It is not easy to find many characters as dynamic, multifaceted and influential as Duncan Phillips (1886-1966) in the history of American modern art. Referential art critic and collector, Phillips was also the founder and director of The Phillips Collection, based in Washington, which was the first museum of modern art in the United States opening 10 years before the MOMA in New York, did not open its doors until late 1929.
From the day the museum opened in 1921, Phillips did not cease expanding. The collection, consisting mostly of works by modern artists, was based on what appealed to his penetrating critical eye. Hence, it constitutes an excellent, extensive and gloriously personal overview of art from the United States from the mid-nineteenth century to the sixties of the twentieth century.
Now, the Mapfre Foundation in Madrid (Paseo de Recoletos, 23) will present selections from the collection until January 16, 2011 under the name Made in USA, the first exhibition organized by the Phillips Collection in Europe. It is a unique opportunity to approach a series of extraordinary artists who usually do not enjoy much representation in European museums. Particularly those working prior to World War II are often given short shrift, although after the conclusion of the war the United States became much more prominent in artistic matters. New York replaced Paris as the world art capital and American artists and critics began to dictate the major trends in a process that has only begun to shift back in recent years.
The itinerary of the exhibition is divided into ten thematic areas, detailed below, chronologically covering 100 years of American art, although necessarily some overlap in time. Thus we see Romanticism, Realism and Impressionism, forces of nature, abstraction (of special interest is work by Arthur Dove and Georgia O´Keffe) modern life and its corollary, the city (let yourself be amazed here by Edward Hopper, Pierre de Bois, John Sloan, and the aesthetic details of Charles Sheeler), Memory and identity (with several of the panels of the seminal series on African-American Migration by Jacob Lawrence), the Heritage of Cubism, ending with abstraction (best represented by an exquisite, small Rothko) culminating in abstract expressionism.
If you rent apartments in Madrid enjoy a trip through the palatial Mapfre foundation. Afterwards you can visit nearby cafes like Café Gijón or Café del Espejo to drink in the art nouveau decor and complete your trip back in time.