Every MOMA exhibit since 1929 can now be seen for free, Via The Atlantic
Look at the picture above, and find the plant.
It is a dentist’s waiting room plant, too droopy even for an aunt’s windowsill, but there it is, keeping watch over Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The plant isn’t art. It’s not on the curator’s checklist for the exhibition. (I checked.) I don’t know why it’s there. But in the Museum of Modern Art’s straightforwardly named 1947 show, “Large-Scale Modern Paintings,” the plant got a front row seat.
It’s one of the many mysterious specifics revealed in a huge, new archive of curatorial photographs and documents that the museum made available Monday. This archive, available for free on the Museum of Modern Art’s website, now documents every show that it has exhibited, going back to its very first in 1929.
For art-history fans and scholars, this archive uncovers the lineage of an organization that has “defined Modernism more powerfully than perhaps any other institution,” as the Times puts it. And, surely, graduate students will consult its pages for years to come. But this is a remarkable project, and browsing through it will reward many more people than just scholars. These are stunning, discomfiting photographs, and they seem both recent and ancient at once.
The photos are almost all spare and without people. They seem to have been captured for documentary purposes, not expressive ones. Professionals took them to remember whom they hung across the room from whom, a kind of visual note-taking that any contemporary smartphone user will recognize.