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PRINT April 1979

The Big Show: The First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, Part 2

I have become a mere machine to register picture values.

—Henry McBride, in The New York Sun,

January 28, 1917.

THIS RECONSTRUCTION OF THE EVENTS surrounding the First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists (Artforum, February 1979) has relied primarily on the day-by-day accounts supplied in the newspapers. We must turn to the more extensive reviews and magazine articles, however, to find how the major critics of the period responded to the exhibition and its principles.1

Most critics, promodernist and conservative alike, found the immense size of the Independents exhibition physically exhausting. Yet it was considered such a spectacular production that some even proclaimed it an easy rival to the evangelical preaching of Billy Sunday, whose New York revival meeting had, coincidentally, been scheduled during the same week as the opening of the exhibition. John Covert and Marcel

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