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Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art

Noah Charney, author; adjunct professor of art history, American University of Rome and University of Ljubljana; and founder, Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA). In this lecture, held on October 12, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Noah Charney examines how much of the way we conceive of art today—from which artists are generally considered the “greatest” and the preference for the Florentine Renaissance over other periods and eras to the very idea of collecting art and how it is arranged in museums—can be traced back to one man. Giorgio Vasari, a leading mid-16th-century painter and architect working in Florence and Rome, secured his legacy when he penned The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. Often considered the first work of art history, The Lives established not only the field of study, but also how the popular imagination understands art.