One of the great institutions of art history in the 20th and 21st centuries, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, is showcased in an exhibition which does not simply celebrate the curatorial vision of MoMA, but questions and renews it and, by so doing, fulfils the museum’s mission to remain perpetually modern. Whilst the New York building is engaged in a major expansion and renovation programme, MoMA has partnered with Fondation Louis Vuitton to bring a far-reaching representation of its vast collection to Paris. The entirety of the Fondation’s Frank Gehry-designed building plays host to 200 works telling a story from the birth of modern art through abstraction, Pop Art and Minimalism to the present.
The style of the show also offers an insight into how the New York venue will be reconfigured following the renovations, adopting a more fluid and interdisciplinary approach. As Suzanne Pagé, the artistic director of Fondation Louis Vuitton and overall curator of the exhibition, says: “Paradoxically, the immense overall success of MoMA means that many interesting particularities about the museum have been eclipsed. It’s almost hegemonic status proposed the idea of a potentially universal art museum – an idea which, as its proponents are aware, has now become outdated.”
The very idea that MoMA represents a particular, uncontestable, canon of work is challenged by the curation of Being Modern, which juxtaposes renowned masterpieces with less familiar but highly significant pieces. Amongst the artists represented are Paul Cézanne, Gustav Klimt, Paul Signac, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Giorgio de Chirico, Edward Hopper, Max Beckmann, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Alexander Calder, René Magritte, Walker Evans, Yayoi Kusama, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Yvonne Rainer and Frank Stella. Some are being exhibited in France for the first time, and works making their debut include Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space (1928); Diane Arbus’s Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey (1967); Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962); Philip Guston’s Tomb (1978); (Untitled) “USA Today” by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1990); 144 Lead Square by Carl Andre (1969); Untitled by Christopher Wool (1990); Untitled (You Invest in the Divinity of the Masterpiece) by Barbara Kruger (1982); and Patchwork Quilt by Romare Bearden (1970).
Regarding the future direction of the New York-based gallery, and what the Paris exhibition may reveal about it, the institution’s director, Glenn D Lowry, says: “The disjunctive nature of modern and contemporary art can – and should – be reflected in the galleries. This means using a collage like approach, with each gallery telling an independent story, enabling competing and even contradictory relationships to emerge instead of trying to present a linear progression… that can never, in fact, be more than an arbitrary abstraction.”
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, 11 October – 5 March. For more information: www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr
1. Cindy Sherman, untitled film still 48b, 1979. C2a9 courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.