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Collecting as Modernist Practice

Winner of the Modernist Studies Association Book Prize of the Modernist Studies Association

In this highly original study, Jeremy Braddock focuses on collective forms of modernist expression—the art collection, the anthology, and the archive—and their importance in the development of institutional and artistic culture in the United States.

Using extensive archival research, Braddock's study synthetically examines the overlooked practices of major American art collectors and literary editors: Albert Barnes, Alain Locke, Duncan Phillips, Alfred Kreymborg, Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound, Katherine Dreier, and Carl Van Vechten. He reveals the way collections were devised as both models for modernism's future institutionalization and culturally productive objects and aesthetic forms in themselves. Rather than anchoring his study in the familiar figures of the individual poet, artist, and work, Braddock gives us an entirely new account of how modernism was made, one centered on the figure of the collector and the practice of collecting.

Collecting as Modernist Practice demonstrates that modernism's cultural identity was secured not so much through the selection of a canon of significant works as by the development of new practices that shaped the social meaning of art. Braddock has us revisit the contested terrain of modernist culture prior to the dominance of institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the university curriculum so that we might consider modernisms that could have been.

Offering the most systematic review to date of the Barnes Foundation, an intellectual genealogy and analysis of The New Negro anthology, and studies of a wide range of hitherto ignored anthologies and archives, Braddock convincingly shows how artistic and literary collections helped define the modernist movement in the United States.

About the Author

Jeremy Braddock is an associate professor of English at Cornell University.


"A book that's going to rewrite what we think about art objects, poems, property, museums, anthologies—and race and modernity and on and on... So comprehensive is it that it will be impossible to ignore."

- Tim Morton - Ecology Without Nature

"The final chapter on the institutionalization of modernism in archival collections and rare book libraries is particularly illuminating for the history of librarianship... The breadth of his scholarship, evidenced by the seventy pages dedicated to the index and bibliography, makes this title a critical addition to libraries supporting modern art collections and modern art history programs."

"Acute and important... a wide-ranging study based on the unexpected but revealing parallels between the selection of work for poetry anthologies and the acquisition of art for collections during the modernist era."

- Barry Schwabsky - The Nation

"Braddock's book stands as a towering achievement... Essential."

"Collecting as a Modernist Practice not only explains how art is consumed, but it also analyzes how art circulates, not freely, but according to choices made by people who enjoy either power, influence, or fortune. The author not only tells how things happened, but he also links decisions with consequences... Historians of ideas, sociologists of art and culture, and advanced students in cultural studies will surely benefit from this elegant, well-written book."

- Yves Laberge - Journal of American Culture

"Braddock... neatly outline[s] the path of the modernist collection from provisional institution to mainstream culture to large institution in a cogent manner that may cause present-day museum professionals and collectors to consider the potential life cycle of their collecting and display practices."

- Kara York - Journal of Curatorial Studies

"Collecting as Modernist Practice, Jeremy Braddock's closely reasoned and well written examination of modernist collecting practices, demonstrates how attempts to define and regulate culture often reveal underlying structures of political and economic power..."

- John Scheckter - Ecloga

"Jeremy Braddock's Collecting as Modernist Practice makes a very productive expansion of the archival turn in modernist studies... Braddock's work on Albert Barnes and the Barnes Foundation is sure to elicit attention and further development in modernist studies."


"Braddock pieces together a fascinating and important new cultural history of modernism. It is a marvelous achievement, one that will be amply praised for the way it places African American culture at the center of modernism."

- Jesse Matz, Kenyon College

"With his kaleidoscopic analysis of the efflorescence of collecting in the first decades of the twentieth century, Braddock transforms the cartography of transatlantic modernism. His remarkably erudite reading of a wide range of practices demonstrates not only the prevalence of collecting but also its significance as one of the key modes of modernist aesthetics."

- Brent Hayes Edwards, Columbia University

"This is a terrific book that will add substantially to general accounts of early U.S. modernism by providing a finely drawn map of the emergence of some key collections. Just as importantly, it will bring into the open what has been hiding in plain sight: the multidimensional, generative role of the collection in modernism."

- Janet Lyon, The Pennsylvania State University

"Meticulously researched and lucidly written, Collecting as Modernist Practice enriches the conversation about the spread of modernism into mainstream society and its pervasive presence in the West."

- John Xiros Cooper, The University of British Columbia
Johns Hopkins University Press
Hopkins Studies in Modernism
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Paris, Capital of the Black Atlantic

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