Philadelphia, PA (July 15, 2004)--Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, announced today the appointment of Michael R. Taylor to the position of Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, effective immediately. An eminent scholar of Dada and Surrealism with a particular focus on the art of Marcel Duchamp, Dr. Taylor has served as Acting Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art since November 2003, and previously held positions as associate and assistant curator in the Museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art.
In naming Dr. Taylor to this newly created position, responsible for the period spanning the first half of the 20th century, the Museum has also announced that it is conducting a search to fill a new position of curator of contemporary art, responsible for the period from the mid-20th century to the present.
"By creating two senior-level curatorships in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, we can give our world-class collection of modern art the full attention it deserves while, at the same time, we can renew our commitment to sustaining and expanding the Museum’s regional, national and international profile in contemporary art. We anticipate important exhibitions, acquisitions, publications and programs exploring the art of a century and more," said Anne d’Harnoncourt. "In Michael Taylor, we are thrilled to find the candidate splendidly qualified to oversee our modern art collections, and it is deeply satisfying to offer this job to such a proven member of the Museum’s own staff. A specialist in the work of Marcel Duchamp and a fine scholar, he possesses a deep and intimate knowledge of our modernist collections and the field of modern art in general. We are delighted that he has accepted this challenging position. I also look forward with great excitement to the new curatorship focused on art since mid century and the many new opportunities that filling this position will bring."
Michael Taylor was born in London in 1966, and received Master of Arts degrees from both the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Courtauld Institute in London. Dr. Taylor also received his PhD from the Courtauld Institute where he wrote his dissertation on Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain and the critical reception of the artist’s readymades from the period of 1913 until 1968. He is a key member of the curatorial team responsible for organizing the upcoming major retrospective Salvador Dalí (February 16-May 15, 2005), working with the distinguished British scholar Professor Dawn Ades, as co-editor of the major volume that will accompany the much-anticipated exhibition in Venice and Philadelphia. Dr. Taylor has recently organized the exhibition Jacques Lipchitz and Philadelphia (July 27- August 22, 2004) and is author of a new Museum Bulletin devoted to the eminent 20th century sculptor. Previous exhibitions organized by Dr. Taylor at the Museum include Henry Moore: A Centennial Salute (July 30 – November 29, 1998), and the critically acclaimed Giorgio de Chirico and the Myth of Ariadne, (November 1, 2002–January 5, 2003) which traveled to the Estorick Museum, London, and examined more than 60 works drawn from all phases of the artist’s career. He was also curator of Howard Hodgkin in Philadelphia (March 22–May 20, 2001) and co-curator, with Ann Temkin, of Dorothea Tanning: Birthday and Beyond (November 24, 2000 - January 7, 2001).
Dr. Taylor has been instrumental in enabling the Museum to make major acquisitions, among them recent gifts of works by Gino Severini, Isamu Noguchi, Roberto Echaurren Matta, Max Ernst, and Sol LeWitt. He has published widely on artists as diverse as Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brancusi, Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Marsden Hartley, John Covert, and Henry Moore. His most recent publications include an important essay on "New York Dada" for the exhibition Dada: Zurich, Berlin, Köln, Hannover, New York, Paris, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2004; and "Blind Man’s Bluff: Duchamp, Stieglitz, and the Fountain Scandal Revisited," an essay for the exhibition Mirrorical Returns: Marcel Duchamp and 20th Century Art, The National Museum of Art, 2004, Osaka, Japan.
In addition to his duties at the Museum, Dr. Taylor also serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Department of Modern and Contemporary Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a long history of strong and adventurous commitment to modern and contemporary art. At the core of the modern art holdings are the A.E. Gallatin and Louise and Walter Arensberg collections. Both were among the most significant collections of contemporary art formed during the 1920s and 1930s in the United States and together they establish this institution as one of the world’s outstanding museums in which to see modern art. The Gallatin and Arensberg gifts also ensured that the Museum’s collection would encompass especially rich concentrations of the work of particular artists, such as Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Juan Gris, Constantin Brancusi, and Joan Miró.
The Museum’s collections of early modern art include indisputable masterpieces such as Picasso’s Self-Portrait (1906) and Three Musicians (1921), and Henri Matisse’s Mademoiselle Yvonne Landsberg (1914). A serene, chapel-like space contains the breathtaking results of Brancusi’s search for essential forms, as seen in The Kiss (1916) and Bird In Space (Yellow Bird) (1923-24), which form part of the largest group of the sculptor’s work in any museum outside Paris. The Museum also houses the largest collection of Marcel Duchamp’s work in the world, including Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) (1912), which was given to the Museum by the Arensbergs (who assembled their collection with the assistance of the artist) as well as later additions, acquired by purchase or gifts by the artist’s family and other donors. Situated in precisely the spots selected for them by Duchamp are the monumental painting on glass, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915-23), and Etant donnés (1946-66), the enigmatic installation to which the artist devoted himself during the final decades of his life, and which was given to the Philadelphia Museum of Art shortly after his death.
American modernists admired by Gallatin and the Arensbergs, including the Pennsylvanian Charles Demuth, are also represented in the selection from Alfred Stieglitz’s collection that was donated to the Museum by his widow, Georgia O’Keeffe. The Museum’s outstanding holdings of modern American paintings include Marsden Hartley’s Painting No. 4 (A Black Horse) (1915), Arthur Dove’s Silver Tanks and Moon (1930), Charles Sheeler’s Cactus (1931), and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Red Hills and Bones (1941), among many others. Premiere examples of other important streams in 20th century art are also represented, including the powerful, self-taught vision of Horace Pippin, as conveyed in works such as The End of the War: Starting Home (1930-33) and Mr. Prejudice (1943), and the evocative realism of Andrew Wyeth, as seen in Groundhog Day (1959).
Philadelphia’s modern and contemporary holdings represent an unusually close collaboration between artists and collectors. A serious painter as well as collector, Gallatin was a central figure in the American Abstract Artists group in New York, where his collection was on view to the public for sixteen years as the "gallery of Living Art" before it was transferred to Philadelphia in 1943. The Gallatin Collection has formed the cornerstone of the Museum’s holdings of abstract art, which grew to include several early Abstract Expressionist masterpieces, including Dark Green Painting (1948), by Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock’s Male and Female (c. 1942).
The tradition begun by Gallatin and the Arensbergs was followed by the development of the collection of contemporary art since the 1960s. Among the many important gifts and acquisitions over the past four decades are works by Robert Rauschenberg, Agnes Martin, Claes Oldenburg, Barbara Chase Ribaud, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd and Gerhardt Richter. A number of major purchases have made a striking impact on the collections and have represented important steps within the American museum community as a whole. These include Cy Twombly’s Fifty Days at Iliam (1978), a sequential and symmetrical ten-part painting cycle illustrating Homer’s Iliad, to which the Museum has devoted an entire gallery designed in collaboration with the artist (Gallery 185), and the remarkable painting Catenary (I Call to the Grave), 1998, a richly evocative work by Jasper Johns from a group of paintings, drawings, and prints informally known as the Bridge series, begun in 1997. Catenary is displayed in Gallery 171 where it is presented in the context of four decades of Johns’s work, all of which are on loan from the artist.
The Department of Modern and Contemporary Art has a longstanding tradition of presenting major retrospectives, such as Constantin Brancusi (1996), Barnett Newman (2002) the forthcoming Salvador Dalí (2005) and exhibitions devoted to important artists of this region, including Warren Rohrer (2003) and Sidney Goodman (1996), as well as acquisitions of works by such artists as Edna Andrade, Warren Rohrer, and Stuart Netsky. The continuity between past and present is richly felt within the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection and programs. The ongoing adventurous series of Museum Studies exhibitions focuses upon projects in collaboration with artists as diverse as Rirkrit Tiravanija, Richard Hamilton and Gabriel Orozco. Initiated in 1993, Museum Studies specifically enlists artists to produce new works in response to the Museum’s building, its history or its collection. The series was inaugurated memorably when Sherrie Levine "recreated" Brancusi’s Newborn by casting the Museum’s marble sculpture in frosted glass, making six new sculptures that were displayed atop six grand pianos in the Great Stair Hall. The Museum presents a stimulating program of film and video screenings by established and emerging artists who experiment with new media and technology. Philadelphia’s historic role as a center of training for artists continues to encourage interaction between the Museum’s collections and each new generation of talented students. The Museum’s Committee on Modern and Contemporary Art ensures that there are funds to acquire new works by young and emerging artists, many of whom challenge accepted notions about art. This acquisitions program plays a central role in moving the Museum’s collection into the future.