1959 and Modern Masters
Early in his career, Clyfford Still’s work was exhibited alongside the work of other artists, such as in the 15 Americans exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1952. However, over time Still developed a different and unwavering vision of how his artworks should be exhibited. Still came to prefer exhibitions featuring only his work, or to have his works shown apart from works of other artists in separate gallery spaces. So when the Clyfford Still Museum was established, the artist’s widow Patricia imposed restrictions on the Museum, which was to be dedicated to the exhibition of only works by Clyfford Still.
During his life, Clyfford Still probably declined more exhibition invitations than he accepted, including several, repeated invitations to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. Over time, Still became increasingly selective about exhibiting (even selling) his work, in part because of the commercialism and politics of gallerists and curators (and, yes, collectors) that he despised. Following Still’s death in 1980, Patricia was even more selective about lending and exhibiting his work. The mixed result of this history is that the Clyfford Still Museum holds an unrivaled collection of Still’s art, comprising over 95 percent of the works he created; but he is the most famous artist many people have never heard of.
So we jumped at the chance to co-sponsor, with the Denver Art Museum, the exhibition Modern Masters: Twentieth Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which featured the greatest artists from the twentieth century, including (among many others) Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Clyfford Still. We thank the Denver Art Museum for this successful collaboration, enabling us to help visitors understand Clyfford Still within the broader framework of modern art, and to begin to re-situate Clyfford Still in his rightful place in art history.
The Clyfford Still Museum’s companion exhibition, 1959: The Albright-Knox Art Gallery Exhibition Recreated, remains open through this Sunday, June 15, 2014. In this show, we have assembled a significant number of the works The Albright-Knox showed in the major, one-person exhibition of Still’s work they staged in 1959.