Marius de Zayas: The Root of African Art in New York



Roberts, Kelsey

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This thesis focuses on how curatorial attitudes towards African art shifted in the first two decades of the twentieth century in both Europe and the United States. In the early 1900s, due to the European avant-garde’s interest in African objects, art dealers in the United States started to focus on the aesthetics of African art. One of whom, the USbased Mexican artist, art dealer, and theorist, Marius de Zayas, curated an exhibition in 1914 which, for the first time, portrayed objects from Africa as art. This paper examines the exhibitions in New York City which took place between 1914 and 1923 demonstrating how de Zayas continued to challenge the display of African objects as artifacts by showcasing them as art and juxtaposing them with European avant-garde paintings and sculpture. This thesis combines a close examination of the complex connections between European colonialism, art markets, and institutions with a discussion of both the European and American avant-garde to argue that Marius de Zayas set the precedent for the presentation and discussion of African art in the United States.



Marius de Zayas, African art, Modern Art, 291 Gallery, Paul Guillaume