping an identity on run-down neighbourhoods and sparking regeneration through cultural tourism.
'An original book, and so beautifully written and constructed' - Professor Sir David Cannadine, Dodge Professor of History, Princeton University and President of the British Academy '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 '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 ... 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, Pinacoteca di Brera and the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, and Editor-in-Chief, 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
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