Europe – Italy, Germany and Finland beginning September in 2011
Fondazione Roma Museo, Rome
October 4, 2011 through January 22, 2012
Kunsthalle der hypo-kulturstiftung, Munich
February 3 through May 13, 2012
Helsinki City Art Museum
June 7 through September 9, 2012
The work of Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is among the most well-known in America, as is the artist herself. From the 1920s, when she first became known as one of America’s leading modernists, until her death in 1986, O’Keeffe and her work have garnered increasing and extraordinary attention in the American art community and with the American public. Currently, she is one of this country’s best-loved and most celebrated artists and icons.
Yet, her work remains relatively unknown beyond American shores. First, foreign institutions rarely organized exhibitions that included works by American artists before the 1960s, when New York City first became a leading art center. And O’Keeffe’s husband, dealer, and promoter, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), who was America’s first modernist photographer and advocate of modern art, did not look favorably upon sending O’Keeffe’s work to exhibitions other than those at his galleries because of the danger of it being mishandled and/or damaged. O’Keeffe felt similarly then and throughout her career.
Stieglitz introduced O’Keeffe’s art to the New York art community in 1916 and continued to make it accessible to New Yorkers through annual O’Keeffe exhibitions he organized from 1923 until his death in 1946. He touted O’Keeffe and her art as fundamentally American because, unlike most of her contemporaries, she had not been trained in Europe or traveled there, and thus, her art had not been shaped or influenced by that of her European contemporaries.
Stieglitz resented the fact that American art was not regarded with the same significance as European art, and although in the first two decades of the century, he was the first to exhibit European modern art, such as the work of George Braque and Pablo Picasso, by the mid-1920s he limited what he exhibited to the work of the American artists he promoted, primarily Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and O’Keeffe. Moreover, he also increasingly felt that if Europeans wanted to know American art they should see it in America. Stieglitz discussed this point with Edith Halpert, owner of The Downtown Gallery, as is evident in her letter to O’Keeffe of 19 June 1948: "I agree with Stieglitz that Europe should come here to see American art."
That O’Keeffe works are now housed in several European museums is due to generous gifts made by The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation (1986-2006), which also sponsored the first international exhibition of O’Keeffe’s art (1993). Other exhibitions of her work have since been on view in Denmark, England, Spain, and Switzerland. Georgia O’Keeffe is the first retrospective exhibition to travel to three European cities, Rome, Munich, and Helsinki, and continues the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s ongoing efforts to familiarize foreign audiences with O’Keeffe’s work. It co-organized the exhibition that traveled to Denmark (2001-2) and is currently organizing the first exhibition of O’Keeffe’s art for Tokyo, Japan, to be on view at the National Arts Center (2014).
The current European retrospective presents approximately 60 O’Keeffes from every decade of the seventy years she was active as an artist, 1915-84 (drawings, paintings, and sculpture). A significant portion of it was loaned by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which houses more than half of the artist’s output. Many other American and European institutions and numerous private collectors have been extremely generous in making work available to the exhibition, which provides a rich array of the subjects that interested O’Keeffe throughout her career: abstractions of the 1910s; large-scale flower paintings; depictions of New York City buildings of the 1920s; paintings of New Mexico’s distinctive architectural and landscape forms of the 1930s and 40s, as well as paintings of skulls and bones from these decades; and abstractions that she made beginning in 1959 inspired by travel to Asia.
There are also photographs made by O’Keeffe beginning in the 1950s; by Stieglitz, for whom she was a subject from 1917 until the 1937 when Stieglitz’s photography career ended; and, photographs of O’Keeffe by famous photographers Ansel Adams and Todd Webb.
Skira has published the exhibition’s fully illustrated catalogue in English, German, and Italian that includes essays by Barbara Buhler Lynes, Curator, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Sarah Greenough, Senior Curator and Head of the Department of Photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and Carol Troyen, Curator Emerita of American Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Barbara Buhler Lynes
Curator, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
The Emily Fisher Landau Director, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center
or Katy Spurrell, email@example.com
Kunsthalle der hypo-kulturstiftung, Munich