The Société Anonyme Modernism for America Jennifer R. Gross

Publication date:
01 May 2006
Yale University Press
252 pages: 305 x 241mm
62 b-w + 302 color illus.
Sales territories:


A visual feast of modern European and American art from one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary collections

This beautifully illustrated book highlights the unique history of The Société Anonyme, Inc., an organization founded in 1920 by the artists Katherine S. Dreier (1877–1952), Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), and Man Ray (1890–1976). As America’s first “experimental museum” for modern art, the Société Anonyme provided a means for artists, rather than historians, to chronicle the rise of modernism. Led by Dreier and Duchamp, the group eventually assembled a collection of more than one thousand artworks, which it presented to the public in a variety of innovative programs, publications, and exhibitions.

The incredible collection of the Société Anonyme now belongs to the Yale University Art Gallery, a gift from the Société and Dreier. It features the work of more than one hundred artists, many of whom are among the century’s most renowned—including Jean Arp, Duchamp, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, El Lissitzky, Piet Mondrian, Man Ray, Kurt Schwitters, and Joseph Stella—as well as works by lesser-known artists whose contributions to modernism are substantial.

With new archival information, including personal correspondence between Dreier and the artists whose work she assembled, a host of previously unpublished images, essays by leading scholars, and an interview with artists Robert and Sylvia Mangold about the contemporary significance of this collection, this fascinating book is essential to our understanding of the reception and interpretation of modernism in America.

Jennifer R. Gross is Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Susan Greenberg is Horace W. Goldsmith Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Elise K. Kenney is historian and archivist, all at the Yale University Art Gallery. Ruth L. Bohan is associate professor of art history at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. David Joselit is professor of art history at Yale University. Dickran Tashjian is professor emeritus of art history at the University of California, Irvine. Kristina Wilson is assistant professor of art history at Clark University.

“This catalogue is a must-read document of a thrilling time when a community of artists was making its own rules, and waiting for history to catch up.”—Nicholas Weist, Whitewall