More than sixty years have passed since the critic Robert Coates, writing in the New Yorker in 1946, first used the term “Abstract Expressionism” to describe the richly colored canvases of Hans Hofmann. Over the years the name has come to designate the paintings and sculptures of artists as different as Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner and David Smith. Beginning in the 1940s, under the aegis of founding director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., works by these artists began to enter MoMA’s collection. Thanks to the sustained support of the curators, the trustees, and the artists themselves, these ambitious acquisitions continued throughout the second half of the last century and produced a collection of Abstract Expressionist art of unrivaled breadth and depth. Drawn entirely from the Museum’s vast holdings, Abstract Expressionist New York underscores the achievements of a generation that catapulted New York City to the center of the international art world during the 1950s, and left as its legacy some of the twentieth century’s greatest masterpieces.
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