Collection 1980s–Present


Clandestine Knowledge



Paulina Olowska. Hybrid (Visita interiora terrae rectificando invenies occultum lapidem). 2021. Oil on canvas, 7' 1 5/8 × 59 1/16" (220 × 150 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund, gift of the Drue Heinz Trust, and gift of Carroll Carstairs (all by exchange). © 2023 Paulina Olowska
  • MoMA, Floor 2, 215

Across generations and geographies, people have informally passed on clandestine forms of knowledge—whether life-sustaining wisdom like foraging and gardening or spiritual beliefs—through whispered words, material objects, images, and, more recently, the Internet. The need to do so covertly came from the danger historically marginalized people risked when these practices, often tools for self-empowerment, were considered a threat to established power structures—as witnessed, for instance, during the European witch hunts of the Early Modern period.

The practice of spiritualism and alternative ways of understanding the world find new form and relevance in the works assembled here, which span from the early 20th century to the present and reference imagery from the natural world, mythology, and the occult.

Organized by Paulina Pobocha, Associate Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, with Abby Hermosilla, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Curatorial Affairs, and Gee Wesley, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance.

6 works online


Installation images

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