PORTRAIT GALLERY ASKS - WHAT EXACTLY IS "COOL" ?

Feb 06, 2014

By Michael Kramer

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Curators at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington have a question: they want to know just what it means to be “cool.”

Over the past five years curators have chosen 100 photographs of people who helped define “cool” as a word for charisma..rebellion..and mystery.

A new exhibition opens Friday that gives the concept of “cool” a scholarly treatment.

“American Cool” traces the idea back to Walt Whitman and Frederick Douglass and moves through the generations leading up to Johnny Depp and Madonna.

The exhibit traces history, photography, race and gender.

The 100 people who made the cut include musicians, actors, athletes, comedians, activists and writers with photographs by Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz and others.

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