press release

This exhibition consists of 209 works from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, ranging in date from 1885 to 1998. Structured chronologically by art-historical movement, the exhibition will guide the viewer through all the major stylistic developments that define the Modern era. Vincent van Gogh´s The Starry Night, Claude Monet´s Water Lilies, and Salvador Dali´s The Persistence of Memory are but a few of the icons that punctuate this exhibition of the greatest collection of Modern art ever assembled.

When The Museum of Modern Art first opened in 1929, no other American museum had ever dedicated itself to the collection and display of the art of its own time. Thanks to the dedication and generosity of three collectors, Lillie P. Bliss, Mrs. Cornelius J. (Mary Quinn) Sullivan, and Mrs. John D. (Abby Aldrich) Rockefeller, Jr., the fledgling museum challenged the conservative policies of traditional museums. In hiring Alfred H. Barr, Jr. as founding director, the founders made a brilliant choice. Working closely with the Board of Trustees, Barr shaped a revolutionary policy of collecting not only the "high"art of painting and sculpture, but also contemporary design, photography, and film.

With Barr´s discriminating eye and the backing of a supportive Board of Trustees, The Museum of Modern Art set out to assemble the pre-eminent collection of Modernism in all its forms. Barr´s genius, in his own area of painting and sculpture, was to collect in depth the work of the greatest artists of the time, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Constantin Brancusi, each of whom will have a separate section within the show. Because The Museum of Modern Art is most readily identified with its unsurpassed collection of paintings and sculpture, the exhibition consists entirely of works in these disciplines.

For a cohesive presentation of the sweep of Modernism, the exhibition is divided into 8 comprehensive parts, each with sub-sections. Part I, for instance, covers post-Impressionism, early Symbolism, Fauvism, and late Symbolism. The first sub-grouping, "Van Gogh, Seurat, Gauguin, Cezanne, 1885-1904," harks back to the inaugural exhibition of the same title that the museum mounted in 1929.

Highlights of "Symbolism I, 1888-1910," include Edvard Munch´s The Storm and Henri Rousseau´s The Dream. The "Fauvism, 1905-07" section consists of works by the two greatest practitioners of this short-lived movement, Henri Matisse and Georges Braque. There is also another section in the show devoted exclusively to Matisse, while Braque will figure prominently in the section devoted to Cubism. Part I concludes with "Symbolism II, 1914-20," comprised of two multi-part works that are among the best-loved paintings in The Museum of Modern Art´s collection: Vasily Kandinsky´s four large panels of 1914, representing the seasons, and Claude Monet´s c. 1920 triptych, Water Lilies.

Part II consists of two subsections: "Matisse, 1909-27" and "Picasso, 1906-32." Matisse´s post-Fauvist masterpieces include the monumental Dance (first version), 1909; Goldfish and Palette, 1914; and 5 progressive sculptures of a woman´s head, dating from 1910-16, each entitled Jeannette. The Picasso section begins with his rose-period icon Boy Leading a Horse, 1906, progresses through one of his last great Cubist paintings, Three Musicians, 1921, and ends with the brilliantly schematic Girl Before a Mirror of 1932.

Some of the most radical movements of the early part of the twentieth century are examined in Part III. The first section, "Cubism, 1908-21" includes such defining works as Braque´s Man with a Guitar, Picasso´s Ma Jolie, Marc Chagall´s haunting I and the Village, and Fernand Leger´s Three Women. "Futurism, 1911-13," examines the Italian response to Cubism. A section devoted to Brancusi includes the bronze Bird in Space and Endless Column in oak. Three sections on Abstract Art examine, respectively, the radical simplification of the early twentieth-century Russian avant-garde, the geometric abstraction of Piet Mondrian, and Mondrian´s influence internationally. The final section, "Four American Modernists," contains one painting each by Stuart Davis, Gerald Murphy, Georgia O´Keeffe, and Patrick Henry Bruce.

In Part IV, the exhibition revisits one of the landmark shows, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, that Alfred Barr mounted in 1936. The "Early Fantasts" section includes four paintings each by Giorgio de Chirico and Paul Klee. The most notorious work in the "Dada" section is Marcel Duchamp´s "ready-made" Bicycle Wheel in which the artist mounted an upside down bicycle wheel on an ordinary kitchen stool and presented it to an incredulous public as a work of art. The three sections on Surrealism include, besides Dali´s The Persistence of Memory, Juan Miro´s Person Throwing a Stone, Alberto Giacometti´s Woman with Her Throat Cut, and Meret Oppenheim´s Object, a fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon.

Part V consists of "Early Modern Figurative Sculpture" and "Figurative Painting between the Wars." Among the sculptures are Auguste Rodin´s overpowering Monument to Balzac and Picasso´s whimsical She-Goat. The paintings section includes Max Beckmann´s haunting triptych Departure, Pierre Bonnard´s radiant Nude in Bathroom, Balthus´s The Street, and three paintings by Edward Hopper: House by the Railroad, New York Movie, and Gas.

The first 5 Parts of the exhibition deal primarily with European painting. In Part VI, the emphasis moves to America, reflecting the shift in the center of gravity in the art world from Paris to New York. The first three sections deal with Abstract Expressionism, the first American art movement to gain international recognition and respect. Internationally acknowledged masterworks in this section include Willem de Kooning´s Woman, I, Jackson Pollock´s Number 1, Mark Rothko´s Horizontals, White over Darks, and Robert Motherwell´s Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 54. Major works by Arshile Gorky, Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Franz Kline, David Smith, and others round out this spectacular period that critic Irving Sandler called "the triumph of American painting."

The final section of Part VI examines the generation of artists who came to maturity just after the peak of Abstract Expressionism. These artists developed new strategies to build on the achievements of their predecessors, as exemplified by such works as Helen Frankenthaler´s stain painting Jacob´s Ladder, Alejandro Otero´s Colorrythm, 1, and Robert Rauschenberg´s "combine painting" First Landing Jump, in which the artist attached found objects to the painting´s surface. Three early paintings by Jasper Johns, including the mural-sized Map, round out the section.

Part VII encompasses American Pop Art, with major works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Claes Oldenburg, among others, in the first section. The next 2 sections are devoted to the other major American art movement of the 1960s, Minimalist painting and sculpture. Among the iconic paintings in this section are Frank Stella´s 1959 black painting The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II and Agnes Martin´s 1954 Red Bird, a very early example of her mature style. Sculptors of this generation were attempting to redefine the medium by such strategies as eliminating subject matter altogether and questioning the three-dimensionality of the medium. Dan Flavin´s florescent light sculpture, Untitled (To the Innovator of Wheeling Peachblow) and Carl Andre´s floor piece, 144 Lead Square, exemplify the radical re-examination of the nature of sculpture during this innovative period.

The final Part of the exhibition consists of what is generally termed post-Modern art. The first section is devoted to 5 paintings by Philip Guston from the artist´s late period in which he returned to figuration, working in a cartoon-like style that remains immensely influential on today´s artists. Fifteen individual paintings, meant to be installed as one unit, by the contemporary German painter Gerhard Richter represent the resurgence of European art in the 1980s.

In the last section of the show, "Large Works, 1963-98," the Conceptual work by the Cuban artist Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled, represents the viewpoint that the artist´s creation can be an idea, rather than a concrete object. Gonzalez-Torres´ appropriated image, the pillows on an empty bed, exists in the real world only at such times as it is installed to the artist´s specifications, i.e., that it be installed on at least six billboards, that can vary in size, in the same city, at the same time. When new billboard images replace Gonzalez-Torres´ image, the piece reverts to existing only as an idea until the next time it is installed.

This exhibition is organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Heroic Century: The Museum of Modern Art Masterpiece
200 Paintings and Sculptures
Kurator: John Elderfield, MOMA, New York

Künstler: Carl Andre, Balthus , Max Beckmann, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Patrick Henry Bruce, Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Giorgio De Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Stuart Davis, Marcel Duchamp, Dan Flavin, Helen Frankenthaler, Paul Gauguin, Alberto Giacometti, Vincent van Gogh, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Franz Kline, Willem De Kooning, Fernand Léger, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Robert Motherwell, Edvard Munch, Gerald Murphy, Barnett Newman, Georgia O´Keeffe, Claes Oldenburg, Meret Oppenheim, Alejandro Otero, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, Gerhard Richter, Auguste Rodin, Mark Rothko, Henri Rousseau, Georges Seurat, David Smith, Frank Stella, Clyfford Still, Andy Warhol ...