The Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America

Begin Date2007-06-08
End Date2007-09-16
CuratorsDorothy Kosinski
Last Harvested At2019-03-23
Credit LineOrganized by the Yale University Art Gallery and supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support provided by Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. James Howard Cullum Clark, Ms. Helen Runnells DuBois and Mr. Raymond F. DuBois, Jr., Mr. Leonard F. Hill, Mr. and Mrs. S. Roger Horchow, Mr. and Mrs. George T. Lee, Jr., Dr. and Mrs. Edmund P. Pillsbury, Mr. Mark H. Resnick, Ms. Cathy R. Siegel and Mr. Kenneth Weiss, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph B. Smith, Mr. Michael Sullivan, and Mr. and Mrs. John Walsh. The exhibition in Dallas was supported by Lincoln Property Company and by the Donor Circle membership program through a leadership gift by Gail and Dan Cook. Air transportation provided by American Airlines.
LocationMarguerite and Robert Hoffman Galleries
OrganizerYale University Art Gallery
DescriptionThis summer the Dallas Museum of Art brings to light the extraordinary history of the Société Anonyme, Inc., an organization founded in 1920 by artists Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray as America's first "experimental museum" for contemporary art. The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, organized by the Yale University Art Gallery, features more than 240 works, including examples by Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp, Louis Michel Eilshemius, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Lazlo Peri, Man Ray, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Stella, and Nadezhda Udaltsova. The exhibition includes a representative selection of paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints, as well as historical photographs and other memorabilia. Together, these offer a vivid portrait of the Société, including its history and activities, and the context in which it functioned. While diverse in their goals, the founders agreed that there was a dire need to counter the lack of appreciation of modern art in America and nurture opportunities for its presentation through innovative exhibitions and related educational programs. The original gallery at 19 East 47th Street in New York City was the site of the first one-person exhibitions in America of artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, and Paul Klee, as well as serious scholarly programs and numerous Dada pranks. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Société Anonyme was the generative force for more than eighty exhibitions of contemporary art, at least eighty-five public programs, and approximately thirty publications - a tour de force campaign to bring modernism to America and to nurture international artistic exchange. "It was created as an experiment to promote modern and avant-garde art to American audiences," said Dr. Dorothy Kosinski, Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture and The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art of the Dallas Museum of Art. "But it was also modern in that it offered a non-hierarchical point of view, supporting the work of both established and lesser-known artists, from Paul Gauguin to Finnur Jónsson." Led by Dreier and Duchamp and assisted by its other members, the Société Anonyme assembled more than 1,000 works of art that now serve as a time capsule of modern art practice from 1920 to 1950. It was their hope that this collection would stand through time as a testimony to their rigorous modernist ideals and the vibrant interplay of ideas and experience they shared during this turbulent political, social, and economic period. These works were given to Yale University under the joint auspices of the Société Anonyme (1941) and the Katherine S. Dreier Bequest (1953). It is from this collection that the current exhibition has been formed in celebration of these artists and their commitment to the life of modernism in America. The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America and the accompanying publication and Web site have been curated by Jennifer R. Gross, the Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, with Susan Greenberg Fisher, the Horace W. Goldsmith Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, both of the Yale University Art Gallery. The organizing curator in Dallas is Dr. Dorothy Kosinski, Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture and The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art of the Dallas Museum of Art.