Forces for the new: Collectors and the 1913 Armory Show

from The Magazine ANTIQUES, January/February 2013 |

Fig. 14. Self-Portrait by van Gogh, c. 1887. Oil on canvas, 15 ¾ by 13 ⅜ inches. Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, gift of Philip L. Goodwin in memory of his mother, Josephine S. Goodwin.

On February 17, 1913, the most important art event ever held in America-the International Exhibition of Modern Art, quickly abbreviated to the "Armory Show" on account of its location in the Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory at Lexington Avenue and Twenty-Fifth Street-opened its doors. Because of its huge scope (nearly every progressive tendency in Europe and America was represented) and implications (the inevitability of aesthetic revolution, the legitimate claim of the avant-garde to a great tradition, and the demonstration that American artists were roughly twenty-five years behind their European counterparts), the Armory Show and its aftermath forever transformed the course of art in America. This year, two major exhibitions will celebrate the Armory Show's one hundredth anniversary: the New-York Historical Society will examine the epochal episode and its impact on art and culture, and the Montclair Art Museum in NewJersey will focus on the Americans in the exhibition.

Artists created, organized, and brought off the gigantic undertaking that was the Armory Show, but pioneering collectors also played vital roles. They too became generative forces who helped transform public taste in the process of reshaping their own. They were instrumental in creating the climate in which avant-garde painting and sculpture were not only established in the marketplace, but were also dignified as a legitimate field of connoisseurship and study.Artists created, organized, and brought off the gigantic undertaking that was the Armory Show, but pioneering collectors also played vital roles. They too became generative forces who helped transform public taste in the process of reshaping their own. They were instrumental in creating the climate in which avant-garde painting and sculpture were not only established in the marketplace, but were also dignified as a legitimate field of connoisseurship and study.

Artists created, organized, and brought off the gigantic undertaking that was the Armory Show, but pioneering collectors also played vital roles. They too became generative forces who helped transform public taste in the process of reshaping their own. They were instrumental in creating the climate in which avant-garde painting and sculpture were not only established in the marketplace, but were also dignified as a legitimate field of connoisseurship and study.

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[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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