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The Armory Show

Related: exhibition - Europe - modern art - USA - 1913 - art

"That's not art!" -- Theodore Roosevelt


Many exhibitions have been held in the vast spaces of U.S. National Guard armories, but the Armory Show refers to the "International Exhibition of Modern Art" that opened in New York City's 69th Regiment Armory, on February 17, 1913, ran to March 15, and became a legendary watershed date in the history of American art, introducing astonished New Yorkers, accustomed to realistic art, to Modern art. The show served as a catalyst for American artists, who became more independent and created their own artistic language.

About the show, President Theodore Roosevelt said,

"That's not art!"

The Armory Show displayed some 1,250 paintings, sculptures, and decorative works by over 300 avant-garde European and American artists. Impressionist, Fauvist, and Cubist works were represented.

The purchase of Paul Cézanne's Hill of the Poor by the Metropolitan Museum of Art signaled an integration of modernism into the established New York museum, but among the younger artists represented, Cézanne was already an established master.

Among the scandalously radical works of art, pride of place goes to Marcel Duchamp's Cubist/Futurist style Nude Descending a Staircase, painted the year before, in which he expressed motion with successive superimposed images, as in motion pictures. An art critic for the New York Times wrote that the work resembled "an explosion in a shingle factory," and cartoonists satirized the piece.

Duchamp first submitted the work to appear in a Cubist show at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, but the Puteaux cubists, including his two brothers, asked that he withdraw the painting, or paint over the title that he had painted on the work and rename it something else. Instead, Duchamp removed the work from the Salon exhibition, and it went on to create a scandal at the Armory Show.

Duchamp's brother, who went by the nom de guerre Jacques Villon, also exhibited, sold all his Cubist paintings and struck a sympathetic chord with New York collectors, who supported him in the following decades. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armory_Show [Aug 2005]

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