When Modern Was Contemporary - Now on View

52 Modern Art Icons Showcased in Unprecedented Exhibition

Jackson, Mississippi, UNITED STATES

JACKSON, Miss., May 18, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- (Image credits at bottom; high resolution available upon request and in attached digital press kit)

Revealing the pursuits of one of the twentieth century's most important collectors, the American Federation of Arts (AFA) and the Neuberger Museum of Art present When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection, the first traveling exhibition of this groundbreaking collection of American modern art in over forty years. Roy R. Neuberger was a devoted champion of the art of his time, and he acquired works by a remarkable selection of modern masters, including Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, Marsden Hartley, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and numerous others. The first venue on this unprecedented traveling tour is the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, which is hosting the exhibition through October 30, 2016.

"It is our great pleasure to host this incredible exhibition featuring work by so many of the 20th century's most dynamic and revered artists," said Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art. "Never before in Mississippi have artworks by this inimitable group of creators shared a museum exhibition space; we're honored to make them available to visual art explorers from across the region and beyond."

With paintings and sculptures from 52 of the modern era's most influential artists, When Modern Was Contemporary illuminates the artistic transformations that took place in the U.S. during the first half of the 20th century, while also exploring Neuberger's considerable role as a collector of and advocate for the work of his artistic contemporaries.

Born in Connecticut, financier Roy R. Neuberger (1903–2010) developed his passion for art while in Paris in the 1920s. After reading Vincent van Gogh's biography, he was struck by the fact that Van Gogh died in poverty, yet after his death the artist's paintings achieved ever higher prices. Neuberger's credo, "the contemporary world should buy the work of contemporary artists," would guide him as a collector, and he often purchased works soon after their creation.

Neuberger returned to New York in 1929 and went to work for a Wall Street brokerage firm before founding his own firm in 1939. He once noted, "I have not collected art as an investor would, I collect art because I love it." By 1950, the center of the avant-garde art world had shifted from Paris to New York, and Neuberger was the most important private collector focusing on contemporary American art in the country.

Concentrating on the patronage of living and often under-recognized artists, Neuberger was far ahead of his time in appreciating the talents of soon-to-be canonical figures such as Jackson Pollock, and his practice of donating works to museums ensured that both emblematic and lesser-known, though important, artists could be viewed in public collections. Committed to making contemporary art more accessible, Neuberger joined the AFA in 1946, and served as president of the Board of Trustees from 1958 to 1967. In 1969, he gave much of his valuable collection to the State University of New York to found the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College.

"Given Roy R. Neuberger's longstanding association with the AFA, we are extraordinarily proud to tour this magnificent collection," AFA Director Pauline Willis noted. "It is an honor to work with the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College. We are inspired by Neuberger's commitment to arts advocacy and look forward to bringing his collection to museums across the nation."

When Modern Was Contemporary is the result of new scholarship and interpretation undertaken by the Neuberger Museum since Roy R. Neuberger's death in 2010, at the age of 107. Viewing the collection and its collector in tandem for the first time, the exhibition provides unique insight into the period when the history of modern art in America was being made.

Exhibition Overview

Drawing from the collection of the Neuberger Museum of Art, When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection surveys the development of modern art in the U.S., from representational modes in the early years of the 20th century through the Abstract Expressionist revolution at mid-century. The exhibition begins with works by artists who built upon European precedents, including paintings such as Max Weber's La Parisienne (1907), with sinuous lines inspired by Matisse, and Joseph Stella's Gas Tank, Pittsburgh (American Landscape) (1918), which freely samples from Cubism and Futurism to depict the vibrancy of an American city. Georgia O'Keeffe, in her Lake George by Early Moonrise (1930), and Arthur Dove, exploring shape and color in his Holbrook's Bridge to the Northwest (1938), are inspired by organic forms in the American landscape, while industry is celebrated in paintings such as Ralston Crawford's At the Dock (1941) and Charles Sheeler's The Web (1955), a conceptual view of industrial structures. The collection's masterworks of Abstract Expressionism include Jackson Pollock's Number 8, 1949, an exemplary "drip" painting, and Willem de Kooning's Marilyn Monroe (1954), the only named figure in the artist's groundbreaking Woman series.

Neuberger selected each work for the collection himself, taking artists and artworks on their individual merits, a fact evidenced by the notable diversity of the artists he supported. Works by exceptional masters such as Marsden Hartley, represented by the iconic Fishermen's Last Supper, Nova Scotia (1940–41), and Horace Pippin, represented by a classic Cabin in the Cotton (1944), as well as significant sculptures by Harry Bertoia, Alexander Calder, David Smith, and others, are among numerous highlights. When Modern Was Contemporary also exhibits rarely seen archival material, including contributions made by artists to albums presented to Neuberger for his fiftieth and seventy-fifth birthdays and receipts for purchases of artworks, offering unique views into the development of the collection, the artist-patron relationship, and the workings of the art world.

Following the presentation at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, the exhibition travels to the Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Florida, (December 2, 2016–January 29, 2017); Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, (February 26–May 21, 2017); Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, New Mexico, (September 30–December 31, 2017).

The exhibition will be highlighted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via the hashtag #Neuberger and during its run in Mississippi with #BeModernMS.

About the Curator

Tracy Fitzpatrick is Director of the Neuberger Museum of Art and an Associate Professor of Art History at Purchase College, SUNY. She is responsible for the Museum's first in-depth study of the Roy R. Neuberger collection. Fitzpatrick has written, curated, and taught widely on American art of the 20th century.


The fully illustrated publication is the first comprehensive catalogue of the Roy R. Neuberger collection. Both a companion to the exhibition and a valuable resource for scholars, it includes an essay by Tracy Fitzpatrick, large illustrations and detailed scholarly entries for works in the exhibition, and a selected checklist of the Neuberger Collection. An illustrated brochure offering visitors an overview of the exhibition, published by the American Federation of Arts, will also be available.


The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY. Neuberger Berman is the national tour sponsor of When Modern Was Contemporary. Additional support is provided by the JFM Foundation and Mrs. Donald M. Cox. In-kind support is provided by Christie's. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. Generous support for the original presentation and the accompanying catalogue was provided by Helen Stambler Neuberger and Jim Neuberger. Sotheby's has provided in-kind support to the Neuberger Museum.

This presentation made possible through the generous support of: the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation and Trustmark. Additional support is provided by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, Mississippi Media, the city of Jackson, the Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Mississippi Arts Commission.

About the AFA

The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit institution founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public's experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing exhibition catalogues featuring important scholarly research, and developing educational programs.

About the Neuberger Museum of Art

The Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, is the premier museum of modern, African, and contemporary art in the Westchester/Fairfield County area. An outstanding arts and education institution, the Museum was conceived with the dual purpose of serving both as an important cultural resource to its regional, national, and international audiences, and as an integral part of Purchase College. Support for the Museum's collection, exhibitions, publications, and education programs is provided by grants from public and private agencies, individual contributions, the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art and its Board of Directors, the Purchase College Foundation, and the State University of New York.

Modern art from the Mississippi Museum of Art Collection

Complementing When Modern Was Contemporary is a secondary exhibition called Reflections: Works by Modern Masters from the Collection. Also on view through October 30, 2016, this exhibition features works by many of the same American artists but in this case drawn from the Museum's permanent collection and from that of Paul and Celia Mabry (Oxford, MS). Moreover it includes remarkable examples by contemporaneous artists not represented in the Neuberger Collection—like Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol—as well as works by Mississippi modernist painters such as Dusti Bongé, Andrew Bucci, and George Wardlaw.

As war disrupted Europe's economy and art market—twice in the first half of the 20th century—the United States provided refuge to both European and American artists whose work was revolutionary. After a parade of stylistic "isms" such as Cubism, Fauvism, and Surrealism, American artists embraced abstraction as the formal strategy that best suited their artistic purpose and made New York City the international capital of the art world. Reflections: Works by Modern Masters from the Collection features art from the 1910s to the 1970s, from the Armory Show of 1913 to the Pop artists of the "psychedelic" decade. Cost: $12 adults, $10 seniors, $6 students (includes admission to When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection) This exhibition is sponsored by The Thomas G. Ramey and Peggy Huff Harris Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson.

The Mississippi Museum of Art's mission is to "engage Mississippians in the visual arts." The Museum is located at 380 South Lamar Street in Jackson. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM and Sunday, noon to 5 PM. The Museum is closed Monday. For more information about the Mississippi Museum of Art's exhibitions, programs, and special events, please call 601-960-1515 or 1-866-VIEW ART (843-9278), or visit www.msmuseumart.org.

The Mississippi Museum of Art and its programs are sponsored in part by the city of Jackson and the Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau. Support is also provided in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Image credits:

Jackson Pollock, Number 8, 1949, 1949. Oil, enamel, and aluminum paint on canvas. 34 x 71 1/2 in. (86.4 x 181.6 cm). Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, 1971.02.11 © 2015 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Jim Frank. Courtesy American Federation of Arts.

Alexander Calder, The Red Ear, 1957. Painted sheet metal and wire. 50 x 73 x 3 in. (127 x 185.4 x 7.6 cm). Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, 1975.16.50. © 2015 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Jim Frank. Courtesy American Federation of Arts.

Photos accompanying this release are available at:

Pollock 1971.2.11 web Calder_1975.16.50 web

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