Exhibitions : Current Exhibitions

Joseph Stella. Battle of Lights, Coney Island, 1913–14.

Modern Madness: The Armory Show Revisited

Date(s):  through April 21

When it debuted at Manhattan’s 69th Regiment Armory in February 1913, the International Exhibition of Modern Art—popularly called the Armory Show—instantly produced public controversy. It created what was described as a popular “madness,” pitting old against new, the avant-garde against traditionalists; politicians inveighed against the artists’ morality, and newspapers supplied salacious stories and histrionic headlines that fueled months of argument. At the show’s later Chicago venue, art students publicly burned copies of the works on display and hung Henri Matisse in effigy; others, however, were inspired, claiming that the experience had “made modernists” of them.

Organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, the original Armory Show contained some 1,000 artworks across media—paintings, sculpture, and works on paper—selected by a committee to represent the latest trends in modern art. It was the examples of Cubism, Fauvism, and Futurism that generated the most debate. Anticipating the controversy that the European art would generate, New York critic Frederick James Gregg wrote in the catalog’s introduction, “To be afraid of what is different or unfamiliar, is to be afraid of life. And to be afraid of life is to be afraid of truth.”

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the historic exhibition that introduced large segments of the American public to avant-garde art, Modern Madness presents a review of the art and artists that so stunned early 20th-century viewers. Rather than duplicating the original show, however, Sheldon reconsiders the exhibition through an evocative recreation. Juxtaposing examples by the American organizers and participants with those of their European counterparts, Modern Madness reminds us of art’s power to astonish and bewilder.

Support for Modern Madness was provided by the Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation Exhibition and Programs Fund. Basic operating support for the museum is provided, in part, by the Sheldon Art Association, the Nebraska Arts Council, and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

Related News
'Modern Madness' at Sheldon commemorates 100th anniversary of the Armory Show
by L. Kent Wolgamott, Lincoln Journal Star

Related Events
"The Great Confusion: When Modern Art Came to the Midwest"
by Judith A. Barter, Art Institute of Chicago
March 26, 5:30 p.m.

Location: Sheldon Museum of Art