When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection will travel to:
Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS (April 9 ̶ September 4, 2016)
Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, FL (December 2, 2016 ̶ January 29, 2017) Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA (February 26 ̶ May 21, 2017) Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, NM (September 30 ̶ December 31, 2017)
New York, NY (October 6, 2015) ̶ Revealing the pursuits of one of the twentieth century’s most important collectors, the American Federation of Arts (AFA) and the Neuberger Museum of Art present When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection, the first traveling exhibition of this groundbreaking collection of American modern art in over forty years. Roy R.
Neuberger was a devoted champion of the art of his time, and he acquired works by a remarkable selection of modern masters, including Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, Marsden
Hartley, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and numerous others.
With some fifty paintings and sculptures, When Modern Was Contemporary illuminates the artistic transformations that took place in the U.S. during the first half of the twentieth century, while also exploring Neuberger’s considerable role as a collector of and advocate for the work of his artistic contemporaries.
Born in Connecticut, financier Roy R. Neuberger (1903–2010) developed his passion for art while in Paris in the 1920s. After reading Vincent van Gogh’s biography, he was struck by the fact that Van Gogh died in poverty, yet after his death the artist’s paintings achieved ever higher prices. Neuberger’s credo, “the contemporary world should buy the work of contemporary artists,” would guide him as a collector, and he often purchased works soon after their creation.
Neuberger returned to New York in 1929 and went to work for a Wall Street brokerage firm before founding his own firm in 1939. He once noted, “I have not collected art as an investor would, I collect art
because I love it.” By 1950, the center of the avantgarde art world had shifted from Paris to New York, and Neuberger was the most important collector focusing on contemporary American art in the country.
Concentrating on the patronage of living and often underrecognized artists, Neuberger was far ahead of his time in appreciating the talents of soontobe canonical figures such as Jackson Pollock, and his practice of donating works to museums ensured that both emblematic and lesserknown, though important, artists could be viewed in public collections. Committed to making contemporary art more accessible, Neuberger joined the AFA in 1946, and served as president of the Board of Trustees from
1958 to 1967. In 1969, he gave much of his valuable collection to the State University of New York to found the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College.
“Given Roy R. Neuberger’s longstanding association with the AFA, we are extraordinarily proud to tour this magnificent collection,” AFA Director Pauline Willis noted. “It is an honor to work with the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College. We are inspired by Neuberger’s commitment to arts advocacy and look forward to bringing his collection to museums across the nation.”
When Modern Was Contemporary is the result of new scholarship and interpretation undertaken by the
Neuberger Museum since Roy R. Neuberger’s death in 2010, at the age of 107. Viewing the collection and its collector in tandem for the first time, the exhibition provides unique insight into the period when the history of modern art in America was being made.
Drawing from the collection of the Neuberger Museum of Art, When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection surveys the development of modern art in the U.S., from representational modes in the early years of the twentieth century through the Abstract Expressionist revolution at midcentury. The exhibition begins with works by artists who built upon European precedents, including paintings such as Max Weber’s La Parisienne (1907), with sinuous lines inspired by Matisse, and Joseph Stella’s Gas Tank, Pittsburgh (American Landscape) (1918), which freely samples from Cubism and Futurism to depict the vibrancy of an American city. Georgia O’Keeffe, in her Lake George by Early Moonrise (1930), and Arthur Dove, exploring shape and color in
his Holbrook’s Bridge to the Northwest (1938), are inspired by organic forms in the American landscape, while industry is celebrated in paintings such as Ralston Crawford’s At the Dock (1941) and Charles Sheeler’s The Web (1955), a conceptual view of industrial structures. The collection’s masterworks of Abstract Expressionism include Jackson Pollock’s Number 8, 1949, an exemplary “drip” painting, and Willem de Kooning’s Marilyn Monroe (1954), the only named figure in the artist’s
groundbreaking Woman series.
Neuberger selected each work for the collection himself, taking artists and artworks on their individual merits, a fact evidenced by the notable diversity of the artists he supported. Works by exceptional masters such as Marsden Hartley, represented by the iconic Fishermen’s Last Supper, Nova
Scotia (1940–41), and Horace Pippin, represented by a classic Cabin in the Cotton (1944), as well as significant sculptures by Harry Bertoia, Alexander Calder, David Smith, and others, are among numerous highlights.
When Modern Was Contemporary also exhibits rarely seen archival material, including contributions made by artists to albums presented to Neuberger for his fiftieth and seventyfifth birthdays and original receipts for purchases of artworks, offering unique views into the development of the collection, the artist-patron relationship, and the workings of the art world.
About the Curator
Tracy Fitzpatrick is director of the Neuberger Museum of Art and an Associate Professor of Art History at Purchase College, SUNY. She is responsible for the Museum’s first indepth study of the Roy R. Neuberger collection. Fitzpatrick has written, curated, and taught widely on American art of the twentieth century. Her exhibitions include American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s (2010) and Hannah Wilke: Gestures (2008). Her book Art and the Subway: New York Underground (Rutgers University Press) was released in May 2009.
The fully illustrated publication is the first comprehensive catalogue of the Roy R. Neuberger collection. Both a companion to the exhibition and a valuable resource for scholars, it includes an essay by Tracy Fitzpatrick, large illustrations and detailed scholarly entries for works in the exhibition, and a selected checklist of the Neuberger Collection.
An illustrated brochure offering visitors an overview of the exhibition, published by the American
Federation of Arts, will also be available.
The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY.
Neuberger Berman is the national tour sponsor of When Modern Was Contemporary. Additional support is provided by the JFM Foundation and Mrs. Donald M. Cox. Inkind support is provided by Christie’s.
About the AFA
The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit institution founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing exhibition catalogues featuring important scholarly research, and developing educational programs.
About the Neuberger Museum of Art
The Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, is the premier museum of modern, African, and contemporary art in the Westchester/Fairfield County area. An outstanding arts and education institution, the Museum was conceived with the dual purpose of serving both as an important cultural resource to its regional, national, and international audiences, and as an integral part of Purchase College.
Support for the Museum’s collection, exhibitions, publications, and education programs is provided by grants from public and private agencies, individual contributions, the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art and its Board of Directors, the Purchase College Foundation, the State University of New York. Sotheby’s has provided inkind support to the Neuberger Museum for the tour of When Modern Was Contemporary: The Roy R. Neuberger Collection.