Alfred J. Barr

Alfred J. Barr (1902-1981)
(First Curator of the Museum of Modern Art, NY)

                              Fig 1. Alfred J. Barr early in his career

There was a kind of moral imperative behind Barr. He preached that modern art was good for people, that the populace could some how become inculcated with the new modernism and it would improve their lives (Hopps 1996)

Instrumental to promoting the art of Van Gogh, Gaugin, Matisse, and Cézanne, during his time as the curator of MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), Alfred J. Barrs’ many years of curating left a lasting impact on the way in which we view American and European art.

When made director of MoMa, he made the controversial decision to turn the New York museum into a permant home for a selection of the greatest modern artists of the age. This idea stood as radical and unusual for the time when modern art was constantly shifting  and changing. He held the firm belief that the artist led, and the museum followed, an idea that has lasted into the modern-day.

The Art Story comments upon Barr as:
“…the catalyst for the American public’s acceptance of and enthusiasm for modern art in the latter half of the 20th century”

He was instrumental in securing the fate of the fledgling museum, which was to become a staple institution. He innovatively established six different curatorial departments within the Museum of Modern Art; Painting and Sculpture, Drawings, Prints and Illustrated books, Film, Photography, and Architecture and Design. Barr intended to turn the museum into ‘the greatest museum of modern art in the world,’ and while of course this could be contested, MoMa certainly is an institution which is at the forefront of most artistically minded individuals.

Alfred J. Barr was key in securing the fate of modern art, shaping what could have been seen as a ‘passing trend’ into an institution.



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