This exhibition focuses on Duncan Phillips’s relationship with New York collections in the 1910s and 1920s. The 1913 Armory Show—the first major modern art exhibition in the U.S.—had a powerful impact on Phillips, as it did on collectors A. E. Gallatin and John Quinn. Though initially shocked and dismayed by the exhibition, Phillips eventually embraced modern art and collected some of the very artists he had criticized. In the early 1920s, Phillips considered establishing a branch of the Phillips Memorial Gallery in Manhattan but ultimately decided against it, likely because of his purchase of major works such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party.
Quinn created one of the finest collections of modern art in the world. Following his death in 1924, it was dispersed by auction. Quinn’s executors sought Phillips’s advice on the disposition of the collection, though Phillips was unable to purchase works from the collection himself. The dispersal of Quinn’s collection inspired Gallatin to open his Gallery of Living Art at New York University in 1927, the first collection on public view in the United States devoted exclusively to modern art. The loss of Quinn’s collection was also a catalyst for the founding of the Museum of Modern Art. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the museum’s first director, corresponded with Phillips when he was teaching America’s first class on contemporary art at Wellesley College in Massachusetts,
Phillips’s relationship with the Armory Show, John Quinn, A. E. Gallatin, and Alfred Barr is explored through selected correspondence, books, and photographs from the Phillips archives and the Archives of American Art, as well as the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.