“From the King’s Collection to Public Display: the Salon Exhibition and the Making of the Modern Museum,” by Dorothy Johnson, Roy J. Carver Professor of Art History, University of Iowa School of Art and Art History
This lecture explores the role of the Salon Exhibitions in 18th century Paris in the emergence of the modern museum. Every two years throughout most of the 18th century the King of France hosted a display of works by the best contemporary French artists in his palace, the Louvre. The works at the Salon exhibitions were carefully chosen and organized in a specific order by curators of the exhibitions, a feature that still influences modern museums today. Vast crowds flocked to the exhibitions, much like our blockbuster shows, and established the idea that art should be made accessible to the wider public. The Salon exhibitions continued during the French Revolution, the Empire, and successive regimes and were a highlight of cultural life in the 19th century. In the early 19th century Napoleon transformed the Louvre into one of the first modern museums of art.