Collection 1880s–1940s


Machines, Mannequins, and Monsters

Fall 2019–Fall 2020


Horacio Coppola. 4800 Avenida Díaz Vélez. 1936. Gelatin silver print, printed 1952, 16 3/4 x 23 1/2" (42.5 x 59.7 cm). Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund. © 2017 Galería Jorge Mara-La Ruche/ The Estate of Horacio Coppola
  • MoMA, Floor 5, 510 The David Geffen Wing

In the first decades of the 20th century, artists in Europe and the Americas brought to life a legion of unsettling figures shaped by shared experiences of sweeping technological change. The desires and anxieties aroused by this new reality were embodied in three motifs highlighted in this gallery: machines, mannequins, and monsters.

Machines promised a bright, efficient future, but they also enabled a devastating warfare that mutilated soldiers’ bodies, which were then remade with prosthetics. Photographers captured these changes and mirrored them through new artistic techniques such as photomontage. They were also drawn to the increasingly lifelike mannequins that filled shop windows, uncanny doubles of the consumers passing by. And on the silver screen, vampires, golems, hunchbacks, and other anthropomorphic “monsters” reflected a pervasive racism and aversion to difference. Fears about the body’s vulnerability and malleability registered across visual mediums, raising questions about what it means to be human.

Organized by Phil Taylor, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography.

34 works online


Installation images

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