274 Pages
    by Routledge

    274 Pages
    by Routledge

    Are national galleries different from other kinds of art gallery or museum?
    What value is there for the nation in a collection of international masterpieces?
    How are national galleries involved in the construction national art?

    National Galleries is the first book to undertake a panoramic view of a type of national institution – which are sometimes called national museums of fine art – that is now found in almost every nation on earth. Adopting a richly illustrated, globally inclusive, comparative view, Simon Knell argues that national galleries should not be understood as ‘great galleries’ but as peculiar sites where art is made to perform in acts of nation building. A book that fundamentally rewrites the history of these institutions and encourages the reader to dispense with elitist views of their worth, Knell reveals an unseen geography and a rich complexity of performance. He considers the ways the national galleries entangle art and nation, and the differing trajectories and purposes of international and national art. Exploring galleries, artists and artworks from around the world, National Galleries is an argument about how we think about and study these institutions. Privileging the situatedness of each national gallery performance, and valuing localism over universalism, Knell looks particularly at how national art is constructed and represented. He ends with examples that show the mutability of national art and by questioning the necessity of art nationalism.


    List of Plates

    List of Figures


    1. Picturing the national gallery

    Budapest 2012

    Embarking on a new journey

    Defining the national gallery

    Redefining and complicating the definition

    Boundary institutions

    Putting the nation in the gallery

    Nations, the national and the international

    The political agency of national galleries

    The national gallery and the art-nation


    2. Entangling art and nation

    Oslo 2011

    Isolating artists

    Subjects and essences

    Citizens and foreigners

    Inscription and entombment

    Making up stories

    Respecting the nation

    3. National and international art

    London 2013

    Accumulating masterpieces

    An authored geography

    An idiosyncratic inheritance

    Appropriation and moral purpose

    The nation as a moral good

    The psychology of taste



    4. The Invention of national galleries

    London 1629

    The National Gallery

    The Louvre

    Nationalising the royal museum

    National galleries as projects of unification

    National galleries and the fight for independence

    State art museums, ideology and control

    Fanaticism and the national gallery

    National galleries and fragmenting nations

    Diverse invention

    5. An idea in global translation

    Mexico City 2000

    Latin America

    The British model abroad

    Speaking to the world

    Censorship, propaganda and freedom

    The independent nation

    Building a better world


    6. Buildings in cities

    Canberra 2010

    The curated city or the body of the nation

    An aesthetic paradigm

    A functional ideal

    Galleries for the nation

    Function and nation

    Brutalism, blandness and bling

    Strange appropriations

    7. Performances in space

    London 2013

    Harmonic agency

    Movement and culmination

    Scale, spectacle, transcendence and the sublime

    Inserting the nation

    Storied space

    Political maps of culture

    Convention and invention



    8. Making national art

    Tirana 2012

    State realisms in Russia, Germany and China

    Academic nationalism in Poland

    The Prado and the invention of the Spanish tradition

    National art perfected: Canada’s Group of Seven


    9. Admitting complexity

    Guernica 1937

    Impressionism, Australia and the national artist

    Internationalism and the Hungarian Fauves

    Contesting New Zealand’s Colin McCahon

    America’s inclusive abstraction and Latino art

    Beyond nation, beyond art: Indigenous Australia


    Simon Knell is Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester’s School of Museum Studies, UK.

    "The book is a welcome contribution to the project of ‘making strange’ the naturalized cultural forms, practices and assumptions associated with national galleries. In an eminently readable and engaging compendium of thematic perspectives and critical accounts, Knell reveals some of the vast and usually unremarked differences between national galleries. Through a comparative framework he attends sensitively to their situated peculiarities and to their political contexts and roles, providing new insights into the ways in which interrelated ideas of art and the nation have historically been constructed in the institutional remits, rhetoric, collections and space of museums. Achieving a uniquely wide and comparative perspective only available to the near-constant traveller, Knell has provided a landmark study for the understanding of national galleries." Christopher Whitehead, Professor of Museology, Newcastle University, UK

    "A welcome survey of the development and meaning of national galleries of art beyond the familiar institutional histories of western Europe and the United States of America." Professor Helen Rees Leahy, University of Manchester

    "Covering a broad range of histories and institutions, Knell tackles the subject of national galleries with clarity and aplomb. The text is supported by 41 black-and-white images and 15 color plates, many taken by the author, a thorough index, and ample notes... Useful to those interested in museum studies, collecting histories, national identity, material and cultural heritage, and related fields in the fine arts.Summing Up: Recommended"— J. Decker, CHOICE Reviews