291 (Art Gallery)
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- 291 (Journal)
- 291 was the name of an art periodical founded by Alfred Stieglitz, Marius de Zayas and Francis Picabia, named after the address of Alfred Stieglitz's gallery, first published in March 1915. The periodical published Portrait of an American Girl in the Nude and other mechanical drawings. --Sholem Stein
291 is the commonly known name for an internationally famous art gallery that was located at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York City from 1905 to 1917. Originally known as the "Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession", the gallery was created and managed by photographer Alfred Stieglitz.
The gallery is famous for two reasons. First, the exhibitions there helped bring art photography to the same stature in America as painting and sculpture. Pioneering artistic photographers such as Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Kasebier and Clarence H. White all gained critical recognition through exhibitions at 291. More importantly, Stieglitz used this space to introduce to the United States some of the most avant-garde European artists of the time, including Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, Henri Rousseau, Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp.
At the beginning of the 20th century photography's place in the world of fine art was still very indefinite. Although there had been major exhibitions of photography in the Europe and in the U.S., all of them had been judged by painters and sculptors. Photographers were not considered "real" artists, even though many photographers had won awards in international salons. Stieglitz himself had won over 150 awards throughout the world by the end of the 1890s.
Stieglitz had hoped to elevate the position of photography by convincing the New York Camera Club to allow him to put together a panel of photographers who would then be the sole judges of a photography competition. After more than a year of arguing with the directors of the Camera Club, many of whom did not have any passion for photography as art, Stieglitz gave up and began looking for other forums.
In late 1900 he met Edward Steichen, who had been trained as a painter but who had also taken up photography. Steichen shared the enthusiasm and passion of Stieglitz, and soon the two were planning how to change the course of photography in America. By the following year they had conceived of a great exhibition of photography, the first to be judged by photographers themselves, and had found a venue at the National Arts Club in New York. In March, 1902, and exhibition of "American Pictorial Photography, arranged by The Photo-Secession" opened to critical acclaim. Moreover, Stieglitz had met his goal of having a show judged by photographers since, in spite of the title of the show, by all accounts he was the sole person responsible for selecting the exhibitors.
in 1902 Stieglitz further cemented his reputation as the leading proponent of fine art photography by launching the famed journal Camera Work with the assistance of his friend and fellow photographer Joseph Keiley. He expected that Camera Work would soon not only be funded completely by its subscribers but that additional income from the sales of the journal would allow him to further promote "photography as a medium of individual expression." While the journal give him a respected forum for showcasing pictorial photography and for publishing his viewpoints, it was not a financial success. Rather than be daunted by this setback, Stieglitz became even more convinced that he would succeed in convincing the art world of the rightful place of photography if he could only find the right platform for his message.