Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern at the Museum of Modern Art
Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern at the Museum of Modern Art

Walker Evans’ portrait of Lincoln Kirstein, c. 1931. 2018 Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

March 17 – June 30
If Lincoln Kirstein is remembered at all, it’s for co-founding the New York City Ballet. But Kirstein, who was born into a prosperous Boston family in 1907, was also a curator, collector, and writer. This exhibition will include more than 200 works from MoMA’s permanent collection. (He was also, for those less interested in New York’s avant-garde, one of the “monuments men” who went into Europe to save Nazi-confiscated art.) There will be works from Kirstein’s close friend, Walker Evans, paintings by intimates such as Pavel Tchelitchew, costume designs by Paul Cadmus for ballets he commissioned, and Latin American art that Kirstein acquired for MoMA including works by Antonio Berni and Raquel Forner.

“I have a live eye,” proclaimed Lincoln Kirstein, signaling his wide-ranging vision. Lincoln Kirstein’s Modernexplores 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.