As you turn the pages of A Curator’s Quest: Building the Collection of Painting and Sculpture of the Museum of Modern Art, 1967-1988 (Overlook, $100) and see one iconic work after another that William Rubin acquired for the museum, you realize that MoMA was definitely the house that Alfred H. Barr and Rubin built. William Rubin was an art history professor at Sarah Lawrence—and a collector with a loft full of works by Rothko, Pollock, de Kooning, and Kline—when he became the Chief Curator, then the Director, of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA. Besides the hundreds of works he helped acquire, he mounted great exhibitions like Picasso: A Retrospective and “Primitivism” in 20th-Century Art. Each of the book’s three sections could be a volume in itself: Rubin’s 150-page essay on his career (which takes you inside the world of trustees and collectors); over 300 pages of color reproductions of key acquisitions; and eight lectures on “The Pioneers of Modernism” (also with plenty of illustrations). Yes, it’s heavy, but perfect for this heavyweight personality—and for any art lover.
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