The complexity of exhibitionary complexes
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Over the past few years, scholars interested in the politics of cultural representation have examined a variety of exhibitionary institutions, including international exhibitions, museums, department stores and zoos as primary outfitters of the modern world. Too often, however, studies of these cultural institutions, especially museums and fairs, have moved along parallel tracks. Now, with the publication of Tony Bennett’s Birth of the Museum, more emphasis will have to be given to points of convergence. Bennett makes a powerful and convincing argument that museums and fairs were parts of a larger wholean ‘exhibitionary complex’—that provided the cultural infrastructure for the modern state. That some scholars will argue that the ‘exhibitionary complex’ is even more complex than Bennett’s study allows will only underscore the significance of this book for redirecting the way we think about cultural institutions.