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Leaders in American Modernism: Selected works from the American Modernism Collection

October 2, 2007 - June 29, 2008


The Naples Museum of Art is the only museum in the country whose American modernism collection is installed in rooms reflecting gallery design at various times in the 20th century. For instance, works of art by John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Oscar Bluemner, Arthur Dove and Charles Sheeler can be seen in a gallery reminiscent of Alfred Stieglitz's 291 (c. 1917). A recreation of a room from Hilla Rebay's Museum of Non-Objective Painting (c. 1939), the forerunner of the Guggenheim Museum, includes paintings by John Sennhauser, Jean Xceron, John Ferren, Alexander Calder and Dwinell Grant. Other rooms include works by Jackson Pollock and others. In addition, select items of period furniture are included in this year's installation, giving the visitor a very special overview of the art and design of the period. (right: George Ault, Ault Family House, Summit, New Jersey, 1928, oil on canvas. Naples Museum of Art. Made possible by William J. and Suzanne V. von Liebig)

The Naples Museum of Art's American Modernism Collection is a unique body of art that tells an important story -- a story of invention, innovation and growth, about a pivotal time in American culture when the center of the art world shifted from Paris to New York. It includes nearly 300 works representing mostly the first half of the 20th century and reflecting all of the key movements in American art during this time. Part of the Museum's mission is to continue building this collection so that the story it tells encompasses the entire 20th century.

Through June 29, 2008, approximately 65 selections from the American Modernism Collection are on display in the exhibition Leaders in American Modernism on the Museum's second floor. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Leaders in American Modernism is the manner in which the art is displayed. When visitors enter the exhibition, they will be walking back in time, to recreations of the galleries in which the paintings were shown originally -- including Alfred Stieglitz's Gallery 291, the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (the early Guggenheim Museum) and Frederick Kiesler's World House Gallery, with its distinctive benches and curved walls. These groundbreaking galleries were, in a sense, just as important as the new movements in American art because they provided venues to display and nurture that art. The Naples Museum of Art is the only museum in the country to present an exhibition featuring both the art and the gallery concepts of a period.

The core of the American Modernism Collection was purchased in 2000. It came from a well-known figure in the music world, who, together with a group of investors, built the collection over a number of years.

Recalled museum founder and CEO Myra Janco Daniels, "As we started to plan the Naples Museum of Art in the late 1990s, we knew that we wanted to establish a permanent collection that would distinguish us from other museums, while also serving as the foundation for our growth. Our board agreed that the emphasis of the museum's permanent collection would be American art and, more specifically, American Modernism."

The collection includes many works of historical importance, including paintings that were shown at the Armory Show of 1913, and works that have been shown at major art institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art. The artists range from Jackson Pollock to Arthur Dove to Oscar Bluemner to Marsden Hartley. (left: Marsden Hartley, Pink Flowers with Blue and Yellow Butterflies, ca. 1942-43, oil on canvas. Naples Museum of Art. Made possible by William J. and Suzanne V. von Liebig)

In the early 20th century, the art world underwent a number of important changes. One was the increasing role of publicity and marketing, which gave birth to the "blockbuster" exhibition, beginning with the Armory Show. Another interesting trend was the fact that women played a central role in the production and popularization of modern and abstract art in America.

The American Modernism Collection will continue expanding, to show how art movements from early in the century pre-figured trends in the late 20th century, both here and overseas.

Already, works by leading late 20th-century American artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Jim Dine, Andy Warhol and others have been added, along with an extensive Mexican modernism collection ­ one of the most comprehensive in the Southeastern United States.

The 20th century has been called the American Century in the art world. Some of the reasons for this can be glimpsed in the galleries of Leaders


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