The National Gallery: A Short History

Charles Saumarez Smith recounts the history of arguably the most important and most beloved public art collection in the world, the National Gallery, of which he was Director from 2002 to 2007. His insider's perspective gives him an invaluable insight into the challenges faced by his predecessors as they managed the collection from its very modest origins through to its status as a world class institution and a major tourist destination that welcomes more than five million visitors per year. This erudite yet movingly personal book reveals the contentious issues surrounding how a national collection is to be acquired, preserved, restored and displayed, the often fraught relationship between Director, Trustees and government, architectural and aesthetic controversies, and addresses the future of the Gallery in an increasingly uncertain and commercialized art marketplace.