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A History of the Carnegie International
When Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie founded Carnegie Institute in 1895, one of his bold ambitions was to create a museum of modern art. The series of contemporary art exhibitions he established in the following year became the linchpin of that scheme. Through the exhibitions, Carnegie sought to educate and inspire audiences, promote international understanding of art, attract the art world to Pittsburgh, and above all, to build a collection through the purchase of the "Old Masters of tomorrow" who would be represented in the exhibitions. Today, the Carnegie International is the oldest exhibition of international contemporary art in North America, and the second oldest in the world. The exhibition continues to enrich the museum's permanent collection and inspire a dialogue about social and aesthetic concerns.
With the first exhibition came the acquisition of Winslow Homer's The Wreck (1896) and James A. McNeill Whistler's Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate (1884), the first Whistler painting to be acquired by an American museum. More than 100 years later, at least 300 works have entered Carnegie Museum of Art's permanent collection through the Internationals, including works by Georg Baselitz, Louise Bourgeois, Mary Cassatt, Eduardo Chillida, Willem de Kooning, Childe Hassam, Edward Hopper, Ellsworth Kelley, Mike Kelley, Anselm Kiefer, Sol LeWitt, Camille Pissarro, Sigmar Polke, Georges Rouault, John Singer Sargent, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol, among others.
While the mission of the International has remained constant over the years, it has had many incarnations. In 1896, the show was established as a yearly survey and presented as the Annual Exhibition. Over the years, the presence of such prominent figures as Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Pierre Bonnard, Thomas Eakins, Robert Henri, and Winslow Homer on its juries of award was testament to the scope of Carnegie Institute's ambitions. However, relatively few avant-garde works appeared in these exhibitions. It was not until Henri Matisse's work won first prize in 1927 that a modern artist was truly recognized at the International. During and immediately following World War II, from 1940 to 1949, the museum presented annual exhibitions of American art, returning to the International in 1950.
In the 1950s, under the direction of museum director Gordon Bailey Washburn, the Carnegie International emerged as an influential exhibition of the avant-garde, documenting the rise of significant developments such as Abstract Expressionism. During these years, jurors included Marcel Duchamp, Vincent Price, Ben Shahn, and James Thrall Soby. Willem de Kooning's Woman VI (1953) and Franz Kline's Siegfried (1958), along with many works by leading European artists, were purchased for the museum from that decade's Internationals.
In 1950 the exhibition, renamed the Pittsburgh International, became biennial, and in 1955, triennial. During the 1970s the name was changed to the International Series, and broke with tradition to present one- and two-person exhibitions. In 1977, the exhibition featured the work of Pierre Alechinsky and in 1979 that of Eduardo Chillida and Willem de Kooning. The show returned to the original 1896 anthology format in 1982, and the name Carnegie International was adopted. The exhibition was reestablished as the preeminent survey of international contemporary art in North America and has been presented approximately every three years since that time.
The Carnegie Prize was reinstituted in 1985, awarding $10,000 for outstanding achievement in the exhibition in the context of a lifetime of work. New to the Carnegie International in 2008 is the Fine Prize, which will complement the Carnegie Prize and be awarded to an emerging artist in the exhibition. The Fine Prize is part of a $5 million endowment given for the Carnegie International by the Fine Foundation in September 2007.
Images, from top:
Theobald Chartran, French, 1849–1907, Portrait of Andrew Carnegie, 1895, oil on canvas. Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Gift of Henry Clay Frick, 96.5.
Installation view of the 1896 International exhibition, from the Carnegie Museum of Art archives.
Installation view of the 1961 International exhibition, depicting Alberto Giacometti, Swiss, 1901–1966, Walking Man I, 1960, bronze, Edition 1 of 6. Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Patrons Art Fund, 61.48.
Installation view of Hall of Sculpture during 1999–2000 International, depicting Martin Kippenberger, German, 1953–1997, The Happy End of Franz Kafka's "Amerika," 1994/1999, installation of tables and chairs and mixed media on Astroturf. Estate Martin Kippenberger.