• Museum of American Art in Prishtina
About the Museum
Museum of American Art is an educational institution dedicated to assembling, preserving and exhibiting memories primarily on the Museum of Modern Art in New York and its International Program of Circulating Exhibitions of American art. It is those MoMA exhibitions, some of them curated by Dorothy Miller, that helped establishing throughout Western Europe the first post-war common cultural identity based on internationalism, modernism and individualism.

From the very beginning Museum of Modern Art was perceived, especially by the American Art lovers, as being almost entirely pro-European and at the same time, indifferent toward the Americans. This perception was accurate since, at that time, one could hardly find examples of American Art that would fit into the dominant modern narrative. The content and the structure of this narrative was based on “international movements”, whose roots we could trace to early 20th-century modern art movements in Europe. The story was finally put together in mid ‘30es by Alfred Barr Jr. after his exhibition “Cubism and Abstract Art” as defined through his famous diagram and later through the “display narrative” of the Museum of Modern Art.

To deflect the criticism and balance this pro-European bias, museum organized a series of exhibitions of contemporary American art curated by Dorothy Miller. At that time these exhibitions, beginning with “14 Americans” (1946), looked more like a sideshow, not yet ready to become part of the main narrative. But, it was these exhibitions of “Americans” at MoMA throughout the ‘40es and ‘50es, and the 1951 “Abstract Art in America” that for the first time introduced in the museum context Gorky, Motherwell, Pollock, Gottlieb, Rothko, Kline, de Kooning,… And when in the early ‘50es MoMA established The International Program of Circulating Exhibitions funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, with the aim of “promoting greater international understanding and mutual respect,” it was these artist that constituted the most attractive and most radical segment of the circulating exhibitions introduced to the European public. Among the exhibitions that came to Europe were: “Twelve Contemporary American Painters and Sculptors” (1953), “Modern Art in the USA” (1956), “The New American Painting” (1958). We could include here the American representation that was brought in a package at Documenta II (1959) under the auspices of the MoMA International Program.

Those were the strange years in art and in politics. On the one hand, modern art had to be defended from the criticism from the right (Alfred Barr, Jr.: “Is Modern Art Communistic”). On the other, it became apparent, especially to the people like George Kennan, that American modern art could be used in the cultural Cold War, as an expression of creativity and freedom on the West.

Regardless of the Cold War context of the MoMA International Program, from today’s prospective it might be more important to understand to what degree these Circulating Exhibitions helped establishing the first Post War common European cultural identity that was based on modernism (Abstract Art), individualism and internationalism. And, it was this Abstract Art in the ‘50es both in Europe and America that finally established the Alfred Barr’s narrative as the only legitimate History of Modern Art.