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Collecting the New Museums and Contemporary Art by Bruce Altshuler

Collecting the New Museums and Contemporary Art


Collecting the New Museums and Contemporary Art by Bruce Altshuler

Collecting the New is the first book on the questions and challenges that museums face in acquiring and preserving contemporary art. Because such art has not yet withstood the test of time, it defies the traditional understanding of the art museum as an institution that collects and displays works of long-established aesthetic and historical value. By acquiring such art, museums gamble on the future. In addition, new technologies and alternative conceptions of the artwork have created special problems of conservation, while social, political, and aesthetic changes have generated new categories of works to be collected. Following Bruce Altshuler's introduction on the European and American history of museum collecting of art by living artists, the book comprises newly commissioned essays by twelve distinguished curators representing a wide range of museums. First considered are general issues including the acquisition process, and collecting by universal survey museums and museums that focus on modern and contemporary art. Following are groups of essays that address collecting in particular media, including prints and drawings, new (digital) media, and film and video; and national- and ethnic-specific collecting (contemporary art from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and African-American art). The closing essay examines the conservation problems created by contemporary works--for example, what is to be done when deterioration is the artist's intent? The contributors are Christophe Cherix, Vishakha N. Desai, Steve Dietz, Howard N. Fox, Chrissie Iles and Henriette Huldisch, Pamela McClusky, Gabriel Perez-Barreiro, Lowery Stokes Sims, Robert Storr, Jeffrey Weiss, and Glenn Wharton.


In this volume of thoughtful essays, curators, conservators, scholars, and others in the museum world address how institutions should collect, exhibit, and care for the new art... [T]he essays by seasoned professionals bring a new dimensions to the museum-going experience. --Ann Landi, ArtNews This book is a sensitively-edited collection of twelve essays (including a historical introduction by the editor), which addresses the complexity of the problems and issues that Western museums confront in dealing with contemporary art today. With its selection of diverse and intriguing case studies and specific focus on the contemporary art scene, it is an important and welcome addition to one of the primary fields of museum studies concerning the significance of collecting and collections for museums. --Masaaki Morishita, Museum and Society

About the Author

Bruce Altshuler is Director of the Program in Museum Studies at New York University and former Director of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, New York. His books include The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century and Isamu Noguchi .

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Book Info

Publication date

23rd July 2007


Bruce Altshuler

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Princeton University Press


208 pages


Art & design styles: from c 1960
Conservation, restoration & care of artworks



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