Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern

Museum of Modern Art. Apr. 2019. 200p. ed. by ed. by Samantha Friedman & Jodi Hauptman. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781633450820. $55. FINE ARTS
This exhibition catalog explores the life and legacy of Lincoln Kirstein (1907–96), curator, critic, poet, arts patron, polymath. Kirstein helped shape the New York Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) collections and vision, and also cofounded the New York City Ballet. The focus is on the 1930s–40s, when Kirstein was closely involved with developing the museum’s holdings and distinctive multidisciplinary approach to modernism. In four chapters, curators Hauptman and Friedman, together with other contributors, investigate Kirstein’s support for the politically engaged art of 1930s America and—perhaps surprisingly—his related interest in making ballet a popular art form in the States. They further consider his patronage of photographer Walker Evans; relationships with painters Paul Cadmus, Pavel Tchelitchew, and George Platt Lynes, and their development of a “queer” art style; and, finally, Kirstein’s unrealized efforts to establish a Latin American department at MoMA. The work boasts both color and black-and-white illustrations and a chronology of Kirstein’s life. One quibble: a bibliography of Kirstein’s numerous writings would have been a valuable addition.
VERDICT An informative introduction to Kirstein’s generous, tempestuous relationship with MoMA, to be read alongside Martin Duberman’s biography The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein.
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