Sunday, March 3, 2013

Observations on Art 3.3

Have I mentioned yet that this is Art Week? It's another sure sign that spring isn't too far off. Among other things this year's edition brings the 100th anniversary of the original Armory Show, the 25th anniversary of the ADAA Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory, the 15th anniversary of the current Armory Show on Piers 92 and 94, and the 5th anniversary of the Salon Zürcher. It's going to be a very busy week and one of the few times of the year I decide to write about art and little else.

Because of the centennial of the original show I think a bit of history and a trivia lesson are called for. Known as the International Exhibition of Modern Art the 1913 Armory Show ran in New York from February 17th until March 15th. From there it traveled to Chicago where it was at the Art Institute of Chicago from March 24th until April 16th. It became known as the Armory show because in New York it was housed in the 69th Regiment Armory. Attendance in Chicago was actually twice what it was in New York but, New York being New York, the name stuck.

One of the organizers of the show was Lille P. Bliss who was one of the major art collectors of the day. Bliss, who was never married, devoted her life to bringing modern art to the U.S. and her collection eventually included works by Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, and Pablo Picasso. Not only was Bliss one of the show's organizers she also became one its largest buyers. In May 1929 Bliss had lunch with Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and the result was that the Bliss and Rockefeller collections became the foundations of the Museum Of Modern Art which opened later that year.

Not to be outdone Chicago has its own claim to Armory Show fame. Because of the show The Art Institute of Chicago became the first American art museum to show the work of Pablo Picasso, because technically the Regiment Armory wasn't an art museum, but at the time the seven works were labeled with the Americanized Paul Picasso. The Chicago stop is also remembered because AIC students burned Henri Matisse in effigy as the Midwest didn't seem ready for modern art, not that it is now. The Institute is currently running the show "Picasso and Chicago" which includes over 200 of his works. It should be noted that Pablo Picasso himself never set foot in the United States.

After seeing the modern art show photographer Alfred Stieglitz said it was made up of "painters and sculptors who decline to go on doing what the camera does better. You’ll go back to your habitual worship of eternal repetitions of mere externals of people and things that cram all the museums and galleries, but you won’t feel happy. The mere outside of things won’t satisfy you as it used to."

The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia has a huge site devoted to the 1913 show which includes works, vintage reviews and criticism along with current opinions and essays. It's work a look or an afternoon.

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