Malraux’s idea of an imaginary museum, a “museum without walls” (which he first announced in ), is a prescient manifesto of the digital. (file size: MB, MIME type: application/pdf). Expand view. One day in , André Malraux, the dazzling all-rounder who had . The Book on the Floor: André Malraux and the Imaginary Museum by.

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Malraux himself appears near the top of the frame, leaning back against a piano, smoking a cigarette and holding a piece of paper, indifferent to the curated chaos all about him. But the composition was eloquent as well as striking.

Book on the Floor: André Malraux and the Imaginary Museum | French History | Oxford Academic

Malraux was not so much the author of the book as its enabler. He had shared his opinions in a previous trilogy, The Psychology of Art.

These days we are accustomed to portable objects that assemble paintings or sculptures from far afield. We call miaginary art books. They are familiar from museum shops and coffee tables, and there are publishers who deal in nothing else. As a government minister, Malraux had promoted the idea of creating full-size colour photographs of French paintings, for display in provincial museums.


But Malraux kept faith with the use of the camera as a tool of dissemination, and he eventually produced a book that brought together sculptures from all over — a museum untroubled by logistics and contingencies, shipping charges and insurance premiums. That was the point.

The Imaginary Museum contained more than 1, illustrations; if they were well chosen, Malraux had done his job. The availability offered by photographic reproductions coincided with an expansion of traditional categories.

It was a democratic project in every way. The imaginary museum contributed to this effort because, unlike conventional art history with its emphasis on traditions and coteries, the juxtaposition of photographs was able to establish an affinity shared symbols, similar techniques between art from different continents and millennia.

The camera had created a level playing field.

Grasskamp defends Malraux against the charge of simply stealing ideas and concepts — in particular, from the philosopher Walter Benjamin — but he stresses that his work was collaborative and at times heavily reliant on the efforts of others.


Although there was hardly any writing in the book, the copyright was shared by Malraux and Gallimard, the publisher with which he had close ties, being at various times an editor, adviser and shareholder. He brought his distinctive dramatic style to the images, shooting the objects in front of a dark backdrop with a circular pool of light to produce an effect close to silhouette.

The overlap between the two projects, however, was unmissable, and Grasskamp thinks that Malraux was too quiet about confessing the musekm. Vigneau is not totally forgotten: The Book on the Floor: You may also like Related content.

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