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Whose Muse?: Art Museums and the Public Trust Paperback – October 3, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


"These essays are rare treasures in the debate about contemporary museums. Each piece is rich in deep personal insight, much of it gained--one suspects--in a battle with the financial and political pressures faced by art museums at present. There is a generous feel to the book, such that it seems as though you are glimpsing that which would normally be hidden from public view. . . . Putting art back at the center of art museums will not be easy; this is the closest there is to a manifesto."--Josie Appleton, Times Literary Supplement

"An unusually thoughtful series of meditations on the fundamental purposes of museums and how they should serve their public by six of the world's leading museum directors. . . . Cumulatively, it becomes clear that these essays are an unusually soul-searching description of the core beliefs of the small group of men who run the major museums in Britain and America."--Charles Saumarez Smith, Spectator

"An eloquent and powerful statement of what one might call the traditional, or alternatively the true, objectives of the museum of art. Essential reading for the museum enthusiast."--Giles Waterfield, Art Newspaper

"Cuno is alarmed about the state of his profession. . . . The brilliant new book he has edited, Whose Muse, is a passionate argument for art museums to stop mimicking shopping malls and return to their primary purpose, an encounter between visitor and object."--Christine Temin, The Boston Globe

"A comprehensive and sometimes eloquent overview of many of the major issues of museums today, with special emphasis on the public's trust of museums, their authority, and their responsibilities to society. . . . Handsomely produced, this is a report from the front lines of one of the most important parts of American society today."--Choice

"For any museum visitor these revelations of what the museum directors think of what we think of them are fascinating, and sometimes shocking."--Maev Kennedy, Art Quarterly

From the Inside Flap

"Clearly written and quite accessible, the papers in this volume will reinforce the traditional view of art museums held by many readers while also addressing recent challenges to the museum's legitimacy as a public institution."--Bruce J. Altshuler, Director, Program in Museum Studies, New York University --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691127816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691127811
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 9.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,050,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andrea on December 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a compilation of essays written by directors of major art museums: Cuno from the Art Institute of Chicago, De Montebello from the Met, Lowry from the MoMA, MacGregor from the British Museum, Walsh of the Getty in LA, and Wood, formerly of the AIC. Each addresses how museums can cultivate public trust in cultural institutions, the kinds of authority museums have, and how they should manage their responsibilities. MacGregor's essay was my personal favorite; it includes two amazing stories of how art proves to be valued for its emotional power during times of crisis (specifically on 9/11 and during WWII). Walsh offers suggestions as to how museums can offer its visitors a more genuine experience through curatorial choices and placement of lighting and seats. Lowry and De Montebello write about the relationship of the entertainment industry to museums. A very accessible, jargon-free text that is surprisingly interesting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Art Lover on September 21, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With everything from motorcycles, cars, boats, Jackie O's clothes, Star Wars artifacts, elephant dung and more finding their way into the museum, this is probably a good time to examine just what the museum is and who it is for. Art Institute of Chicago director James Cuno has assembled a veritable who's who of major museum directors to hold forth on this topic. Taken together, the essays provide rare insight into how museums are being shaped in the 20th century. With sometimes surprising candor the directors make their case for how and why the museum is beholden to the public trust. A roundtable discussion at the book's end further amplifies the issues set forth in the essays. This is an important book.
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