Since its founding in 1929, The Museum of Modern Art’s pioneering directors, curators, and trustees have dedicated themselves to collecting the foremost examples of the “art of our time.” To celebrate the range of styles and ideas that constitute the collection’s evolving foundation, from legendary favorites to lesser-known masterworks and contemporary landmarks, the Museum recently published Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, with an introduction by Ann Temkin, The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture. Here, she tells us a bit about the process of choosing works for the book, which represents only about 5% of the Museum’s Painting and Sculpture Collection.
Posts by Hannah Kim
Books are a staple of the gift-giving season, and for good reason. Whether you’re looking for a elegant tome for a colleague, a playful yet smart book kids will love as much as parents, or a classic edition for an art connoisseur, you’ll find a book to suit every taste from MoMA’s award-winning publications. Here are our picks in some of the most popular categories:
The Museum of Modern Art first exhibited Nicholas Nixon’s photographs of the Brown Sisters in 1976, as part of his first-ever solo exhibition titled Longer Views: 40 Photographs by Nick Nixon. The series was in its infancy at the time and only two portraits of the sisters existed,
“One day the artist Henri Matisse cut a small bird from a piece of white paper. It was a simple shape but he liked the way it looked and didn’t want to throw it out. So he pinned it on the wall of his apartment to cover up a stain.”
Thus begins Matisse’s Garden, the story of an endlessly curious artist who used scissors and painted paper to make something utterly new. Written by Samantha Friedman, an assistant curator at MoMA and co-organizer of the exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, and featuring colorful cut-paper illustrations by Italian designer Cristina Amodeo, it’s an immersive introduction to Matisse’s vibrant cut-outs.
Rauschenberg affixed the bald eagle onto a canvas that would eventually become Canyon (1959), one in a series of radically experimental works he called Combines, which mixed paint and other art materials with things found in daily life. In Canyon, a seemingly incongruous variety of objects surround the eagle, including a photograph of Rauschenberg’s son, Christopher; a postcard of the Statue of Liberty; a man’s white shirt, cut and opened up; a crumpled tube of paint; fragments of printed words; and an industrial metal drum.
Rauschenberg: Canyon, the latest volume in the MoMA One on One series, sheds light on the genesis of this startling and enigmatic work by tracing the artist’s education, influences, and travels through Italy, Morocco, and Spain. Rauschenberg first started using found materials while attending Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina, where every student was required to pitch in with community labor. Rauschenberg volunteered for garbage collection, and ended up incorporating the objects he found in his classmates’ trash into his art. The hybrid creations he began producing in the mid-1950 with recognizable, everyday items offered a defiant counterpoint to the quintessential American style of Abstract Expressionism that prevailed at the time. As he wrote in his earliest statement on the Combines, in 1956: “I consider the text of a newspaper, the detail of a photograph, the stitch in a baseball, and the filament in a light bulb as fundamental to the painting as brush stroke or enamel drip of paint. In the end, what one sees as my work is what I choose to make with no guarantee of enlightenment, humor, beauty or art.”
Canyon, currently on view at MoMA in Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New, had been in gallerist Ileana Sonnabend’s personal collection since she purchased it from the artist the year it was made. Sonnabend was one of Rauschenberg’s lifelong champions, and her support played a significant role in his becoming the first American artist to be awarded the grand prize at the Venice Biennale, in 1964. Following her death in 2007, her heirs entered a curious debate with the IRS regarding the work. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 made it illegal to buy, sell, barter, or possess a bald eagle in the U.S. Canyon was allowed to remain in Sonnabend’s collection because Rauschenberg had provided a notarized statement saying the bird had been stuffed by one of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders before the laws’ passage, but because it could not be sold, the family’s appraisers had valued it at zero. The IRS disagreed, ruling that it was worth far more, and assessed an estate tax and penalties on the heirs. The resolution they reached allowed the family to donate the work to a U.S. institution in exchange for dropping the tax claim. Thus, in 2012, Canyon was generously donated to The Museum of Modern Art, where it joins five other Combines, to provide an in-depth representation of this key aspect of Rauschenberg’s career.
To learn more, download a free preview of Rauschenberg: Canyon by Leah Dickerman.
First published in 1971 and newly reissued by MoMA, Living Well Is the Best Revenge by New Yorker staff writer Calvin Tomkins is the now-classic account of the lives of Gerald and Sara Murphy, two fascinating American expatriates who lived an extraordinary life in France in the 1920s.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, a loose affiliation of filmmakers, graduates of the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin, began creating films that offered a new, aesthetically-driven form of cinema.
In 1947, The Museum of Modern Art published a deluxe portfolio of The Prints of Paul Klee, a luxurious green ribbon-bound box encasing 40 individual prints of Paul Klee’s etchings and lithographs, and a booklet by James Thrall Soby, then Chairman of the Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture.
Young Frank, Architect, MoMA’s first storybook for kids ages three to eight, follows the adventures of Young Frank, a resourceful young architect who lives in New York City with his grandfather, Old Frank, who is also an architect. Young Frank sees creative possibilities everywhere, and likes to use anything he can get his hands on—macaroni, old boxes, spoons, and sometimes even his dog, Eddie—to creates things like chairs out of toilet paper rolls and twisting skyscrapers made up of his grandfather’s books. But Old Frank is skeptical; he doesn’t think that’s how REAL architects make things.
One day, donning matching bow ties, straw boater hats, and Le Corbusier-inspired glasses, they visit The Museum of Modern Art, where they see the work of renowned architects like Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright. And they learn that real architects do in fact create wiggly chairs, twisty towers, and even entire cities. Inspired by what they see, Young Frank and Old Frank return home to build structures of every shape and size: “tall ones, fat ones, round ones, and one made from chocolate chip cookies.”
Written by award-winning children’s author and illustrator Frank Viva, a frequent cover artist for The New Yorker whose previous books include Along A Long Road and A Long Way Away, Young Frank, Architect is an inspiration for budding architects as well as a lesson for those who think they’ve seen everything. With its rich color palette of grays, olives, ambers, and cream (it’s printed using nine colors instead of the usual four), it’s a great introduction to MoMA’s diverse architecture and design collection, which includes surprising objects like Arthur Young’s helicopter in addition to furniture and architectural models.
Young Frank, Architect is a MoMA Exclusive for the month of August, meaning it’s available only at the MoMA Stores now through its wide release in September. Snag a copy and spend the dog-days of August exploring architecture. What will it inspire you to build?
To see more of Young Frank’s adventure, check out our video book trailer below.
As the leader of the International Style, the Swiss-born, Paris-based architect Le Corbusier had the rare opportunity to build on three continents at a time when airplanes were still a new method of transportation.
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