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Katherine S. Dreier Bequest

Katherine S. Dreier (1877–1952), an artist in her own right as well as patron of the arts, founded the Société Anonyme with Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) and Man Ray (1890–1976) in 1920. Although it never had a permanent exhibition space, the Société Anonyme was the first collection in the United States to be called a “Museum of Modern Art.” Under Dreier’s leadership, the organization supported numerous exhibitions, namely the 1926 International Exhibition of Modern Art at the Brooklyn Museum, in addition to concerts, lectures, and publications, during its thirty-year history. Vasily Kandinsky (1866–1944), an artist whose evolution to abstraction would help articulate the vision of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection, served in absentia as the Société Anonyme’s first vice-president from 1923 until his death.

Dreier and Hilla Rebay (1890–1967), Solomon Guggenheim’s art adviser and an artist, not only shared similar sympathies in terms of artists, but also were both building significant collections of modern art. Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, independent of one another, encouraged the two pioneering women to meet in 1930, and it was only natural that they would continue to cross paths. Kandinsky’s death in December 1944 brought Dreier and Rebay back into close contact and resulted in important Kandinsky purchases from Dreier’s collection for the Guggenheim Foundation two years later. Finally, in 1953, the Foundation received a small but important bequest from Dreier via her executor, Duchamp, a testament to the mutual respect, as proponents for the cause of modern art, which existed between herself and the Foundation. Most important among the 28 works donated by the estate were Constantin Brancusi’s Little French Girl, a bronze by Alexander Archipenko, a standing mobile by Alexander Calder, an untitled Juan Gris still life, and three collages by the German Dadaist Kurt Schwitters.

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