When it was mounted the exhibition was billed as the International Exhibition of Modern Art, but history recalls it as "the Armory show" in homage to its venue in New York (the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue, a space rented for $5000 thanks to financial backing from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Mabel Dodged) where it ran from February 17th to March 15th, 1913. This designation ignores its secondary but significant partial tours to Boston and Chicago, where 200 thousand people (more than in New York by a factor of two or three) saw the exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and students of the Institute, goaded by faculty, threatened to burn Matisse and Brancusi in effigy.

The New York exhibition and, to a lesser extent, the other showings featured both European artists (many of whom had never been exhibited in North America) and members of the American art avant-garde who had never yet managed to catch the eye and fancy of the conservative American art market. A significant goal of the exhibition was to draw audiences in with the promise of work from the scandalous and decadent Europeans and act as a wake-up call demonstrating that similar work was being done on this side of the water.

Over 1600 works by over 300 painters and sculptors were represented at the show, among them: Aleksandr Archipenko, George Bellows, Oscar Bluemner, Constantin Brancusi, Georges Braque, Arthur B. Carles, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Leon Dabo, Honoré Daumier, Stuart Davis, Eugene Delacroix, Arthur Dove, Marcel Duchamp, Raoul Dufy, Othon Friesz, Paul Gaugin, Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes, Juan Gris, Philip Leslie Hale, Robert Henri, Edward Hooper, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Wassily Kandinsky, Walt Kuhn, Gaston Lachaise, Fernand Léger, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Francis McComas, Aristide Maillol, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, David B. Milne, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Jerome Myers, Elie Nadelman, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Maurice Prendergast, Odilon Redon, Auguste Rodin, Henri Rousseau, Charles Cary Rumsey, Albert Pinkham Ryder, William Emile Schumacher, Georges Seurat, Vincent Van Gogh, Jacques Villon and William Zorach.

While it is undoubtedly the case that Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (which was immediately bought from the show by Frederic C. Torrey for a princely sum of $324) captured the public's attention, imagination and ridicule ("an explosion at a shingle factory!") moreso than any other work present, the critical scorn was also evenly applied to other works present, especially Matisse's Blue Nude (mocked in a vice squad report as having "only four toes!").

Though the public (and, uh, online) record is hazy on which other specific works were present at the show, it is known that they also included Duchamp's The King and Queen Traversed by Swift Nudes, Version I of Brancusi's Mademoiselle Pogany and Matisse's Nasturtiums with the Painting "Dance".

It is rumoured that the then-President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, couldn't attend the show but sent in his place ex-President Theodore Roosevelt to observe and fill him in on the state of modern art in America.