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Modern and Contemporary Art
The collection of modern and contemporary art at the Gallery 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 spring. The Sharon and Thurston Twigg-Smith Gallery of modern art from the first half of the 20th century has been recently reinstalled and features extraordinary modern masterworks by Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brancusi, and Alberto Giacometti. The Charles B. Benenson Galleries of postwar art, also recently reinstalled, display exciting 20th-century innovations in both abstraction and figuration, such as a sculpture never before on view by Luis Jimenez as well as the work of several Yale alumni, including Robert Mangold, B.F.A. 1961, M.F.A. 1963; Barkley Hendricks, M.F.A. 1972; and Njideka Akunyili, M.F.A. 2011. The 15th of May marks the 45th anniversary of the student-commissioned outdoor sculpture Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks by another alumnus, Claes Oldenburg, B.A. 1950, B.F.A. 1951. An installation at the Gallery of related works by the artist offers visitors the chance to learn more about this provocative gift to Yale. In addition, special exhibitions this spring and summer feature the Gallery’s rich holdings of paintings and sculptures by West Coast artists and contemporary art from South Africa.
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.
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.