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MoMA's Director of Painting, Sculpture Dies

"Primitivism" in 20th Century Art Author: William Rubin; Buy New: $49.74

Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern

William Rubin's made the catalogue for the 1984 exhibition "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art at the Museum of Art and demonstrated affinities between African Art and modern artists.


The Associated Press Tuesday, January 24, 2006; 2:18 PM 
found at 

NEW YORK -- William Rubin, who as director of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art played a central role in shaping the museum's collections and exhibitions, has died.

Rubin, whose health had been declining for some time, died at his suburban Pound Ridge home on Sunday, the museum said Tuesday. He was 78.

Rubin joined the museum in 1967, and was named chief curator of the painting and sculpture collection a year later. Among the many influential exhibitions he organized was a Picasso retrospective in 1980 that filled the entire museum.

"Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective," MoMa said, was one of the most important and successful exhibitions in the museum's history.

Other exhibitions launched by Rubin included "Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism," "Frank Stella: Works From 1970 to 1987," "Henri Rousseau," "Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern," "Cezanne: The Late Work," "Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage" and two surveys of Stella's work.

A show of Picasso portraits, organized by Rubin eight years after his retirement in 1988, was criticized by some because the works were arranged according to the artist's successive relationships with women.

An art historian and curator, Rubin's tenacious pursuit of art he believed MoMA should own resulted in his greatly expanding the museum's holdings in abstract expressionism with works such as Jackson Pollock's "One: Number 31, 1950" and Barnett Newman's 1950-51 "Vir Heroicus Sublimis," and the work of contemporary artists like Anthony Caro and Stella.

His acquisitions for the museum also included Picasso's "Guitar," a metal construction sculpture from 1912-13 that the artist gave to Rubin as a donation in the south of France.

Born in Brooklyn, Rubin earned a Ph.D. in art history from Columbia University. During the 1950s and 1960s, he taught at Sarah Lawrence College and the City University of New York. He also worked as an editor for Art International. At the time of his death, Rubin was finishing a book on the art he acquired for the museum.

He is survived by his wife, Phyllis Hattis, a daughter and two brothers.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.


On the Net:



primitivism"Primitivism" in 20th Century Art Author: William Rubin; Buy New: $49.74

William Rubin. Pablo Picasso New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1987

William Rubin. Perspectives: Angles on African Art. New York: The Center for African Art and Harry N. Abrams Inc., © 1987

Les Demoiselles D'Avignon
Author: William Stanley Rubin;


Read also: William Rubin MoMA's Director of Painting, Sculpture Dies


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