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Joe Trovato
Joe Trovato, Curator of  1963 Armory Show
The Pig
"The Pig," by Ernest Freund

Duchamps Nude Descending a Staircase
Duchamp with "The Nude"

Duchamp and wife Teeny
Duchamp with wife Teeny, 1963

1963 Armory Show Poster
1963 Armory Show Poster, by Duchamp

 

1963 50th Anniversary Armory Show

By Richard N. Miller

The foresight and energy to create the 50th anniversary of the 1913 Amory Show in 1963 can be attributed to Joseph Trovato, assistant to the director of Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute (MWPI) in Utica. NY. His papers are now at the Art in America Archives, Smithsonian Institution. MWPI is a fine arts center serving diverse audiences through three program divisions - Museum of Art, Performing Arts, and School of Art.  The Museum of Art features a renowned permanent collection, in an International-style gallery building designed by Philip Johnson. The School of Art offers a nationally accredited college program in association with Pratt Institute and community art education for adults, teens and children.

The Institute is named for three generations of one Utica family who left a handsome endowment to establish the Institute, which opened in 1936. Later, the Institute was left a major collection of modern art accumulated by Edward W. Root (grandson of Elihu Root, former Secretary of State) that has become a central focus of the museum. Some of the works in the Root collection were purchased by him at the 1913 Armory Show. Root encouraged Trovato to proceed with the anniversary show, but died before it opened.

 

Search begins for hundreds of 1913 entries

Starting soon after the opening of the new Philip Johnson building, in 1960, Joe Trovato began his quest to re-assemble as many of the original 1913 show entries that he could find (the original show listed over 1,300 paintings and sculptures). To assist him, he hired two art history students from New York University Institute of Fine Arts, Sam Sachs II and Martin Lerner. Lerner is an oriental art specialist, and Sachs went on to a distinguished career, culminating in the directorship of the Frick Collection in New York. By the time of the opening of the anniversary show, their combined efforts had produced almost 350 works from all over the world – an astounding feat. Serendipitously, this writer (and his former wife) uncovered one of the works in a family collection. Called The Pig, it is a pointillist renditon of a happy sow, by a relatively unknown painter, Ernest Fruend.

 

Gala Opening draws luminaries from around the world.

The Utica show opened on February 17th,1963, preceded by a black-tie reception and dinner, attended by critics, collectors and journalists from the US and Europe. Among other figures of the time, the event drew Sir Kenneth Clark , Nelson Rockefeller, Charles Collingwood, and John Canaday among a large roster of notables. The show major articles in every major American magazine, and many European ones. The TV networks broadcast special programs from the museum galleries.

 

Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase was, of course, the sensation of the 1913 show, and he was invited to lecture at the Utica event. He also agreed to design the poster for the show when it moved to NYC, copies of which still exist. This writer recorded the lecture which can be found on this website under AUDIOS/VIDEOS. Duchamp, a personable and unassuming man of 75 years arrived with his wife Teeny,who had been married to Pierre Matisse, son of Henri. Teeny and Pierre had three children, one of whom, Jacqueline , who became Duchamps's step-daughter, is now the custodian of Duchamp's family archives, and is a friend of the writer.