"I was hopeless. I was very unathletic, and when I was in school I was two years younger than everybody in my class, so I got beaten up all the time, and I got laughed at for being interested in studying and doing stupid things like that."
J. Carter Brown's interests may not have won him many friends in school, but his subsequent career made him one of the best-loved figures in the cultural life of his country. For 23 years, he served as Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., building one of the world's greatest collections of art, and keeping it available to the public, free of charge.
He more than tripled the Gallery's annual attendance, drawing record crowds with once-in-a-lifetime exhibitions like "The Treasures of Tutankhamun" and "Treasure Houses of Britain." He doubled the Gallery's exhibition space and massively enlarged its holdings, persuading collectors to donate their treasures to the nation. Critics howled when he commissioned architect I.M Pei to build a modern gallery alongside the existing neo-classical structure, but the result was an undisputed triumph, named by the American Institute of Architects as one of the ten best buildings ever built in the United States.
When J. Carter Brown died in 2002, he was not only mourned as the man who had transformed a great arts institution, but as a populist who had brought great art to the masses.