Posts in ‘Behind the Scenes’
March 24, 2015  |  Conservation, Media Conservation
What Does a Media Conservator Do?

Media conservation is responsible for the audio, 35mm slide, performance, software, video, and film-based artworks in MoMA’s collection, caring for them in collaboration with colleagues across the Museum’s departments including Audio Visual, Curatorial, Information Technology, and Registrar. The first conservation position at MoMA was created in 1959 for a paintings conservator, and since then the Conservation Department has evolved to include specialists in sculpture, paper, photography, conservation science, and most recently media, in 2007. Read more

Gamepieces: An Installation Deconstructed

A menagerie of color and the enchanted siren call of classical raga greets visitors entering the carouseling silhouettes of Nalini Malani’s Gamepieces (2003/2009). Installed as part of the exhibition Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Art from the Collection, the artwork was first conceived by Malani in 2003 for the 8th Annual Istanbul Biennial. MoMA’s iteration of this installation is on view for the first time since being acquired in 2007 at the recommendation of Barbara London, former Associate Curator of Media and Performance Art. In discussing the results of the re-envisioned installation, Malani commented, “the architecture of a space  has a lot to do with the look [of her work],” but added that it is also the way in which the components adapt to the space that contributes to success. Since our exhibition design, curatorial, conservation, art handling, and registrar teams were presented with an installation design never before attempted by the artist and in consideration of her statement, I wondered if a work of installation art is enhanced or destroyed by the environment in which it is placed? How do you document the variable site?

Nalini Malani. Gamepieces. 2003/2009. Four-channel video (color, sound), six acrylic reverse-painted Lexan cylinders. 12 min. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Richard J. Massey Foundation for Arts and Sciences. © 2015 Nalini Malani. Installation view of Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Works from the Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, 2015. Photo: Thomas Griesel

Nalini Malani. Gamepieces. 2003/2009. Four-channel video (color, sound), six acrylic reverse-painted Lexan cylinders. 12 min. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Richard J. Massey Foundation for Arts and Sciences. © 2015 Nalini Malani. Installation view of Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Works from the Collection. Photo: Thomas Griesel

Gamepieces is comprised of six motorized and painted rotating cylinders, four projectors beaming images of blue clouds, animation, found documentary film footage, and sound. In previous iterations presented at Bose Pacia in New York and Media City Seoul in 2004, the cylinders were suspended and placed in a horizontal row. Existing installation documentation established an environment of overlapping projections that crisscross the painted moving surfaces and cast shadow plays in a traditional cinematic gaze. Images of war and violence were concentrated toward the center of the room while the blue skies were pushed to the extremities. However, in the current display, our space allowed for the exploitation of the Museum’s double-height ceiling. As a result, the horizontal experience is replaced with a vertical thrust that splits the imagery into an upper and lower domain—blues skies above, earthly images below. Video projected through two rows of three rotating cylinders produce a grid-like shadow play of eight distinct quadrants. The viewer enters into the space caught in the menacing human struggle of the lower registers while the blue skies hover idealistically above, mimicking our actual relationship to the world.

When we think of the architecture of a space as being a contributor to the outcome of an installation, one might think solely of the physical aspects that distinguish a location. However, Malani’s comment emphasizes contingency. In the hierarchy of components that constitute an artwork, it seems obvious to emphasize the importance of the constant non-varying components. Yet it is the way in which these parts adapt to a new location that are equally important to document. The height of the ceiling allowed for the placement of the motorized cylinders on the ceiling and a white painted beam for a vertical presentation. The artist specified white ceilings and side walls to maximize light reflection and refraction. Four projectors beam images through the cylinders at angles that encourage a multiplicity of effects from casting an inconsistent number of shadows to cylinders, to the flowing red and blue hues of refracted light on the ceiling, floor, and the side walls that are deepened by the crimson paint on the rear wall. To achieve such effects we document projector specifications and the settings used to achieve the beam throws and angles, as well as contrast, color range, and brightness. Locations and heights of the cylinders, projectors, and speakers are documented. Colors of the painted walls, floor appearance, sound levels, and tone documentation all help guide the future installation and preservation of the artwork in the variable site.

February 25, 2015  |  Behind the Scenes, Library and Archives
FOUND! Photographs from MoMA’s 1944 Norman Bel Geddes’ War Maneuver Models Exhibition
"Sterling silver models of tanks, jeeps, trucks, etc." being  installed during exhibition.    Exhibition Dates:  January 26, 1944 through March 5, 1944.  Photographic  Archive. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.  Photographer, Herbert Gehr

“Sterling silver models of tanks, jeeps, trucks, etc.” being installed for the exhibition Norman Bel Geddes’ War Maneuver Models, January 26–March 5, 1944. Photographic Archive. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York. Photographer: Herbert Gehr

As Archives Specialist in the MoMA Archives, I am always on the prowl for images depicting how our exhibitions were installed. Sadly, up until the 1960s only about 75% of MoMA’s exhibitions were documented with official installation photographs, usually due to budget constraints. So imagine my excitement on one dark, drab winter day earlier this year when, while working in the Photographic Archive, I came across a folder labeled, “Visitors in Galleries,” and discovered that these visitors were in galleries for an exhibition for which we had no visual record Read more

Collecting Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting in a Room

In 1969 American composer Alvin Lucier first performed his landmark work I Am Sitting in a Room, conceived for voice and electromagnetic tape. Lucier read a text into a microphone. Attempting to smooth out his stutter, he began with the lines, “I am sitting in a room, the same one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice.” As described in the text, his voice was recorded, then played back into the room. This process was repeated, and with each iteration Lucier’s recorded speech grew muddled, sounding distant, and specific sonic frequencies started to dominate the recorded sound. Read more

December 3, 2014  |  Behind the Scenes, Design
Designing an Identity for Matisse’s Cut-Outs

One of the great things about working in MoMA’s Department of Advertising and Graphic Design is the range of projects we get to work on. Our work ranges from advertising to exhibitions to printed materials and internal signage. Most recently, we got a chance to collaborate with MoMA’s retail department to develop products for the Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition. Read more

November 7, 2014  |  Artists, Behind the Scenes, MoMA Stores
Meet Artist Elsa Mora at the MoMA Design Store Soho

This weekend multimedia artist Elsa Mora, who designed one of MoMA’s signature holiday cards this year, will bring her incredible cut-paper creations to the MoMA Design Store in Soho. Shoppers, creatives, and art aficionados alike can stop by to see her work come to life, and meet with Mora in person. Read more

October 31, 2014  |  Behind the Scenes
Four Years of MoMA Halloween Pumpkins
Maniac Pumpkin Carvers' Halloween re-creation of Henri Matisse's Blue Nude sits in the MoMA film lobby

Maniac Pumpkin Carvers’ Halloween re-creation of Henri Matisse’s Blue Nude sits in the MoMA film lobby

For the fourth year running, MoMA visitors who pass through the Museum’s film entrance during the days leading up to Halloween are treated to an iconic modern-art masterpiece—in seasonally appropriate pumpkin form. This year, in celebration of the Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition, the knife-wielding crazies at Maniac Pumpkin Carvers have “cut out” a beautiful interpretation of Matisse’s Blue Nude. Read more

The Conservation of Henri Matisse’s The Swimming Pool

The centerpiece of the exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, Matisse’s remarkable room-size cut-out The Swimming Pool returns to the MoMA galleries for the first time in more than 20 years. In this video, MoMA’s Department of Conservation shares a behind-the-scenes look at the process of conserving this beloved artwork, and in the text below conservator Laura Neufeld provides background on the project. Read more

September 18, 2014  |  International Program
Building Global Networks: The 2014 International Curatorial Institute
MoMA Chief Conservator Jim Coddington addresses International Curatorial Institute participants in MoMA’s paintings conservation lab

MoMA Chief Conservator Jim Coddington addresses International Curatorial Institute participants in MoMA’s paintings conservation lab. Photo: Sarah Lookofsky

This July, MoMA’s International Program invited modern- and contemporary-art curators from around the world to participate in the 2014 International Curatorial Institute, a new two-week intensive program focused on leadership development and organizational strategy. Designed in collaboration with the Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL) with the aim of expanding participants’ capacity to tackle leadership challenges facing 21st-century museums Read more

September 10, 2014  |  Behind the Scenes
Better Living through Comfort: MoMA Security Gets a New Look
MoMA Security staff sporting their new, UNIQLO-designed uniforms

MoMA Security staff sporting their new, UNIQLO-designed uniforms

If you’ve been to MoMA this summer, you may have noticed that our security team is sporting a stylish new look. As part of MoMA’s ongoing partnership with the Japanese retailer UNIQLO, designer Naoki Takizawa and his team created a security officer uniform that brought together MoMA’s focus on art and design and UNQLO’s commitment to comfort and innovation. Read more