Daring Patrons

Vasily Kandinsky at MoMA is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: In 1914, Vasily Kandinsky painted abstractions for a car exec – today, that would be like having a Web mogul as patron.

(The Museum of Modern Art, NY; © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris)

Two panels painted in 1914 by Vasily Kandinsky and recently on view at the Museum of Modern Art. I’ve got strange doubts about the visual (as opposed to conceptual) prowess of Kandinsky’s early abstractions, so what captivated me here wasn’t the work, but its patron: These are two of four panels painted on commission for Edwin R. Campbell, one of the founders of Chevrolet and son-in-law of the founder of GM. My first thought was, “Wow, what an incredibly bold purchase for a stodgy auto exec.” Then I realized that, in 1914, building cars was exactly as cutting-edge as building social networks today. Chevrolet was all of three years old; GM was two years older.

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