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.
Red Abstract
1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 1 Cross and Tower
Number 13A: Arabesque
Le renversement (Somersault)

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

On view from August 16 through December 8, 2019 in the Jane and Richard Levin Study Gallery, this installation presents a large-scale work, Boiler Room, London Studio, by South Korean artist Do Ho Suh (b. 1962, M.F.A. 1997). In translucent fabric works such as this full-scale re-creation of the boiler room in the artist’s London studio, Suh connects past and present, time and memory, combining traditional Korean sewing techniques with three-dimensional modeling technologies.

Boiler Room, London Studio typifies Suh’s “fabric architecture” pieces, which are soft, transparent, light, and portable. Suh’s work explores the physical spaces inhabited by people and how these spaces relate to upbringing, work, or social encounters.

Also on view in the installation is a closed-captioned short video about Suh’s work by Art21.

View All Works by Do Ho Suh in the Gallery's Collection

Do Ho Suh, Boiler Room, London Studio, 2015. Polyester fabric and stainless-steel tubes. Yale University Art Gallery, Anonymous gift. © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul

Current Exhibition

William Bailey, Still Life—Table with Ochre Wall, 1972
September 6, 2019January 5, 2020
This exhibition considers the career of William Bailey (b. 1930, B.F.A. 1955, M.F.A. 1957), the Kingman Brewster Professor Emeritus of Art at Yale, through a focused survey of the artist’s paintings, drawings, and prints.

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Further Reading

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.

Josenhans, Frauke V. Artists in Exile: Expressions of Loss and Hope, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2017.

Reynolds, Jock. Manuel Neri: The Human Figure in Plaster and on Paper, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2018.