Monday, May 13, 2019

The Whitney's Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965

Whitney Museum of American Art

Jun 28, 2019–

 This summer the Whitney debuts a complete re-installation of the Museum’s extraordinary holdings of early and mid-twentieth century American art. The Whitney’s Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965 traces major art historical movements and genres, presenting 120 works by more than seventy artists, including Elizabeth Catlett, Elsie Driggs, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Marisol, Joan Mitchell, Archibald Motley, Alice Neel, Georgia O’Keeffe, Kay Sage, and Andy Warhol. The exhibition reflects upon the enduring influence of the Museum’s history on the institution’s current mission, particularly the claim made by curator Hermon More at the opening of the Museum in 1931: “We look to the artist to lead the way.”

This exhibition of more than 120 works, drawn entirely from the Whitney’s collection, is inspired by the founding history of the Museum. The Whitney was established in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a sculptor and patron, to champion the work of living American artists. Mrs. Whitney recognized both the importance of contemporary American art and the need to support the artists who made it. The collection she assembled foregrounded how artists uniquely reveal the complexity and beauty of American life.

The exhibition begins with a gallery devoted to selections from the Museum’s founding collection, followed by galleries that weave their way through major art historical movements and genres. Key achievements by individual figures, including Georgia O’Keeffe and Jacob Lawrence, are interspersed throughout the show. 

Icons of the collection such as Calder’s Circus and the work of Edward Hopper are featured as well as more recent acquisitions—in particular, Norman Lewis’s American Totem (1960), a painting made at the height of the civil rights movement by an under-appreciated protagonist in the story of Abstract Expressionism. Such additions demonstrate that the Whitney’s collection is a dynamic cultural resource that allows us to continually reframe the history of American life and artistic production.

This exhibition is organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection, with Margaret Kross, senior curatorial assistant, and Roxanne Smith, curatorial assistant.