Younger European/American Painters Exhibitions
Plan Your Visit
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue
(at 89th Street)
New York, NY 10128-0173
Hours & Ticketing
Sun 10 am–5:45 pm
Mon 10 am–5:45 pm
Tue 10 am–5:45 pm
Wed 10 am–5:45 pm
Fri 10 am–5:45 pm
Sat 10 am–7:45 pm
See Plan Your Visit for more information on hours and ticketing.
Students and Seniors (65 years +) with valid ID $18
Children 12 and under Free
Multimedia tours are free with admission.
Browse past exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Art of Another Kind curator Tracey Bashkoff discusses the Guggenheim exhibitions Younger European Painters (1953) and Younger American Painters (1954), which introduced director James Johnson Sweeney's selections of contemporary art to a New York audience and helped develop the Guggenheim collection.
Download the transcript (PDF)
Tracey Bashkoff, Curator, Collections
director James Johnson] Sweeney presented two exhibitions, one in 1953 called
the Younger European Painters
exhibition, and then in 1954 Younger
American Painters. He really actually conceived of them as one exhibition
that was split in two parts, and he called both A Selection. He used these exhibitions to introduce what was going
on in the contemporary scene in Europe and in the U.S. to the audience in New
York. And he also used it as a way to build the collection so he researched
these exhibitions by traveling throughout the U.S. and throughout Europe. We
know that he went to galleries and took notes of what he saw and picked up
brochures and then contacted these artists and added their work to these
exhibitions and built our contemporary holdings based on his selections for
For the Younger American Painters exhibition, Sweeney traveled around the U.S. He didn’t want it to be New York–centric though ultimately the exhibition did include more New York artists than artists from around the country. Sweeney included examples of some of the New York artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. He also included artists that weren’t American-born but were now living in the U.S., for example the artist Kenzo Okada. Okada’s painting was then acquired by the museum as were examples of work by Pollock and by de Kooning, Baziotes, and other artists working in New York at the time.
Sweeney’s relationship with Pollock went back to really his relationship with Peggy Guggenheim. Peggy opened the Art of The Century, which was sort of a gallery-museum in New York in 1942, and she showed Jackson Pollock at her gallery in 1943. James Johnson Sweeney wrote the preface for that catalogue and was really important, along with Peggy, in ushering Jackson Pollock to the fore of the New York art scene.
In Sweeney’s travels around the U.S. and in Europe, he also began to form ideas about the differences between American painting and European painting at the time. In the Americans’ works, he saw a sort of urgency and sense of anxiety that he didn’t see in the European painters’ work. In Europe he was much more attuned to whether the artists like Alfred Manessier, whose work still has geometric forms in his abstract canvases, were breaking or carrying on the traditions of painting that came before them.
Sweeney felt that these younger-painter exhibitions really represented a selection of work. He knew he wasn’t being comprehensive and that he was presenting a certain point of view and a certain predilection for perhaps abstraction and a certain type of painting that he was observing at the time.
Sweeney referred to the painters in these exhibitions as “younger painters,” but he meant it in terms of their experience. He saw this group of artists as emerging artists, as artists who were just really coming into their own as painters.