Artist, exhibitor, and writer on modern art Marius de Zayas was born in Vera Cruz, Mexico. De Zayas came from a prosperous family, but they were exiled to New York in 1907 because of political trouble. A liberal, Marius began to draw caricatures for the New York Evening World after arriving in the States. He joined a literary group called the Vagabonds through which he met Theodore Dreiser. Linking himself with Picabia, Marcel Duchamp and Alfred Steiglitz, the founder of the 291 Gallery, de Zayas collaborated on avant-garde projects including the periodical Camera Work. He had his own first exhibition at "291" January 4-15, 1909. Another exhibition entitled "Up and Down Fifth Avenue" opened on 26 April, 1910. He also helped to organize the first American Picasso exhibition which opened in April of 1911 at "291."
In 1914, he did a series of geometric portraits at the "Soirées of Paris." De Zayas published texts on modern and African art in 1913 and 1916, respectively. From 1915 to 1916, he was co-founder and one of the principal animators of Stieglitz’ review, 291, on which Picabia, Picasso, Braque, Savinio, Max Jacob, and many others collaborated. For a time he tried to be an art dealer but did not have much success. His Modern Art Gallery opened in October of 1916, as an extension of "291," showing avant-garde and African art as well as Mexican objects and photographs. It was not until 1918 when Marius garnered the patronage of Walter and Louise Arensberg that he found commercial profits; still, the gallery closed in 1919.