modern art

modern art

modern art, art created from the 19th cent. to the mid-20th cent. by artists who veered away from the traditional concepts and techniques of painting, sculpture, and other fine arts that had been practiced since the Renaissance (see Renaissance art and architecture). Nearly every phase of modern art was initially greeted by the public with ridicule, but as the shock wore off, the various movements settled into history, influencing and inspiring new generations of artists.

See also photography, still.

Origins of Modern Art

In the second half of the 19th cent. painters began to revolt against the classic codes of composition, careful execution, harmonious coloring, and heroic subject matter. Patronage by the church and state sharply declined at the same time that artists' views became more independent and subjective. Such artists as Courbet, Corot and others of the Barbizon School, Manet, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec chose to paint scenes of ordinary daily and nocturnal life that often offended the sense of decorum of their contemporaries.

Impressionism

Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro, the great masters of impressionism, painted café and city life, as well as landscapes, working most often directly from nature and using new modes of representation. While art had always been to a certain extent abstract in that formal considerations had frequently been of primary importance, painters, beginning with the impressionists in the 1870s, took new delight in freedom of brushwork. They made random spots of color and encrusted the canvas with strokes that did not always correspond to the object that they were depicting but that formed coherent internal relationships. Thus began a definite separation of the image and the subject. The impressionists exploited the range of the color spectrum, directly applying strokes of pure pigment to the canvas rather than mixing colors on the palette. In sculpture, dynamic forms and variations of impressionism were created by Rodin, Renoir, Degas, and the Italian Medardo Rosso.

Nineteenth-Century Painting after Impressionism

In the 1880s, Seurat and Signac developed the more detailed and systematic approach of neoimpressionism, while Van Gogh and Gauguin, using bold masses, gave to color an unprecedented excitement and emotional intensity (see postimpressionism). At the same time, Cézanne painted subtler nuances of tone and sought to achieve greater structural clarity. Flouting the laws of perspective, he extracted geometrical forms from nature and created radically new spatial patterns in his landscapes and still lifes. Other important innovations of the late 19th cent. can be seen in the starkly expressionistic paintings of the Norwegian Edvard Munch and the vivid fantasies of the Belgian James Ensor. In the 1890s the Nabis developed pictorial ideas from Gauguin, while sinuous linear decorations were produced throughout Europe by the designers of art nouveau.

The Isms of Early Twentieth-Century Art

From the early 20th cent. color reigned supreme and invaded the contours of recognizable objects with the brilliant patterns of fauvism (1905-8), dominated by Matisse and Rouault in France, the orphism of Robert Delaunay and Frank Kupka, and the explosive hues of the German group Die Brücke, which included such practitioners of expressionism as Kirchner and Nolde. Kandinsky transformed (c.1910) color into a completely abstract art absolutely divorced from subject matter. The fauvists and expressionists shared an appreciation of the pure and simplified shapes of various examples of primitive art, an enthusiasm that was generated by Gauguin and extended to Picasso, Brancusi, Modigliani, Derain, and others.

Cubism

About 1909 the implications of Cézanne's highly organized yet revolutionary spatial structures were expanded by Picasso and Braque, who invented an abstract art of still lifes converted into shifting volumes and planes. Cubism, developed by the artists of the school of Paris, went through several stages and had an enormous influence on European and American painting and sculpture. In sculpture its notable exponents included Picasso, Duchamp-Villon, Lipchitz, González, and Archipenko, who began to realize the possibilities of convex and concave volumes. Cubism was absorbed in Italy by the exponents of futurism (c.1909-c.1915) and in Germany by the Blaue Reiter group (1911-14); both these movements were cut short by the advent of World War I. Fauvism and cubism were introduced by members of the Eight to a generally shocked American audience in the Armory Show of 1913, and from then on Americans began to participate significantly in the development of modern art (see American art).

Geometric Abstraction

At roughly the same time as cubism was developing, Russia made extraordinary contributions to the current of nonfigurative art. The sculptors Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner joined the movement known as constructivism (c.1913-c.1921), and the painter Casimir Malevich founded suprematism (1913). In Holland members of the Stijl group (1917-31), including Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg, created a disciplined, nonobjective art. These Russian and Dutch developments in the second decade of the 20th cent. were applicable to many varieties of art and industrial design, and their principles converged in the teachings of the Bauhaus in the 1920s. Kandinsky, the highly imaginative Paul Klee, and the American Lyonel Feininger were among the celebrated exponents of the Bauhaus.

Other Modes of Modern Art

A more fanciful sort of modern art was created by Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, and Kurt Schwitters in the irreverent manifestations of the Dada movement. Dada artists devised "ready-mades" and collage objects from diverse bits of material. The movement was linked with Freudianism in the 1920s, producing the wild imagery of surrealism and verism, as seen in the paintings of Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, and Joan Miró. The 1920s also saw the beginning of an art of social protest by exponents of new objectivity, among them George Grosz, Otto Dix, and Max Beckmann. With the rise of fascism and the Great Depression of the 1930s, the protest increased in intensity. The Mexicans Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros painted murals in which the human figure was made monumental and heroic (see Mexican art and architecture).

Postwar Modern Art and the Rejection of Modernism

The development of a new American art movement was held in abeyance until after World War II, when the United States took the lead in the formation of a vigorous new art known as abstract expressionism with the impetus of such artists as Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning. Action painting, as the movement was also known, made its impact felt throughout the world in the 1950s. A number of notable developments were led by artists associated with these and other New York school artists. As the influence of abstract expressionism waned in the 1960s, artists came to question the very philosophy underlying modernism. A vast variety of new movements and styles came to dominate the art world that, in the aggregate, can now be seen to mark the beginnings of artistic postmodernism and the post-midcentury shift from modern to contemporary art.

Modern Sculpture

In sculpture the explorations of Julio González led to abstract configurations of welded metal that can be seen in the works of Americans such as David Smith, Theodore Roszack, Seymour Lipton, and Herbert Ferber. This tradition has been a lasting one, and contemporary examples of large abstract compositions of welded metal can be found in the work of many later sculptors, including Mark di Suvero and Beverly Pepper.

Alexander Calder largely stood apart from other modernist sculptors with his brightly colored mobiles and stabiles, which have since been widely influential, as in the large, brightly colored sculpture of Albert Paley. Meanwhile, the early-20th-century tradition of Brancusi's organic abstract forms was inventively exploited in midcentury by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth in England and by Jean Arp in France, while the Swiss Alberto Giacometti and the Italians Giacomo Manzù and Marino Marini each achieved a distinctive sculptural style. Later 20th-century sculpture has followed the patterns of the various postmodern art movements and is described in the article on contemporary art.

Bibliography

See A. H. Barr, Jr., ed., Masters of Modern Art (1954); R. Rosenblum, Cubism and Twentieth-Century Art (1967); H. H. Arnason, History of Modern Art (1968); W. Haftmann et al., Art Since Mid-Century (2 vol., tr. 1972); D. Hall and P. Wykes, Anecdotes of Modern Art (1989).

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an art museum located in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, USA, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been singularly important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world. The museum's collection offers an unparalleled overview of modern and contemporary art, including works of architecture and design, drawings, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, illustrated books, film, and electronic media.

MoMA's library and archives hold over 300,000 books, artist books, and periodicals, as well as individual files on more than 70,000 artists. The archives contain primary source material related to the history of modern and contemporary art.

History

The idea for The Museum of Modern Art was developed in 1928 primarily by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (wife of John D. Rockefeller Jr.) and two of her friends, Lillie P. Bliss and Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan. They became known variously as "the Ladies", "the daring ladies" and "the adamantine ladies". They rented modest quarters for the new museum and it opened to the public on November 7, 1929, nine days after the Wall Street Crash. Abby had invited A. Conger Goodyear, the former president of the board of trustees of the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, to become president of the new museum. Abby became treasurer. At the time, it was America's premier museum devoted exclusively to modern art, and the first of its kind in Manhattan to exhibit European modernism.

Goodyear enlisted Paul J. Sachs and Frank Crowninshield to join him as founding trustees. Sachs, the associate director and curator of prints and drawings at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, was referred to in those days as a collector of curators. Goodyear asked him to recommend a director and Sachs suggested Alfred H. Barr Jr., a promising young protege. Under Barr's guidance, the museum's holdings quickly expanded from an initial gift of eight prints and one drawing. Its first successful loan exhibition was in November 1929, displaying paintings by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, and Seurat.

First housed in six rooms of galleries and offices on the twelfth floor of Manhattan's Heckscher Building, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, the museum moved into three more temporary locations within the next ten years. Abby's husband was adamantly opposed to the museum (as well as to modern art itself) and refused to release funds for the venture, which had to be obtained from other sources and resulted in the frequent shifts of location. Nevertheless, he eventually donated the land for the current site of the museum, plus other gifts over time, and thus became in effect one of its greatest benefactors.

During that time it initiated many more exhibitions of noted artists, such as the lone Vincent van Gogh exhibition on November 4, 1935. Containing an unprecedented sixty-six oils and fifty drawings from the Netherlands, and poignant excerpts from the artist's letters, it was a major public success and became "a precursor to the hold van Gogh has to this day on the contemporary imagination".

The museum also gained international prominence with the hugely successful and now famous Picasso retrospective of 1939-40, held in conjunction with the Art Institute of Chicago. In its range of presented works, it represented a significant reinterpretation of Picasso for future art scholars and historians. This was wholly masterminded by Barr, a Picasso enthusiast, and the exhibition lionized Picasso as the greatest artist of the time, setting the model for all the museum's retrospectives that were to follow.

When Abby Rockefeller's son Nelson was selected by the board of trustees to become its flamboyant president in 1939, at the age of thirty, he became the prime instigator and funder of its publicity, acquisitions and subsequent expansion into new headquarters on 53rd Street. His brother, David Rockefeller, also joined the museum's board of trustees, in 1948, and took over the presidency when Nelson took up position as Governor of New York in 1958.

David subsequently employed the noted architect Philip Johnson to redesign the museum garden and name it in honor of his mother, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. He and the Rockefeller family in general have retained a close association with the museum throughout its history, with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund funding the institution since 1947. Both David Rockefeller, Jr. and Sharon Percy Rockefeller (wife of Senator Jay Rockefeller) currently sit on the board of trustees.

In 1937, MoMA had shifted to offices and basement galleries in the Time & Life Building in Rockefeller Center. Its permanent and current home, now renovated, designed in the International Style by the modernist architects Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone, opened to the public on May 10, 1939, attended by an illustrious company of 6,000 people, and with an opening address via radio from the White House by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Artworks

Considered by many to have the best collection of modern Western masterpieces in the world, MoMA's holdings include more than 150,000 individual pieces in addition to approximately 22,000 films and 4 million film stills. The collection houses such important and familiar works as the following:

It also holds works by a wide range of influential American artists including Cindy Sherman, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jasper Johns, Edward Hopper, Chuck Close, Georgia O'Keefe, and Ralph Bakshi.

MoMA developed a world-renowned art photography collection, first under Edward Steichen and then John Szarkowski, as well as an important film collection under The Museum of Modern Art Department of Film and Video. The film collection owns prints of many familiar feature-length movies, including Citizen Kane and Vertigo, but the department's holdings also contains many less-traditional pieces, including Andy Warhol's eight-hour Empire and Chris Cunningham's music video for Björk's All Is Full of Love. MoMA also has an important design collection, which includes works from such legendary designers as Paul László, the Eameses, Isamu Noguchi, and George Nelson. The design collection also contains many industrial and manufactured pieces, ranging from a self-aligning ball bearing to an entire Bell 47D1 helicopter.

Exhibition houses

At various points in its history, MoMA has sponsored and hosted temporary exhibition houses, which have reflected seminal ideas in architectural history.

  • 1949: exhibition house by Marcel Breuer
  • 1950: exhibition house by Gregory Ain
  • 1955: Japanese exhibition house
  • 2008: Prefabricated houses planned by:
    • Kieran Timberlake Architects
    • Lawrence Sass
    • Jeremy Edmiston and Douglas Gauthier
    • Leo Kaufmann Architects
    • Richard Horden

Renovation

MoMA's midtown location underwent extensive renovations in the early 2000s, closing on May 21, 2002 and reopening to the public in a building redesigned by the Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, on November 20, 2004. From June 29, 2002 until September 27, 2004, a portion of its collection was on display in what was dubbed MoMA QNS, a former Swingline staple factory in the Long Island City section of Queens.

The renovation project nearly doubled the space for MoMA's exhibitions and programs and features 630,000 square feet of new and redesigned space. The Peggy and David Rockefeller Building on the western portion of the site houses the main exhibition galleries, and The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building on the eastern portion provides over five times more space for classrooms, auditoriums, teacher training workshops, and the museum's expanded Library and Archives. These two buildings frame the enlarged Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, home to two works by Richard Serra.

MoMA's reopening brought controversy as its admission cost increased from US$12 to US$20, making it one of the most expensive museums in the city; however it has free entry on Fridays after 4pm, thanks to sponsorship from Target Stores. The architecture of the renovation is controversial. At its opening, some critics thought that Taniguchi's design was a fine example of contemporary architecture, while many others were extremely displeased with certain aspects of the design, such as the flow of the space.

MoMA has seen its average number of visitors rise to 2.5 million from about 1.5 million a year before its new granite and glass renovation. The museum's director, Glenn D. Lowry, expects average visitor numbers eventually to settle in at around 2.1 million.

Officers and Board of Trustees

Vice Chairmen:

  • Sid R. Bass
  • Leon D. Black
  • Kathleen Fuld
  • Mimi Haas
  • Director - Glenn D. Lowry
  • Treasurer - Richard E. Salomon
  • Assistant Treasurer - James Gara
  • Secretary - Patty Lipshultz



Notable Trustees:

Life Trustees

  • Celeste Bartos
  • Thomas S. Carroll
  • Douglas S. Cramer
  • Gianluigi Gabetti
  • Werner H. Kramarsky
  • June Noble Larkin
  • Robert B. Menschel
  • Peter G. Peterson
  • Gifford Phillips
  • David Rockefeller
  • Joanne M. Stern
  • Mrs. Donald B. Straus
  • Jeanne C. Thayer
  • Joan Tisch

Honorary Trustees:

  • Mrs. Jan Cowles
  • Lewis B. Cullman
  • H.R.H. Duke Franz of Bavaria
  • Maurice R. Greenberg (Director Emeritus)
  • Wynton Marsalis
  • Richard E. Oldenburg
  • Mrs. Milton Petrie
  • Lord Rogers of Riverside
  • Ileana Sonnabend
  • Emily Spiegel
  • Yoshio Taniguchi
  • David Teiger
  • Eugene V. Thaw

Curators

Chief Curators

  • Alfred H. Barr, founding curator
  • John Elderfield, retired, 2008
  • Ann Temkin, appointed 2008

Further reading

  • Fitzgerald, Michael C. Making Modernism: Picasso and the Creation of the Market for Twentieth-Century Art. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995.
  • Harr, John Ensor and Peter J. Johnson. The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988.
  • Kert, Bernice. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller: The Woman in the Family. New York: Random House, 1993.
  • Lynes, Russell, Good Old Modern: An Intimate Portrait of the Museum of Modern Art, New York: Athenaeum, 1973.
  • Reich, Cary. The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer 1908-1958. New York: Doubleday, 1996.
  • Rockefeller, David. Memoirs. New York: Random House, 2002.
  • Schulze, Franz. Philip Johnson: Life and Work. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1996.

See also

References

External links

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