ART OF THIS CENTURY. Jean [Hans] Arp, Max Ernst [text]: ARP. New York: Art of This Century, February, 1944.

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Jean [Hans] Arp, Max Ernst [text]

Art of This Century

Jean [Hans] Arp, Max Ernst [text]: ARP. New York: Art of This Century, February, 1944. Exhibition announcement folded once and printed offset litho on both sides with a hand-cut die to front panel. 7 x 7 trim size. List of 26 exhibited works. Four pin holes to upper left corner that poke through all panels, otherwise a nearly fine example.

Original Art of This Century Gallery Announcement for a show from February 1944 [Freitag 305]. OCLC references three copies of this document held worldwide.

Jean Arp was born Hans Arp on September 16, 1886, in Strassburg. In 1904, after leaving the Ecole des Arts et Métiers, Strasbourg, he visited Paris and published his poetry for the first time. From 1905 to 1907, Arp studied at the Kunstschule, Weimar, and in 1908 went to Paris, where he attended the Académie Julian. In 1909, he moved to Switzerland and in 1911 was a founder of the Moderner Bund group there. The following year, he met Robert and Sonia Delaunay in Paris and Vasily Kandinsky in Munich. Arp participated in the Erste deutsche Herbstsalon in 1913 at the gallery Der Sturm, Berlin. After returning to Paris in 1914, he became acquainted with Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Amadeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso. In 1915, he moved to Zurich, where he executed collages and tapestries, often in collaboration with his future wife Sophie Taeuber (who became known as Sophie Taeuber-Arp after they married in 1922).

In 1916, Hugo Ball opened the Cabaret Voltaire, which was to become the center of Dada activities in Zurich for a group that included Arp, Marcel Janco, Tristan Tzara, and others. Arp continued his involvement with Dada after moving to Cologne in 1919. In 1922, he participated in the Kongress der Konstruktivisten in Weimar and the Exposition Internationale Dada at Galerie Montaigne in Paris. Soon thereafter, he began contributing to magazines such as Merz, Mécano, De Stijl, and later to La Révolution surréaliste. Arp’s work appeared in the first exhibition of the Surrealist group at the Galerie Pierre, Paris, in 1925. In 1926, he settled in Meudon, France.

In 1931, Arp was associated with the Paris-based group Abstraction-Création and the periodical Transition. Throughout the 1930s and until the end of his life, he continued to write and publish poetry and essays. In 1942, he fled Meudon for Zurich; he was to make Meudon his primary residence again in 1946. The artist visited New York in 1949 on the occasion of his solo show at Curt Valentin’s Buchholz Gallery. In 1950, he was invited to execute a relief for the Harvard Graduate Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1954, Arp received the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale. A retrospective of his work was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1958, followed by another at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1962. Arp died June 7, 1966, in Basel.

Excerpted from Peggy Guggenheim A Celebration by — Karole P. B. Vail:  In 1942, Peggy [Guggenheim] still trying to get her museum started, finally leased space on the top floor at 30 West Fifty-seventh Street. At Howard Putzel's recommendation, Peggy asked the avant-garde architect Frederick Kiesler to design the galleries. In her first letter to Kiesler, dated February 26, she wrote, "Will you give me some advise [sic] about remodelling two tailor-shops into an Art Gallery?"  He felt challenged by the project, submitting a proposal on March 7, in which he acknowledged, "It is your wish that some new method be developed for exhibiting paintings, drawings, sculptures, collages and so called: objects."  As the curator Lisa Phillips would later write, Kiesler was given a unique opportunity to test "unorthodox ideas about the presentation of art in a fantastic Surrealist environment that merged architecture, art, light, sound and motion." He was intent on breaking down barriers between viewers and works of art. The displays were constructed to be "mobile and demountable," in Kiesler's words.  Most important, all the paintings were to be exhibited without their frames, free of yet another level of confinement. Kiesler wrote:

Today, the framed painting on the wall has become a decorative cipher without life and meaning. ... Its frame is at once symbol and agent of an artificial duality of "vision" and "reality," or "image" and "environment," a plastic barrier across which man looks from the world he inhabits to the alien world in which the work of art has its being. That barrier must be dissolved: the frame, today reduced to an  arbitrary rigidity, must regain its architectural, spatial significance. The two opposing worlds must be seen again as jointly indispensable forces in the same world. The ancient magic must be recreated whereby the God and the mask of the God, the deer and the image of the deer existed with equal potency, with the same immediate reality in one living universe.

Kiesler had already begun to develop a method of spatial exhibition in Vienna in 1924, and Peggy's commission presented him with the perfect forum for fully bringing his ideas to fruition. Art of This Century, as the museum/gallery came to be called, contained four exhibition galleries, and a satisfied Peggy considered it "very theatrical and extremely original."  The abstract gallery "had movable walls made of stretched deep- blue canvas, laced to the floors and ceiling. . . . The floors were painted turquoise, Peggy's favorite color. Unframed pictures 'swaying in space' at eye level were actually mounted on triangular floor-to-ceiling rope pulleys resembling cat's cradles."

The walls and ceiling of the Surrealist gallery were painted black. Unframed paintings were mounted on cantilevered wooden arms that protruded from the curved gumwood panels attached to the walls. Viewers were free to adjust the angles at which they viewed the paintings.  The kinetic gallery featured interactive displays. Works by Paul Klee were mounted on a mechanized belt that was set in motion by an electric eye. In order to see fourteen reproductions from Marcel Duchamp's Box in a Valise (1941), viewers had to peep through a hole and turn a wheel. A third kinetic object was a shadow box that displayed Andre Breton's Portrait of the Actor A. B. (1942); after lifting a lever, a diaphragm imprinted with Breton's image opened to reveal the poem-object within (the object was either destroyed or is lost).

The daylight gallery and painting library shared one space. This gallery, more conventionally designed with white painted walls, was used for temporary exhibitions, and the windows along Fifty-seventh Street were covered with transparent fabric to filter the daylight. Within the same space, visitors could  sit on folding stools and study the library of paintings that were stored in and could be displayed on open bins specially designed by Kiesler.

Throughout Art of This Century were Kiesler's furniture units— in the form of biomorphic objects— that could be used for seating or for the display of artworks. Sculptures sat on some of the units, and paintings were mounted on sawed-off baseball bats that protruded from others. Kiesler believed that "no matter what the success of the enterprise— these galleries represent the result of a splendid co-operation between the workmen, the owner and the designer."

Elsa Schiaparelli asked Peggy to help organize a Surrealist exhibition to benefit the Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies. Peggy sent her to Breton, who, with the help of Max Ernst and Duchamp, organized First Papers of Surrealism, which was held in the Whitelaw Reid mansion on Madison  Avenue. Duchamp decorated the interior with miles of string forming a huge web; viewers could hardly see the art, but the effect was stunning. Peggy headed the list of sponsors for the exhibition, which opened on October 14. Less than a week later, on the night of October 20, Art of This Century opened; one-dollar entry tickets benefited the American Red Cross. The opening— for which Peggy said she wore "one of my Tanguy earrings and one made by [Alexander] Calder, in order to show my impar-  tiality between Surrealist and abstract art" 80 — was a huge success with favorable articles appearing in the press.

Art of This Century came on the scene at a time, when, as Sidney Janis would recall, "there were maybe a dozen galleries in all of New York."  It became such a popular meeting place for casual visitors, as well as for European and American artists, that Peggy took the unusual step of charging an admission fee of  twenty-five cents, which she herself often collected. Eventually, she gave in to criticism from Putzel, as well as from Bernard Reis and Laurence Vail, against the practice and reverted to free admission. Peggy left her troubles with Max at home in the morning and spent the day at the gallery greeting visitors and  planning exhibitions. Her relations with Jimmy Ernst continued to be friendly— indeed far more pleasant than those with his father— and for a short time he worked as her assistant. Peggy had decided, on the advice of Reis, that Art of This Century should not only be a museum space that exhibited European masters but also a commercial gallery that sold the paintings of young American artists.