8 – American Museum, Global Modernism: The Museum of Modern Art in the World, 1929-1959


Course 8 – Summer School online

Monday 13 June – Friday 17 June
Dr Matthew Holman

Enrolment is now closed for this course.

Course description

With a modest collection of eight prints and one drawing, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opened in 1929 and declared its ambition to provide New York with ‘the greatest museum of modern art in the world.’ This course explores the colourful early history of this unique institution, and asks how we can better understand the social, cultural and political transformations of the United States through the art of its collection, the lives of its curators, and its evolving place in the globalised art-world. Particular attention will be placed on situating MoMA in ever-changing international contexts, from its early strategy to stage blockbuster exhibitions of European modernism through its leading – and often controversial – role in the circulation of Abstract Expressionism overseas during the Cold War. By critically engaging with MoMA’s exhibition history and collecting practices, we will investigate the ways in which realist photography became a means of expressing internationalist solidarity in the post-war period, how poetry might relate to curatorial practice, and how the American representation at biennales and perennial exhibitions changed as the United States sought a new position for itself in the political realignments of the twentieth century.

Lecturer’s biography

Dr Matthew James Holman is Associate Lecturer at University College London, having completed his PhD on the institutional history of the Museum of Modern Art there in 2020. A specialist in American modernism, Matthew has received research fellowships at Yale University, The Smithsonian Institution, The Terra Foundation for American Art Residency, and spent a year at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies in Berlin under a Leverhulme Trust Studentship. He has taught modern literature and art history at UCL, The Slade School of Fine Art, Queen Mary University of London, and The Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

William P Gottlieb, Portrait of Ralph Burns, Edwin A. Finckel, George Handy, Neal Hefti, Johnny Richards, and Eddie Sauter, Museum of Modern Art, New York, N.Y., c. March 1947, The Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons