“I have a live eye,” proclaimed Lincoln Kirstein, signaling his wide-ranging vision. Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern explores this polymath’s sweeping contributions to American cultural life in the 1930s and ’40s. Best known for cofounding New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet with George Balanchine, Kirstein (1907–1996), a writer, critic, curator, impresario, and tastemaker, was also a key figure in MoMA’s early history. With his prescient belief in the role of dance within the museum, his championing of figuration in the face of prevailing abstraction, and his position at the center of a New York network of queer artists, intimates, and collaborators, Kirstein’s impact remains profoundly resonant today.
Bringing together nearly 300 rarely seen artworks alongside materials drawn from the Museum’s Archives, the exhibition illuminates Kirstein’s influence on the Museum’s collecting, exhibition, and publication history. The wide array of works includes set and costume designs for the ballet by Paul Cadmus and Jared French, photographs by Walker Evans and George Platt Lynes, realist and magic realist paintings by Honoré Sharrer and Pavel Tchelitchew, sculpture by Elie Nadelman and Gaston Lachaise, and Latin American art that Kirstein acquired for the Museum by artists such as Antonio Berni and Raquel Forner. Together, these works reveal an alternative and expansive view of modern art.
Organized by Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator, and Samantha Friedman, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints.