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February 19 – May 14, 2006
East Building, Upper Level and Mezzanine, Northeast, and Upper Level, North Bridge

Installation view of Dada, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gallery Archives


This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: 448 works in a wide range of media, including collages, assemblages, photographs, prints, drawings, paintings, posters, films, and audio recordings were presented in this multimedia installation that traced the history of the Dada movement. The works of art were organized around the movement's 6 major city centers: Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, and Paris. Graphics of pointing hands in the East Building and red and black letters D and A on the mezzanine steps led visitors to the exhibition. A brief silent film composed of documentary footage from the World War I–era ran continuously in the first room. Audio recordings of sound poems by Hugo Ball, Kurt Schwitters, and Raoul Hausmann were played in listening chambers, and selected short dadaist films were shown in a continuous loop in a special viewing area within the installation.

An audio tour was narrated by National Gallery of Art director Earl A. Powell III and others. A series of Sunday lectures explored topics associated with Dada. For the first time at the National Gallery, a special exhibition guide was created for high school students. High School Studio Workshops that included exhibition tours and hands-on studio sessions were presented on selected days in March, April, and May. On March 29 the J. Carter Brown Memorial Evening with Educators, presented in collaboration with the Kennedy Center, featured a lecture and teaching materials.

Throughout March and April, a film program presented avant-garde works by Man Ray and other Dada artists and a series of World War I thematic films. Martin Marks and the Jazztet Ensemble provided live accompaniment for dadaist films on March 5, and the Alloy Orchestra performed original scores for film screenings on March 11 and 12. A number of musical performances were held in February and March in honor of the exhibition. The Terrace Café became Café Dada and offered a special menu of European bistro-style fare during the exhibition.

An orchestra of automated musical instruments was installed on the mezzanine for performances scheduled for March 12 through 29 and extended through May 7. The 16 player pianos, 3 drums, 3 xylophones, alarm bells, and a siren were programmed to play a 10-minute realization of a score written in 1924 by George Antheil for the Fernand Léger silent film, Le Ballet mécanique. The orchestra was provided by QRS Music Technologies, Inc., Naples, Florida.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Leah Dickerman, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, National Gallery of Art, and Laurent Le Bon, curator, Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris, were curators. The exhibition was coordinated for the Museum of Modern Art by Anne Umland, curator, department of painting and sculpture.

Sponsor: The exhibition was made possible by the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation and the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. Additional support was provided by the Annenberg Foundation and Thomas G. Klarner and by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The brochure was made possible by Aaron and Barbara Levine and Pro Helvetia, Arts Council of Switzerland. Support for the silent film at the exhibition entrance was provided by the HRH Foundation.

Attendance: 174,039

Catalog: Dada, by Leah Dickerman et al. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2005.

Brochure: Dada, by Lynn Kellmanson Matheny. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2006.

Other Venues: Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris, October 5, 2005–January 9, 2006
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, June 18–September 11, 2006

Arp, Jean
French, 1886 - 1966
Dix, Otto
German, 1891 - 1969
Duchamp, Marcel
American, 1887 - 1968
Grosz, George
American, 1893 - 1959
Hausmann, Raoul
Austrian, 1886 - 1971
Lissitzky, El
Russian, 1890 - 1941
Picabia, Francis
French, 1879 - 1953
Man Ray
American, 1890 - 1976
Schwitters, Kurt
German, 1887 - 1948
Soupault, Philippe
French, 1897 - 1990
Stella, Joseph
American, 1877 - 1946