[UCP Books]: Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience

“Meticulously researched and thoughtfully written, Capital Culture places J. Carter Brown in his historical context and reveals the social, political, and economic issues he contended with during his long tenure at the National Gallery. Neil Harris also brings to life the way Brown used his rivalry with Tom Hoving and later Philippe de Montebello at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to animate the National Gallery and make it the cultural center of Washington, and for a time, the nation.”

Glenn Lowry, director, MoMA

J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience

Neil Harris

Publication date: October 15, 2013 Cloth $35.00/£24.50
International publication date: November 4, 2013   978-0-226-06770-4


From the blockbuster exhibition to the use of star architects to design additions, J. Carter Brown changed the attitude of American museums forever during his tenure as director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, from 1969 to 1992. Along with S. Dillon Ripley, who served as Smithsonian secretary for much of this time, Brown reinvented the museum experience in ways that had important consequences for the cultural life of Washington and its visitors as well as for American museums in general. In Capital Culture, distinguished historian Neil Harris provides a wide-ranging look at Brown’s achievement and the growth of museum culture during this crucial period.

Harris combines his in-depth knowledge of American history and culture with extensive archival research, interviewing dozens of key players to reveal how Brown’s showmanship transformed the National Gallery. At the time of the Cold War, Washington itself was growing into a global destination, with Brown as its devoted booster. Harris describes Brown’s major role in the birth of blockbuster exhibitions, such as the King Tut show of the late 1970s and the National Gallery’s immensely successful Treasure Houses of Britain, which helped inspire similarly popular exhibitions around the country. He recounts Brown’s role in creating the award-winning East Building, designed by I. M. Pei, and the subsequent renovation of the West Building. Harris also explores the politics of exhibition planning, describing Brown's courtship of corporate leaders, politicians, and international dignitaries.

Neil Harris is the Preston and Sterling Morton Professor of History and Art History Emeritus at the University of Chicago. He is available for interviews. Please contact Carrie Olivia Adams at (773) 702-4216 or cadams@press.uchicago.edu


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