Last month marked the 100th anniversary of the International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as “The Armory Show,” opening in New York City. The nearly 1,600 avant-garde works by artists who were little-exhibited in the U.S. were met with public response that fluctuated between outrage and delight, curiosity and apprehension. Theodore Roosevelt’s A Layman’s Views of an Art Exhibition encapsulates the general sentiment: “It is true, as the champions of these extremists [Modernist artists] say, that there can be no life without change, no development without change, and that to be afraid of what is different or unfamiliar is to be afraid of death. It is no less true, however, that change may mean death and not life, and retrogression instead of development.” Yet history is written by the victors, and in this case, Modernism won. Today it is hard to overstate the impact that this large-scale exhibition organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors (AAPS) had on 20th Century American art.
Just one year prior to the 1913 exposition opening, the AAPS solicited the John Herron Art Institute (forerunner to the IMA) inquiring “whether the institution would be interested in exhibiting the work of members of this organization.”