Montclair Art Museum Revisits a Controversial Art Show


Armory-Show-on-StreetOne hundred years ago, an art show in New York caused an American scandal. The International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as The Armory Show because it was held at the the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue at East 25th Street in Manhattan, 69th Regiment Armory on the Upper East Side, showcased more than 1,200 works of art by American and European artists.

But the Americans were all but ignored–the Europeans dominated the event with new expressions of modernism that shocked the “milquetoast traditionalists” of this country. Works like Henri Matisse’s Blue Nude and Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, then far outside of the mainstream of American art, stunned visitors expecting to see more conventional works.

The show has since been considered one of the most influential events in American art history and is widely credited for bringing modernism to American soil.

To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the show, the Montclair Art Museum will present The New Spirit: American Art in the Armory Show, a major exhibition that opens on Feb. 17, exactly 100 years to the day from the original. The New Spirit will be the first exhibition to focus primarily on the American artists represented in that show.

The exhibition, which challenges the notion that the American art in the 1913 show was largely provincial, spotlights the diverse range of American art that was exhibited with nearly 40 works of various media by 36 American artists, including several notable female artists. It will include works by well-known artists like Edward Hopper, Robert Henri, and John Marin, as well as works by artists such as Manierre Dawson, Kathleen McEnery, and E. Ambrose Webster..

There will also be an introductory section that will feature works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and others to reveal the influence and context of European modernism. According to MAM, special efforts have been made to recreate details of the original installation, including burlap wall coverings, decorative pine trees, and yellow-hued streamers overhead, forming a tentlike canopy for the exhibition space.

The show runs from Feb. 17 through June 16. In October, the New-York Historical Society will also have an exhibition on the Armory Show.

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