Museums and Prints (1): The MoMA example

In some Museums, basically in Southern Europe, directors or curators are not very keen to exhibit or collect prints. There is in their mind an opinion of differentiation between higher and lower culture, between higher and lower arts.

Is this model adopted by most Museums, also valid in America? The answer is very clearly no. This article will give the splendid example of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), a reference for museums worldwide.

Recently, the MoMA has published a book titled “What is a print?”  In the Foreword of this book, Glenn D. Lowry, MoMA’s Director writes: “Print collecting has been at the heart of the Museum of Modern Art’s mission from its earliest days.”

In fact, the first work ever to enter in the Museum’s permanent collection was a printed self-portrait by Max Beckmann in 1929.

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, one of the Museum’s founders an herself an avid print collector, recognized printed art’s potential for accessibility and wide reach, a capacity in line with the MoMA’s aim of encouraging the appreciation of modern art among a broad audience. In 1940, Mrs. Rockefeller donated her 1600 prints collection to the Museum, a gift that today remains the core of its print collection, which now gathers well over 50000 pieces and ranks among the finest of its kind in the world.

The technical fundamentals of the various printmaking methods are often elusive to museum-goers. In 2001, the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books launched an innovative website –called also ‘What is a Print?’- that sought to demystify the processes though animated demonstrations and examples from MoMA’s collection. This website is available through a link in the Gelonch Viladegut Collection’s website. This MoMA’s website, since that time, has remained one of its most popular sub sites and has proved a valuable tool for museums and educational institutions around the world.

Let us thank the Trustees, Director and Department of Prints’ team of MoMA for this exciting work, for the example, for their capacity to know the people’s reals interest and for the constant involvement to present prints as very important pieces, and a successful art.

Let me have a dream :  this world-class, magnificent and great example, the MoMA’s example, would be followed by our Museums! The collectors, curators, art critics, galerists, directors of museums, public institutions representatives…would be sensible to this example! The print’s exhibitions would be regular and usual events in our museums and in our exhibition’s halls! The printers would be considered really as artists! The example of Picasso, Miró, Barceló, Richter, Spero, Rosenquist, etc., etc., also great printers, would be taken into account!

My hope is to translate the MoMA’s example into our realities, and to make it necessary to develop our culture, to increase our contact with the art’s world, to promote our artists. Will you help me to materialize my hope? Thanks in advance.

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