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Modern and Contemporary Art
The collection of modern and contemporary art is noteworthy for exemplary works from the 20th century and the early years of the 21st century. Particular strengths are an exceptional group of avant-garde artworks from 1920 to 1940 represented in the Société Anonyme Collection, as well as an outstanding collection of mid-20th-century American paintings.
About Modern and Contemporary Art
The early years of the 20th century were characterized in the visual arts by a radical international reassessment of the relationship between vision and representation, as well as of the social and political role of artists in society at large. The extraordinary modern collection at the Yale University Art Gallery spans these years of dramatic change and features rich holdings in abstract painting by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Wassily Kandinsky, as well as in paintings and sculptures associated with German Expressionism, Russian Constructivism, De Stijl, Dada, and Surrealism. Many of these works came to Yale in the form of gifts and bequests from important American collections, including those of Molly and Walter Bareiss, B.S. 1940s; Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903; Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, B.A. 1929; Katharine Ordway; and John Hay Whitney.
Art from 1920 to 1940 is strongly represented at the Gallery by the group of objects collected by the Société Anonyme, an artists’ organization founded by Katherine S. Dreier and Marcel Duchamp with Man Ray. This remarkable collection, which was transferred to Yale in 1941, comprises a rich array of paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures by major 20th-century artists, including Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brancusi, El Lissitzky, and Piet Mondrian, as well as lesser-known artists who made important contributions to the modernist movement.
The Gallery is also widely known for its outstanding collection of American painting from after World War II. Highlights include Jackson Pollock’s Number 13A: Arabesque (1948) and Roy Lichtenstein’s Blam (1962), part of a larger gift of important postwar works donated to the Gallery by Richard Brown Baker, B.A. 1935. Recent gifts from Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, and Thurston Twigg-Smith, B.E. 1942, have dramatically expanded the Collection with works by artists such as James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, and Wayne Thiebaud.
The department continues to support the Happy and Bob Doran Artist-in-Residence program founded in 2003. Invited artists take advantage of the greater intellectual and physical resources of the University. Participating artists have included Janine Antoni, Carol Bove, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Yun-Fei Ji, Kerry James Marshall, Thomas Nozkowski, Richard Rezac, Tris Vonna-Michell, Richard Tuttle, William T. Wiley, and Paula Wilson.
Note from the Curator
Visitors with a passion for modern and contemporary art will find much to delight in at the Gallery this winter. The Sharon and Thurston Twigg-Smith Gallery of modern art from the first half of the twentieth century and the Charles B. Benenson Galleries of postwar art were both recently reinstalled. In addition, a trio of special exhibitions from the Gallery’s collection offer a wide-ranging presentation of art from the last fifty years. Still Life: 1970s Photorealism takes a new look at this movement’s astonishingly painstaking attention to everyday objects. Red Grooms: Larger than Life showcases Grooms’s joyfully outsized portraits of great artists of the twentieth century. And a recent gift of fifty surprisingly diverse works from the later twentieth century are exhibited alongside related works from the Gallery’s collection in Many Things Placed Here and There: The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery. We hope you will visit often and savor the rich array of extraordinary work currently on view.
Deputy Director for Exhibitions, Programming, and Education and Interim Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
Meet the Curators
Pamela Franks is Deputy Director for Exhibitions, Programming, and Education and the Interim Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Franks has directed student curators in the creation of five major exhibitions, most recently Embodied: Black Identities in American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery (2011), and she is actively engaged in developing the Gallery’s visiting-artist programs. She is the project director for the Gallery’s College and University Art Museum Collection-Sharing Initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Franks holds a PH.D. in the History of Art from the University of Texas at Austin with a specialization in modern and contemporary art and is a 2008 graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute.
Cathleen Chaffee, the Horace W. Goldsmith Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, recently organized the exhibitions Still Life: 1970s Photorealism (August 2013–March 2014), Once Removed: Sculpture’s Changing Frame of Reference (December 2012–April 2013), and Radical Visions, Practically Applied: Women’s Innovations in Abstraction, 1915–37 (September 2012–July 2013). Chaffee earned her Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She recently authored the catalogue Eye on a Century: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery and has written essays on contemporary artists including Richard Artschwager, Sven Augustijnen, Carol Bove, Marcel Broodthaers, and Hanne Darboven.Download CV
Chaffee, Cathleen. Eye on a Century: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012.
Farrell, Jennifer. Get There First, Decide Promptly: The Richard Brown Baker Collection of Postwar Art. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011.
Fisher, Susan Greenberg. Picasso and the Allure of Language, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2009.
Gross, Jennifer, ed. The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.
Gross, Jennifer, ed. Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 2009: State of the Art: Contemporary Sculpture (2009).
Herbert, Robert L., Eleanor S. Apter, and Elise K. Kenney, eds. The Société Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University: A Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.