We first heard that a monumental show featuring works from New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was coming to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) almost two years ago. Now we’re just weeks away from an exhibition that brings some of the 20th century’s most iconic artworks to Melbourne.
In recent years the state gallery has reeled in some very big names, including Andy Warhol, Vincent Van Gogh and Dior. MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art features a cavalcade of household names: Marcel Duchamp, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Bourgeois, Salvador Dali, Cindy Sherman, Edward Hopper, Jeff Koons, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, René Magritte. The list goes on.
It’s all on loan from one of the biggest and most renowned collections in the world, and it will be on show in the halls of the NGV from June 8.
There will also be punk-rock record sleeves, video games and iconic pieces of furniture; MoMA is not only one of the world’s most prominent fine-art collectors, it has acquired some of the 20th century’s most legendary works of design. That means the show covers big, groundbreaking creative moments that we often take for granted, such as Tomohiro Nishikado’s 1978 video game Space Invaders; the work of Shigetaka Kurita, who designed the original emoji ideographs in the late 1990s; and an original flip-display airport departure board.
You might go for the big modernist names, but contemporary pioneers will captivate you too. Photographer Margaret Bourke-White documented the tyranny of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and inequality in the United States. Kara Walker’s room-sized cardboard tableaux depict slavery and the American Civil War in a form that resembles a puppet shadow theatre. Also expect films from cinema pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière, and architectural creations by Le Corbusier.
Founded in 1929 by a daring group of society women, MoMA opened with an exhibition featuring Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cézanne and hasn’t let up since. We’re getting a fleeting glimpse of this American institution here in Melbourne – fleeting, but prodigious.