Index of Historic Collectors and Dealers of Cubism
Janis, Sidney
Buffalo, New York, 1896–New York, 1989

Sidney Janis was a New York-based entrepreneur, art collector, dealer, and writer. He is best known for the exhibitions of contemporary avant-garde art he organized throughout the 1950s in his self-named gallery. During that decade, Janis gained prominence as dealer of Abstract Expressionism, representing such artists as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Motherwell. Later, Janis became a leading dealer and exhibitor of Pop Art. But throughout his career, Janis also both bought and sold works by European modern artists. His collection included Cubist paintings, collages, and works on paper such as Picasso’s Glass, Guitar, and Bottle (1912); Fernand Léger’s Bridge (1908); Georges Braque’s Homage to J. S. Bach (1911–12); and Robert Delaunay’s Windows (1912); since 1968, these works, along with the rest of Janis’s personal holdings, have been in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Janis achieved early success in the fashion industry. After working in his brother’s shoe company for several years, in 1926 Janis started his own shirt manufacturing business, M’Lord Shirt Company. The shirts were popular and the company quickly provided him enough financial security to support his interest to collect art. During that same year, Janis acquired his first work, an etching by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. In 1927 he traded it for a small oil painting by Matisse, Interior at Nice (n.d.; location unknown), which he later sold to Paul Rosenberg. This transaction spurred his collecting activity and by the early 1930s, Janis had acquired several works by Picasso, including Glass, Guitar, and Bottle (1912), Head of a Man (1913), and Painter and Model (1928), all now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. To build his collection, Janis worked with both French dealers, such as Rosenberg, as well as New York galleries, including the Valentine Gallery and Marie Harriman Gallery.

In 1948, Janis opened the Sidney Janis Gallery at 15 East 57th Street in Manhattan. Over the next decade, the gallery rose to prominence through its support of American Abstract Expressionist artists, representing Josef Albers, William Baziotes, Arshile Gorky, Adolph Gottlieb, Phillip Guston, Franz Kline, in addition to de Kooning, Motherwell, and Rothko. In 1962, Janis organized the survey exhibition of contemporary Pop Art, International Exhibition of the New Realists. The exhibition was one of the first large-scale shows to focus on Pop, and included works by such artists as Christo, Marisol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Warhol. Janis’s commitment to presenting well-curated exhibitions helped to establish his gallery as one of the leading New York venues for contemporary art in the 1950s and 60s.

As an art dealer, Janis also continued to promote Cubism and other early modern art movements. The gallery had opened its doors in 1948 with an inaugural show of works by Léger. Then in the fall of 1953, Janis staged the gallery's 5th Anniversary Exhibition, an all-loan show of works by Jean (Hans) Arp, Braque, Léger, Matisse, and Piet Mondrian. Many Cubist works that entered New York collections during the 1950s passed through Janis’s gallery, including The Man at the Café by Juan Gris (1914) and Playing Cards, Glasses, Bottle of Rum: “Vive la France” by Picasso, both of which are part of the promised gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Contributed by Maria Castro, July 2017
For more information, see:

Goldstein, Malcolm. Landscape with Figures: A History of Art Dealing in the United States. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

A June 1967 interview with Janis is preserved as part of the Oral History Program, at the Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.

Artwork from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection Formerly Owned By Collector/Dealer:
Playing Cards, Glasses, Bottle of Rum: "Vive la France"
Playing Cards, Glasses, Bottle of Rum: "Vive la France" Pablo Picasso
Avignon, summer 1914 / partially reworked, Paris, 1915
The Man at the Café
The Man at the Café Juan Gris
Paris, 1914