Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

The quirky fun of MoMA’s most-viewed list

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This is Andreas Gursky’s Ratingen Swimming Pool (1987). It’s a pretty standard late-’80s Gursky, a medium-sized picture of a big scene. (The print is about two-feet wide and a little less high.) Made just two years after Gursky started exhibiting his work, Ratingen Swimming Pool not exactly a focal point of Gursky literature or scholarship, though art historian Michael Fried spent a bit of time on it in his 2008 book “Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before.” The picture is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, but it is not currently on view.

Then why was it the most-viewed artwork in MoMA’s online-accessible collection last week, beating out Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe, Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and other mega-famous artworks? I have no idea. (Readers?)

Every couple weeks this gem of a feature on MoMA’s website throws us a curve ball such as this. It’s fun to see (and wonder about) what people are looking at most, especially when the No. 1 artwork is inexplicable and even quirky. More art museums should offer fun little nuggets such as this up on their websites…

Related: In March, I surveyed a bunch of museums asking for what was most-viewed on their websites. Here’s what they reported back. (The only museum I asked to participate that declined was the National Gallery of Art.)

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  1. L.C.M. says:

    Perhaps the nostalgic image conjures memories and feelings of summer, which is now fading away again.

  2. William Bell says:

    Hi Mr. Green, your query as to why Gursky’s swimming pool photograph is so popular reminded of a photograph recently printed in the Los Angeles Times. It is from The Getty collection and is of a Joe Deal photograph of suburban backyard, shot from above showing what (at first) appears to be a typical backyard swimmming pool. But, when one looks closer, we see that there is no pool at all. I Googled both artist’s names and discovered them both mentioned in the same article from the Robert Mann Gallery regarding topographic photography and the curator explains that this type of work, “examines the tenuous nature of humans and their environment.”
    Thank you so much for your blog on this piece. Here is the link to the Deal Photograph from the L.A. Times.http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/08/it-speaks-to-me-judy-fiskin-on-joe-deals-backyard-diamond-bar.html

  3. KC says:

    The Mastergram Tumblr claims credit for putting Gursky on top: http://mastergram.tumblr.com/post/10187416299

  4. Erwin Keustermans says:

    One of the reasons why an item on the Internet can have a high viewing score is not because of its intrinsic interest but by virtue of being featured (as a link) on a popular page on a busy platform like Tumblr or FB. So you do not only need to know the numbers, but also the referrers.

  5. […] MoMA Gursky sub-mystery explained: According to MoMA tweeter Thomas Stimpson the traffic surge was due to the Tumblr […]

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