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P1936_abstractart

Cubism and Abstract Art: press clippings, 1936

In assembling the works for Cubism and Abstract Art (MoMA Exh. #46, March 2-April 19, 1936), The Museum of Modern Art looked not only to American but also to European collectors and museums; a total of fifty-nine paintings and nineteen sculptures were borrowed from overseas. On arrival at the United States Customs, the paintings were admitted, but all nineteen sculptures were denied entry. The sculptures were, like the paintings, to have entered under Paragraph 1807 of the United States Customs Tariff Act that provided for the free importation of original paintings and sculptures as works of art. The Customs officers, however, claimed that they were unable to pass the sculptures as works of art based on a 1916 Treasury Decision which understood sculpture under Paragraph 1807 to be "imitations of natural objects, chiefly of the human form… in their true proportion of length, breadth, and thickness." The sculptures in question were clearly not imitations of nature, and the officers were required to reject their entry into the United States. Included among the nineteen were works by Alberto Giacometti, Hans Arp, Jean Miró, Henry Moore and others. Images of Umberto Boccioni's Unique Form of Continuity in Space (1913) were published in countless newspapers around the country. The Museum was ultimately forced to pay a heavy premium, the same as that for "building materials," in order to release the works from Customs and exhibit them as part of Cubism and Abstract Art.