Marketing Modern Art in America: From the Armory Show to the Department Store
From the Armory Show to the Department Store
In seeking an explanation for the growth of the modern art market in the United States, critics invariably call on the 1913 Armory Show. Soon after the Armory closed its doors on the still-glistening trophies of modern art, galleries started opening theirs. Frederick James Gregg, publicity chairman for the exhibition, saw the relocation of the art market outside the National Academy of Design as the chief accomplishment of the 1913 exhibition. Shortly after the show closed in New York, Gregg declared the Armory Show a success, anticipating its ability to spawn gallery openings in downtown Manhattan: "It was said by one of the critics that, if the Association had stopped short and not hung a single picture, or put up a single piece of sculpture, it would have performed a notable work in solving what had been regarded as one of the town's great problems" (Gregg, For and Against 14). Peter Watson's From Manet to Manhattan: The Rise of the Modern Art Market, also posits the Armory Show as the trail head that led, if circuitously, to a booming American market for modern art. Armory Show scholar Milton Brown echoes Watson's conclusions: "with this first important breech in the solid wall of the 'old master' market, a new era in American collecting was opened. If people were willing to buy, there were soon dealers ready to sell" (Brown, Story 105). Bruce Altshuler goes so far as to say that the Armory Show's crowning achievement was not its impact on individual artists who sought to learn the mysteries of cubism in the wake of the Armory Show but its ability to capture the attention of collectors and gallery owners, hyping up the desirability and profitability of modern art: "While the Armory Show did not significantly influence the styles or greatly expand the knowledge of these American painters, it did foster an environment receptive to their efforts. Bringing modern art to the attention of a greater public, inspiring collectors and patrons, creating a market in which galleries could survive, the Armory Show was of signal importance for the new American art" (Altshuler 77).
While such broad claims are immediately suspect, how much did the organizers of the Armory Show welcome the "contaminating" marketplace where art became nothing but another commodity? Statements made by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors reflect their embrace of Progressive Era economic ideals like free-trade and trust-busting as well as a recognition of the usefulness of marketing strategies borrowed from other "shows," such as Barnum's Circus and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows that advertised so loudly they refused to be ignored. Critics who opposed the Armory Show and the artists it featured claimed a concern not for the stability of bourgeois culture but for the blatant and outspoken relationship between art and advertising and critics, dealers and publicity stunts, as well as the conscious self-promotion by numerous artists.
During the late teens and early twenties, the little galleries that opened in Manhattan diffused some of the sensationalism of large exhibitions like the Armory Show. Almost all of these new dealers had shown their commitment to American and European modernists before and during the 1913 exhibition through purchasing their work. Methods of distribution and publication through these galleries, along with a number of little magazines, primarily produced in New York, became increasingly consequential to an international coterie of contemporary artists. In addition to these pioneering (and presumably anti-mass-market) efforts, writers for widely circulated art periodicals such as Arts and Decoration and International Studio promoted much of the art at the Armory as did the editors of "smart" magazines that contained articles on contemporary poetry, politics, film, and philosophy and that carried a much larger readership. The Forum, The Century, and Vanity Fair were three of the first magazines to discuss modern art on a regular basis after the Armory Show. The New York daily presses also contained extended art-critical discussions by Henry McBride and Hutchins Hapgood, giving an even broader audience detailed perspectives on the new art. Finally, far from the little rooms of Stieglitz's '291' but perhaps not so far from Katherine Dreier's Société Anonyme, Inc. (which means, literally, Incorporated, Incorporated), department stores were actually some of the first sponsors of cubism after the Armory Show. While little galleries and little magazines did much to distance modern art from commercialism, advertising and mass-marketing, individual artists were not so uncomfortable with using the modern publicity engine. Widespread vehicles of circulation that focused their attention on a white, upper-middle-class readership blurred the distinction between modernism and the modern through fashionable magazines, dailies, and department stores.
Far from the little rooms of Stieglitz's '291' . . . department stores were actually some of the first sponsors of cubism after the Armory Show.
Taking Art to the Streets
Although a lack of space had always prevented many artists from getting their work shown, in 1906, the Academy did not have enough room to hang all the accepted works, so a committee was appointed to eliminate all works that did not promote "harmony" on the walls (Schwartz 16). The Academy's emphasis on uniformity and their rejection of all but three artists in 1907 exacerbated the longstanding problem of Academy biases. Robert Henri, an academician who had long objected to the choices of his fellow judges, decided that independent exhibitions were essential to the artists not yet accepted into the Academy. The Eight's exhibition, which included Henri, Arthur B. Davies, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan, reportedly attracted over 300 people per hour and grossed $4,000 in sales. (Schwartz 49) Other Henri students, including George Bellows, Edward Hopper and Rockwell Kent, participated in a larger independent exhibition in 1908, using an abandoned building to show their paintings. This show did not receive much attention from the press or the general public, and the lack of interest was evaluated as a result of poor advertising (Marlor 2).
Partly because of the Eight's efforts, by 1910, public awareness of exhibition problems in New York had grown. According to Philadelphia's Public Ledger, "the Academy of Design has not sufficient room in its galleries for the exhibits of its own members, whose pictures year after year are accepted with but slight prospect of being hung" (Archives). The president of the NAD, John Alexander, also recognized the organization's failings and was determined to have a new building erected. He likewise acknowledged that New York needed more galleries for art to thrive (Alexander 4). In an effort to provide more hanging room for paintings, a group of academicians proposed to use public land on Central Park for an exhibition building, but other members rejected the plan because they did not want the NAD to become reliant on state money and government approval. The Eight and other artists inside and outside the academy realized they must encourage a market for the work they wanted to exhibit through other means.
Although a lack of space had always prevented many artists from getting their work shown, in 1906, the Academy did not have enough room to hang all the accepted works, so a committee was appointed to eliminate all works that did not promote "harmony" on the walls.
Four exhibitions in 1910 and 1911 reflect the initiative many New York artists took to develop academy-independent shows. Nearly 650 works of art were shown in a former club building, drawing an overwhelming crowd at the Independents Exhibition of 1910. A much smaller exhibition was held in 1911, at the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects, one of many art organizations in New York. Organized by Rockwell Kent and Arthur B. Davies, "An Independent Exhibition of the Paintings and Drawings of Twelve Men," also included Maurice Prendergast and Luks from the Eight. The participating artists agreed to an academy boycott, which accounts for Henri's decision not to show. who did not agree with the academy boycott, did not join the Twelve Men exhibit. In solidarity with their teacher and mentor, Sloan, Bellows and Glackens chose not to exhibit either. At Davies' suggestion, however, Hartley, Maurer, and Marin, who had previously showed at Stieglitz's '291' gallery, took their place (Perlman, Lives 193-194). At the same time, Henri arranged for a Union Club exhibition, which included the Eight and artists who would later be associated with the Ashcan schoolGeorge Bellows, James and May Wilson Preston, and Edith Dimock. Henri also arranged for a year-round art gallery to be used by self-organized groups at the McDowell Club, a former concert space, where costs would be paid by the artists themselves. For the inaugural 1911 show, Davies, Luks, and Prendergast were invited to exhibit but declined. Jerome Myers, Henry Fitch Taylor, and Elmer MacRae, who had exhibited together at Clara Davidge's Madison Gallery, applied to show but were rejected for the first exhibition (Perlman, Lives 201). In recognition of the need for more independent shows, Myers, Taylor, and MacRae, along with Walt Kuhn, began planning a large independent exhibition of their own, the exhibition that became the Armory Show (Perlman, Lives 202).
The artists who met at Clara Davidge's gallery in November of 1911 were not academy members, but they were not part of Stieglitz's coterie of painters at '291' either. They understood first hand the lack of a market to support the growing number of artists in New York. They also recognized that the Eight and the 1910 Independent shows were successful because they heavily employed the press as a publicity channel. Myers, Taylor, MacRae and Kuhn invited a total of 25 painters and sculptors to join the planning committee for the exhibition, including seven members of the NAD. J. Alden Weir, who had been involved in securing a place for American Impressionist painters to exhibit outside the academy, was the first president of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, the group who organized the Armory Show. The Ten, as Weir's American Impressionists were called, did not see their exhibitions as direct attacks on the academy system. By the time of the Armory Show, many NAD members showed influences of Impressionism in their painting. Weir claimed that he accepted the presidency "on the distinct understanding that no opposition to the National Academy of Design was intended" (Brown, Story 54). After reading a public statement from the AAPS in the New York Times that spoke out against the academy's "ability to lead the public taste," Weir resigned as president (Brown, Story 49). Even with the AAPS' outright attacks on the academy as an institution, NAD president John Alexander continued to see the Armory Show as a temporary surrogate for an otherwise dominant academy.
Walt Kuhn addressed the lack of exhibition space in New York before the Armory Show in his short pamplet, The Story of the Armory Show, published in 1938: "It is necessary to realize that at this time most of the younger American artists, especially the progressive ones, had no place to show their wares. No dealer's gallery was open to them, the press in general was apathetic; maybe one citizen in a thousand of our citizens had a slight idea of the meaning of the word 'art'" (5). Although less than ten galleries were dedicated to showing contemporary American work before the Armory Show, Kuhn's account neglects to mention the growing support for contemporary artists at a small number of Manhattan galleries.
[The organizers of the Armory Show] recognized that the Eight and the 1910 Independent shows were successful because they heavily employed the press as a publicity channel.
The Market for Contemporary American Art
While exhibition opportunities were bleak but not non-existent, American artists could not expect any financial success for their work. In Paris, artists like Matisse and Picasso had secured a small but lucrative market for their art by 1913, primarily through dealers like Ambroise Vollard, and Daniel Henry Kahnweiler, Berthe Weill, and Emile Druet. Although the 19th century saw an increase in American art patrons, all but a few collectors consistently overlooked paintings and sculpture produced by Americans and most ignored the work of contemporary artists as well (Watson, Peter 84). Although galleries started showing contemporary European and American art, the painters with the highest market value were those of the French Barbizon School including Corot, Rousseau, and Millet (Watson, Peter 84). Julius Rolshoven, an American artist himself, argued well before the Armory Show that patronage was often based on nationality alone: "The American artist is as capable as any other foreign artist. It is on account of purely commercial principles that he fails to receive encouragement. A dealer in Chicago claims that the profit on two otherwise equal paintings would be 300% for a foreign painting and 25% for one by an American" (Rolshoven 14). While attempts to establish equivalency between American and European artists are somewhat reductive, American-born painters and sculptors who did not establish themselves as international, Parisian-based artists were not patronized by many collectors.
Although galleries started showing contemporary European and American art, the painters with the highest market value were those of the French Barbizon School including Corot, Rousseau, and Millet.
Peter Watson believes the opening of a number of large British aristocratic estates during the late 19th and early 20th centuries influenced the art market globally, especially in America. The Settled Lands Act in England enabled families to petition the Court of Chancery to break the "entail," the terms of a family's trust. With the court's permission, heirlooms could be sold, bringing a number of old master paintings into the market. Paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt, Raphael, and Van Dyck attracted the attention of wealthy industrial capitalists and art patrons like J.P. Morgan, Andrew Mellon, and Henry Clay Frick. Although paintings by European Impressionist artists sold to a few dealers, pre-19th century paintings became fashionable to buy in the years between 1882 and the First World War. The market for contemporary European art was also discouraged through a tariff on any artistic goods produced within the last twenty years (Dunlop 168).
Many artists and critics considered collectors, who were assumed to use paintings and sculpture to accumulate wealth or elevate social status, as the fundamental problem with the art market. American collectors were accused of being uneducated, conspicuous consmers. Sadakichi Hartmann, a critic for Camera Work and Forum, remarked in "The American Picture World, Its Shows and Shams," that, "Americans have the reputation of being the most generous picture buyers in the world . . . But the American collector has not yet learned to buy art for art's sake. He patronizes art for self-aggrandizement, for the sake of direct advertisement, of notoriety, of speculation, of crude and selfish reasons . . . And so the average citizen gets the erroneous idea that art is not for such as he" (Hartmann 48-49). Although many agreed with Hartmann's assessment of American art collectors as unsophisticated nouveau riche, they also sensed that transforming the market could encourage more artists to abandon the dull, acceptable models that seemed to plague American art. Oscar Bluemner discussed the relationship between market demand and artistic innovation, contradicting arguments by his contemporaries that works of art should be producer, not consumer driven: "No wonder that our art is so extremely unoriginal. It is unrepresentative of our own life and our demand for it is very small in comparison with the large market for Europe's dead art" (Bluemner 28). For Bluemner, establishing a market for modern art was integral to overcoming the complacency within American art, not only by encouraging of artists who were already working independently from the academic system (like himself), but also by emboldening more painters and sculptors to engage in work that questioned the boundaries of art production. The AAPS maintained that showing Americans the possibilities for contemporary art through the International Exhibition was a means of revolutionizing art in America. To this aim, the Armory Show organizers argued for opening the art market, stating that foreign competition was good for American artists. According to the AAPS, the 1909 Tariff Law, which retained the duty on foreign works of art less than twenty years old, was an illustration of the lack of vital interaction between American and European artists. John Quinn, lawyer, art collector, spokesperson for the Armory Show, and later defender of Joyce and Eliot, spent almost a year persuading Congress to remove the duty from all works of art. The tax was finally dropped in October of 1913.
Attacks On the Critic-Dealer System
Finding a space for contemporary work to be shown outside the academy was only part of the shift of aesthetic control from the Academy and auction houses in New York. Before 1880, the discussion of visual art in America was primarily limited to magazines, which were directed at a moneyed, educated upper class35 cents was the charge of most magazines. Art criticism was not considered a prestigious field within newspaper reporting but as an entranceway into more reputable journalism (Olsen 10). When magazine prices fell, there was still less reason for daily newspapers to secure art critics. However, a few resilient magazines like The Century (1870), The Forum (1886), and International Studio (1897) allowed more writers to become personally attached to specific magazines, and as a result the practice of art criticism became a viable career option. Newspapers slowly and sporadically began admitting art reviews, and in 1880 they started establishing art editors and separate art columns. The Saturday and Sunday editions, which were introduced at the turn of the century, provided a medium for art critics that was competitive with the smaller, more expensive magazines. Like the magazine critics, writers for the newly established art columns adopted a more personal and individual style of journalism than previously observed (Olsen 12).
Between 1887 and 1902, the number of art reviews in the New York Times and New York Tribune rose rapidly. Unlike music, literature, and drama that had established individual sections, architecture, sculpture, and painting were still not featured on a weekly basis. In first decade of the 20th century, opinion about art reviews in the mass media seemed to shift. Widely circulated newspapers, such as the New York Times, began to take on the responsibility for shaping public taste: "One source claimed that the unprecedented rise in attendance at an exhibition was the direct result of the stirring reviews of the show found in the daily press" (Olsen 16). Due to the presumed power of critics as tastemakers, editors began to give them more leeway in what they could write. Between 1908 and 1910, the leading New York newspapers finally acknowledged the visual arts as a legitimate journalistic field (Olsen 16).
Those who wrote against the now-canonical modernists at the Armory Show often disagreed as much with the methods of presentation as with the art itself. Critics who rejected the work of artists like Matisse, Duchamp, and Picabia routinely pointed to problems inherent in a critic-dealer system, which the salon-style Armory Show nourished. Members of the National Academy of Design and the Royal Academy in London claimed that modern artists, critics, and dealers were abusing new mediums of advertising, contending that the self-promotion of artists and conflicting interests of dealers would overshadow the individual talent of an artist. Since the Armory Show in New York was outside academy and gallery, organizers, representatives and supporters of the exhibition focused on the relationship between cultural democracy and an international, free-market economy, positing the exhibition as a means to release undifferentiated works into a large market where the audience could make choices based on individual preferences.
In her article on the critical response to the Armory Show, JoAnne Mancini discusses the ways in which Armory Show skeptics, primarily writing in the daily press, adhered to a Guilded Age emphasis on institution building for a broad public audience rather than honing professionalism within the field of art-criticism, because it was associated with elitist, coterie consumption. According to Mancini, critics who objected to the 1913 exhibition believed their duty was to cultivate an interest in art for the general public in order to support the building of art museums and art academies. While these institution-building critics certainly saw museums as a way of educating a mass audience, they also argued that the critics who supported modern art were novices within the field of art criticism. The most vocal opponents to the Armory Show in New York, Kenyon Cox, Royal Cortissoz, and Frank Jewett Mather, had been writing for newspapers and magazines for many years before the exhibition and had a broad-based knowledge of art history. Cox was an artist, instructor, and academician, Cortissoz had been working for the Herald Tribune since 1891 and had established a well-earned reputation in the field, and Mather was an Art History professor at Princeton University. In addition to arguments that supported institution-building, these well-credentialed critics argued against the new art on aesthetic grounds and attacked the professionism of newer critics who defended the artists (for example, Henry McBride, who had just joined the Sun before the Armory Show).
Since the Armory Show in New York was outside academy and gallery, organizers, representatives and supporters of the exhibition focused on the relationship between cultural democracy and an international, free-market economy, positing the exhibition as a means to release undifferentiated works into a large market where the audience could make choices based on individual preferences.
Cox, Cortissoz and Mather had viewed and reviewed the work of Matisse and Picasso before the Armory Show when they visited their shows at '291.' Their critical analysis of almost all works of art was primarily grounded in the standards of John Ruskin. Phrases like 'truth and honesty' and 'fidelity to nature,' which were coined by Ruskin, became mainstays in the American vocabulary of critical writing (Olsen 4). According to many skeptics of the new art, its supporters were amateurs, writers who had no knowledge of art history. Frank Jewett Mather spoke of the critics who supported modernism as superficial dilettantes: "The trouble with the newest art and its critical champions is that fundamentally they have no real breadth of taste. These people are devoted to fanaticisms, catchwords, all manner of taking themselves too seriously" (Olsen 63). Mather suggests that critics who support the work of Matisse and Picasso have no collective standard for their evaluation because they did not possess an expansive education in artistic traditions. These new critics were susceptible to passing fads and temporary fashion and simply suffered from a lack of experience.
According to Mancini, Cox, Cortissoz, and Mather also argued for a representational art that they assumed would appeal to a wide audience, a "common sense" approach to art appreciation. This focus is distinct factor not only of the title, but of the discussion of post-impressionism and the Armory Show in Royal Cortissoz's 1913 book, Art and Common Sense. The organizers of the Armory Show, however, professed a similar egalitarian ideal for art, but they argued that an unjuried, independent exhibition would "let the public decide" where their tastes lay instead of having them subjected to the same aesthetic standards in exhibition after exhibition. Articles against the Armory Show argued that it was too inclusive, eschewing all established boundaries and making art "as democratic as the circus" (Brown, Story 154). Either the artists who challenged the "truth and fidelity" standard had to be denied access to the art world or professional critics had to be denied authority in directing public taste; they often were at the Armory Show: "The exhibition is certainly a terrible leveler. With all the established canons abandoned, the layman is as good as the critic and the critic is no better than a king" (For or Against).
Although supporters of this very loosly defined modernism were attacked for not possessing an awareness of art history, defenses of Picabia, Duchamp and Marin at the Armory Show primarily used evolutionary historic models to explain the emergence of modern art, supported by the layout of the AAPS show (Cortissoz countered these interpretations with an article entitled "The Illusion of Progress"). Christian Brinton's "Evolution, not Revolution in Art" in The International Studio emphasized a model of gradual artistic transformation from the Impressionists through the post-Impressionists, while John Weichel argued in Camera Work that the modern artist was drawing not from the past but from an ur-form, present in all times and all places, but overshadowed by academies, institutions, and prizes.
Articles against the Armory Show argued that it was too inclusive, eschewing all established boundaries and making art "as democratic as the circus."
In the negotiation for critical authority during the Armory Show, artist statements were used to both legitimize artistic production and condemn artists for self-promotion. Articles by Francis Picabia, Oscar Bluemner, Arthur B. Davies, and Samuel Halpert encouraged the opinion that modern art exhibitions were showcases for self-promotion. The members of the AAPS were initially accused of using the exhibition to get their own work shown, however, most of the organizers were represented as meagerly as other American artists. Whistler's lawsuit against Ruskin could not have been too far from the informed critic's mind. Ruskin had accused Whistler of "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face," a line that appeared more than once in critical discussions of Maurer, Marin, and Kandinsky. Claiming that Whistler was an ill-educated imposter and a coxcomb, Ruskin had primarily objected to Whistler's list prices for his paintings (McCoubrey 181). Though the Ruskin-Whistler case was one among many illustrations of unestablished artists as charlatans, imposters, and "art fakers, " a number of critics described the insincerity of the artist as a new phenomenon, arising from increased access to advertising, mass media, and dealers.
Kenyon Cox drew the line between sincere artist and self-marketer at 1905: "Up to the time of Matisse, the revolutionaries, I believe, were for the most part sincere enough . . . they made no money out of their beliefs . . . But with Matisse, with the later work of Rodin, and above all, with the Cubists and the Futurists, it is no longer a matter of sincere fanaticism. These men have seized upon the modern engine of publicity" (Cox, "Cubists and Futurists" 1). Cox correctly identified the awareness of countless modern artists that the press could give voice to their work and their theories; the publication of Futurist manifestos in major Italian and French newspapers were the most glaring indication of this phenomenon at the time. The use of such methods was, for Cox, antithetical to art production. Although Matisse and Duchamp were not involved in promoting their work at the Armory Show, their paintings became the billboards, examples of "individualism exaggerated and made absurd for the sake of advertising" (Cox, "Cubists and Futurists" 1). Cox's discussion of this essential underpinning of the art market was later diffused by the passage of much modern art into a smaller market after the Armory Show.
Cox also believed that the avant-garde was a marketing strategy devised by the artist and dealer: "the European avant-garde artist is a loudly advertised quack and a campaign of the dealers . . . since the Parisian market is tapped, they are now passing their wares hopefully onto the American market"(Cox 1). If anything, it was Kuhn who orchestrated the participation of dealers. He "visited dealers, spread the word about a mammoth American showing of the new art, told each dealer that the others had promised to cooperate [and] painted a picture of an American market ready to accept the latest word" (Brown, Story 68). The dealers who participated, Henry Thannhauser, Ambroise Vollard, and Henry Kahnweiler, avoided "modern" marketing techniques such as press releases, advertisements in the dailies, posters, logos, and invitations to attract people to their galleries, precisely to distance themselves from a commercial market.
In addition to portrayals of self-serving artists and slick dealers, critics were also willing to attribute the proliferation of modernism as a scheme wrought by a handful of overblown propagandists. Andre Tridon, critic for the New Review and the Evening Sun, recounts statements by British art authorities blaming critics for the success of modern artists: "It is odd that not a few of the Royal Academicians who have made most noise are inclined to attribute all the villainy of the new movement on the critics . . . It is their opinion that the critics by taking up the new school of painters have destroyed all art in France" (Tridon 347). The Dial, which later published writers like Eliot, Pound, and H.D. and gave space to artists like Arthur B. Davies and Jacob Lipchitz, had not yet been taken over by Scofield Thayer and Sibley Watson; articles published in 1913 attacked the critic-dealer system, which had supported the Impressionists, seeing it as a characteristic of art produced after van Gogh: "The day of the great painters is over. The day of the advertisers, the popular magazines, the journalists, the promoters, the puffers, the art dealers, has come in. It requires the clearest mind, the finest taste, the widest opportunities to remain unperturbed in the whirl" (456). Efforts to move paintings and sculptures into an entrepreneurial market threatened the autonomy of art. The Dial critic posits modern artists as self-promoters, all surface and no substance: "In the case of a great number of modern artists, it is difficult to decide whether they are eccentric by nature, or are simply posing as oddities in order to advertise themselves" (456). Many critics of Matisse and Picasso's work identified a corruption intrinsic to the critic-dealer system; if a modern artist employed critical support, he or she was automatically open to accusations of self-aggrandizement and dubious motives.
Marketing the Show
The AAPS also arranged for a special issue of Arts and Decoration, a widely read art periodical at the time. It was produced in time for the show, with articles by Gregg, Glackens, and the sculptor Jo Davidson. In addition, the magazine included Gertrude Stein's "Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Village Curonia," provided by Dodge. This piece along with Dodge's introduction "Speculations," solidified post-impressionism as synonymous with formal innovation and freedom from conventions. Stein's portraits of Matisse and Picasso had been published in Camera Work in 1912 but had received little attention; Stein's portrait of Dodge, however, became as infamous as Duchamp's Nude during the course of the Armory Show.
"From the very outset [the members of the AAPS] made a point of getting their activities before the eyes of the public through the press."
While undoubtedly numerous organizers were involved in eliciting responses from the press, Walt Kuhn was particularly involved in marketing the exhibition. A showman himself, Kuhn had raced in country fairs to help sell his own bicycles, sold souvenir pictures, wrote and produced vaudeville acts, and spent most of his years after the Armory Show painting clowns and stage performers (Green 289). Kuhn acknowledged the need for more exposure after the Independent exhibitions of 1910 and 1911: "What we need now is publicity . . . As soon as I have it thoroughly planned we are going to give it to all the papers, and they'll jump at it . . . I will retain the exclusive privilege of doing the talking to the press. . . I feel absolutely certain that the thing can be done, and just think of the publicity!" (Perlman, Lives 202-203). Later, after he had launched "a press campaign to run from now right through the show and then some," (Perlman, Lives 202) Kuhn was elated at the possibilities for success through the publicity offered by the press: "Everybody is electrified when we quote the names . . . We are taking hold of this thing in a rather modern way, which we trust will aid in bringing the people into the building" (Brown, Story 78).
Along with his excitement about the press involvement, Kuhn also recognized the importance of using an artist's obscurity as a way of attracting a crowd: "We are going to feature Redon big (BIG!). You see, the fact that he is so little known will mean a still bigger success in publicity" (Brown, Story 78). Similar tactics were familiar to most Americans through the sensational advertising of the circus and Wild West shows that aimed to collect the most unique, obscure items (or fabricate them) to bring in a large audience. In a letter from 1860, Barnum defended his use of the outlandish to attract customers to New York's American Museum: "The Mermaid, Woolly Horse, Ploughing Elephants, etc., were merely used by me as skyrockets or advertisements, to attract attention and give notoriety to the Museum and such other really valuable attractions as I provided for the public. I believe hugely in advertising and blowing my own trumpet, beating the gongs, drums, etc., to attract attention to a show; but I never believed that any amount of advertising or energy would make a spurious article permanently successful" (Vitale 16). In his "Layman's Review of an Art Exhibition," Theodore Roosevelt compared Barnum's most successful advertising sham, the Feejee Mermaid, with cubism and fauvism: "There are thousands of people who will pay small sums to look at a faked mermaid; and now and then one of this kind with enough money will buy a Cubist picture or a picture of a misshapen nude woman, repellent from every standpoint" (Roosevelt, "Layman's" 2). The former president identified a danger within such marketing strategies, which relied upon the public's desire to be humbugged and hoaxed. Those who accepted the new art would only encourage the inflated language of advertising. Others saw the Armory Show as a consequence of extravagant maneuvers of publicity campaigns in the early twentieth century: "The aim has been to make this the biggest of big shows, sensationalized by the biggest of big advertising" (Archives).
For Kuhn, as for many Americans, advertising and showmanship were American peculiarities, an outgrowth of America's increasingly consumer-driven economy and culture. Between 1900 and 1913 a lot of Americans seem to have thought of P.T. Barnum as a representative American and admired his ability to acquire their money through fraudulent means (Green 36). Kuhn claimed mass marketing as a homegrown system, quoting Calvin Coolidge's proclamation that "America's business is business" (Kuhn 20). Shortly before the Armory Show, Kuhn wrote to Edward Gewey of the Kansas City Post: "We are doing this according to American methods and have already spent a good deal of money on advertising" (Brown, Story 91). Kuhn connected his approach to other American business models and at one point at least predicted the Armory Show would be a profit-making venture.
For Kuhn, as for many Americans, advertising and showmanship were American peculiarities, an outgrowth of America's increasingly consumer-driven economy and culture.
In addition to drawing on contacts in the press, posters were placed all over Manhattan in the month preceding the Armory Show. Kuhn came up with the idea for the logo, the flag of the American Revolution, and decided to use it everywhere: on stationary, catalogues, posters, and even what he called a campaign button (Adams 52). For the exhibition, the AAPS bought 50,000 catalogues for $4,400, sold at 25 cents each. Had all the catalogs been sold, the AAPS would have made a profit over $6,000. The organizers also published four small pamphlets: Cezanne, by Elie Faure translated by Pach, Odilon Redon, by Pach, Noa Noa, by Gauguin, and A Sculptor's Architecture: Raymond Duchamp-Villon's Architectural Facade (Brown, Story 92-93). These pamphlets gave exhibition-goers biographical and autobiographical accounts of the artists featured at the exhibition, using the artists' monographs to secure their reputations. The copy of the Arts and Decoration's special issue was also for sale at the Armory, and postcard-size prints of 57 paintings and sculptures in the show were available for a small charge. Books published by Ambroise Vollard and Artz & de Bois were also put out for sale. These were mostly illustrated classics with woodcuts and lithographs by Denis, Bonnard, and Rodin. The one book that sold was a complete collection of Odilon Redon's graphic work, which included a majority of his works in the exhibition (Brown, Story 328). While the Show was undeniably well publicized, the exhibition did not generate any profit for the association. Milton Brown sees the catalogues, pamphlets, postcards, and photographs as "an educational service rather than a profit-making venture, just as the sale of works for which they took a commission was seen essentially as a service to the artists" (94). Whether or not the organizers believed they would make money on the exhibition, they certainly believed the publicity would help individual artists, and to a certain extent it did.
Sales at the Show
Matisse, who also received a great deal of attention in the press, sold only one drawing. His lack of sales, not reflective of his financial success in Paris, may be partially explained by the price range of his paintings. Most works were listed in the same league as works by Cézanne, van Gogh, and Gauguinin the thousands. Other fauve painters did sell their work but at much lower prices. Charles Camoin sold two paintings as did Emilie Charmy, and Albert Marquet sold one drawing.
With prices no higher than $400, and many considerably less, the paintings and sculpture in Gallery I were low enough to attract these lawyers and artists with a moderate amount of dispensable income.
Little Galleries: Modern Art Havens
William Macbeth, in contrast to Stieglitz, believed that his duty as a dealer was to sell the work of the artists he exhibited and promoted. John Sloan's The Picture Buyer (above), shows Macbeth purring in the ear of a potential buyer, reflecting Sloan's own disdain for the promotion and sale of his work. The etching was Sloan's only sale at the Armory, sold to William Macbeth himself.
'291,' the Madison Gallery, the Macbeth Gallery, the Murray Hill Gallery, and the Folsom Galleries continued to promote modern artists after 1913. Many other supporters of modern American and European art before and during the Armory Show opened galleries in the late teens and early twenties. Stieglitz, though best remembered for his shows at '291,' ran two galleries after he was forced to close his first in 1917. He promoted the work of a small group of American artists at the Intimate Gallery and An American Place, primarily John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, Georgia O'Keefe, Paul Strand, and Charles Demuth. Charlie Daniel, a former café owner who became acquainted with a number of New York artists and AAPS members from their visits to his bar, initiated the post-Armory gallery openings. He started the Daniel Gallery in December 1913 to show the work of many early American modernists, including Hartley and Charles Sheeler. He also promoted the work of Lawson, Glackens, Henri and Bellows, often showing them as moderns.
Lifelong collectors of modern art such as John Quinn gave artists further opportunities to show their work in New York outside the academy. Quinn's Carroll Gallery had its opening exhibition in March 1914. Though primarily a supporter of European modernists, Quinn also chose to exhibit work by Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Stanton MacDonald-Wright, and Morgan Russell. A more nationalistic patron than Quinn, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney had helped finance the Madison Gallery and the Armory Show. She was associated with the Independents from the time of the 1910 show, where she exhibited her own sculpture. In 1914, she began exhibiting the work of younger artists in her McDougal Alley studio. She officially formed the Whitney Studio Club in 1918, to help build a community of younger American artists in New York (Platt 17). At her club, which later became the Whitney Museum, she supported a number of artists like Bellows, Sloan, Hopper, and Kent, with subsidies and purchases. She also financed trips to Paris for Stuart Davis and Morgan Russell (Platt 16). In October 1915, the Modern Gallery opened, financed by the poet and patron Walter Arensberg, who reportedly was "so transfixed by what he saw [at the Armory] that he actually forgot to go home for several days" (Naumann, Arensberg 8). Agnes Meyer, photographer and journalist, also a frequenter of '291,' subsidized the gallery as well, and Marius de Zayas, a caricaturist, illustrator and close friend of Stieglitz and Meyer, ran the place. The Modern Gallery promoted the same artists as Stieglitz's '291' with a more commercial edge; de Zayas claimed he opened the gallery because he wanted to actually get some of their work sold.
Many other supporters of modern American and European art before and during the Armory Show opened galleries in the late teens and early twenties.
Other attempts to usurp both academy and gallery control of the market were present, but short-lived, after the Armory Show. Katherine Dreier's Cooperative Mural Workshops, formed in 1914, were based on William Morris' Arts and Crafts movement and Bloomsbury's Omega Workshops. The workshops offered classes as well as exhibition opportunitiesIsadora Duncan was a guest in 1915. Dreier is better known for Société Anonyme, through which she aimed to bring a range of modernists, American and European, to New York. In addition to exhibiting cubist, expressionist, and Dadist works together, Dreier and other artists such as Marsden Hartley lectured routinely at the Société. John Weichsel, writer for Camera Work, ran the People's Art Guild from 1915-17, which organized modern art exhibitions in restaurants, theatres, schools, and immigrant settlement houses of poor New York neighborhoods (Bjelajac 309).
Little Magazines, "Smart" Magazines, and the Dailies
Little magazines, like little galleries, are near and dear to modernism in America after the Armory Show. The magazines started by artists and writers in the late teens and early twenties represent the artists' own attempts to communicate within a small, localized, and self-produced market for their art. At the time of the Armory Show, Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work (1903-17) was one of the only little magazines that routinely discussed and reproduced modern art in the United States. Stieglitz's journal, which had begun reproducing the work of Picasso and Matisse in 1907, folded in 1917 along with his gallery when Stieglitz's money ran out. The late teens saw a number of little magazines produced for and by writers and artists living in New York. The summer after the Armory Show, Alfred Kreymburg renewed his long interest in publishing a magazine independently while visiting the artists Samuel Halpert and Man Ray. Glebe (1913-1914) and Others (1915-1919) were Kreymburg's first projects, in which his poetry appeared alongside that of William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Charles Sheeler. Rogue (1915-16), produced by Allan Norton, contained work by Gertrude Stein and cartoons by the futurist painter Frances Simpson Stevens. 291 (1915-1916), financed by Agnes Meyer, photographer and journalist, featured work, often collaborative projects, by Meyer, Maurice de Zayas, and Katharine Rhoades, and Francis Picabia, all involved in the Dada movement in New York. These magazines, along with Soil (1916-1917) and Blind Man (1917) provided short-lived support systems for diverse experimentation in modern art and poetry for an extremely small audience in the late teens. Like Camera Work, which ran for a total of 15 years and had a subscription list of 36 in 1917, these were magazines primarily for other artists and supporters of modern art. Even more than the Bloomsbury's Hogarth Press and Omega Workshops, these magazines formed a mini market model for the groups of artists and writers who are associated with Walter Arensberg, Alfred Stieglitz, and to a certain extent, Mabel Dodge. The longer-running Little Review (1914-1929) begun in Chicago and moved to New York in 1917, survived in the late teens by establishing an intimate, well-educated audience, and boasted a readership of 1,000 during this time period (Bishop 300). Margaret Anderson was forthright in her commercial considerations and even printed blank pages to illustrate the lost advertising space for major companies (Bishop 309). During the twenties, Jane Heap, who took over the publication of the Little Review from Anderson, ran a gallery in conjunction with the magazine, called the Little Review Gallery.
The more widely circulated Century, International Studio, Forum, Arts and Decoration and Vanity Fair also presented discussions and examples of modern art but intended to reach a larger audience. These magazines in many ways helped to establish the canon of modern artists more than the little magazines could. Christian Brinton and J. Nilson Laurvik, free-lance critics who wrote for the International Studio and the Century at the time of the Armory Show and for many years afterward, consistently treated the work of modernists in their articles. Willard Huntington Wright, brother of Synchromist Stanton McDonald-Wright, worked for the Forum and covered exhibitions in New York.
Margaret Anderson was forthright in her commercial considerations and even printed blank pages to illustrate the lost advertising space for major companies.
Frank Crowninshield, art editor first for The Century and then for Vanity Fair, was instrumental in insisting that Vanity Fair reproduce the work of artists like Picasso, Matisse and Laurencin and print the work of Stein and Eliot in the late teens and twenties. Crowninshield was art editor for the Century in 1913, and was already an advocate for modern art, calling the Armory Show "our movement" in a letter to Walt Kuhn during the exhibition (Brown, Story 144). He even apologized to Kuhn for an article ran in the Century by Royal Cortissoz. With Vanity Fair, Crowninshield had much more leverage over what was included in the magazine. He suggested a change in editorial focus to Condé Nast, the publisher of Vanity Fair, when the magazine initially flopped, and was given a great deal of authority on content decisions. Nast described Frank Crowninshield's affinity for modern art as precocious and thus somewhat damaging to magazine sales: "F.C.'s interest in the modern French art movement, at first, did us a certain amount of harm. We were ten years too early (1915) in talking about van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, etc." (Douglas 99) Though sales for Vanity Fair never reached those of Vogue , another Nast publication, it reached a height of 100,000 readers at the beginning of the twenties (Douglas 101). By fashioning the modern art Vanity Fair supplied to readers as "authentic bohemia" for an upper-middle class New York audience, Crowninshield reached his goal of creating a magazine "to cover the things people talk about at parties" (Douglas 96). Crowninshield's Vanity Fair was successful in legitimizing modern art and design, not only through reproductions of work (they published a portfolio of modern artists in 1936), but also through advertisements like those for Steinway pianos in the twenties. Vanity Fair may not have been first in sales, but it was first in advertising lineage (Douglas 101).
The more widely circulated Century, International Studio, Forum, Arts and Decoration and Vanity Fair . . . in many ways helped to establish the canon of modern artists more than the little magazines could.
Though often overlooked because of their mass appeal, New York dailies were also home to a number of critics who contributed intelligently to the dialogue on modern art. Hutchins Hapgood, who worked primarily for the Globe, also championed modern art in the Evening Post and the Press. Art critic for The Dial after its conversion into a choice publication for modern art by Scofield Thayer and James Watson in 1920, Henry McBride also contributed to the dispersal of modernist work in America through his column in the New York Sun. J. N. Laurvik supported the work of modernists during and after the Armory Show in the New York Times.
Department Store Cubism
Aesthetical highbrows these days are aflame.Burgoyne's poem indicates his recognition of cubism's appeal as an anti-bourgeois art form, essential to creating a market for the new art.
Corrine Blackmer has argued that Carl Van Vechten drew from the success of the Armory Show to market the work of Gertrude Stein (Blackmer 228). Stein's work had been used during the Armory Show to establish cubism as a movement that encompassed all the arts, and references to her continued to appear in advertisements for the department store exhibitions in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. the Cleveland Plain Dealer managed to procure a copy of "Matisse," which they reprinted in time for the show at William, Taylor, Son, and Company.
When the show traveled to Gimbels' New York store in the last weeks of July, there was little press coverage of the exhibition. Arthur Hoeber did comment in the Globe that "Now that the new art movement has found its way to a department store, there ought to be no further doubt of its establishment as part of our American daily life, and its ultimate acceptance must be considered only as a question of time" (Sheon 101). While cubism was far from institutionalized, its immediate acceptance into a wider market illustrates the reliance of modern art on large, commercial venues.
Corporate sponsorship of early 20th-century art continued after the initial 1913 department store shows. When the Society of Independent Artists could not find a building for their 1918 exhibition, they were allowed to use storefronts on 42nd Street. The Belmaison Gallery, held within Wanamaker's Department Store, began in 1922 to run shows of modern art up to Dada (Platt 27) Following the Wanamaker model, other stores, such as Macy's and Lord and Taylor's participated in the display of modern art later in the twenties (Platt 27).
While offering one significant method of understanding modern art's integration into the art market in the U.S., the entrepreneurial efforts of the proprietors of little galleries and editors of little magazines provide only one aspect of the development of a modern art market in America. Techniques used by the organizers of the Armory Show, along with the work of larger circulating magazines and department stores, display a broad network of distribution and methods of canonizing modern art. The preceding sketch of the modern art market in New York before and after the Armory Show is merely an overview of the various ways in which the art at the Armory was presented and dispersed to the public. The 1913 exhibition occurred during a time of marked increase in methods of disseminating culture, and while the exhibition's impact cannot be usefully quantified, the techniques employed during and after the show reflect a significant modification of the presentation of art in New York.