From the Archives

The Museum of Non-Objective Painting: Hilla Rebay and the Origins of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

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The Museum of Non-Objective Painting: Hilla Rebay and the Origins of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Edited by Karole Vail with contributions by Tracey Bashkoff, John Hanhardt, and Don Quaintance
Published in 2009
336 pages, fully illustrated
Hardcover, 10 1/2 x 8 5/8 inches

Considering in depth the origins of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum when it was first known as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, this volume reveals for the first time the museum’s complex and sometimes twisted architectural history and the ambitious exhibition program organized by Hilla Rebay, the museum’s founding director and curator from 1939 to 1952. Through the extensive correspondence between Rebay and Rudolf Bauer—the artist whose work Guggenheim collected exhaustively—Karole Vail reveals the important role Bauer played in envisioning the collection and the museum. Vail discusses Rebay’s role as curator, concentrating on her unusual concepts for installation and framing practices in the museum’s first location on East 54th Street in midtown Manhattan, and later in a temporary townhouse at 1071 Fifth Avenue. These sites housed numerous loan exhibitions including Vasily Kandinsky (1945) and the László Moholy-Nagy memorial exhibitions (1947); Vail provides biographies of many of the lesser-known artists in the collection, and assembles press from the period. Don Quaintance discusses the architectural background of the museum, unearthing previously unknown information, and meticulously reconstructing the museum’s various temporary venues. Tracey Bashkoff addresses the formation of the Founding Collection thanks to Guggenheim’s visionary commitment and Rebay’s extraordinary efforts, contextualizing it within the American art world. John Hanhardt considers Rebay’s ideas for a film center dedicated to nonobjective film and how it became integral to her thinking. Fully illustrated with reproductions of architectural drawings, sketches and floor plans, historical exhibition installation views, miscellaneous papers, catalogues, photographs and documents (many of which are reproduced for the first time), and color plates of selected artworks. Extensive previously unpublished archival materials are drawn from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, the Hilla von Rebay Foundation Archive, the Avery Library at Columbia University, the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, the New York Municipal Archives, the Museum of Modern Art Archives, the Museum of the City of New York, as well as private and public archives and collections. The book provides essential reading and a rich reference of the Guggenheim’s multifaceted and fascinating history.

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