It is with great pride and pleasure that AXA joins with The Metropolitan Museum of Art in inviting the world to rediscover Thomas Hart Benton’s America Today, a masterpiece in mural form that captures the contemporary scene and spirit of the nation throughout the 1920s.
Within the mural’s 10 panel paintings, Benton created a sweeping panorama of one of the most fascinating periods in world history, capturing the neon excitement of 1920s life in New York City, the promise and the threat of industrial society, women’s emerging liberation, the rhythmic pulse of the Jazz Age, and the advent of the Great Depression. The Met’s remarkable staging of the “Thomas Hart Benton’s America Today Mural Rediscovered” exhibition as a period room enhances the experience for millions of visitors as they contemplate this dynamic era.
The history of Benton’s 20th-century masterwork brings to light the important partnerships — private and public, civic and cultural — that were formed to create, preserve and share a cultural legacy.
The story of America Today began in 1930 with its original commission by Alvin Johnson, head of the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. In 1983, after 50 years of gracing the boardroom of the New School, the 10 panel mural faced a sale at auction and the risk of permanent dismantling. In February 1984, convinced by the efforts of Mayor Edward Koch and other civic and cultural leaders, AXA Equitable’s then President and CEO John Carter acquired the mural to ensure that America Today was kept intact and resident in New York City.
AXA Equitable then collaborated with the Williamstown Regional Art Conservation Laboratory and the Williams College Museum of Art to painstakingly restore Benton’s 10 panel paintings, which had discolored and deteriorated over time. Working closely with the laboratory, the Williams College Museum of Art mounted a special exhibition to display the mural in its various phases of restoration. Following the completion of the restoration in 1986, America Today was placed on display in AXA Equitable’s headquarters lobby, where our employees and thousands of visitors were captivated for decades by the gusto of Benton’s imagery.
AXA donated America Today to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in December 2012, upholding our promise to honor the legacy of this celebrated work. Today, we encourage scholars and art enthusiasts of all ages to view the mural in its new home at one of the world’s foremost cultural institutions, where it will be protected, studied and enjoyed by millions of people in perpetuity.
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer