The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America

Dallas, TX, May 6, 2007This summer the Dallas Museum of Art brings to light the extraordinary history of the Société Anonyme, Inc., an organization founded in 1920 by the 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 80 exhibitions of contemporary art, at least 85 public programs, and approximately 30 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 over 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.

About the Exhibition
The exhibition is organized by the Yale University Art Gallery and is 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.

Founded in 1832, the Yale University Art Gallery is the oldest and one of the most prestigious college art museums in America, and the third oldest such museum in the world. The Gallery’s encyclopedic holdings, which number more than 185,000 objects, range from ancient times to the present day and represent civilizations from around the globe. The Gallery is both a collecting and an educational institution, and all activities are aimed at providing an invaluable resource and experience for Yale University faculty, staff, and students, as well as for the general public. In December 2006 the Gallery’s main building—the first museum designed by American architect Louis Kahn—reopened to the public following a comprehensive renovation.

About the Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art, established in 1903, has an encyclopedic collection of more than 23,000 works spanning 5,000 years of history and representing all media with renowned strengths in the arts of the ancient Americas, Africa, Indonesia and South Asia; European and American painting, sculpture and decorative arts; and American and international contemporary art.

The Dallas Museum of Art is the anchor of the Dallas Arts District and serves more than one-half million visitors a year, offering more than 5,000 education and public programs annually, designed to engage people of all ages with the power and excitement of art.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

The Museum is located just south of Woodall Rodgers Freeway with driveways on both Harwood and St. Paul providing access to the underground parking garage. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day except Thursday, when the Museum stays open until 9 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.