May 20, 2016  |  Five for Friday
Five for Friday: A Presidential Presence

Five for Friday, written by a variety of MoMA staff members, is our attempt to spotlight some of the compelling, charming, and downright curious works in the Museum’s rich collection.

You’d have to own a seriously effective pair of horse blinders, or have access to—and reside on—an island without WiFi, newspaper deliveries, or the arrival of other people, to miss the latest election-season shenanigans here in the U.S.

Alas, I don’t own a pair of horse blinders, nor am I living a Tom Hanks in Castaway–style existence. So inevitably I found myself drawn to the question of whether MoMA’s collection includes any presidentially inspired, or just plain presidential, works. Well, of course it does. Here are some of my favorites:

<a class="noborder" href="" rel="attachment wp-att-42002">Al-Smith</a>

1. Automatic Camera/Photomaton. “Governor Smith and His Wife at Atlantic City Today”. c. 1928
Here’s a fellow named Al Smith canoodling in a photo booth with his wife in 1928, when he was running for president against Herbert Hoover…who ended up trouncing him.

<a class="noborder" href="" rel="attachment wp-att-42003">Armchair</a>

2. Hans Wegner. Armchair. 1949
What’s presidential about Hans Wegner’s stylish chair (which, of the 300 chairs Wegner designed in his lifetime, became known as simply “the chair”)? Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy each sat in one during the very first nationally televised presidential debate, in 1960.


3. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Convention Hall Project, Chicago, Illinois , Preliminary version: interior perspective. 1954
Here’s a collage by Mies van der Rohe depicting his concept for a column-less convention hall in Chicago. The crowd portion, picturing of attendees at the 1952 U.S. Republican National Convention, was torn from a copy of Life magazine.

<a class="noborder" href="" rel="attachment wp-att-42005">Botero</a>

4. Fernando Botero. The Presidential Family. 1967
All that exhausting canvassing, speeches, and baby kissing will inevitably result in, among many other things, a family portrait—and how could it be complete without a snake, a fox fur stole, and the family cat?

<a class="noborder" href="" rel="attachment wp-att-42006">Election</a>

5. Alexander Payne. Election. 1999
It might be better to get your mind off the whole subject, and seeing one of Universal Pictures’ extravaganzas or indulging in a long lunch break to catch an Otto Preminger classic is a good way to go. Or if you’d rather stay home and stick to the topical, consider firing up Alexander Payne’s hilarious Election.