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October 04, 2013

A Modern Revolution at the New-York Historical Society

By Ingrid Skjong | Exhibits

A Modern Revolution at the New-York Historical Society
Courtesy of The New York Historical Society

In the early 1900s, Americans knew little to nothing about the concept of modern art. But when the International Exhibition of Modern Art came to New York—a 1,400-work introductory tour of avant-garde European sculptures and paintings put on by a group of Americans at the Lexington Avenue Armory—things began to change.

“The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution,” an exhibit running October 11 to February 23 at the New-York Historical Society, puts the groundbreaking survey into perspective. “These artists were big news to a lot of Americans and sort of transformed the way people thought about modern art,” explains Kimberly Orcutt, Henry Luce Foundation curator of American art at the New-York Historical Society. “They made modern art a topic of popular conversation and it started a public dialog about art, which was absolutely new.”

At the time, work by urban realists, who drew from gritty street-based subjects, was as modern as it got. European avant-garde artists, however, were experimenting with color, form and traditional standards in general. By offering a variety of perspectives (film, essays, music), showing 100 pieces from the original exhibition and displaying more conservative works for comparison, “The Armory Show at 100” aims to give visitors a solid sense of just how revolutionary artists like Picasso, Duchamp, Gauguin and Cézanne were.

“We’re really looking to start up that conversation about modern art all over again,” says Orcutt. New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park W.; 212-873-3400; nyhistory.org.