Collection 1880s–1940s


A Modern Media World

Nov 14, 2020–Mar 25, 2022


Tina Modotti. Hands of Marionette Player. 1929. Gelatin silver print, 7 1/2 × 9 1/2" (19 × 24.1 cm). Anonymous gift
  • MoMA, Floor 5, 510 The David Geffen Wing

Technology can quickly upend how we receive and share information. In the 1920s and ’30s, artists helped to shape a media landscape in which the ways images circulated were radically changing. Advances in print technology made it possible to distribute photographs in dynamic combinations in art publications, popular magazines, and political journals. Photobooks boomed as an expressive platform where artists could control the selection and sequence of their images. Photographs infiltrated everyday life, complemented by the accelerated transmission of information by radio, telephone, and film.

International exhibitions celebrated lens-based mediums as quintessentially modern art forms, and photographic imagery moved fluidly between print and gallery walls, recontextualized with different purposes for different audiences. Was mass communication liberating or alienating? The artist László Moholy-Nagy saw the potential for both: “Tomorrow we shall be able to look into the heart of our fellow-man, be everywhere and yet be alone.”

Organized by Clément Chéroux, Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, and Sarah Meister, Curator, Department of Photography, with Kaitlin Booher, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow, Antoinette Roberts, Dana Ostrander and Phil Taylor, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Photography.

52 works online


Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

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