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Lady in the DarkIris Barry and the Art of Film$
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Robert Sitton

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231165785

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231165785.001.0001

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Lady in the Dark

Robert Sitton

Columbia University Press

This chapter describes Iris Barry's role in creating the film library at the Museum of Modern Art. Barry was the film library's new curator while her husband John E. Abbott was the library's director. Barry convinced Hollywood heavyweights such as Walt Disney and Charlie Chaplain to lend their films to the museum. Barry and Abbott also traveled to the archives of Europe and the Soviet Union, convincing their leaders to exchange films with the Museum. As a result, before there were university film departments, cinema students began to study and appreciate films. Barry laid down an infrastructure for the film component of what philosopher Arthur Danto has termed an “art world.” Weighing in on the controversy about how to define the limits of “art,” Danto approached the question by positing that art might be anything an “art world”—the world of artists, curators, critics, collectors, and patrons of art—recognizes it to be. Barry was an architect of the film component of the art world, and this is the core of her contribution.

Keywords:   Iris Barry, Hollywood, film library, Museum of Modern Art, motion pictures, cinema

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