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July 21st, 2011
Major Collection of Frederick Kiesler Drawings and Sculptures is Donated to the Museum

Gift of Ronnie L. and John E. Shore adds strength
to the Museum’s Modernist  holdings

A major collection of 31 drawings and two sculptures by the architect, artist, designer, poet, and philosopher Frederick Kiesler (American, born Austria-Prussia 1890–1965) has been donated to the Museum by Ronnie L. and John E. Shore, of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Mr. and Mrs. Shore were inspired to make this gift by the close connection of Kiesler to Marcel Duchamp (American, born France, 1887-1968), whose work is so well represented in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Ranging in date from the early 1930s to the 1960s, the drawings in the Shore gift include sketches for many of the artist’s most important projects, including the Endless House: Conceptual Drawing (1947), his concept for the creation of a spatially fluid form of architecture that was responsive to the social needs of its users; scenic and costume designs for theatrical performances; and ten sketches for the Shrine of the Book, a building he designed between 1956 and 1965 as a wing of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to house the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

“We are deeply gratified by the generous and enlightened gift that Ronnie and John Shore have made to the Museum, which provides for Kiesler a meaningful place in proximity to the work of his friend Marcel Duchamp and enables Kiesler to be understood in the broader context of the development of modern art,” said Timothy Rub, the Museum’s George D. Widener Director and CEO. “This is an exceptional body of work that demonstrates the scope of Kiesler’s achievement and the power of his visionary ideas, which still resonate today.”

After training in Vienna, Kiesler moved to New York in 1926. Between 1937 and 1948 he became a close friend and collaborator of Marcel Duchamp. Through Duchamp and others, Kiesler became acquainted with the European Surrealists living in New York, and in 1947 he designed the installation of the last Surrealist exhibition in Paris, organized by Duchamp and André Breton (French, 1896-1966). In the United States, Kiesler is best known for his groundbreaking plan for Peggy Guggenheim’s New York gallery, Art of This Century, in 1942.  Two drawings for the gallery are included in the Shores’ gift.

“Kiesler believed in the concept of spatial continuity—he aimed to bring humans into unity with their environment through his art,” said Innis Shoemaker, The Audrey and William H. Helfand Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. “To achieve this, he made a series of drawings he called Galaxies, which were fragments of pictures grouped together to form a pictorial whole. They were intended to allow the viewer to become part of the work by mentally completing the missing parts.  The abstract pastel Galaxy H (1960) is one of two important Galaxies included in the Shore gift.”

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