Nicole White


In the fall of 2013 the National Endowment for the Arts provided the critical funding needed to open Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This was the first exhibition to take as its inspiration and focus Léger’s monumental painting The City (1919), a cornerstone of PMA’s collection and a landmark in the history of modern art, placing it in dialogue with urban art and the culture of modernity.

The exhibition presented a core group of Léger’s exceptional paintings on the theme of the city, along with film projections, theater designs, architectural models, and print and advertising designs by the artist and his contemporaries. In a multi-media installation of more than 120 works, including loans from American and European public and private collections, this exhibition demonstrated the varied strategies through which artists and designers of the European avant-garde, with Léger in the lead, sought to participate in the complexity and excitement of the metropolis.

Throughout it’s more than three month run, the PMA was able to share this ambitious and engaging exhibition with more than 50,000 visitors. The museum’s award-winning division of education and public programs, in collaboration with the modern and contemporary art department, developed an exciting lineup of activities for children and families, students and teachers, and community members of all ages to engage with the spirit and art of the exhibition. We hosted teacher workshops, mini-art courses, and a symposium, Reconsidering Paris in the 1920s, which was co-organized with the University of Pennsylvania. On Mondays when the museum is typically closed, we offered guided school tours so the children could have the galleries all to themselves. We welcomed more than 800 children and their grown-ups for our Every Family Party, providing complimentary tickets for almost 200 guests from six community organizations from around the city. Additionally, with the generous support of our funders, we were able to bring Léger into hospitals, nursing homes and mental health centers through slide presentations and hands-on teaching kits.

With the assistance of the National Endowment for the Arts, the PMA was able to share these incredible works of art and the stories behind them with visitors from around the world. We are truly grateful for the NEA and its continued support of the PMA and museums around the country that seek to make art accessible to everyone.

The Leger: Modern Art and the Metropolis trailer depicting how modern art meets the urban center. Video courtesy of the Philadelphia Art Museum