“Edith Halpert and the Rise of American Art”

Art, Painting
Stuart Davis, Little Giant Still Life, 1950
Photograph: Katherine Wetzel, courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond VA, Artwork © Estate of Stuart Davis

Time Out says

To observers of the time, New York City’s prewar art scene—small, provincial and enthralled by European Modernism—must have seemed an unlikely candidate to one day supplant Paris as the world’s art capital. But Edith Halpert saw potential in the local artists overshadowed by the Continent’s avant-garde. Born in Ukraine, Halpert (1900–1970) was one of the first female dealers in the U. S., and also one of the first to start a gallery in downtown Manhattan (Greenwich Village). Opened in 1926, the aptly named Downtown Gallery in New York City was located in a neighborhood where artists lived, worked and gathered, a move that became standard operating procedure for galleries that would later pop up in Soho, the East Village and Bushwick. More important was that Halpert chose to champion a cast of American artists that reflected the racial diversity of country, promoting African American artists such as Jacob Lawrence and Horace Pippin. In 1942, she mounted an exhibition by Yasuo Kuniyoshi, a Japanese-American artist who had been classified as an enemy alien after Pearl Harbor. Halpert’s support for these and other artists (Georgia O’Keeffe, Ben Ben Shahn) marked her as a political progressive, but it also planted the seed for the eventual dominance of American art.

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