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Armory Show

A USPS stamp depicts Armory Show visitors inspecting "Nude Descending a Staircase"
A USPS stamp depicts Armory Show visitors inspecting "Nude Descending a Staircase"

Many exhibitions have been held in the vast spaces of U.S. National Guard armories, but the Armory Show refers to the exhibition that opened in New York City's 69th Regiment Armory, on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, on February 17, 1913, ran to March 15, and became the legendary watershed date in the history of American art , introducing astonished New Yorkers to modernism.

The Armory Show, officially titled 'The International Exhibition of Modern Art', contained some 1250 paintings, sculptures, and decorative works by over 300 avant-garde European and American artists.

The purchase of CÚzanne's 'Hill of the Poor' by the Metropolitan Museum of Art signaled an integration of modernism into New York's Establishment museum, but among the younger artists represented, Cezanne was already an established master.

Among the scandalously radical works of art, pride of place must go to Marcel Duchamp's Cubist "Nude Descending a Staircase," painted the year before, in which motion was expressed by successive superimposed images, as in motion pictures. The work was originally slated to appear in Paris titled "The Bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even", but the Salon Cubists demanded that Duchamp retitle it to avoid possible scandal. Instead, Duchamp removed the work from the exhibition entirely, and it went on to create a scandal at the Armory Show instead.

Duchamps' brother, who went by the nom de guerre Jacques Villon, also exhibited, sold all his Cubist painting,s and struck a sympathetic nerve with New York collectors, who supported him for the next decades.

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Starting with a small exhibition in 1994, by 2001 the 'New' New York Armory Show, held in piers on the Hudson River, had evolved into a 'hugely entertaining' (New York Times) annual contemporary arts festival with a strong commercial bent.

Last updated: 11-06-2004 12:09:16