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Kandinsky: Expressionism at the Guggenheim
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Kandinsky: Expressionism at the Guggenheim

Picture of Akshay Jain
Updated: 12 December 2015
Solomon R. Guggenheim, the namesake of the Guggenheim, exclusively collected works of the Old Masters until Hilla von Rebay introduced him to the European avant-garde in 1926. From that point, Guggenheim began to purchase abstract works, such as those of Vasily Kandinsky. Since then, Guggenheim and Kandinsky have formed a strong bond that has transcended both of their lives. The Guggenheim currently has a full exhibition of Kandinsky’s works on display.
Vasily Kandinsky, Improvisation 28, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York | ©Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection
Vasily Kandinsky, Improvisation 28 | ©Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection

Kandinsky and the Guggenheim go hand in hand. The two are more related than nearly any other museum and artist. While he is regularly exhibited at the Guggenheim, this exhibition is particularly impressive. While some Kandinsky exhibits have picked out random, audience-attracting works, the current Kandinsky exhibition is truly a comprehensive look at Kandinsky as an artist.

Though located among the supremely vast Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim exhibit, the Kandinsky gallery is truly a hidden gem. Walking into the gallery, the viewer notices particular subtly in the layout of the room. Adjacent to Café 3, the exhibit is located just on the cusp of society, while still separating itself.

Vasily Kandinsky, Blue Mountain, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York | ©Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection
Vasily Kandinsky, Blue Mountain, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York | ©Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection

Kandinsky, a true art theorist, is known for breaking down colors by their properties. Assigning different emotions to certain colors, Kandinsky’s work is known for its poignancy as well as its technical ingenuity. While one may assume the average museumgoer may just see his work as lines and shapes, there’s something profoundly moving in every one of Kandinsky’s brushstrokes, comparable to the emotional depth found in Mark Rothko’s work.

While art is obviously subject and dependent on the individual’s experience, there’s no denying the historically complete nature of the gallery. While it may not be the most extensive collection of his works, the gallery covers nearly every part of Kandinsky’s long history as a painter

Vasily Kandinsky, Several Circles, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York | © Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection
Vasily Kandinsky, Several Circles, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York | © Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection

Beginning with an early Kandinsky work, Blue Mountain, the audience is introduced to the relatively figurative work of the Russian master. Utilizing an almost Fauvist color pallet, Kandinsky depicted a large nature scene with all the energy and movement coming from its angle and color. A precursor to his Blue Rider movement, this early work actually does depict the horse riders that many associate with his movement. Though many consider it apocalyptic in nature, there’s no denying the impressive nature of this painting, regardless of your knowledge of art history.

Kandinsky Gallery, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, July 1–spring 2016. Photo: David Heald | © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Kandinsky Gallery, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, July 1–spring 2016. Photo: David Heald | © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

From here, the gallery begins to show Kandinsky’s more abstract works. These are the works that made Kandinsky the legendary artist many consider him to be. Many of his most famous works were improvisations, such as Improvisation 28, which hangs in the Kandinsky gallery. This painting, one of the largest in the collection, showcases Kandinsky’s true influence on the art world. Describing his more spontaneous works as “improvisations,” Kandinsky became one of the first artists to not specifically plan out his paintings. While now this may seem like a no brainer, in the early 20th century, very few artists were doing this. Kandinsky’s influence can be seen throughout art history, with heavily spontaneous artists such as Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly.

Kandinsky Gallery, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, July 1–spring 2016. Photo: David Heald | © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Kandinsky Gallery, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, July 1–spring 2016. Photo: David Heald | © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

As Kandinsky aged, he became more and more interested in the geometric elements of painting. While teaching at the German Bauhus art and design school, focused specifically on circles and straight lines, both in his work and teaching. Paintings such as Circles on Black and Several Circles were the result of this period. These works explored plane and shape in a way Kandinsky never had before. The works displayed Kandinsky’s in order and disorder in their simultaneously precise and chaotic nature.

Kandinsky Gallery, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, July 1–spring 2016. Photo: David Heald | © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Kandinsky Gallery, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, July 1–spring 2016. Photo: David Heald | © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

While no gallery can truly capture the importance or ideas of Vasily Kandinsky, the Guggenheim makes an excellent attempt. While not all New Yorkers have the time to read extensively on art history or theory, very few people could view the Kandinsky gallery and not be entertained. A timeline of his artistic creativity and greatness, the gallery is a captivating series of color and form. The gallery will be on display from July 1st, 2015-Spring 2016.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY, USA 10128 +1 212 423 3500