Archives: The Most Notable Art

With 2017 coming to a close, many have to taken the opportunity to reflect on noteworthy exhibitions from the past year. But why not have a look back and see what past years had to offer as well? We’ve collected writings from the ARTnews archives about some of the best and most noteworthy art from 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago. (In most cases, the editors didn’t name best shows, so we’ve picked the exhibitions at our own discretion.) Below, excerpts from our archives about some of the best art from years past, from the inaugural Society of Independent Artists exhibition to the first “Young British Artists” show at the Saatchi Collection in London. —Alex Greenberger

100 Years Ago

“Exhibitions on Now: America’s First Art Salon”
By James B. Townsend
April 14, 1917

The much heralded and long anticipated first annual exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in its planning and scope modeled upon the comparatively old and famous Salon des Artistes Independents (Salon of the Independents) of Paris is now on to May 6 on the first floor of the Grand Central Palace at Lexington Ave and 46-47 Sts.

It is difficult indeed to give any adequate idea of the huge display which contains some 2,500 pictures and a few sculptures—the pictures placed according to alphabetical order without any reference to harmony of tone or color or subject—and the sculptures as it were “thrown in”—but the exhibition—the “biggest thing of its kind,” “ever pulled off” in this country is necessarily one of quantity—not quality. It is an “olla podrida,” a “salmagundi,” a “bouillabaisse” or to ape “Billy Sunday” with whose coming show seems to accord—a “Church Fair Oyster Stew”—a “Plum Duff” pudding, in which one may find here and there an art oyster or raisin of merit. . . .

Cheek by jowl with the work of the Academicians and Associates hangs that of Matisse, Picabia, Picasso, Duchamp-Villon, Signac, and other advanced foreigners and such of their followers and fellows as Stella, Max Weber, Samuel Halpert, Marsden Hartley, Rockwell Kent, John Marin, Alfred Maurer, Walter Pach, Morton L. Schamberg, John Sloan, Carlo Springhorn, Alfred Stieglitz, Clara Tice, Villon, Walkowitz, and the Zorachs—representative of the various movements and divisions of the “Modernists,” the “New Art,” the “Cubists,” “Futurists,” “Neo-Impressionists,” etc., etc. But while there is enough and to spare of these latter day manifestations there are few sensational productions, few freakish arrangements, no panels built up with wire and glass, no “Nudes Descending Staircases,” in short no array as that of the never-to-be-forgotten “Armory Show.”