Portrait of a man with a brown cap and text that reads "Art for The Millions"

Art for the Millions: American Culture and Politics in the 1930s

September 7–December 10, 2023
Free with Museum admission

The 1930s was a decade of political and social upheaval in the United States, and the art and visual culture of the time reflected the unsettled environment. Americans searched for their cultural identity during the Great Depression, a period marked by divisive politics, threats to democracy, and intensified social activism, including a powerful labor movement. Featuring more than 100 works from The Met collection and several lenders, this exhibition explores how artists expressed political messages and ideologies through a range of media, from paintings, sculptures, prints, and photographs to film, dance, decorative arts, fashion, and ephemera.

Highlights include paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, and Stuart Davis; prints by Elizabeth Olds, Dox Thrash, and Riva Helfond; photographs by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange; footage of Martha Graham’s dance Frontier; and more, providing an unprecedented overview of the era’s sociopolitical landscape.

Accompanied by a catalogue.

The exhibition is made possible by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation and The Schiff Foundation.

The catalogue is made possible by the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund.

Exhibition Objects

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Man and Machine, Ida York Abelman  American, Lithograph
Ida York Abelman (American, New York 1910–2002)
Published by WPA
ca. 1939
Teeming Ingots, James Edmund Allen  American, Etching
James Edmund Allen (American, Louisiana, Missouri 1894–1964 New York)
The Builders, James Edmund Allen  American, Etching
James Edmund Allen (American, Louisiana, Missouri 1894–1964 New York)
"Streamliner" Meat slicer, Egmont Hegel Arens  American, Aluminum, steel, rubber
Multiple artists/makers
New Masses Magazine, November 1931, Phil Bard  American, Photomechanical relief print
Phil Bard (American, 1912–1966)
New Masses, Inc.
November 1931

Latest Review

The show embraces the multiplicity of American identity in the 1930s

Elizabeth Olds (American, 1896–1991). Miner Joe, 1942. Screenprint. 16 1/2 x 12 1/4 in. (41.9 x 31.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum Accession, transferred from the Lending Library Collection (64.500.1) © The Estate of Elizabeth Olds