A sweeping Kandinsky show marks a renewal for the Guggenheim
By KAREN WILKIN . 21 Sept. 2009. The Wall Street Journal Online. New York
Beginning in 1929, Solomon R. Guggenheim, advised by his friend Hilla Rebay, the notoriously difficult painter, collector and connoisseur of modernist art, bought more than 150 works by Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944), along with many by other similarly high-minded artists. In 1939, Guggenheim put his collection on display at his Museum of Non-Objective Painting—the direct ancestor of the present Frank Lloyd Wright-designed museum on Fifth Avenue that bears his name. Rebay was the first director. “Uncle Solomon’s garage,” as his niece, the vanguard enthusiast Peggy Guggenheim, called the museum’s first incarnation, included permanent galleries devoted to Kandinsky, a reflection of Guggenheim and Rebay’s enthusiasm for the rigorous nonrepresentational approach the painter developed in his quest for what he called, in his writings, “the spiritual in art.” Now, the Guggenheim returns to its original mission with a comprehensive retrospective, “Kandinsky,” opening Friday and on view through Jan. 13. It’s the first major exhibition devoted to the Russian-born artist and theorist—possibly the very first abstract painter—since the Guggenheim’s three-part survey more than a quarter century ago.