Mona Hatoum. Silence. 1994

Mona Hatoum Silence 1994

  • Not on view

Made of glass, this life-size crib threatens any child in its care with shattering collapse and inevitable injury. In spite of its title, neither the crib nor the child would be likely to remain silent for long. The translucent glass tubes evoke medical paraphernalia and the human circulatory system; Hatoum has an ongoing interest in the vulnerability of the body. She has said, "I see furniture as being very much about the body. It is usually about giving it support and comfort," but Silence is part of a series of furniture pieces the artist made which are more hostile than comforting. Here, as in much of her work, Hatoum seeks to strike a balance "between beauty and danger."

Gallery label from 2013.
Additional text

Mona Hatoum first became known for performance and video works that involved a quality of ordeal or actual danger, and that sometimes more or less plainly examined the quality of lives permeated by war, as in the Middle East. (Hatoum was born and grew up in Lebanon, her parents Palestinian exiles.) When she began making sculpture, often adapting the Minimalism that she had absorbed as a London art student, Hatoum retained her feeling for the physical vulnerability of the human body. And so it is with Silence, a crib that would threaten the child it protected: any slight shock and the baby would lie in broken glass.

Ethereally translucent and delicate, an empty cage, Silence is a whole that implies its own destruction into fragments, and an ear–shattering crash—the antithesis of the work's title. There is also a resonance of the hospital (subject of other art by Hatoum), in that the glass comes in the form of tubing, evoking medical paraphernalia, and also the body's circulatory system; but once again, the idea that this rigid, frighteningly brittle structure—ungainly on its tall and narrow legs, and made of the most fragile material—should be associated with the tender human shell creates a sense of dread. Whatever the associations of Silence, they seem to share this threatening unease.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 347.
49 7/8 x 36 7/8 x 23 1/8" (126.6 x 93.7 x 58.7 cm)
Robert B. and Emilie W. Betts Foundation Fund
Object number
© 2020 Mona Hatoum
Painting and Sculpture

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or, please email If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to