Art for Every Home: Associated American Artists, 1934–2000
Art for Every Home explores how Associated American Artists (AAA) dramatically expanded the market for art in the United States. In 1934 Reeves Lewenthal, an enterprising businessman, convened a group of artists, including Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood, to produce prints for him to sell to the public at affordable prices. Tracing AAA’s trajectory from its beginnings as a renowned print publisher, to its expansion into advertising and interior decor, to its eventual demise in 2000, the first-ever comprehensive survey to focus on this remarkable company illuminates how it inspired and cultivated American collectors for more than sixty years.
The exhibition is organized in five roughly chronological sections. The Dawn of an Enterprise examines AAA’s origins in the depths of the Great Depression, when Lewenthal’s business benefited from both lack of competition and the popularity of American Scene imagery to create an effective distribution network for modern printmakers. Moving into the 1940s, Art for Commerce traces AAA artists’ participation in corporate advertising campaigns. AAA and World War II illuminates how the company supported America’s war effort with art depicting combat and military life. After 1945, AAA reinvigorated its business by targeting growing markets for decorative arts such as glass, ceramics, and textiles, a topic explored in Modern Art in Your Life. Finally, “Pretty as a Picture”: Fashion and Furniture for the Masses focuses on AAA’s launch of ambitious new product lines in the early 1950s, when the company teamed up with manufacturers to produce home furnishings, decorative objects, and apparel.
Selling its wares via mail-order catalogues, department stores, and the company’s own galleries across the country, AAA developed innovative strategies to stimulate interest in collecting among the middle- and upper-middle classes. Art for Every Home spotlights how this New York–based business transformed owning original art, shifting it from an elite privilege to an attainable reality for the broader American public.