Neil Harris | Seminary Co-op Bookstore | Literary Events | Chicago Reader
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Neil Harris 

When: Thu., Dec. 5 2013
In a 1985 review of a National Gallery of Art exhibit on ancestral British country houses, the critic Robert Hughes wrote, "The agenda of the show is plain, and who could object to it? It is a fund raiser, aimed at drumming up more American support for that collectively unique, financially insecure, historically indispensable phenomenon, the Stately Home." The director of the gallery at the time was J. Carter Brown III, the American aristocrat who's the subject of Capital Culture, an elaborate and rewarding new book by Neil Harris, a historian at the University of Chicago. Its thesis is that Carter was one of a few men in the art world to reform the experience of visiting a blockbuster American museum over the last half of the 20th century. Over his 23-year tenure as gallery director, Carter championed a shift of museum funding from the public to the private sectors, favoring, as Hughes suggests, the sort of grand, corporate-sponsored spectacles that would rake in millions of visitors, as shows like "Treasures of Tutankhamun" (1976-'77) and "Treasure Houses" (1985-'86) did. To the consternation of many critics, curators, and journalists in the 70s and 80s, Carter was more than willing to skim a bit of erudition and classicism off the top in order to ensure a sturdy bottom line. Continue reading >>

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