Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Explained (sort of): MoMA’s splitting the baby

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I visited MoMA’s Francis Alÿs exhibition and thought I’d visited MoMA’s Francis Alÿs exhibition.

It wasn’t until days later that I discovered I hadn’t visited all of MoMA’s Francis Alÿs exhibition: As it turns out, some of MoMA’s Francis Alÿs exhibition isn’t at MoMA, it’s at PS1, MoMA’s Triple-A ballpark in Queens.

This brought to mind the obvious question: Why on earth would MoMA, which has 130,000 square feet of exhibition space on West 53rd Street, about the 16th-most gallery space of any US art museum, split an show in half, forcing visitors to make two trips to see it?

Here’s the official explanation from MoMA spokesperson Paul Jackson:

There are a number of reasons — from a curatorial perspective [exhibition curator and PS1 director] Klaus Biesenbach had always meant for The Modern Procession [above] to be on view at MoMA PS1, considering the premise of that work (linking Manhattan and Queens through the procession from MoMA to a satellite institution in Queens). Visitors can also see the Queensborough Bridge from the gallery window (an important geographical location within the work), which Klaus and Francis noted early on. More broadly, presenting works at MoMA PS1 meant there would be a certain disconnect (visitors traveling between two venues; disconnect of a single exhibition), a theme that is reflected in the works on view at MoMA PS1 — the tubas finding each other in Venice; the single guards going into formation in London; the Modern Procession.


Jackson added that MoMA has done this before, with an Olafur Eliasson survey organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He said that MoMA did not then and is not now conducting research to see what percentage of visitors hit both stops.

Here’s the (highly) unofficial explanation for why MoMA is splitting Alÿs, from me: I presume that PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach likes having a simultaneous presence at ‘his’ space in Queens and in Manhattan, MoMA lets him and, well, deal with it. [Image: Alys, The Modern Procession, 2002. Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.]

In the meantime, MoMA (or some smart grad student) should get on an exhibition(s) visitor survey, stat. Seems like MoMA should want to know how good or bad an idea this is.

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  1. David Leeds says:

    The statistical review is a must. I would be shocked to find that it was anything but a terrible idea. It strikes me as a deeply pretentious concept.

  2. […] When I say “scattered,” I mean it literally: The show was inexplicably split between two venues, one in Manhattan, one in Queens, and as a result most visitors to the exhibition saw only part of […]

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