The Art Museum in Modern Times

I am very honoured to have been sent a characteristically thoughtful review of my book by Svetlana Alpers, the great historian of Dutch painting, formerly of Berkeley, California, now writing about photography in New York. Of course, she is right that much is missing from the book by focusing only on the last eighty years or so, thereby missing out on the pleasures of the Grand Old Men of the international museums, including the National Gallery which she remembers, as do I, when it was a straight historical circuit, starting to the left of the entrance staircase. And I don’t dispute that it is important to encourage critical historical attention as well as more casual wandering. It will probably be seen correctly as a pre-COVID text when the mood was more optimistic. Let’s hope that some of the angst now surrounding museums dissipates, and we can recover a better sense of their role in fostering an interest in other cultures.


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