Landmark Kandinsky Retrospective Planned for Guggenheim Museum's 50th



Unprecedented International Collaboration Brings Together Rarely Traveled Works, Offering Historic Opportunity for Reexamination of Kandinsky’s Visionary Legacy

Exhibition: KANDINSKY
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
Dates: September 18, 2009 – January 13, 2010

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NEW YORK, NY (September 11, 2008) – Kandinsky, a full-scale retrospective of the visionary artist, theorist, abstraction pioneer, and seminal figure in the history of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will be presented from September 18, 2009, to January 13, 2010. This exhibition is organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, in cooperation with the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. This retrospective will bring together more than 100 paintings drawn primarily from these three institutions, whose collections comprise the three largest repositories of Kandinsky in the world, as well as from significant private and public collections.

Kandinsky is curated by Tracey Bashkoff, Associate Curator for Collections and Exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Christian Derouet, Curator at the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Annegret Hoberg, Curator at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich. Karole Vail, Assistant Curator, assisted with the organization of the New York presentation.

The exhibition will offer a comprehensive chronological survey of Kandinsky’s work through a selection of his most important canvases, including examples from his series ofImprovisations, Impressions and Compositions, while investigating his formal and conceptual contributions to the course of abstraction in the twentieth-century. The unprecedented collaborative efforts of the Guggenheim, Pompidou, and Lenbachhaus will assemble works that have rarely traveled together, such as Munich’s early masterpiece, A Colorful Life (1907), or the Guggenheim’s Light Picture (1913) - a seminal work among the first of Kandinsky’s truly abstract canvases which has not even been exhibited in the museum’s own galleries since the 1970s - offering new contexts and comparisons for those works that have been held apart.

Under the care and preparation of the Guggenheim’s conservation department, four canvases considered extremely delicate due to the artist’s use of sand mixed into his painting medium, will travel for the first time in decades. Significant loans to be confirmed from Russian institutions such as Nizhni Novgorod State Museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and the State Tretyakov Gallery will introduce works little seen in the United States. The survey will trace Kandinsky’s vision through thematic motifs, such as the horse and rider, mountainous landscapes and tumultuous seascapes, apocalyptic imagery and other religious subjects, and follow the artist’s painted realizations of his well-developed aesthetic theories, allowing a re-examination of the geographical- and time-based periods traditionally applied to his oeuvre.

Vasily Kandinsky and Solomon Guggenheim
Vasily Kandinsky was a central figure in the history and genesis of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and this landmark exhibition will fittingly coincide with the museum’s 50th anniversary year. The museum’s founder, Solomon R. Guggenheim, started acquiring works by Kandinsky in 1929 upon the counsel of Hilla Rebay, who was to become the museum’s first director and advocated collecting all periods and media of Kandinsky’s oeuvre. Guggenheim paid an historic visit to the artist’s studio at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany in 1930, ultimately purchasing more than 150 Kandinsky paintings. Guggenheim soon became the champion of a particular brand of abstraction, known as nonobjective art, which had no ties to the empirical world and aspired to spiritual and utopian goals; his enthusiasm eventually leading to the opening the “Museum of Non-Objective Painting” in 1939, now known as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Permanent galleries were devoted to Kandinsky from the museum’s inception, a practice the Guggenheim has revived in recent years. In 1945, shortly after the artist’s death in Paris, Rebay organized a memorial exhibition at the Museum and translated some of his most influential writings into English.

About Kandinsky
Vasily Kandinsky (b. 1866, Moscow – d. 1944, Paris) was one of the pioneers of abstraction and great theorists of Modernism. His seminal pre-World War I treatise, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, published in Munich in 1911 lays out his program for the development of art independent of observations of the objective world. Interested in synesthesia, and more particularly in the relationship between painting and music, Kandinsky strove to give painting the freedom from nature he felt in music. Kandinsky’s discovery of a new subject matter based only on the artist’s “inner need” would occupy him throughout his life.

Exhibition Tour
The exhibition will be presented at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich from October 25, 2008, through February 22, 2009; at the Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris from April 7, to August 10, 2009; and at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York from September 18, 2009, to January 13, 2010.

A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition, providing comprehensive art historical and conservation study of Kandinsky’s work. Contributors to the catalogue include Vivian Barnett, art historian and Kandinsky scholar; Tracey Bashkoff; Christian Derouet; Matthias Haldemann, Director of the Kunsthaus Zug, Switzerland; Annegret Hoberg; and Gillian McMillan, Senior Conservator, Collections at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The catalogue will also feature an illustrated chronology compiled by Hoberg as well as a selected bibliography.

Education Programs
A full schedule of educational programs is being presented under the auspices of the Sackler Center for Arts Education during the run of the exhibition. For updated information regarding ticketed programs, contact the Box Office at 212 423 3587 or visit

On View at the Sackler Center
The Sackler Center for Arts Education will feature a complementary contextual exhibition showcasing historical materials and documentary photographs.

Film Program
The Guggenheim will screen a short film by interactive filmmaker and artist Grahame Weinbren, the result of the 2007 Public & Artist Interaction, a close collaboration between the Curatorial and Education Departments. Weinbren’s film explores the artist’s groundbreaking theoretical writings on abstraction, color theory, and synesthesia by focusing on three significant Kandinsky paintings from 1913 in the Guggenheim’s collection. The film will be shown in the Museum’s New Media Theater located in the Sackler Center.Kandinsky: A Close Look (in progress 2008) explores how an artistic interpretation can provide viewers with a visual experience that will develop their own seeing and critical apparatus to become more informed and engaged viewers.

Works & Process
In conjunction with Kandinsky, Works & Process at the Guggenheim will present a special commission of Yellow Sound, Kandinsky’s only stage composition published during his lifetime when it appeared in the Blaue Reiter’s Almanac. This theater production experiments with the creation of a “total work of art,” enriching the abstract expression of Kandinsky’s shapes and colors through film, music and dance.

About the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Founded in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of art, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. Currently the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation owns and operates the Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue in New York and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection on the Grand Canal in Venice, and also provides programming and management for two other museums in Europe that bear its name: the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. In early 2013 the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a 452,000 square foot museum of modern and contemporary art designed by architect Frank Gehry, is scheduled to open.

Admission and Museum Hours:
$18 adults, $15 students/seniors (65+), children under 12 free. Admission includes audio guide. Saturday to Wednesday, 10 AM to 5:45 PM; Friday, 10 AM to 7:45 PM. Closed Thursday. On Friday evenings, beginning at 5:45 PM, the museum hosts Pay What You Wish. For general information call, 212 423 3500, or visit

September 11, 2008

Betsy Ennis, Director of Media & Public Relations
Claire Laporte, Media Relations Associate
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
212 423 3840

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