Inc Société Anonyme

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Katherine S. Dreier (1877—1952)

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An association founded in 1920 by Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray for the promotion of contemporary art in America by lectures, publications, travelling exhibitions, and the formation of a permanent collection. In French the term société anonyme means ‘limited company’, and with the addition of ‘Inc’ the name forms a tautological Dada jest: as Miss Dreier loved to explain, it meant ‘incorporated corporation’. However, the work of the society was serious and trailblazing. Its museum, which opened at 19 East 47th Street, New York, in 1920, was the first in the USA, and one of the earliest anywhere, to be devoted entirely to modern art (although as it was concerned mainly with temporary exhibitions, the Phillips Collection has the distinction of being the first permanent American museum in the field). Between 1920 and 1940 the Société organized 84 exhibitions, through which such artists as Klee, Malevich, Miró, and Schwitters were first exhibited in America. To some extent, therefore, the Société carried on the tradition that had been started by the 291 Gallery of Stieglitz in the years before the Armory Show, and to some extent also it prepared the way for the Museum of Modern Art, which was founded in 1929. The Museum of Modern Art soon eclipsed the Société Anonyme and Miss Dreier's finances were in any case badly hit by the Depression, but she continued to serve as president (as Duchamp did as secretary) until the Société officially closed in 1950. Nine years earlier, in 1941, they had presented the superb permanent collection that the Société had built up (over 600 works) to Yale University Art Gallery.

Subjects: Art.

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