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What exactly is the art museum in modern times? – ArchPaper

Is an art museum the building, the collection within, or something more? The Art Museum in Modern Times attempts to tease out an answer

The Sainsbury Wing galleries of the National Gallery, London, designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. (Photo by Matt Wargo/Courtesy of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Inc.)
The Sainsbury Wing galleries of the National Gallery, London, designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. (Photo by Matt Wargo/Courtesy of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Inc.)

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Is a museum defined by its collection? Or by its architecture? In The Art Museum in Modern Times, Charles Saumarez Smith suggests it is both and still something more. Trustees, administrators, and curators have done the most to alter the face of art institutions over the 80 or so years that make up Saumarez Smith’s timeline. Throughout, the art historian and former director of the National Portrait Gallery in London attempts to glean, from built form, the “evolving aims, aspirations and beliefs” of these actors. Yet in his privileging of conciseness, he omits the complex balancing of interests and influences needed to realize any museum project. These, it should be noted, often extend well beyond museum leadership.

a cover of the art museum in modern times
Once the preserve of high culture, the museum has changed dramatically over the past century. (Thames & Hudson)

The book’s structure is straightforward, comprising case studies that span public and private institutions, the canonical and the lesser known. More enigmatic is the periodization to which the title alludes. The 40-plus museum buildings that Saumarez Smith surveys are heterogeneous, stylistically evoking both modernism and postmodernism, as well as the yet-to-be-codified idiom of the “new millennium.” It quickly becomes apparent, however, that the catchall signifier “modern” is a nod to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Marking a break from the “traditional museum,” Saumarez Smith’s close reading of MoMA recounts the fledgling institution’s efforts in the 1930s to seek a streamlined architecture to match its novel and unorthodox curatorial program. Although a predictable starting point, the museological template established by MoMA effectively captures the institutional histories that follow.

Read on. >>>> Source: ArchPaper What exactly is the art museum in modern times?

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