The Art of This Century Gallery  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Art of This Century Gallery was opened by Peggy Guggenheim at 30 W. 57th Street in New York City in October-November 1942 The Art of This Century Gallery. The gallery exhibited important contemporary art until it closed in 1947, when Guggenheim returned to Europe. The gallery was designed by architect, artist, and visionary Frederick Kiesler.


The gallery

The gallery showcased works by established European artists with an emphasis on Surrealism, and also exhibited the works of lesser known American artists, often for the first time.

The European artists that were exhibited at the Art of This Century Gallery included Jean Arp, Georges Braque, Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Leger, Andre Masson, Roberto Matta, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso and Yves Tanguy.

The American artists shown at the gallery included William Baziotes, Alexander Calder, Joseph Cornell, David Hare, Hans Hofmann, Gerome Kamrowski, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Richard Pousette-Dart, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Charles Seliger, and Clyfford Still.

New York avant-garde during World War II

Abstract Art was not new to the New York artists. The group called The American Abstract Artists (AAA) was established in 1935. Many of its members left New York in 1942 during World War II, to join the US Armed Forces. During the war years there were few male vanguard American arists remaining in New York. Generally the only artists or critics who did not participate in World War II were either foreigners, illegal aliens, 4F classified, draft dodgers, conscientious objectors, exempt or overage individuals. The artists who stayed behind during the war belonged to one of these categories. These male artists along with a few female artists captured the few galleries who were willing to show their work along with European modernists. This group of artists was called the Uptown Group.

Uptown Group prior to 1945

Barnett Newman, a well respected writer and critic who also organized exhibitions and wrote catalogs became only later a member of the Uptown Group.

Jackson Pollock had his first solo show in 1943 at the Art of This Century Gallery, which provided him with a yearly stipend. He together with his wife the painter Lee Krasner, left New York City in 1945 and moved to the Springs, East Hampton, Long Island.

Clyfford Still, a Californian who at the end of 1945 moved to New York, soon joined the Uptown Group and became associated with the prestigious uptown gallery: The Art of This Century.

Thomas Hess, managing director of Art News described the Uptown Group:

Newman, Gottlieb, Rothko and Still each thought (and thinks) himself the greatest painter in the world. That one might owe a debt to another becomes not a matter of simple ordinary fact, but a major issue of debate-like a trial for high treason. They made a tactical alliance, not a team, nor a group style, nor even a tendency. (Barnett Newman, Thomas B. Hess, New York: Walker, 1969)

Guggenheim closed the doors of The Art of This Century Gallery in 1947. The representation of her artists was taken over by Betty Parsons, an artist and a prominent New York socialite.

See also

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