The arts in America have been historically advanced by private philanthropy and visionary leaders of individual institutions such as Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art. A third driver, the impresario, though a familiar phenomenon in European cultural life, has been almost entirely missing on these shores. The lone exception is the figure of Lincoln Kirstein, currently the subject of an exhibition at moma.1

Kirstein was born in 1907 (he died in 1996) and grew up in Boston, the son of a successful retailer who bankrolled his son’s many efforts and initiatives, sparing him the need to earn a living. Kirstein...


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