kottke.org posts about MoMA
In response to the Trump administration’s monumentally cruel immigrant travel ban, the Museum of Modern Art in NYC has retooled its galleries to hang art by artists from countries affected by the ban, noting that if those artists are currently out of the country, they wouldn’t even be able to come to see their works in one of the world’s best art museums.
In one of the strongest protests yet by a major cultural institution, the museum has reconfigured its fifth-floor permanent-collection galleries — interrupting its narrative of Western Modernism, from Cezanne through World War II — to showcase contemporary art from Iran, Iraq and Sudan, whose citizens are subject to the ban. A Picasso came down. Matisse, down. Ensor, Boccioni, Picabia, Burri: They made way for artists who, if they are alive and abroad, cannot see their work in the museum’s most august galleries. (A work from a Syrian artist has been added to the film program. The other affected countries are Somalia, Yemen and Libya.)
The works will be up for several months, and alongside each painting, sculpture, or photograph is a text that makes no bones about why it has suddenly surfaced: “This work is by an artist from a nation whose citizens are being denied entry into the United States, according to a presidential executive order issued on January 27, 2017. This is one of several such artworks from the Museum’s collection installed throughout the fifth-floor galleries to affirm the ideals of welcome and freedom as vital to this Museum, as they are to the United States.”
The travel ban is currently not being enforced due to a temporary restraining order…hopefully that will hold up indefinitely.
The Museum of Modern Art has started the process of putting online a massive trove of photographs of what the museum’s exhibitions looked like, extending back to their earliest big exhibition in 1929 of works by Cézanne, Gauguin, Seurat, and van Gogh. The NY Times has the story.
The digital archive project will include almost 33,000 exhibition installation photographs, most never previously available online, along with the pages of 800 out-of-print catalogs and more than 1,000 exhibition checklists, documents related to more than 3,500 exhibitions from 1929 through 1989.
Shown above are some notable works of art pictured among the first times they were displayed at the museum…the top one is from that first show in 1929. I happily spent an hour browsing through these exhibitions1 and I haven’t been gripped with this powerful of a desire to travel through time in quite some time. To be able to see that first exhibition…what a thing that would be. In part, I love going to museums for this very reason: standing in the very spot where the artist stood in making their drawing or painting is a very cheap form of time travel.
Before the holiday break, I took in the Picasso Sculpture show at MoMA. Sculpture typically isn’t my cup of tea art-wise (or Picasso-wise) and much of the exhibition was lost on me, but Bull’s Head stopped me in my tracks.
Picasso once said of the piece:
Guess how I made the bull’s head? One day, in a pile of objects all jumbled up together, I found an old bicycle seat right next to a rusty set of handlebars. In a flash, they joined together in my head. The idea of the Bull’s Head came to me before I had a chance to think. All I did was weld them together… [but] if you were only to see the bull’s head and not the bicycle seat and handlebars that form it, the sculpture would lose some of its impact.
The piece is, at once, just barely over the line of what can be considered art and also so wonderfully artistic. Love it.
MoMA has announced that they’ve acquired the Rainbow Flag for their permanent collection. The flag has been a symbol of the LGBT community around the world since its creation in 1978. As part of the acquisition, MoMA Curatorial Assistant Michelle Millar Fisher interviewed the man who designed the flag, artist Gilbert Baker.
And I thought, a flag is different than any other form of art. It’s not a painting, it’s not just cloth, it is not a just logo — it functions in so many different ways. I thought that we needed that kind of symbol, that we needed as a people something that everyone instantly understands. [The Rainbow Flag] doesn’t say the word “Gay,” and it doesn’t say “the United States” on the American flag but everyone knows visually what they mean. And that influence really came to me when I decided that we should have a flag, that a flag fit us as a symbol, that we are a people, a tribe if you will. And flags are about proclaiming power, so it’s very appropriate.
So the American flag was my introduction into that great big world of vexilography. But I didn’t really know that much about it. I was a big drag queen in 1970s San Francisco. I knew how to sew. I was in the right place at the right time to make the thing that we needed. It was necessary to have the Rainbow Flag because up until that we had the pink triangle from the Nazis — it was the symbol that they would use [to denote gay people]. It came from such a horrible place of murder and holocaust and Hitler. We needed something beautiful, something from us. The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, ages, all of those things. Plus, it’s a natural flag — it’s from the sky! And even though the rainbow has been used in other ways in vexilography, this use has now far eclipsed any other use that it had…
Update: Baker died at his home on March 30, 2017. He was 65 years old.
Mr. Baker replicated his flag dozens of times over the years. He crafted a mile-long banner to parade down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and he sent flags around the world in support of gay rights protests. He sewed the rainbow flag used in the movie “Milk,” along with a new flag for this year’s television miniseries “When We Rise.”
“I remember the most fabulous queen I’d ever seen in my life shows up in sequins with a sewing machine in his arms, and he insisted on creating that flag exactly the same way he’d created it then,” said Dustin Lance Black, who wrote “Milk” and wrote and directed “When We Rise,” which was based on Jones’ memoir of the same name.
Published in 1961 with an introduction by Alice B Toklas, The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook features recipes and wisdom from dozens of writers and artists, including Harper Lee, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Pearl Buck, Upton Sinclair, John Keats, and Burl Ives. Lee shared her recipe for crackling cornbread:
First, catch your pig. Then ship it to the abattoir nearest you. Bake what they send back. Remove the solid fat and throw the rest away. Fry fat, drain off liquid grease, and combine the residue (called “cracklings”) with:
1 ½ cups water-ground white meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
Bake in very hot oven until brown (about 15 minutes).
Result: one pan crackling bread serving 6. Total cost: about \$250, depending upon size of pig. Some historians say this recipe alone fell the Confederacy.
And Marcel Duchamp offers up a preparation of steak tartare:
Let me begin by saying, ma chere, that Steak Tartare, alias Bitteck Tartare, also known as Steck Tartare, is in no way related to tartar sauce. The steak to which I refer originated with the Cossacks in Siberia, and it can be prepared on horseback, at swift gallop, if conditions make this a necessity.
Indications: Chop one half pound (per person) of the very best beef obtainable, and shape carefully with artistry into a bird’s nest. Place on porcelain plate of a solid color — ivory is the best setting — so that no pattern will disturb the distribution of ingredients. In hollow center of nest, permit two egg yolks to recline. Like a wreath surrounding the nest of chopped meat, arrange on border of plate in small, separate bouquets:
Chopped raw white onion
Bright green capers
Curled silvers of anchovy
Fresh parsley, chopped fine
Black olives minutely chopped in company with yellow celery leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Each guest, with his plate before him, lifts his fork and blends the ingredients with the egg yolks and meat. In center of table: Russian pumpernickel bread, sweet butter, and bottles of vin rosé.
Not to be outdone, MoMA published their own artists’ cookbook in 1977, featuring contributions from Louise Bourgeois, Christo, Salvador Dali, Willem De Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. Here’s Warhol’s recipe:
Andy Warhol doesn’t eat anything out of a can anymore. For years, when he cooked for himself, it was Heinz or Campbell’s tomato soup and a ham sandwich. He also lived on candy, chocolate, and “anything with red dye #2 in it.” Now, though he still loves junk food, McDonald’s hamburgers and French fries are something “you just dream for.”
The emphasis is on health, staying thin and eating “simple American food, nothing complicated, no salt or butter.” In fact, he says, “I like to go to bad restaurants, because then I don’t have to eat. Airplane food is the best food — it’s simple, they throw it away so quickly and it’s so bad you don’t have to eat it.”
Campbell’s Milk of Tomato Soup
A 10 3/4-ounce can Campbell’s condensed tomato soup
2 cans milk
In a saucepan bring soup and two cans milk to boil; stir. Serve.
Ben Fino-Radin of MoMA’s Department of Conservation wrote a brief post about how the museum manages their digital artworks, including a bit about how they think about futureproofing the collection.
The packager addresses the most fundamental challenge in digital preservation: all digital files are encoded. They require special tools in order to be understood as anything more than a pile of bits and bytes. Just as a VHS tape is useless without a VCR, a digital video file is useless without some kind of software that understands how to interpret and play it, or tell you something about its contents. At least with a VHS tape you can hold it in your hand and say, “Hey, this looks like a VHS tape and it probably has an analog video signal recorded on it.” But there is essentially nothing about a QuickTime .MOV file that says, “Hello, I am a video file! You should use this sort of software to view me.” We rely on specially designed software-be it an operating system or something more specialized-to tell us these things. The problem is that these tools may not always be around, or may not always understand all formats the way they do today. This means that even if we manage to keep a perfect copy of a video file for 100 years, no one may be able to understand that it’s a video file, let alone what to do with it. To avoid this scenario, the “packager” — free, open-source software called Archivematica — analyzes all digital collections materials as they arrive, and records the results in an obsolescence-proof text format that is packaged and stored with the materials themselves. We call this an “archival information package.”
If, like me, you couldn’t get it together to make it to the Matisse cut-outs show at MoMA, the NY Times has you covered with an interactive look at the show.
From Portraits in Creativity, a video profile of Maira Kalman, doer of many wonderful things.
Kalman’s newest book is Girls Standing on Lawns, a collaboration with MoMA and Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket).
This clever book contains 40 vintage photographs from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, more than a dozen original paintings by Kalman inspired by the photographs, and brief, lyrical texts by Handler. Poetic and thought-provoking, Girls Standing on Lawns is a meditation on memories, childhood, nostalgia, home, family, and the act of seeing.
I once saw Kalman while I was eating lunch with my son in the cafe on the second floor of MoMA. She came in and sat opposite us a few tables away and started sketching. What a thrill to watch her work. (via @curiousoctopus)
The MoMA is hosting a series of debates on the intersection of design and violence. The first one took place last week and pitted Rob Walker against Cody Wilson on the topic of open source 3D printed guns. The next two center on a machine that simulates the “pain and tribulation” of menstruation and Temple Grandin’s humane slaughterhouse designs.
The debates this spring will center upon the 3-D printed gun, The Liberator; Sputniko!’s Menstruation Machine; and Temple Grandin’s serpentine ramp. Debate motions will be delivered by speakers who are directly engaged in issues germane to these contemporary designs — the Liberator’s designer Cody Wilson; Chris Bobel, author of New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation, and distinguished professor of law Gary Francione, to name a few. We want them — and you — to explore the the limits of gun laws and rights, the democracy of open-source design, the (im)possibility of humane slaughter, and design that supports transgender empathy.
Tickets are still available; only $5 for students!
At random and unannounced times throughout the year, actress (and apparently performance artist) Tilda Swinton will be sleeping in a glass box at MoMA.
It’s part of an unannounced, surprise performance piece called “The Maybe” that will be taking place on random days all year. A MoMA source told us, “Museum staff doesn’t know she’s coming until the day of, but she’s here today. She’ll be there the whole day. All that’s in the box is cushions and a water jug.”
Clearly some crowdsourced announcement system is needed…perhaps istildaswintonsleepingatmomaornot.tumblr.com? Also, in keeping with the theme of “my kid could do that” in contemporary art, both my kids slept at MoMA in chairs with wheels on them.
MoMA has acquired 14 video games for their permanent collection. Presumably they paid more than MSRP?
We are very proud to announce that MoMA has acquired a selection of 14 video games, the seedbed for an initial wish list of about 40 to be acquired in the near future, as well as for a new category of artworks in MoMA’s collection that we hope will grow in the future. This initial group, which we will install for your delight in the Museum’s Philip Johnson Galleries in March 2013, features…
The games include Tetris, Passage, The Sims, and Katamari Damacy. No Nintendo games on that list, probably due to ongoing negotiations with Nintendo.
Beginning in October, a copy of Edvard Munch’s iconic The Scream of Nature will be on display at MoMA for a six-month stint.
Of the four versions of The Scream made by Munch between 1893 and 1910, this pastel-on-board from 1895 is the only one remaining in private hands. The three other versions are in the collections of museums in Norway. The Scream is being lent by a private collector, and will be on view at MoMA through April 29, 2013.
I can’t find any other information about this online or anywhere else, but tucked away in a fall arts preview in today’s NY Times is the juicy news that MoMA has picked a date for their screening of Christian Marclay’s 24-hour movie, The Clock. The show will open on Dec 21 and run through Jan 21. It sounds like the screening will happen in the contemporary galleries and won’t show continuously except on weekends and New Year’s Eve. Which is lame. Just keep the damn thing running the whole month…get Bloomberg to write a check or something.
Anyway, probably best to check this out on the early side during the holiday season because it’ll turn into a shitshow later on.
MoMA Unadulterated is an unofficial audio tour of some of the works on the museums fourth floor, narrated by kids aged 3-10.
Each piece of art is analyzed by experts aged 3-10, as they share their unique, unfiltered perspective on such things as composition, the art’s deeper meaning, and why some stuff’s so weird looking. This is Modern Art without the pretentiousness, the pomposity, or any other big “p” words.
A lot of these sound like my internal monologue when looking at art. What’s the difference between childish and childlike again?
MoMA is live-streaming the Talk to Me symposium all day today.
This evening and daylong program features presentations, conversations, interviews, and performances on the subjects of design and script writing, cognitive science, gaming, augmented reality, and communication.
This is … well, I don’t really know what to say about it. It’s a video game version of Marina Abramović’s The Artist is Present. You buy a ticket, walk into the museum, look at some art, and then you wait in line. (via waxy)
But we’ve got to wait a whole year…the exhibition opens on Feb 26, 2012.
The MoMA retrospective will be thematic. There will be rooms devoted to Ms. Sherman’s explorations of subjects like the grotesque, with images of mutilated bodies and abject landscapes, as well as a room with a dozen centerfolds, a takeoff of men’s magazines, in which she depicts herself in guises ranging from a sultry seductress to a vulnerable victim. There will also be a room that shows her work critiquing the fashion industry and stereotypical depictions of women.
As you might have heard, MoMA recently acquired 23 typefaces for its Architecture and Design collection. I was curious about how such an acquisition works, so I sent a quick email to Jonathan Hoefler, one of the principals at Hoefler & Frere-Jones, a New York City type foundry that contributed four typefaces to the MoMA.
Kottke: Three of the four H&FJ typefaces acquired by MoMA are available for purchase on your web site. Did they just put in their credit card info and voila? Or was there a little more to it?
Hoefler: MoMA’s adopting the fonts for their collection was much more complex than buying a copy online (and not only because Retina, one of our four, isn’t available online.) I should start by stating that you can never actually “buy fonts” online: what one can buy are licenses, and the End-User License that surrounds a typeface does not extend the kinds of rights that are necessary to enshrine a typeface in a museum’s permanent collection. The good news is that H&FJ has become as good at crafting licenses as we have at creating typefaces, an unavoidable reality in a world where fonts can be deployed in unimaginable ways. This was a fun project for our legal department.
It was actually a fascinating conversation with MoMA, as we each worked to imagine how this bequest could be useful to the museum for eternity. What might it mean when the last computer capable of recognizing OpenType is gone? What will it mean when computers as we know them are gone? How does one establish the insurance value of a typeface: not its price, but the cost of maintaining it in working order? Digital artworks are prone to different kinds of damage than physical ones, but obsolescence is no less damaging to a typeface than earthquakes and floods to a painting. On the business side there are presumably insurance underwriters who can bring complex actuarial tables to bear on the issue, but I think it’s an even more provocative issue for conservators. 472 years after its completion, the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel underwent a restoration that scholars still find controversial. What might it mean for someone to freshen up our typefaces in AD 2483?
The photographs taken of everyone who sat with Marina Abramovic at her The Artist is Present show at MoMA are being compiled into a book called Portraits in the Presence of Marina Abramovic.
Just as Abramovic’s piece concerned duration, the photographs give the viewer a chance to experience the performance from Abramovic’s perspective. They reveal both dramatic and mundane moments, and speak to the humanity of such interactions, just as the performance itself did. The resultant photographs are mesmerizing and intense, putting a face to the world of art lovers while capturing what they shared during their contact with the artist.
The only reason I ever go to MoMA anymore is so that my son can see the helicopter and whatever motor vehicles are on display in the design collection, but if I get a chance to sneak away soon, I’m definitely making use of the MoMA’s new iPhone app: tours, a catalog of thousands of works, events calendar, etc.
MoMA intern Julia Kaganskiy did an interview with Paco Blancas, who you might recognize as the man who has sat with Marina Abramović at MoMA more than a dozen times.
Maybe it’s just an image that pops while I’m connected with Marina. Let’s say it’s an image of someone I love deeply, and then this creates the emotion, the tears just come out. Most of the time it’s tears of joy. You’re just being and thinking about somebody or something that’s important in your life. And then just acknowledging this person or situation and moving on into being present because yeah, the tears come, but I don’t want to cry for the entire sitting. I want to move on and continue to be with Marina, to be present.
At the behest of MoMA, photographer Marco Anelli has been taking photographs of all the people participating in Marina Abramović’s performance in the main atrium of the museum and posting them to Flickr. To review:
Abramović is seated in [the atrium] for the duration of the exhibition, performing her new work The Artist Is Present for seven hours, five days a week, and ten hours on Fridays. Visitors are invited to sit silently with the artist for a duration of their choosing.
The photographs are mesmerizing…face after face of intense concentration. A few of the participants even appear to be crying (this person and this one too) and several show up multiple times (the fellow pictured above sat across from Abramović at least half-a-dozen times). The photos are annotated with the duration of each seating. Most stay only a few minutes but this woman sat there for six and a half hours. This woman sat almost as long as was also dressed as the artist. (It would be neat to see graphs of the durations, both per day and as a distribution.)
Has anyone out there sat across from Abramović? Care to share your experience? (via year in pictures)
Update: On the night of the opening exhibition, the third person to sit across from Abramović was her ex-boyfriend and collaborator of many years, Ulay (pictured here on Flickr). James Wescott reports on the scene:
When she looked up again, sitting opposite her was none other than Ulay. A rapturous silence descended on the atrium. Abramović immediately dissolved into tears, and for the first few seconds had trouble meeting Ulay’s calm gaze. She turned from superhero to little girl — smiling meekly; painfully vulnerable. When they did finally lock eyes, tears streaked down Abramović’s cheeks; after a few minutes, she violated the conditions of her own performance and reached across the table to take his hands. It was a moving reconciliation scene — as Abramović, of course, was well aware.
Here’s a description of one of the projects they did together in the 70s:
To create this “Death self,” the two performers devised a piece in which they connected their mouths and took in each other’s exhaled breaths until they had used up all of the available oxygen. Seventeen minutes after the beginning of the performance they both fell to the floor unconscious, their lungs having filled with carbon dioxide. This personal piece explored the idea of an individual’s ability to absorb the life of another person, exchanging and destroying it.
Wescott also sat across from the artist:
I was immediately stunned. Not by the strength of her gaze, but the weakness of it. She offered a Mona Lisa half-smile and started to cry, but somehow this served to strengthen my gaze; I had to be the mountain.
Carolina Miranda sat down across from Abramović:
When I finally sat down before Abramovic, the bright lights blocked out the crowd, the hall’s boisterous chatter seemed to recede into the background, and time became elastic. (I have no idea how long I was there.)
Amir Baradaran turned the exhibition into a venue for a performance of his own…he even made Abramović laugh. Joe Holmes got a photo of the photographer in action. (thx, yasna & patrick)
Update: The look-alike who sat with Abramović all day did an interview with BOMBLog.
At certain times I thought that we were really in sync. Other times I didn’t. Other times I was totally hallucinating. She looked like a childhood friend I once had. Then she looked like a baby. […] I thought time was flying by. Then time stopped. I lost track of everything. No hunger. No itching. No pain. I couldn’t feel my hands.
Update: Author Colm Tóibín sat opposite Abramović recently (here he is on Flickr) and wrote about it for The New York Review of Books. (thx, andy)
Update: Singer Lou Reed sat. (thx, bob)
Update: Rufus Wainwright sat. And perhaps Sharon Stone? (via mefi)
Update: More first-hand accounts from the NY Times.
Update: And CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. (thx, ian)
I got a look at the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at MoMA the other day and loved it. Seeing his work, especially his earlier on-the-street stuff, makes me want to drop everything and go be a photographer. If you’re into photography at all, this show is pretty much a must-see.
(BTW, I chuckled when I saw this photo on the wall…it was the subject of an epic Flickr prank a few years back.)
The Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA has made a, er, symbolic acquisition of the @ symbol.
The acquisition of @ takes one more step. It relies on the assumption that physical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary, and therefore it sets curators free to tag the world and acknowledge things that “cannot be had” — because they are too big (buildings, Boeing 747’s, satellites), or because they are in the air and belong to everybody and to no one, like the @ — as art objects befitting MoMA’s collection. The same criteria of quality, relevance, and overall excellence shared by all objects in MoMA’s collection also apply to these entities.
Watch a live-stream of performance artist Marina Abramović as she sits in the atrium of the MoMA all day every day until the exhibition ends on May 31. (via @gregorg)
Showing at MoMA next month, a documentary based on the NY Times’ relentless and intrepid street photographer Bill Cunningham. From the press release:
The opening night feature of this year’s New Directors/New Films is the world premiere of Bill Cunningham New York (USA, 2010) on Wednesday, March 24, at 7:00 p.m. at MoMA. Director Richard Press’ documentary is a heartfelt and honest film about the inimitable New York Times photographer, who has for decades lovingly captured the unexpected trends, events, and people of Manhattan for the Styles section of the newspaper. The film shows Cunningham, an octogenarian, riding his Schwinn bicycle to cover benefits, galas, and fashion shows around Manhattan, and illustrates how his camera has captured the looks that have defined generations.
I couldn’t really find any other information online about this film. They should at least get a trailer up on YouTube or something.
Update: No trailer yet, but there’s a web site for the film with screening info, etc.
Upcoming at MoMA: a retrospective of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson.
For more than twenty-five years, he was the keenest observer of the global theater of human affairs — and one of the great portraitists of the twentieth century. MoMA’s retrospective, the first in the United States in three decades, surveys Cartier-Bresson’s entire career, with a presentation of about three hundred photographs, mostly arranged thematically and supplemented with periodicals and books.
After MoMA, the exhibition will visit Chicago, SF, and Atlanta. Quite excited for this one.