The Societe Anonyme

Modernism for America

April 23, 2006 - August 20, 2006


This exhibition charts the development of the influential Société Anonyme and its establishment as one of the greatest collections of modernist works in America. Including approximately 200 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper from the Société Anonyme Collection, the exhibition features works by such diverse and renowned artists as Josef Albers, Alexander Archipenko, Alexander Calder, Arthur Dove, Louis Eilshemius, Max Ernst, Paul Gauguin, Arshile Gorky, Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Roberto Matta, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Stella, and Jacques Villon among many others.

The Société Anonyme was formed by Katherine S. Dreier and Marcel Duchamp in order to disseminate modern art in America through a succession of exhibitions and lectures during the 1920s and 1930s that introduced the American public to European and American avant-garde artists. In 1941, Dreier and Duchamp transferred the Société Anonyme Collection to Yale University in order to continue the educational aspirations of the organization.

The exhibition is organized by Dr. Jennifer Gross, Seymour H. Knox, Jr. Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, with the assistance of Dr. Susan Greenberg, Horace W. Goldsmith Associate Curator of Modern Art at Yale University. Following its debut at the Hammer Museum, the exhibition travels to The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee; before concluding at the renovated Yale University Art Gallery, Connecticut.

About the Société Anonyme

By Jennifer Gross

"Traditions are beautiful—but to create them—not to follow.”
- Franz Marc, motto of the Société Anonyme

The Société Anonyme, Inc., was an organization founded in 1920 by the artists Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray as America’s first “experimental museum” for contemporary art. While diverse in their goals, the founders agreed that there was a dire need to counter the lack of appreciation of modern art in America and to nurture opportunities for its presentation through innovative exhibitions and related educational programs. They also believed it was important that the history of art be chronicled not by historians or academics but by artists. The original gallery of the Société Anonyme at 19 East 47th Street in New York City was the site of scholarly programs and lighthearted Dada pranks, as well as the first one-person exhibitions in America of artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, and Paul Klee. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Société Anonyme was the generative force for approximately thirty publications, over eighty exhibitions of contemporary art, and at least eighty-five public programs—a tour de force campaign to bring modernism to America and encourage international artistic exchange. The organization featured works by such renowned artists as Constantin Brancusi, Piet Mondrian, Man Ray, and Joseph Stella, along with lesser-known artists, such as Lawren Stewart Harris and Angelika Hoerle, who also made significant contributions to modernism. More

This exhibition is supported, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support provided by Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. James Howard Cullum Clark, Ms. Helen Runnells DuBois and Mr. Raymond F. DuBois, Jr., Mr. Leonard F. Hill, Mr. and Mrs. George T. Lee, Jr., Dr. and Mrs. Edmund P. Pillsbury, Mr. Mark H. Resnick, Ms. Cathy R. Siegel and Mr. Kenneth Weiss, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph B. Smith, Mr. Michael Sullivan, and Mr. and Mrs. John Walsh.

The Hammer Museum’s presentation is made possible by generous grants from The Broad Art Foundation, Ann and Jerry Moss, and the Wolfen Family Foundation, with additional support from Herta and Paul Amir, the Murray and Ruth Gribin Foundation, Alice and Nahum Lainer, the Peter Norton Family Foundation, John and Kathinka Tunney, and Andrea and John Van de Kamp.


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