shattering taboos, destroying innocence


On a late-September evening, an art-world crowd swarms through the high, dark spaces of Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art for the opening of “Abstract Expressionist New York,” a show drawn entirely, and remarkably, from MoMA’s own basement—for this is the art that the museum, under the aegis of late, great director Alfred Barr, began snatching up in those postwar days when a Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning could be had for a pittance. And MoMA had a lot more than that to spend. But what’s this? Here amid the masters of anti-figurative art is Washington Crossing the Delaware, a more or less representational painting by Larry Rivers. And there, in front of it, is most of Rivers’s three-family clan, gazing at his 1953, career-making work with a mix of pride and love—and, for his daughter Gwynne, 46, hurt and anger too. “It’s the first time I’ve seen it,” she says softly, for the sizable canvas sat in storage for 25 years until MoMA curator Ann Temkin came upon it this year and muttered “Wow.” The painting isn’t what’s stirred those darker feelings in Gwynne. It’s another work by her father that’s just come to light, one that’s haunted her since she was a pre-adolescent.

more from Michael Shnayerson at Vanity Fair here.