Synopses & Reviews
Provocative essays on the history and function of American art museums
Since the 1970s, the field of critical museum studies has grown enormously. Increased interest in the cultural role of the art museum derives in part from the rise of critical theory and the breakdown of traditional barriers separating academic disciplines. Yet it also reflects the spectacular proliferation of art museums during the last two decades. The ever-increasing number of institutions involved in the definition of art, the interpretation of the history of art, and the presentation of cultures from around the world, as well as the unprecedented expansion of official taste, pose an inescapable challenge to anyone concerned with the current state of American culture.
In Exhibiting Contradiction, a leading scholar considers the way art museums have depicted -- and continue to depict -- American society and the American past. In closely focused and often controversial essays, Alan Wallach explores the opposing ideologies that drove the development of the American art museum in the nineteenth century and the tensions and contradictions characteristic of recent museum history. Wallach takes up issues ranging from the absence of art museums in the United States before the Civil War to the historical dilemma of the Museum of Modern Art to the bitter dispute over the revisionist "West as America" exhibition.
Wallach's scholarly critiques aim at the demystification of art and the wholesale transformation of the museum, a transformation that the author contends will lead to new dimensions of historical and aesthetic understanding.
"These powerful essays cast new light on the history of both art and museums innineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. The collection will be of interest to a wide range of scholars, museum professionals, and lay readers". -- Kenneth Myers, author of The Catskills: Painters, Writers, and Tourists in the Mountains, 1820-1885
A leading scholar of art, art history, and American studies considers the way art museums have depicted American society and the American past. In closely focused and often controversial essays, Alan Wallach explores the opposing ideologies that drove the development of the American art museum in the 19th century and the tensions and contradictions characteristic of recent museum history. 40 illustrations.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -149) and index.