Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
It is like the message above Dante's Gates of Hell. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Except that we are not entering hell, we are entering an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The message at the Gates of MoMA is in the form of a question. It asks, “Must we not then renounce the object altogether, throw it to the winds and instead lay bare the purely abstract?” The writer of the message is neither God nor Satan. He was a human being, and from Russia. His name was Wassily Kandinsky.
The attempt to answer Kandinsky's question led to a transformation in painting the implications of which are still being felt today. The transformation was Abstraction. Painters, just a few years prior to Kandinsky, happily portrayed human beings and animals and landscapes and historical events. After Kandinsky, pure forms and shapes and colors took over the canvas. This was a shocking and more or less unprecedented development. It took the art world by storm and carried the oft-bewildered public along with it.