Laura Braden, Graduate Student and Instructor, Department of Sociology, Emory University
Nominated by Robert O’Reilly, Coordinator of Numeric Data Services, Woodruff Library, Emory University
The International Exhibition of Modern Art, organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, opened in New York City’s 69th Regiment Armory on February 17, 1913, and ran to March 15. It featured now-famous masters such as Claude Monet, Henry Matisse, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh, along with hundreds of others. For many Americans, the Armory Show served as an introduction to modern art, with works like Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase or Paul Cézanne’s Baigneuses. Despite (or perhaps because of) its controversy, the Armory Show became an overwhelming success.
Laura Braden, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at Emory University, has received the Primary Source Award for Research for her project that focuses on the artists who exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show. She looks at primary resource catalogs describing artists and works from the Armory Show, as well as later materials from the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), and then examines criteria that determine which of these artists have been featured in art history textbooks.
In addition to working on her dissertation, she teaches undergraduate classes in the Sociology Department. Ms. Braden was also recently named a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Women’s Studies Fellow for 2010.
In her project, exhibition catalogs from the Museum of Modern Art in New York served as primary sources to help assemble a collection of data on the artists’ attributes and their exhibits. Ms. Braden used the catalogs to conduct statistical analysis on what determines whether or not artists receive “canonical” status.
To accomplish this, Ms. Braden is using primary sources to create a collection of quantitative data that does not currently exist. This data will be relevant and helpful to scholars in Art History as well as Sociology and Economics. The nearly complete database includes data on the artists themselves (e.g. age, gender, nationality) and identifies subsequent exhibitions in which those artists appeared.
This research tracked all 308 artists who exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show to see which were included in prominent art history textbooks nearly a century later. In particular, Ms. Braden examined how artist attributes (e.g., gender) and a legitimating organization (the Museum of Modern Art) shape this process. Results indicated that the number and type of exhibitions including Armory artists at MoMA from 1929 to 1967 dramatically raised the odds that they are featured in 21st-century textbooks. Meanwhile, many artist attributes (such as gender) seemed to have no bearing on the odds of textbook inclusion. However, several artist attributes—particularly gender—significantly predicted which artists ever exhibited at MoMA in the mid-1900s. Such findings suggest that certain types of contemporary validation (such as a MoMA exhibition) matter for later “consecration”—especially when a legitimating organization functions as a “gatekeeper” that grants exposure to certain types of artists while excluding others.
Robert O’Reilly, Coordinator of Numeric Data Services, Woodruff Library at Emory University, commented in his nomination of Laura Braden for the Research Award: “Ms. Braden is creating a resource that will benefit scholars across the academy by allowing them to address questions and apply methodologies in ways not possible without such data. . . . [She] is using primary materials in a distinctive, non-traditional manner.”