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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
The installation American History Revisited brings together paintings, sculptures, and photographs by several contemporary artists who reflect on American history in diverse ways. The works on view are mostly drawn from the Gallery’s rich collection of contemporary American art, supplemented by a few key loans. Some of the artworks explore the roles of both the victims and profiteers of slave trade in the founding of the United States, while others reexamine specific events from the nation’s past or contemplate the absence of African Americans from historical accounts. For instance, Carrie Mae Weems’s photographic series Slave Coast alludes to the West African coast where millions of slaves were held and shipped abroad, reclaiming sites of past violence and oppression. Martin Puryear merges purist formal language with traditional craftsmanship to create allegorical sculptures that poignantly point to centuries of slavery and raise questions about identity and culture. This installation also critically questions the role that venerated American institutions, such as Yale University, have played in the racial narrative. Many of the school’s prominent benefactors were involved and profited from the slave trade and colonialism, including its namesake, Elihu Yale. Titus Kaphar, a graduate of the Yale School of Art, uses two early eighteenth century portraits of Elihu Yale from the Gallery’s collection as a starting point to scrutinize and respond to his objectionable actions. The different works on view emphasize the weight of history and its continuing fascination for contemporary artists, whose viewpoints help draw attention to issues such as discrimination and oppression that still pervade American society and culture.
This installation is presented in conjunction with the performance of Carrie Mae Weems’s Grace Notes: Reflections for Now, which took place at the Yale Repertory Theatre in September 2016. Weems also delivered the Andrew Carnduff Ritchie Lecture on December 1, 2016, at the Gallery.
Frauke V. Josenhans
The Horace W. Goldsmith Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
Installation view of American History Revisited
Meet the Curators
Pamela Franks is Deputy Director for Exhibitions, Programming, and Education and the Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Franks has directed student curators at the Gallery in the creation of several major exhibitions, most recently Odd Volumes: Book Art from the Allan Chasanoff Collection (2014), 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.
Frauke V. Josenhans
Frauke V. Josenhans, the Horace W. Goldsmith Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, holds a PH.D. in art history from the Aix-Marseille Université and has graduate degrees in art history and museology from the Sorbonne and the École du Louvre. After working at the J. Paul Getty Museum, for the French Ministry of Culture, and for the French-German research project ArtTransForm, she worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. At LACMA, she helped organize the exhibition Hans Richter: Encounters (2013) and co-organized Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky (2014), as well as curated modern art installations, notably Visions of the South (2014). At the Gallery, she curated the exhibition Everything Is Dada (2016).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.