Skip to main content

Historical Note | A Finding Aid to the ACA Galleries records, 1917-1963 | Digitized Collection

ACA Galleries records, 1917-1963

Historical Note

Herman Baron, Stuart Davis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Adolf Dehn founded the American Contemporary Art (ACA) Galleries on August 16, 1932. Located at 1269 Madison Avenue in New York City, the galleries' first show featured watercolorist Hy Cohen. Baron encouraged freedom of expression and did not censor the artworks displayed in his gallery. As a result, the gallery became an outlet for generally unknown and socially conscious artists, including the Social Realists.
Born in Lithuania in 1892, Herman Baron immigrated to the United States as a child. He served in World War I and later attended New York University. Baron founded and edited
Glazier's Journal
(later
Glass Digest
) in 1924 as the first journal for the professional glazing trade. Additionally, he wrote short stories and plays for
American Hebrew
and
Young Israel
.
In response to economic issues facing the art market during the depresssion of 1930s, ACA Galleries organized relief efforts to financially support their artists. During this period, the gallery became closely allied with militant artists' organizations and some of the more politically radical artists. In 1935, the ACA Galleries and Herman Baron hosted the first meeting of the American Artists' Congress in the gallery space.
The ACA Galleries featured exhibitions of works by artists David Burliuk, Stuart Davis, Philip Evergood, William Gropper, Robert Gwathmey, Joe Jones, Rockwell Kent, Lee Krasner, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Lewis Mumford, Louise Nevelson, Alton Pickens, Moses Soyer, Raphael Soyer, Max Weber, Art Young, and others. Baron also organized exhibitions of many artists employed by or associated with the Works Progress Administration of the federal arts program. Due to the progressive nature of the works of art found in the ACA Galleries, Herman Baron came under considerable criticism during the McCarthy Era. Baron was condemned by Representative George A. Dondero for supporting "un-American" sympathies and was forced often to defend his gallery and artists.
For years the gallery focused on artists rights and supporting the work of artists, rather than a profit. In the 1950s, a shift occurred when Baron's nephew Sidney Bergen initiated professional business practices and transformed the gallery into a profitable venture. Now located at 529 West 20th Street in New York City, ACA Galleries continues to promote and support various social causes.