Johns Hopkins University Press
How did Jewishness affect the relationships among artists, galleries, artists’ groups and collectors?” Scholars have scrutinized the Jewish presence in American art in the twentieth century over the last fifteen years or so in essays, monographs and surveys. Studies of Jewish artists and their works continue to proliferate, and scholars have even examined the connections between art history as a discipline and Jewishness, contributing to both the history and the sociology of art history and to the range of Jewish studies. The re-evaluation of the work of artists such as Raphael Soyer, Theresa Bernstein, Jack Levine, Mark Rothko, Audrey Flack and many others in relationship to their Jewishness reveals a religious and cultural identification with Judaism as an enduring component of American modernism—both before and after WWII—in New York. This, in turn, has enriched our understanding of the interplay between modernism and ethnic and religious identity. Yet scant attention has been paid to the institutional frames in which these artists expressed their connection to Judaism. One such institution was the Guild Art Gallery (1935–1937). While it may not have explicitly set out to be a “Jewish” gallery, most of the artists on its roster were Jewish, as were its founders, and it mounted at least one major, extended campaign to recruit Jewish patrons. Further, the gallery made concerted efforts to market a modern Jewish masterwork by an artist associated with the School of Paris—Sigmund Menkes’ enormous painting, The Torah—to an elite Jewish audience. Although the gallery closed its doors after only two years, the act of closely tracking its activities in relation to its Jewish-themed work and its campaign to shape a Jewish clientele can tell us something about the intersection of Jewishness, modernity and the art market in New York in the mid-1930s.
Pappas, Andrea. “In Search of a Jewish Audience: New York’s Guild Art Gallery, 1935-1937.” Journal of American Jewish History. 98, No.4 (October 2014): 263-288.