Washington, DC—The first major exhibition to explore the storied history of the groundbreaking mid-20th-century Dwan Gallery will premiere at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from September 30, 2016, through January 29, 2017. Honoring Virginia Dwan’s gift from her extraordinary personal collection to the National Gallery of Art, Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971 will be on view in Concourse galleries of the newly renovated East Building. The exhibition traces Dwan’s remarkable career as a gallerist and patron through some 100 works drawn from her collection as well as from museums and private collections.
Her remarkable 2013 donation includes outright and promised gifts of works by Robert Smithson, Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Fred Sandback, Robert Morris, Sol LeWitt, Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Martial Raysse, Niki de Saint Phalle, Joseph Kossuth, and numerous others.
“We are thrilled to present to visitors this long overdue exhibition on the innovative career of dealer and patron Virginia Dwan,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington. “We are grateful to Virginia for this generous promised gift from her personal collection. And we are also grateful to the many lenders who have enabled us to present an exhibition that brings together highlights of more than 40 seminal shows that Dwan installed in her Los Angeles and New York galleries.”
Organization and Support
Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971 was organized by the National Gallery of Art. The exhibition travels to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it will be on view from March 19 through September 10, 2017.
The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation.
Exhibition Highlights/History of the Dwan Gallery
During her more than eleven years as a gallerist, Virginia Dwan mounted 134 shows, introducing viewers in Los Angeles and New York to the most challenging art practices of the time. Her contributions to postwar art in the United States and France are explored morechronologically
in a multimedia installation throughout the renovated East Building galleries and spaces. Robert Smithson’s iconic 1970 film, Spiral Jetty, will alternate with a special exhibition film featuring interviews with Dwan and several artists and both contemporary and archival footage and photographs of Dwan-sponsored exhibitions, performances, and earthworks. The exhibition film is sponsored by the HRH Foundation.
Founded by Virginia Dwan in a storefront in Los Angeles in 1959, Dwan Gallery was a leading avant-garde space, presenting exhibitions of such New York artists as Franz Kline, Philip Guston, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, and Claes Oldenburg, as well as the Los Angeles-based artist Edward Kienholz. A keen follower of art developments in Paris, Dwan gave many of the nouveaux réalistes (the French counterpart to pop art) their debut shows in the United States, introducing artists such as Yves Klein, Arman, Jean Tinguely, Martial Raysse, and Niki de Saint Phalle. Her group show My Country ‘Tis of Thee (1962) is among the earliest exhibitions of pop art. Another exhibition, Boxes (1964), marked the first occasion that Andy Warhol exhibited his iconic Brillo boxes.
Dwan moved to New York in 1965, where she established a second space on West 57th Street. If the Los Angeles gallery featured abstract expressionism, pop, and nouveau réalisme, the New York gallery became associated with other emerging tendencies. 10 (1966) was a groundbreaking show of minimal art. Four "language" shows between 1967 and1970 heralded conceptual art, while Earthworks (1968) ushered in site-specific projects. A leading patron of land art, Dwan sponsored Michael Heizer’s monumental sculptures Double Negative (1969) and Complex One of City (begun 1972), Robert Smithson’s masterpiece Spiral Jetty (1970), Walter De Maria’s 35-Pole Lightning Field (1974), and Charles Ross’s Star Axis (begun 1971).
A central theme of the Gallery’s exhibition is the increasing mobility of the art world as a result of new modes of transportation including jet aviation and the interstate highway system during the late 1950s and 1960s, when artists, dealers, and works of art moved more swiftly between the coasts and Europe and with increasing regularity. The Dwan story also encompassed remote locations in the American West and the Yucatán, where artists made earthworks that Dwan sponsored.
By the late sixties, Dwan Gallery could no longer be said to exist solely on West 57th Street in New York, but in remote locations at a far distance from the gallery. The exhibition reexamines this important history, deepening the understanding of a remarkable artistic exchange set in motion by Dwan between Los Angeles, New York, and Paris during a seminal era of postwar art.
Virginia Dwan Pledge (2013)
In 2013, the Gallery announced Virginia Dwan’s promised gift from her collection to the National Gallery of Art. Comprising 250 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, photographs, and artists’ books of extraordinary quality, the vast majority acquired directly from the artists, Dwan’s generous gift is among the most historically significant ever received by the institution. Including major examples of postwar abstraction, nouveau réalisme, minimalism, conceptualism, and land art previously unrepresented in the collection, the gift will extend and redefine the Gallery’s modern collection. What makes the Dwan gift unique is her involvement in the creation of the works in her collection as both the dealer and patron of the artists.
Curator and Catalog
Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971 was conceived by James Meyer, former associate curator of modern art at the National Gallery of Art and currently deputy director and chief curator at Dia Art Foundation.
The accompanying exhibition catalog Dwan Gallery: Los Angeles to New York, 1959–1971, copublished by the National Gallery of Art and the University of Chicago Press, is a richly illustrated scholarly study of the history of the Dwan Gallery by Meyer with writings by Virginia Dwan on the movements and artists she showed, and a chronology of Dwan’s life and professional activities and a complete exhibition history of the Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles and New York by Paige Rozanski, curatorial assistant in the department of modern art at the National Gallery of Art. The 408-page hardcover catalog includes 325 color illustrations and is available at http://shop.nga.gov/; (800) 697-9350 or (202) 842-6002; fax (202) 789-3047; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).