To Dream, to Collect

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Given the current circumstances, we don’t know what is going to happen to community-orientated venues where people gather together, learn together or exchange ideals and ideas. One of the myriad examples of these places is a museum: the MoMA in New York. This precious and historically significant treasure chest is still closed because of the pandemic. They have been developing online events, shows and workshops, waiting to understand what is going to happen to the cultural system. For now what we can do is read, participate in what they are developing online, and learn from the past. 

Related articles: Abstract Expressionism: What you need to know-An important tribute to the German Expressionism-All about Abstract Art-Gerhard Richter: the Painter who entered the 11th dimension

During the quarantine, I ended up looking around at my personal library a lot, and the Abstract Expressionism catalogue of the exhibition at MoMA fell into my hands. I saw the exhibition in 2010 in New York, and it was a varied and complete selection from the museum’s collection. As a museum, they own the highest number of paintings by the famous group. Or, as director Glen D. Lowry, likes to say “those fourteen Americans (1946); fifteen Americans (1952); twelve Americans (1956)”, to quote the titles of the first exhibition of the American Expressionists, already in the beautiful rooms at MoMA. Since its foundation, MoMA was committed to being a venue which promoted and incubated experimentations and novel trends in contemporary art. As a result the collection includes: Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky – their master, in the academy and in painting in general -, Willem De Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman, Clifford Still, Mark Tobey, Sam Francis, Theodoros Stamos, Norman Lewis, Philip Guston, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner...

 

Abstract Expressionism at the Museum of Modern Art, Jackson Pollock.

 

Abstract Expressionism at the Museum of Modern Art, Mark Rothko.

 

To quote Ann Temking: “[A]bstract Expressionism ranks among the movements most closely associated with the Museum of Modern Art.” The MoMA was directly involved in the movement’s history since the emergence of this style of painting, and the same can be said for the earlier European avant-gardes it also championed. 

The Museum’s collection of Abstract Expressionist painting and sculpture today includes around two hundred works. It is interesting to consider why these artists became so popular so soon after completing their studies, and also with World War Two having finished so recently. It can be understood that it was because these artists shared a dramatically new and universal attitude towards their feelings, their passion and towards working on a large scale. As Temking suggests: “even though abstraction had been well established for several decades”, it was Pollock and his companions, and the dedicated entourage of collectors, gallerists, and dealers that were collectively able to create a vivid and forward-looking circle around them, ultimately developing something new. Something deep and strong, that the beneficiary – the audience – can immediately understand and absorb. Those big canvases were a reflection of pain, passions and strength. The Abstract Expressionists were cool and controversial models. 

 

Abstract Expressionism at the Museum of Modern Art, Helen Frankenthaler.

 

Abstract Expressionism at the Museum of Modern Art, Mark Tobey.

 

The Museum’s collection of Abstract Expressionist painting and sculpture today includes around two hundred works. It is interesting to consider why these artists became so popular so soon after completing their studies, and also with World War Two having finished so recently. It can be understood that it was because these artists shared a dramatically new and universal attitude towards their feelings, their passion and towards working on a large scale. As Temking suggests: “even though abstraction had been well established for several decades”, it was Pollock and his companions, and the dedicated entourage of collectors, gallerists, and dealers that were collectively able to create a vivid and forward-looking circle around them, ultimately developing something new. Something deep and strong, that the beneficiary – the audience – can immediately understand and absorb. Those big canvases were a reflection of pain, passions and strength. The Abstract Expressionists were cool and controversial models. 

In 1958 a selection of Expressionist painters was invited to XXIV Biennale di Venezia, from June to September, featuring works by Seymour Lipton, Mark Rothko, the sculptor David Smith and Mark Tobey. This was the beginning of their European “grandeur”. And the reason why today we can see their beautiful painting in every museums around the world. 

Cover image: Abstract Expressionism at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Clifford Still.

Written by Rossella Farinotti

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.
 

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