Duncan Phillips and New York Collection
Reading Room Exhibition
This exhibition focuses on Duncan Phillips’s relationship with New York collections in the 1910s and 1920s. The Armory Show had a powerful impact on Phillips, as it did on A.E. Gallatin and John Quinn, who purchased works from the exhibition. Phillips’s reaction to the show was one of shock and dismay, but over time, he changed his mind about modern art and collected some of the very artists he had initially criticized, such as Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse. In the early 1920s, Phillips considered establishing a branch of the Phillips Memorial Gallery in midtown Manhattan but ultimately decided against it, likely because of his purchase of major works of art such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party.
In 1918, Phillips and Gallatin organized the Allied War Salon, an exhibition created to benefit the American War Relief. The loss of Quinn’s collection inspired A. E. Gallatin to open his Gallery of Living Art in 1927. It was the first collection on public view in the United States that was devoted exclusively to modern art. Gallatin was also a painter and The Phillips Collection owns one work by the artist, Composition. The dispersal of Quinn’s collection was a catalyst for the founding of The Museum of Modern Art. Alfred Barr, the museum’s first director, corresponded with Phillips when he was teaching America’s first class on contemporary art at Wellesley College and reviewed Phillips’s book A Collection in the Making in The Saturday Review.
Phillips’s relationship with the Armory Show, John Quinn, A.E. Gallatin, and Alfred Barr is explored through selected correspondence, books, and photographs. The National Portrait Gallery, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art have lent materials to the exhibition.