Carrier illuminates the public role of art museums by describing the ways they influence how art is seen: through their architecture, their collections, the narratives they offer museum visitors. He insists that an understanding of the art museum must take into account the roles of collectors, curators, and museum architects. Toward that end, he offers a series of case studies, showing how particular museums and their collections evolved. Among those who figure prominently are Baron Dominique Vivant Denon, the first director of the Louvre; Bernard Berenson, whose connoisseurship helped Isabella Stewart Gardner found her museum in Boston; Ernest Fenollosa, who assembled much of the Asian art collection now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Albert Barnes, the distinguished collector of modernist painting; and Richard Meier, architect of the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles. Carrier’s learned consideration of what the art museum is and has been provides the basis for understanding the radical transformation of its public role now under way.
Written in the lucid style of analytic philosophy, this accessible commentary offers a consideration of her arguments as well as discussions of alternative positions. Tracing Krauss's development in this way provides the best method of understanding the changing styles of American art criticism from the 1960s through the present, and thus provides an invaluable source of historical and aesthetic knowledge for artists and art scholars alike.
Based on case studies from the fifteenth century to the present, the work begins with a discussion of the rhetoric of artwriting. Chapter 1 defines art history as a profession in which interpretation is a basic act, exploring the terms of discourse that follow from this premise and explaining how persuasiveness and sometimes consensus on the meaning of an art object are achieved. Chapter 2 focuses on imagery and creative processes, showing how interpretation can bridge the personal aspect of meaning with the communal and social aspects. Chapter 3 looks at the relationship of interpretation to various institutions of art history, especially museums. Discussing the issue of indeterminacy, the author questions whether there is any given or "core" identity to an art object apart from those attributed to it by particular interpreters.