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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
After an innovative presentation last year of ceramic art in dialogue with highlights of the modern and contemporary art collection, our permanent galleries have undergone yet another transformation and now display many beloved artworks as well as new acquisitions and gifts. Among the works on view is the recently acquired painting Another Fight for Remembrance by Titus Kaphar, M.F.A. 2006, a rising star of the contemporary art world and a Yale School of Art graduate. While the painting itself is haunting, with vigorous brushstrokes and a composition hovering between figuration and abstraction, its importance also stems from the subject: the work is inspired by the 2014 shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the waves of unrest that followed when citizens took to the streets to protest the behavior of law enforcement officers toward African Americans. Kaphar drew upon images of protesters that circulated widely in the media, emphasizing the “hands up, don’t shoot” posture that quickly became a powerful national symbol. An initial version of this painting was completed in late 2014, when Time magazine commissioned Kaphar to create an artwork in response to the Ferguson events; the work was one of the two final candidates for the cover of Time’s annual Person of the Year issue. In 2015 Kaphar created the second, more monumental version of this painting, which the Gallery is proud to share with our visitors and the community today.
Deputy Director for Exhibitions, Programming, and Education and the 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 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.