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A strange museum, an even stranger curator, the deceased artist who haunts him, and the mystery surrounding the museum founders’ daughter, lost at sea as a child . . . The Ambrose J. and Vivian T. Seagrave Museum of 20th Century American Art is by turns a dark comedy, a ghost story, a romance, a whodunit, a family saga, and an exhibition catalog.
Through museum exhibit labels, as well as the interior musings of an elderly visitor wandering through its galleries, the novel’s numerous dramas gradually unfold. We learn of the powerful Seagrave family’s tragic loss of their daughter, the suspicious circumstances surrounding her disappearance during a violent storm, and of the motley conclave of artists (some accomplished, some atrocious) who frequented the Seagrave estate, producing eclectic bodies of work that betray the artists’ own obsessions, losses, and peculiarities. We learn about the curator’s rise to power, his love affair with a deeply troubled ghost—and when a first-time visitor to the museum discovers unexpected connections between the works on exhibit and her painful past, we are plunged into a meditation on the nature of perception, fabrication, memory, and time.
About the Author
Matthew Kirkpatrick is a writer and associate professor of creative writing at Eastern Michigan University.
"The buzzword nowadays in art-world circles is access—how the concerns and biases of the institution or curator affect which individuals feel welcomed within the museum space. In his first novel, Kirkpatrick (The Exiles, 2013, etc.) weaves a playful and compelling tale that addresses the issue holistically. . . . Rather than being led around based on the institution's whim and fancy, we're forced to discern how personal interactions shade our perceptions of art as well as whether the backers responsible for the space have any impact on the viewer outside of financials. Plus we get the surface pleasure of discerning how the author has constructed a plot within these parameters. A novel of ideas whose appeal goes far beyond its target audience—be it literary readers skeptical of yet another postmodern yarn or art-world enthusiasts jaded about its ivory-tower state of affairs." — Kirkus
"Kirkpatrick’s book primarily takes the form of descriptions, written by a shadowy and temperamental curator, of paintings, sculptures, films, and dollhouses in the eponymous museum. This novel is the Pale Fire of paintings, and the museum—a small, privately-funded institution in a town noted mostly for its shovel factory—is the unreliable narrator version of exhibition spaces. . . . Genuinely fascinating." — Heavy Feather Review