On June 23, 2002, Francis Alÿs staged The Modern Procession, in collaboration with the Public Art Fund, to mark The Museum of Modern Art’s move from 11 West Fifty-third Street to MoMA QNS in Long Island City. Accompanied by New York City police, some one hundred participants set out at nine o’clock on that Sunday morning to walk through the streets of midtown, over the Queensboro Bridge, and up Queens Boulevard to MoMA QNS. They carried palanquins holding effigies of iconic works from the Museum’s collection, including Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avingnon and Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, as well as a living icon, the artist Kiki Smith.
The subdued rhythms of Banda de Santa Cecilia’s processional music set the marchers’ slow pace, motivating them as they grew increasingly hotter and more tired during the three hour trek from midtown to Queens. The music established the solemnity of the ritual. Clad in white, blue, and green shirts and black pants, the processors carried palanquins, roses, and banners; they strew rose petals along the path and walked dogs. The procession exuded a feeling of solemn joy and many onlookers felt compelled to join in and follow the unusual group of marchers over the bridge to Long Island City.
Since 1991, Francis Alÿs has regularly conducted paseos (walks), in which he meanders through urban streets (most often in his home town of Mexico City), often with a prop and always following a whimsical route. He records his path and the results of his walk, collects artifacts, and stores away images, all of which he later uses in his drawings, paintings, and videos. For Projects 76, the Museum presents Francis Alÿs’s video of The Modern Procession along with a series of drawings plotting out the path and formation of the performance, as well as photographs of the performance itself.
Organized by Harper Montgomery.
Grateful acknowledgments are due to the artist and to Raphael Ortega; to Laurence Kardish, who organizes the Projects series and whose support made this project possible; to Tom Eccles, Richard Griggs, Miki Garcia, and Anne Wehr, at the Public Art Fund; to Francesco Pellizzi and Gini Alhadeff; and to Claire Corey, Cassandra Heliczer, Norie Morimoto, Jerry Neuner, and Carlos Yepes for their work on the exhibition and brochure.