The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is widely recognized as the preeminent institution that defined twentieth-century art through its collection – shaping our understandings of the history of art, with its hierarchies and exclusions, as they sediment over time. MoMA’s lesser-known holdings of art from Latin America shed light on a key period which created stylistic categories that have since come to be accepted by many today as the Modernist canon. This study sheds light on an as yet unstudied aspect of MoMA’s preeminent role in establishing the definition of the problematic term "Latin American art" in the United States. In examining shifting categorization of these works according to stylistic and geographic taxonomies, we gain a greater understanding of the organization of the Museum’s collections as a whole during the 1940s and 1950s. This book is the first to document these institutional precedents, crucial for the understanding of the articulation of a Modernist canon and its contested legacy today.
MoMAs early collection displays suggest ways in which artists from areas of the world formerly excluded from collections can be incorporated within today’s increasingly global museums. Its approach prefigured attitudes adopted by several museums since the 1990s, creating geographically-defined curatorial positions as a way to redress gaps in collecting art from Latin America and other areas of the world. In this book, author Miriam Basilio offers a closer study of the history of collection displays as a means to understand canon-formation in modern art museums.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Museum Collection Displays and Canon-Formation 1. The First Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture in 1945: Alfred H. Barr’s Evolving Canon 2. The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Exhibition, 1954-1955: Debates About the Definition of American Art 3. The 1960s: Elaine Johnson’s Latin American Department Proposal and the 1967 Latin American Collection Exhibition Conclusion: Displaying Latin American Art in Museums Today
Miriam Basilio is Assistant Professor of Art History and Museum Studies at New York University, USA.