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kottke.org posts about museums

Met Puts Huge Digital Image Trove Online

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2014

Rembrandt Selfie

NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has made a whopping 400,000 high-resolution digital images of its collection available for free download. You can browse the collection here.

In making the announcement, Mr. Campbell said: “Through this new, open-access policy, we join a growing number of museums that provide free access to images of art in the public domain. I am delighted that digital technology can open the doors to this trove of images from our encyclopedic collection.”

The Metropolitan Museum’s initiative-called Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC)-provides access to images of art in its collection that the Museum believes to be in the public domain and free of other known restrictions; these images are now available for scholarly use in any media.

For instance, here’s a 12-megapixel image of Rembrandt’s 1660 self-portrait…you can see quite a bit of detail:

Rembrandt detail

(thx, fiona)

Update: Wendy Macnaughton on why the high-resolution images released by the Met are such a big deal for art students and art history fans.

For someone who went to art school being able to do this is a revelation. I used to go to the museum with my sketchpad and copy the old masters. I’d get as close as I could to understand the brush strokes, colors, lines. The guards knew who to watch out for and would bark suddenly when we stuck our faces over the imaginary line.

As class assignments we were required to copy hundreds — literally hundreds — of the masters drawings and paintings. for those we mostly worked from images in books — a picture the size of a wallet photo.

Which is one of the many reasons this new met resource is fucking phenomenal.

You can get so, so close — far closer than one could in real life.

Update: Today (Feb 7, 2017) the Met announced that they’re releasing 375,000 images under Creative Commons’ CC0 license, which “allows anyone to use, re-use, and remix a work without restriction”. Previously, those works were restricted to non-commercial use only.

Design and Violence debates

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2014

The MoMA is hosting a series of debates on the intersection of design and violence. The first one took place last week and pitted Rob Walker against Cody Wilson on the topic of open source 3D printed guns. The next two center on a machine that simulates the “pain and tribulation” of menstruation and Temple Grandin’s humane slaughterhouse designs.

The debates this spring will center upon the 3-D printed gun, The Liberator; Sputniko!’s Menstruation Machine; and Temple Grandin’s serpentine ramp. Debate motions will be delivered by speakers who are directly engaged in issues germane to these contemporary designs — the Liberator’s designer Cody Wilson; Chris Bobel, author of New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation, and distinguished professor of law Gary Francione, to name a few. We want them — and you — to explore the the limits of gun laws and rights, the democracy of open-source design, the (im)possibility of humane slaughter, and design that supports transgender empathy.

Tickets are still available; only $5 for students!

ICP museum to close

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2014

Aw man, the International Center of Photography is closing its museum on 6th Ave. The good news is they’re planning on reopening in another location.

At our request for an interview, Lubell issued the following statement. “The International Center of Photography has been and continues to be at the center, both nationally and internationally, of the conversation regarding photography and the explosive growth of visual communications. In advancing this conversation, ICP has decided to move its current museum to a new space. This decision reflects the evolution of photography and our role in setting the agenda for visual communications for the 21st century. ICP will announce our future sites this spring. The school will remain at 1114 Avenue of the Americas in Midtown Manhattan.”

I’m long overdue for a visit…the Capa in Color exhibition looks promising, perhaps I’ll stop in this weekend. (via @akuban)

Bill Cunningham exhibition

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2014

Cunningham Facades Subway

In March, the New York Historical Society is mounting an exhibition of photographer Bill Cunningham’s project, Façades.

Scouring the city’s thrift stores, auction houses, and street fairs for vintage clothing, and scouting sites on his bicycle, Cunningham generated a photographic essay entitled Façades, which paired models — in particular his muse, fellow photographer Editta Sherman — in period costumes with historic settings.

Museum Hack

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 30, 2013

Museum Hack is offering non-traditional tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Join this “Museum Hack” tour to turn one of New York’s most spectacular cultural institutions into a totally unique experience. We will show you the very best and most intriguing that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has on display.

This is not a boring art history lecture. What we offer is a fun, group-oriented VIP tour experience. You will be entertained… and learn a bit along the way. We strive to offer a brand new view of the Met, one that you wouldn’t get by simply visiting the museum on your own.

Great idea. Museum Hack grew out of a smaller effort to Hack the Met.

The world’s smallest museum

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2013

Museum is the world’s smallest museum, located in a small walk-in closet-sized space in Cortlandt Alley between Franklin St & White St in NYC. Collectors Weekly talked with one of the museum’s founders.

In the current season, there’s a collection of toothpaste tubes from around the world. There’s a collection of mutilated U.S. currencies, money that’s counterfeit or real money that’s been scrawled on. There’s a collection from Alvin Goldstein, who was the founder and editor of Screw magazine, who shared with us personal belongings that have stayed with him throughout the narrative of his life. There’s a collection of Disney-themed children’s bulletproof backpacks. They’re things that touch upon something that’s happening in society, things that comment on where we’re at and how we’re thinking and what we’re doing.

NYC people-watching at 780 frames per second

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 12, 2013

Filmed at 780 fps with a Phantom Flex from the back of a moving SUV, James Nares’ Street depicts people walking New York streets in super slow motion.

The film runs 60 minutes (depicting about three minutes of real time footage), Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore did the soundtrack, and it’s on display at The Met until the end of May.

The Museum of Movie Sets

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2013

Linus Edwards proposes building a museum comprised of exacting recreations of famous sets from movies.

Thinking about the specifics of this museum, the sets would either be actual sets from the movie (if they still existed), or meticulously recreated sets. The recreated sets would have to be very exacting, and basically made to look indistinguishable from the real thing. I realize that even if you had an actual set, many of them are missing things, like ceilings or fourth walls. Those pieces would all be recreated to match the rest of the set and create an entire room. The key would be every room you enter would be a complete 360 degree environment, and you would feel as if you actually were in the movie.

I imagine a person walking from set to set, at one moment in a 40s noir movie, and the next in an 80s comedy. It would be a surreal place to visit, as you would enter into these various worlds you’ve spent your entire life watching. Each room’s set would be lighted to match exactly how it looked on film, and there would be ambient sound playing in the background matched to the reality of the place. So a set of a New York City apartment would have genuine street sounds, while a set of a space ship might have the hum of the ship’s engine. All the sounds will be taken directly from the movie if at all possible.

Some of Edwards’ proposed sets include the 7 1/2 floor office from Being John Malkovich, Ferris’ bedroom from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Vito Corleone’s office from The Godfather.

Our Global Kitchen exhibition at AMNH

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 18, 2013

This looks interesting: Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC.

In the new exhibition Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture, the American Museum of Natural History explores the complex and intricate food system that brings what we eat from farm to fork. In sections devoted to growing, transporting, cooking, eating, tasting, and celebrating, the exhibition illuminates the myriad ways that food is produced and moved throughout the world. With opportunities to taste seasonal treats in the working kitchen, cook a virtual meal, see rare artifacts from the Museum’s collection, and peek into the dining rooms of famous figures throughout history, visitors will examine the intersection of food, nature, culture, health, and history — and consider some of the most challenging issues of our time.

The exhibition is on from November 17, 2012 to August 11, 2013.

Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop

posted by Sarah Pavis   Nov 30, 2012

He lost his head

NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has an exhibit running until January 27, 2013 featuring over 200 photos employing old timey trickery.

For early art photographers, the ultimate creativity lay not in the act of taking a photograph but in the subsequent transformation of the camera image into a hand-crafted picture.

MoMA adds video games to permanent collection

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 29, 2012

MoMA has acquired 14 video games for their permanent collection. Presumably they paid more than MSRP?

We are very proud to announce that MoMA has acquired a selection of 14 video games, the seedbed for an initial wish list of about 40 to be acquired in the near future, as well as for a new category of artworks in MoMA’s collection that we hope will grow in the future. This initial group, which we will install for your delight in the Museum’s Philip Johnson Galleries in March 2013, features…

The games include Tetris, Passage, The Sims, and Katamari Damacy. No Nintendo games on that list, probably due to ongoing negotiations with Nintendo.

Edvard Munch’s The Scream at MoMA

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2012

Beginning in October, a copy of Edvard Munch’s iconic The Scream of Nature will be on display at MoMA for a six-month stint.

Of the four versions of The Scream made by Munch between 1893 and 1910, this pastel-on-board from 1895 is the only one remaining in private hands. The three other versions are in the collections of museums in Norway. The Scream is being lent by a private collector, and will be on view at MoMA through April 29, 2013.

Christian Marclay’s The Clock coming to MoMA in December

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2012

I can’t find any other information about this online or anywhere else, but tucked away in a fall arts preview in today’s NY Times is the juicy news that MoMA has picked a date for their screening of Christian Marclay’s 24-hour movie, The Clock. The show will open on Dec 21 and run through Jan 21. It sounds like the screening will happen in the contemporary galleries and won’t show continuously except on weekends and New Year’s Eve. Which is lame. Just keep the damn thing running the whole month…get Bloomberg to write a check or something.

Anyway, probably best to check this out on the early side during the holiday season because it’ll turn into a shitshow later on.

MoMA audio tours narrated by kids

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2012

MoMA Unadulterated is an unofficial audio tour of some of the works on the museums fourth floor, narrated by kids aged 3-10.

Each piece of art is analyzed by experts aged 3-10, as they share their unique, unfiltered perspective on such things as composition, the art’s deeper meaning, and why some stuff’s so weird looking. This is Modern Art without the pretentiousness, the pomposity, or any other big “p” words.

A lot of these sound like my internal monologue when looking at art. What’s the difference between childish and childlike again?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s nipples

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2012

Nipples at the Met is a photographic collection of all the nipples on display in the permanent collection at the Met Museum in NYC.

Met Nipple

(via @claytoncubitt)

Eugene Atget at MoMA

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2012

I’ve gotta get over to the MoMA to see the Eugene Atget exhibition. PDN has a selection of photos from the show.

Atget at MoMA

ps. And Cindy Sherman!

Cory Arcangel exhibition at The Whitney

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2011

Cory Arcangel has a solo exhibition coming up at The Whitney.

Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools, an exhibition of new work, revolves around the concept of “product demonstrations.” All of the works featured in the exhibition — ranging from video games, single channel video, kinetic sculpture, and prints, to pen plotter drawings — have been created by means of technological tools with an emphasis on the mixing and matching of both professional and amateur technologies, as well as the vernaculars these technologies encourage within culture at large.

Opens May 26 and runs through September. Interview Magazine has a recent profile and interview.

The Frick Collection’s secrets

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2011

I love this “bowling saloon” in the basement of The Frick Collection museum in NYC.

Frick bowling saloon

Gothamist has a bunch more photos of the Frick’s secret places.

400-year-old king signs autographs at the Met

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 08, 2011

For their latest mission, Improv Everywhere got someone who looked very much like King Philip IV of Spain to sign autographs in front of a Velázquez painting of the monarch.

Cindy Sherman retrospective coming to MoMA

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2011

But we’ve got to wait a whole year…the exhibition opens on Feb 26, 2012.

The MoMA retrospective will be thematic. There will be rooms devoted to Ms. Sherman’s explorations of subjects like the grotesque, with images of mutilated bodies and abject landscapes, as well as a room with a dozen centerfolds, a takeoff of men’s magazines, in which she depicts herself in guises ranging from a sultry seductress to a vulnerable victim. There will also be a room that shows her work critiquing the fashion industry and stereotypical depictions of women.

MoMA acquires digital typefaces; what does that mean?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 26, 2011

As you might have heard, MoMA recently acquired 23 typefaces for its Architecture and Design collection. I was curious about how such an acquisition works, so I sent a quick email to Jonathan Hoefler, one of the principals at Hoefler & Frere-Jones, a New York City type foundry that contributed four typefaces to the MoMA.

Kottke: Three of the four H&FJ typefaces acquired by MoMA are available for purchase on your web site. Did they just put in their credit card info and voila? Or was there a little more to it?

Hoefler: MoMA’s adopting the fonts for their collection was much more complex than buying a copy online (and not only because Retina, one of our four, isn’t available online.) I should start by stating that you can never actually “buy fonts” online: what one can buy are licenses, and the End-User License that surrounds a typeface does not extend the kinds of rights that are necessary to enshrine a typeface in a museum’s permanent collection. The good news is that H&FJ has become as good at crafting licenses as we have at creating typefaces, an unavoidable reality in a world where fonts can be deployed in unimaginable ways. This was a fun project for our legal department.

It was actually a fascinating conversation with MoMA, as we each worked to imagine how this bequest could be useful to the museum for eternity. What might it mean when the last computer capable of recognizing OpenType is gone? What will it mean when computers as we know them are gone? How does one establish the insurance value of a typeface: not its price, but the cost of maintaining it in working order? Digital artworks are prone to different kinds of damage than physical ones, but obsolescence is no less damaging to a typeface than earthquakes and floods to a painting. On the business side there are presumably insurance underwriters who can bring complex actuarial tables to bear on the issue, but I think it’s an even more provocative issue for conservators. 472 years after its completion, the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel underwent a restoration that scholars still find controversial. What might it mean for someone to freshen up our typefaces in AD 2483?

Thanks, Jonathan.

The Artist is Present, in book form

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 30, 2010

The photographs taken of everyone who sat with Marina Abramovic at her The Artist is Present show at MoMA are being compiled into a book called Portraits in the Presence of Marina Abramovic.

Just as Abramovic’s piece concerned duration, the photographs give the viewer a chance to experience the performance from Abramovic’s perspective. They reveal both dramatic and mundane moments, and speak to the humanity of such interactions, just as the performance itself did. The resultant photographs are mesmerizing and intense, putting a face to the world of art lovers while capturing what they shared during their contact with the artist.

Old photos of New York City

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2010

The Museum of the City of New York has put a sizable chunk of their photography collection up on their web site. The interface is a little hinky, but it’s worth wading through. This is 220 Spring St from 1932, from right near Sixth Avenue:

Spring 1932

Photo credit: 220 Spring Street by Charles Von Urban. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York. (thx, @bamstutz)

Sunflower Seeds

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2010

The newest exhibition in The Tate Modern’s cavernous Turbine Room is Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds:

Sunflower Seeds

The room is filled with millions of handcrafted ceramic sunflower seeds:

Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.

Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.

For the first couple of days, people could walk around on the tiny sculptures (as you can see on Flickr), but health concerns prompted the museum to put a stop to that. Still pretty cool, but this remains my favorite Turbine Hall exhibition. (via hilobrow)

MoMA iPhone app

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 16, 2010

The only reason I ever go to MoMA anymore is so that my son can see the helicopter and whatever motor vehicles are on display in the design collection, but if I get a chance to sneak away soon, I’m definitely making use of the MoMA’s new iPhone app: tours, a catalog of thousands of works, events calendar, etc.

A catalog of nature

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2010

NMNH backroom

That’s from behind the scenes at the National Museum of Natural History in DC.

Marina Abramovic’s frequent companion

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2010

MoMA intern Julia Kaganskiy did an interview with Paco Blancas, who you might recognize as the man who has sat with Marina Abramović at MoMA more than a dozen times.

Abramovic sitter

Maybe it’s just an image that pops while I’m connected with Marina. Let’s say it’s an image of someone I love deeply, and then this creates the emotion, the tears just come out. Most of the time it’s tears of joy. You’re just being and thinking about somebody or something that’s important in your life. And then just acknowledging this person or situation and moving on into being present because yeah, the tears come, but I don’t want to cry for the entire sitting. I want to move on and continue to be with Marina, to be present.

The art of sitting

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2010

Abramovic sitter

At the behest of MoMA, photographer Marco Anelli has been taking photographs of all the people participating in Marina Abramović’s performance in the main atrium of the museum and posting them to Flickr. To review:

Abramović is seated in [the atrium] for the duration of the exhibition, performing her new work The Artist Is Present for seven hours, five days a week, and ten hours on Fridays. Visitors are invited to sit silently with the artist for a duration of their choosing.

The photographs are mesmerizing…face after face of intense concentration. A few of the participants even appear to be crying (this person and this one too) and several show up multiple times (the fellow pictured above sat across from Abramović at least half-a-dozen times). The photos are annotated with the duration of each seating. Most stay only a few minutes but this woman sat there for six and a half hours. This woman sat almost as long as was also dressed as the artist. (It would be neat to see graphs of the durations, both per day and as a distribution.)

Has anyone out there sat across from Abramović? Care to share your experience? (via year in pictures)

Update: On the night of the opening exhibition, the third person to sit across from Abramović was her ex-boyfriend and collaborator of many years, Ulay (pictured here on Flickr). James Wescott reports on the scene:

When she looked up again, sitting opposite her was none other than Ulay. A rapturous silence descended on the atrium. Abramović immediately dissolved into tears, and for the first few seconds had trouble meeting Ulay’s calm gaze. She turned from superhero to little girl — smiling meekly; painfully vulnerable. When they did finally lock eyes, tears streaked down Abramović’s cheeks; after a few minutes, she violated the conditions of her own performance and reached across the table to take his hands. It was a moving reconciliation scene — as Abramović, of course, was well aware.

Here’s a description of one of the projects they did together in the 70s:

To create this “Death self,” the two performers devised a piece in which they connected their mouths and took in each other’s exhaled breaths until they had used up all of the available oxygen. Seventeen minutes after the beginning of the performance they both fell to the floor unconscious, their lungs having filled with carbon dioxide. This personal piece explored the idea of an individual’s ability to absorb the life of another person, exchanging and destroying it.

Wescott also sat across from the artist:

I was immediately stunned. Not by the strength of her gaze, but the weakness of it. She offered a Mona Lisa half-smile and started to cry, but somehow this served to strengthen my gaze; I had to be the mountain.

Carolina Miranda sat down across from Abramović:

When I finally sat down before Abramovic, the bright lights blocked out the crowd, the hall’s boisterous chatter seemed to recede into the background, and time became elastic. (I have no idea how long I was there.)

Amir Baradaran turned the exhibition into a venue for a performance of his own…he even made Abramović laugh. Joe Holmes got a photo of the photographer in action. (thx, yasna & patrick)

Update: The look-alike who sat with Abramović all day did an interview with BOMBLog.

At certain times I thought that we were really in sync. Other times I didn’t. Other times I was totally hallucinating. She looked like a childhood friend I once had. Then she looked like a baby. […] I thought time was flying by. Then time stopped. I lost track of everything. No hunger. No itching. No pain. I couldn’t feel my hands.

Update: Author Colm Tóibín sat opposite Abramović recently (here he is on Flickr) and wrote about it for The New York Review of Books. (thx, andy)

Update: Singer Lou Reed sat. (thx, bob)

Update: Rufus Wainwright sat. And perhaps Sharon Stone? (via mefi)

Update: More first-hand accounts from the NY Times.

Update: And CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. (thx, ian)

Unknown Michelangelo found at the Met?

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2010

Everett Fahy, the former head of the European painting department at the Met, believes that one of the museum’s paintings by Francesco Granacci is actually by Michelangelo.

I believe Michelangelo painted it in 1506, two years before he started on the Sistine ceiling. It was already in my brain in 1971, the year after it was bought. When the Metropolitan showed it in 1971, I wrote for an exhibition called ‘Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries’ that the second panel recalled the figures in the Sistine Chapel. As years went by, it firmed up. I had long believed it to be by Michelangelo, but exactly when I don’t know. There wasn’t a moment when I suddenly said, ‘This is absolutely by Michelangelo.’ It was a gradual recognition.

One the clues Fahy used to make his determination involves the rocks in the painting; they resemble the quarry at which Michelangelo spent several months in 1497. The painting can be viewed larger on the Met’s website.

Henri Cartier-Bresson at MoMA

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2010

I got a look at the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at MoMA the other day and loved it. Seeing his work, especially his earlier on-the-street stuff, makes me want to drop everything and go be a photographer. If you’re into photography at all, this show is pretty much a must-see.

(BTW, I chuckled when I saw this photo on the wall…it was the subject of an epic Flickr prank a few years back.)