Installation view of 54–64 Painting and Sculpture of a Decade, Tate Gallery, London, (1964), Photo © Tate.

Tate has recently launched a major online research publication devoted to post-war American art in its collection. Modern American Art at Tate 1945–1980 reveals the richness and complexity of the museum’s involvement with art from the United States during this period, casting new light on the cultural forces and political interests that played a role in determining which artworks were acquired and shown.

Edited by Alex J. Taylor, who was formerly the Terra Foundation Research Fellow in American Art at Tate, this publication brings together essays that explore Tate’s history of collecting and exhibiting American art alongside twenty peer-reviewed In Focus studies, each one offering new research on an individual artwork in Tate’s collection. These In Focus studies lie at the core of the publication and collectively tell an unconventional history of American art that serves to challenge traditional ways of understanding American modernism. Authored by leading specialists in the field, each study comprises linked essays that explore the work’s history and significance in depth, revealing how shifting institutional and ideological contexts change how works of art are understood and valued over time.

The ten essays that frame the In Focus studies examine Tate’s changing attitudes to American art and its attempts to acquire significant private collections, revealing the opportunities and challenges it faced in building a world-class collection of art from the United States. The publication also includes a newly produced timeline that provides a chronological overview of the events that shaped how American art has been seen and understood in Britain during this period, while several key texts that played a crucial role in historicising American art and its relationship to Tate – authored by John Rothenstein, Ronald Alley and Alfred Barr, to name a few – are also republished for the first time online.

This publication marks the culmination of Tate’s Refiguring American Art research project made possible through the generous support of the Terra Foundation for American Art.

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