new-york

“1900: Art at the Crossroads”

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

THINK ART IN THE YEAR 1900: the young Picasso, the aging Cézanne, Gauguin in the South Seas. Add technology and urbanism: early cinema, electric lighting, motorized subways, the automobile—all brilliant illumination and accelerated movement. Then ask yourself the inevitable question: Was modern art challenging sensory habits analogously, perhaps even as technology's rival?

One hundred years ago, you might have attempted to answer that question by visiting the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where the most modern of achievements in creative engineering and fine arts went on exhibit for a cosmopolitan crowd. Technology had its Palace of Electricity, lit up to dazzle spectators unimpressed by scientists' and engineers' paper abstractions. Art, too, had its sensational display, its material proof of “progress,” organized chronologically in three stages. First came works from the Middle

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