The Art Museum in Modern Times (Hardback)
  • The Art Museum in Modern Times (Hardback)

The Art Museum in Modern Times (Hardback)

Hardback 272 Pages
Published: 25/03/2021
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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.

With 122 illustrations in colour

Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
ISBN: 9780500022436
Number of pages: 272
Weight: 740 g
Dimensions: 234 x 153 mm

'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
'Charles Saumarez Smith is well placed to consider all of the elements that define a contemporary institution, from architecture and curatorial expertise to funding models and the thorny subject of public duty' - The Arts Society
'Written with the crisp elegance found in Baedeker's guides' - The Financial Times
'Charles Saumarez Smith is eminently qualified to answer the two main questions underpinning this survey of 42 museums: How have such institutions changed in the past century? And what does the future look like for these cathedrals of culture? Saumarez Smith ... brings his experience and insights to this sweeping overview' - The Art Newspaper
'Charles Saumarez Smith thoughtfully charts how quickly and definitively museums have moved on from the Cassoubonish attitude to become the public palaces they are now' - Apollo
'Saumarez Smith's case studies demonstrate how museums have changed since the 1930s and why. Understanding this history helps in understanding why museums look like they do now. With that understanding, a richer experience of those museums awaits us' - Studio International
'Remarkable and provocatively thoughtful ... The diversity is astounding ... For the gallery visitor, this is an essential read, which sharpens our awareness of the absorbing complexity of the museum experience. The reader's experience is further enhanced by the book's exemplary design, and very well-chosen images of buildings, their interiors, and of individual architects, curators and patrons' - Artlyst
'In his informed and engaging prose, Smith brings out the personality unique to each museum. This is complemented by a diverse selection of images ... All these play their part in a book that is, above all else, shockingly good-looking' - The Arts Desk
''Saumarez Smith is good on the often antagonistic relationship between architects and directors, and the difficulties of reconciling fantastical plans with a building that actually functions ... Every entry has its nuggets ... [a] clever, persuasive book' - Laura Freeman, Literary Review
'How best to use this book? Perhaps simply to absorb the insider knowledge of an art historian, curator and former museum director who opens up the private conversations that have shaped the public spaces in which we experience art' - Art Quarterly
'A fascinating look at how museums, their mission and their vision, have evolved over the past half-century... This superb and eminently readable book takes us along a roller coaster of ups and downs, experienced by museums as they lose, regain, refashion their intellectual confidence, their belief in or rejection of, the notion of a set of universal values, alternately giving prompts to, or taking their cues from, the public' - Blue Guides
'Saumarez Smith headed the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy, and there seems hardly a museum worldwide that he hasn't visited. As architectural historian and cultural commentator, he is compelling, charming, tolerant and wise on why museums matter, how their role is changing, and what that reveals about broader social and political transformation' - Financial Times

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