Founded in 1935 as the Film Library, the Department of Film’s collections now constitute the strongest international film collection in the United States, with more than 22,000 films representing all periods and genres. In her essay “Nothing Sacred: The Founding of The Museum of Modern Art Film Library” (in Studies in Modern Art 5), Chief Curator Emerita Mary Lea Bandy wrote, “The Film Library faced the challenge of articulating a pastime as art (it still does), and throughout its history the department has felt it necessary to point out its awareness that film is at once art and entertainment.” On July 10, 1935, the first two acquisitions made by the Film Library were announced: Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1905) and Ballet mécanique (1924) by Fernand Léger. The unanticipated pairing of these two films—representing “entertainment” and “art,” respectively—perfectly encapsulates the collection’s founding principles.
To date, the Department of Film remains engaged in identifying and acquiring key works on film and in other moving image formats that broadly represent the history, theory, art, achievement, and innovation of the motion picture. Recent Film Acquisitions: Continuum illustrates the breadth of acquisitions made by the Department of Film since 2007, utilizing the fundamentals of collection development that were established more than 70 years ago. In September, the series presents a mix of independent features and box-office blockbusters, including three films by Australian director Baz Luhrmann—Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, and Australia—generously donated by Twentieth Century-Fox on the occasion of MoMA’s 2008 film benefit, which honored the director’s cinematic achievements.
Organized by Anne Morra, Assistant Curator, Department of Film.